Written by: Kathy Moore
Have you ever been somewhere for the first time and it felt like you always belonged there? You didn’t feel like a stranger, you didn’t feel awkward-you just felt like you were at home; that’s the feeling I had when I first went to Trip’s Farm (Sunshine Daydream) three years ago. A lot of people I meet think I’ve been in the scene for a long time and that they have met me before-maybe we crossed paths at a Dead show in the 80’s or 90’s before I got married, had kids, and put my life on hold for two decades. When my 20-year marriage ended, I had the freedom to rediscover myself and I knew my tribe was out there, so I forced myself to go out and meet people. Thank the gods for live music! I found my freaks! I made friends who caught me up on what I had missed over the years, they introduced me to new music, and they got me back into the fest scene. Going to Sunshine Daydream was like going back home.
Jerry Garcia Birthday Bash started in a backyard in Annapolis in one of Trip McClenny’s friend’s houses, moved to Wilmer’s Park when it got too big, then moved to Trip’s house when the park closed. With attendance nearing 2,000 people, Trip decided to move to West Virginia, buy land, and dedicate himself full-time to JGBB-as a result, Sunshine Daydream in Terra Alta, West Virginia was born. The largest and most successful gathering was the 20th Birthday Bash, in 2005, with some 3,000 attendees and Rat Dog as headliner- it also happened to be the 10-year anniversary of Jerry Garcia’s passing, making that festival a rather bittersweet one. This year marked the 32nd Annual Jerry Garcia Birthday Bash and event organizer C.J. Oswald knocked it out of the park. According to longtime attendee Kevasaurus Hogarty, it was a wonderful recreation of what had been missing on the Farm; it captured the spirit of everything that Trip’s farm used to be-from the vendors and food trucks, to the people and music – the old atmosphere was there. When people talk about Sunshine Daydream, you hear about the beauty of the setting and the beauty of the people. I have heard mention of many bands that have played, but it really is the spirit of this place that brings people back. Sadly, Trip passed away in 2010. His ashes and headstone are located on the property, not far from the house, and friends often leave gifts and memorabilia. When I first went to the Farm, I could feel the love that everyone had for it and each other, and this love was everywhere during the weekend of the 32nd JGBB. With some 600 attendees over the course of four days, smiling faces and hugs abounded.
After arriving Thursday evening and setting up camp, I immediately headed to the barn to catch the music. TrailHeads had two sets- the opening act on Thursday, and the closing act on Saturday night. Being the first band to play on the first night of a festival may be nerve wracking, but TrailHeads knows how to put on a show and pack a venue. I knew I was in for a treat-this Connellsville, PA band gets better and better every time I see them. You never know what to expect-they bring the funk, the jams, and the hard-hitting prog rock that I love. Thursday’s set was mostly improvisational and had the audience dancing along. The vibe in the barn was unreal. Following TrailHeads was The Bees Trees from Youngstown, OH, doing a Jerry Garcia Band tribute set. This was the first time I had seen them, and definitely not the last. The energy and talent they brought was amazing. They kept the energy up and had everyone dancing and smiling. Keeping the groove going and funking things up was HABATAT, the last band of the night. I had only seen this band once before, but they are quickly becoming one of my favorites in the scene. This Pittsburgh-based band knows how to bring the party. HABATAT’s horn section (trumpet, trombone, and sax) is captivating- I found myself constantly watching them in awe. By this time, the barn filled up with dancers, and you could feel the energy and see smiles all around. It was an amazing opening night for a festival. Winding down the night in the barn was a beautiful Alan Watts chillstep – perfect for when you can’t stop moving- and keeping things rolling outside of the barn was Whiskey ‘Stache and his washtub bass.
Friday morning brought some rain but the sun quickly dried things up and a huge shade tent was set up near the outside stage. The music started with a solo acoustic set from Andrew Roulette followed by an original set from The Bees Trees. Derek Woods Band played two sets-a Bob Dylan set followed by an original set. This energetic Pittsburgh rock/jam band had the crowd going and set the stage for guitar great Bobby Lee Rodgers. Joined on stage by Whiskey ‘Stache, Rodgers wowed the crowd with his unique sound and talent. This was the first time I had seen Rodgers and it was captivating to watch him. As the sun set, the mood changed- bringing a change of pace to the stage was Brokedown Hustlers from Berkeley Springs, WV. The front of the stage filled up with their die-hard fans and you could feel the shift of energy. Opening with “Highway #1”, front man August West quickly got the crowd singing. Crowd favorites “Banjo Man”, “Try to Smile”, “Gypsy Hollar”, and “Girl in the Red Hat” had everyone raging. Performers from Ignite Entertainment Variety Show lit the night up with various talented fire spinners. Moving the music into the barn was Mark Diomede who played a solo looping set then sat in with Frederick, MD funk band Jack Funk. These guys brought the energy to the barn and got the crowd warmed up in no time. Electric Soul Pandemic closed out the night with their blend of funk, rock, and fusion. This quintet from Greensboro, NC brought the crowd in and had everyone getting down. Their power and strength were infectious, and you could still feel it after their set- I don’t think anyone slept that night. Inside and outside of the barn was buzzing.
Saturday started off warm and sunny; perfect weather for walking around and visiting with friends. The vendors and food trucks were busy with all of the people who took advantage of the weather to come out for the day. I got a late start to the day and unfortunately missed a few acts-but made it to the stage in time to see the West Virginia Hitchers. Led by singer/songwriter Maria Allison and including pedal steel, the WV Hitchers were a change to the music of the day before. After having heard a few versions of the overused covers “Fire on the Mountain”, “Shakedown Street” and “I Know You Rider”, it was very refreshing to hear their beautiful rendition of “Althea.” The band’s folk-Americana sound and Allison’s beautiful voice definitely enhanced the relaxed feeling of that afternoon. Following their act was Bobby Lee Rodgers’ second set of the festival. Again, a very distinct and captivating sound that was quite mesmerizing. By that time, I was ready to see and hear the Rodgers vs. Keel set, but first, Larry Keel, Jenny Keel, and Jared Pool (The Larry Keel Experience) took the stage for a Larry does Jerry set. These guys are magic…they never cease to amaze me-the energy and quality of musicianship that they bring to the stage is outstanding. Their versions of “Tennessee Jed” and “Ramble on Rose” particularly stood out, but it was mandolin player Jared Pool’s “Russian Lullaby” that was unforgettable. It was surreal and dreamlike-his voice and his mandolin transported me to another world. Picking up the pace and changing direction was the BLR vs. Larry set. Talk about talent-by this time I was on my feet, down in front, so I could watch their fingers fly. With the addition of the horns from The Late Bloomer Band, Larry and Bobby knocked out a rocking rendition of Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love.” I don’t think anyone who witnessed this is going to forget it. After the shock of that set wore off, the crowd moved into the barn for Farm favorite Joe Keyes and the Late Bloomer Band. With his positivity and uplifting messages and his mixture of soul and funk, Joe Keyes in the barn was better than any Sunday service I’ve been to. The stage was packed with Joe and the Late Bloomer Band-and the barn was packed with fans. Joe had us singing, dancing, hugging, and smiling. The love I felt in that barn was unreal. You never know what you’re going to see and hear at a Joe Keyes show and changing the tone was guitarist Marshall Veth; when given the microphone, his punk roots were obvious. This unassuming guy who stood behind the horn section wailed and flailed until he fell off of the stage—it was quite impressive. Joe Keyes and the Late Bloomer Band are not an easy act to follow, but once again TrailHeads brought the psychedelic funk. Ready to rage it until the sun came up, their set had a heavy feeling to it that had the audience entranced. Playing crowd favorites like “Hot in the Pocket”, “6D”, and “I Spy” got everyone moving. This was by far the best set I’ve ever seen by TrailHeads.
Even though the music ended, the energy didn’t, and the crowd slowly moved outside to the fire. Knowing that it was the last night, I didn’t want the party to be over. It was great seeing old friends, meeting new ones, and sharing the sunrise with them. I am forever grateful to everyone that had a hand in this wonderful event -the organizers, volunteers, musicians, vendors, and attendees. Trip’s legacy and dream live on, and I’m sure he’d be proud of everyone. Music is what we live for and being able to come together in such a beautiful setting and share the beauty with each other is an indescribable feeling. I can’t wait to do it all again next year at the 33rd Annual Jerry Garcia Birthday Bash.