Written by Lisa Koenigshofer
Photos by Eli Tuchler
As we made way to West Virginia for Mountain Music Festival I realized it had been over ten years since I had visited ACE Adventure Resort to raft the pearly whites of the New River and rappel down the ridged cliffs of the Appalachia.
Combining my lifelong passion for exploring the great outdoors with my love for music was sure to be the perfect weekend cocktail.
To match the boldest lineup thus far, the fourth annual Mountain Music Festival at ACE Adventure Resort hosted their biggest turnout ever, further solidifying their marking on the map of summer must-do’s for adventure and music lovers alike.
“Being chill and professional is not easy to balance but Mountain Music Festival has it down”
-Zdenek Gubb, Twiddle
As if a weekend of live bands, art and camping in the company of like-minded merrymakers wasn’t thrilling enough, festival attendees were invited to partake in a variety of adrenaline pumping excursions guided by ACE professionals.
From whitewater rafting, zip lining, mountain biking, and rock climbing to paintball, disc golf, and even a lake bound waterpark–there was an adventure waiting for everyone on ACE’s 1,500 acre property.
Aside from audible entertainment the weekend was visually fueled by the amazing team of talented visionaries at the Art Gallery who transformed the mega tent in the main venue into a living, breathing art exhibition and workshop space. Fire performances by Fire My Spirits, LED hula hoop performances by Ecliptic Vortex Hoops illuminated the space between the main stage and vendor row.
Mountain Music Festival was truly a treat and change of pace from some more primitive festival grounds. ACE’s established campgrounds came equipped with fire pits, picnic tables, permanent bathhouses, free hot showers, shuttles and postmarked campsite alleyways which made it a breeze to find the homie’s campsite.
MMF’17 kicked off on Thursday night with a pre-party at the Lake Stage where bands; The Commonheart and Spiritual Rez, set the vibe with their foot grooving tunes. The festival ended late Saturday night on top of Wonderland Mountain at the main stage with a tantalizing 3-hour set by the unexplainably skilled, Umphrey’s McGee.
Let’s take a look at a few memorable moments from the magic we experienced at Mountain Music Festival:
THE MAIN SQUEEZE dropped their super charged euphoric funk on Wonderland Mountain, Friday evening. The band’s new album “Without A Sound” has been circulating the internet like wildfire since it’s initial release. This was my first time hearing the it live and oo-wee did they crush it.
Kimono styling vocalman, Corey Frye, has contagiously soulful stage presence that personifies their organic energy. “Dr. Funk” was just what the doctor ordered and their spicey cover of MGMT’s “Electric Feel” had me riding waves in the crowd.
KARL DENSON’S TINY UNIVERSE exploded into their set with the sharp and sassy brass fueled rhythm of Denson’s original instrumental “Have You Seen Him”, Friday night. Ace slide and lap steel guitarist Seth Freeman blended seamlessly with Richmond guitarist, DJ Williams.
After a cover of Cyril Neville’s “Gossip”, Karl Denson switched gears and sent us from the swamps of New Orleans to the southernmost tip of Texas with a reinvention of ZZ Top’s “Just Got Paid Today”. On top of touring with his band, multi-instrumentalist, Karl Denson, also tours with the Rolling Stones as their Saxophonist. Shake it down, Denson.
KDTU kept the dance party going into The Revivalists set, where he and his guitar player, DJ Williams, surprised us with two special sit-ins. The Revivalists closed out Friday at the mainstage with shoulder swaying “Hey Jude” encore.
VOODOO CIRCUIT LATE NIGHT SET was a true hidden gem of the weekend. After regrouping from Friday’s main stage shenanigans, we found ourselves gravitating toward the sound of a spacey psychedelic band in the distance…Aw yeah, jackpot. Cloaked by rows of tents against the wall of a bathhouse we found electro jam band, Voodoo Circuit, absolutely crushing an unscheduled late night set.
THE LATE NIGHT JAM w/ The Kind Thieves was a highlight of the weekend according to Nick MacDaniels of Big Something. Here is what he had to say about what went down:
“The late night camp jam started with WV locals, The Kind Thieves, jamming on acoustic instruments by the camp fire that was set up at my friends camp site. My first thought was “dang these guys are really good” but someone had brought out some bongos and there was one guy who wasn’t in the band playing them horribly off beat and loud – and bless his heart you could tell he was having fun and into the music and trying his best but at the same time he also wasn’t really ‘listening’ …. it was just killing me – cause the kind thieves were sounding so good.
Eventually I got the chance to sort of take over on the congas and jam with those guys which was way fun and gradually it became more of drum circle and all out jam with lots more musicians involved from there. We played till about 7 in the morning and everyone camping nearby started cursing and yelling at us. I love camping, especially at music festivals when the weather is nice but it is so rare that I get to do it anymore because of our tour schedule.
We just happened to have Friday night off and mountain music festival is one of my favorites and the weather was beautiful so it was just really awesome to have the chance to do something like that again. One of my highlights from the weekend for sure.”
THE BEACH PARTY AT THE WATERPARK had filled the sandy edges of the lake with sun kissed smiles by noontime. Fletcher’s Grove, Dr. Slothclaw and Groove Fetish jammed through their sets in the background, providing us with the perfect playlist for relaxing on the shoreline and bouncing through the water park.
THE MANTRAS folded into their set Saturday with the sounds of Sizemore’s keys on “All You Here”, off Knot Suite 2016. The Mantras have mastered the art of drawing influence from all corners of the world and they proved this true by fusing elements of reggae to rawk in their rendition of “Positive Vibration”.
Towards the end of the set, after slowing things down with original “Lazy River”, lead vocals and guitarist, Keith Allen, took to tune his guitar while inviting “main dude” or keyboardist Ryan Dempsey from Twiddle, to turn things up a notch with a roaring cover of ZZ Top’s “La Grange”. The band ended on a downright dirty note with “Hobo Ken”, holding true to their title as “America’s Greatest Rawk Show”.
BIG Something opened their set with “Song for Us” off of their 2017 album release “Tumbleweed” reminding us that “…Every day is a gift from sun and the moon and the stars…”. The six piece eclectic styled band from Burlington, North Carolina has a way of touching that soft spot while still nailing the hard notes.
Frontman Nick MacDaniels and his impassioned vocals pulsed in and out the melodiously layered “Waves” before the band invited Jake Cinninger of Umphrey’s McGee to join them for “The Flood” on guitar. After a rhythmically entrancing “Love Generator”, Mihali Savaulidis of Twiddle emerged from the side of the stage to join the band for a finale of “My Volcano”. With the icing on the cake that is the two special sit-ins we got, I can’t say enough about this band.