Written by Michael Tucker
Resonance Music & Arts Festival
September 19-22, 2019
Cooper’s Lake Slippery Rock, PA
Resonance is my favorite festival. I’ve been to all six of them, spanning three venues and going all the way back to 2014. Each year, I leave physically exhausted, but with a nourished soul and lifted spirit. I’ve had so many life-changing experiences, made so many connections, and enjoyed so much sublime music and visual art that it’s hard to distill the essence of this festival in a single review. After all, I’m just one middle-aged Papadosio fan sharing his experience at a festival with such a mind-blowingly varied line-up (featuring all types of music from bluegrass to electronica plus visual and installation art along with workshops) that it’s impossible to see and do it all. In fact, Resonance is so epic it makes me envy creatures like starfish who have the ability to regenerate whole new selves from small pieces. If I were one of those cool creatures, I could grow 100 selves and experience it all—but where to even begin with all the music, art, culture, opportunities for learning, simple goofy fun, or community-building, and infinite love-sharing humans who attended? I suppose gratitude is as good a place as any—so THANK YOU to Casey Schneider, Essential Productions, Papadosio, staff, musicians, artists, performers, volunteers, Zero Waste crew, and attendees for once again making this the best event I’ve been to all year. Also, a special thank you to Cooper’s Lake and the super-friendly people who work there for providing one of the friendliest, sprawling, and gorgeous venues I’ve seen yet. This year, in the spirit of simplicity, here is a list of what I deem to be the best of essentially the best festival going:
Hats off! to the best venue change I’ve experienced in my festival going years. Cooper’s Lake is a magnificent setting for Resonance. It’s sprawling and scenic— and it comes with amenities like a fully-stocked, reasonably-priced store that has EVERYTHING including a kind and friendly staff. While there were many thousands of attendees, I never felt crowded. It felt good to do so much walking as I traversed back and forth to the four stages. I even found some cool shortcuts. While I’m at it, I have to give a deep bow of appreciation to Zero Waste Event Productions for all the hard work they put into keeping the place beautiful and for sorting through every bit of disposed material to minimize the amount of waste headed for the landfill. I saw them smiling and working so hard all weekend long. Thanks for all you do for Mama Earth! A big shout out of gratitude to the inspiring super Lexi “El Bee” Beshara for putting together a “Conscious Cleanup Contest” in partnership with Advocates of Change. Let’s all spread the good word about this venue through magic of the internet. I can’t wait to be there again with you all again in 2020.
Best of Ohio (in Pennsylvania)
Even though I’m a Maryland guy, my heart belongs to the Ohio festival scene. After all, my first Ohio show is where I stumbled into the life-changing Papadosio community which has given me such a beautiful support network of human beings and the impetus to reconsider my life path. I was a bit worried that I would miss out on some of the Ohio magic because of Resonance’s move to Pennsylvania. Fear not! A little bit of Ohio came to Pennsylvania. For starters, some of the coolest parents in rock and two of the nicest people you’ll meet, Connie and Herb McConnell (aka Rob from Dosio’s parents) surprised us by sending us a message that they had decided to come to Pennsylvania. Context: It has been our tradition to meet up at an Ohio show since Rootwire 2011. Care to guess where we met? You got it: Night one on the Dosio rail in front of Rob. Tara and I feel so blessed to have spent some time with them again this year. Next, we really enjoyed the fact that we got to enjoy some legendary Disco Pizza outside of Ohio. When we first walked down to the main stage area, there wasn’t even a line—and it was still 1 for $3 or 2 for $5. Of course, that anomaly never happened again! Finally, Space Cheetah was there to give out plenty of approval stickers!
Best Family Reunion
One of the aspects of Resonance that hits me right in the heart is the dizzying array of fantastic human beings who show up each year. I’ve met and reconnected with so many wonderful people over these last six Resonance years, and this year was extra special. It was particularly beautiful to see how much we all care about each other’s well-being and success through all life’s changes, and many of us had gone through some big changes since 2018. Through long-term relationship, career, and location changes, it has been so beautiful to watch this Resonance family grow over the past 6 years. One of the coolest aspects of Resonance for me is that it is a melting pot of sorts of many of the scenes with which Tara and I interact. There are people we usually see only once per year at Resonance, but it is also a confluence of wonderful people from our Papadosio, Sleepy Creek, Litz, and Jamwich families. This year we even traveled and camped with our cool neighbors Chesney and Christian and local friends Jess and Marley. We hung out at multiple sets with our Resonance alumni buddies Shianne, Chris, and Daimon. For the rest of you, if we hung out, danced, hugged, had a conversation, or shared a smile, so much love and gratitude to you. We’ll see you next year.
Best of Dosio
Wowza! My five favorite musicians never fail to make Resonance special, but all four Dosio sets of year six were exceptional. Thursday evening’s performance included a sizzling “Smile and Nod,” an intricately beautiful “Fanfare for the Rain People,” and DEEP versions of “Magreenery” and “Snorkel.” That first set was extra special due to spending some Papadosio time with the fantastic McConnell’s, but Friday’s Gorillaz tribute exceeded my expectations to a mind-blowing degree.
I knew the gentleman would pull it off, but Holy Smokes! did they ever!! The performance featured Michael Martinez of Natural Born Leaders and members of Kismet and impeccably captured that Gorillaz spirit and sound down to the last detail. In true Papadosio fashion, the sense of fun they were having on stage was contagious, yet it was obvious how hard they had worked to make the whole thing sound spot on. The nuances were flawless. One of my favorite aspects was hearing Anthony, Sam, and Billy have a blast trading lead vocal on various songs; I couldn’t say which one nailed Damon Albarn’s vocals more perfectly. Highlights of the night for me included opener “Last Living Souls,” personal favorite “Feel Good Inc.,” Billy Brouse’s voice on “Kids with Guns,” and the crowd sing along on “Clint Eastwood.” I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but the Gorillaz tribute blew the Nine Inch Nails one out of the water.
Later that night, Dosio treated us to a barn burner of a second set during which I was thrilled to hear the sublime new song “Catalyst” speed things up with its drum and bass element and heart-melting tones; Speaking of bass, the whole darn affair was a Rob show. Good vibrations. Other high spots featured the gorgeous “Cushion,’ the best “Vactrollio” I’ve heard yet, and “Night Colors” encore.
At long last, Sunday evening’s set was another super-family vibed acoustic closer. It was a treat to once again sing happy birthday to Sam with a beautiful crowd of fans. Hearing an acoustic rendition of “Skipswitch” surprised me, Billy Brouse’s melodica on “You and Yourself” amazed me, but the not played since circa 2006 “Left on Light” melted me into a puddle.
Finally, so much love and gratitude to this magnificent community that has formed into a Papadosio family. You inspire me beyond words with your love, kindness, creativity, and passion. It is truly beautiful to behold you all being so empathetic, mature, and loving human beings over the years and through many changes. Deepest of bows to you. Y’all are top notch.
Thursday lespecial’s heavy hitting set with their super eclectic sonic palette in the barn was the perfect first set to kick off Resonance 2019. The power trio melted away our aggravation of setting up camp in the heat with their combo of heavy rock bordering on metal, hip-hop, and dub. They even whipped out a well-played Primus cover!
Next up, Tara and I caught one of our most anticipated acts: the super-positive and socially conscious The Polish Ambassador. As day faded into evening, we blissed out dancing to the jump-suited one’s beats and healing tones with a gorgeous sunset as a backdrop. Our favorite moment of the set came with the ethereal Ayla Nereo’s exquisite vocals on “Live Inside a Dream.”
Next up, CHON’s progressive tunes with their weird (in a good way) time signatures and lush layered guitars impressed us immensely. I love that Resonance features bands like CHON who are a bit atypical of the current festival scene. However, soon it was time to catch Maryland boys Litz play an evening set in the barn.
Holy smokes! Austin, Logan, Nick, and Pat tore things up. My favorite was “I Can’t Stop,” and that turned out to be a good anthem for the rest of the festival because with 4 stages of music, visual art, workshops, and so many friends with whom to hang, I only stopped when I had to. We delighted in a funky set from Chesney and Christian’s favorites Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, which included “Somethin’ for Ya” and a “War Pigs” tease.
Time flies when you’re having so much fun, and before long, everyone’s favorite palindrome Dopapod played one of the best sets of the festival, one in which the first letter of each song oh so cleverly spelled out PALINDROME. The A and N both represented dope covers: System of a Down’s “Aerial” and Radiohead’s “Nude,” which completely liquefied me.
Friday Bullet Points
Dancing in the early afternoon sunshine to Funk You’s infectious, driving grooves
Tara and I sharing awesome hugs with Brittany Emmett
Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers Positive Medicine music at Coopers Cove Stage
That afternoon heater of a Litz set at the Blossom Stage
Afternoon Tauk. Need I say more.
That afternoon Eoto set featuring a sit-in from Sam Brouse, who wins the award for most expressive face at Resonance. All the Dosio fam there made the searing improvs even hotter.
Conversation with Jeremiah D’Amico during which we discussed how while we love and admire all five of the guys we have our favorite Dosio members (I’ll never tell).
Another set of The Polish Ambassador with the lovely Ayla Nereo.
One of the best Twiddle sets ever. Sorry all you haters. You don’t know what you’re missing.
The weirdness of Black Moth Super Rainbow sandwiched between Dosio sets. Again, I appreciate Resonance’s outside the typical festival band thinking here.
Dancing out of our skins at Desert Dwellers at the surreal, incredibly cool Dragon Stage with our friend Brandon. Running into Jonathan Kleisch was a cool bonus.
Top notch Tipper set with (of course) top notch visuals making for the most unlikely dance party with non-EDM kids Chesney and Christian at 2 AM.
“Livin’ la Vida Loca” with Leftover Keller from the comfort of our tent. What a Friday!
Saturday in Brief
Andy Frasco & the U.N. at Coopers Cove. Hilarious, revolutionary, colorful, and brilliant music from Richard Simmon’s son with a little help from a Magic Bean.
Running into Sam Brouse on the way to above set and thanking him for Friday night’s Dosio spectaculathon.
Goose playing “Arcadia” in the sunshine. Fans saying “Goooooooooooose.”
Twiddle acoustic set. Not sorry.
Running into Sleepy Creek fam Eric Clark and friend.
Tipper sunset and the guy who flew in and landed.
Generating some love with Big Something. Their cover of Zeppelin’s “The Ocean.” Tara and I getting to spend some quality dance time with Elise.
Tara and I enjoying our first time seeing Umphrey’s McGee while rocking out with favorites Chris, Shianne, Daimon, Chesney, Christian, and Sami.
That epically sideways Dragon Stage Brether dance party courtesy of the Brouse Brothers.
Omega Moos in the barn with that dark 80’s synth sound covering “Cars.”
Tycho’s transcendence. Saint/Sinner’s voice.
Ah! What a perfectly relaxing beautiful Sunday Funday with which to close out Resonance 2019. Just like last year, Hyryder, one of the few Dead cover bands I love, set up the perfectly groovy vibe for the day. From there, Tara and I enjoyed some Indian vegan deliciousness from the Higher Taste. Speaking of which, their dank ginger-mint lemonade was the most refreshing drink I’ve ever enjoyed at a festival. We headed on over to enjoy Mom and Dad’s crunchy yet humorous rock with our friends Marley and Jess. The “Video Games” crowd sing along was fun, and by the end, the three piece had us “Hot for Teacher.” Another highlight included running into Mike Healy and geeking out about the Gorillaz set. Tara and I then chilled and chatted with friends and worked on packing up stuff for our early morning departure, until Random Rab’s glorious sunset performance, which we enjoyed with Stephanni Kleisch and another ginger mint lemonade carried us blissfully into Dosio’ stunning acoustic closer. After many heart-felt hugs and goodbyes, we made our way back to camp, exhausted but contented.
Let’s Keep Resonating
I’ll never forget all the beauty and joy I experienced at Resonance 2019. To each one of the many thousands of humans who made it out, so much love and gratitude to you. While it makes me happy that I played a small part in convincing some friends to attend Resonance this year, it was the incredibly diverse and well-thought out lineup that really did the trick. So, if you enjoyed Resonance 2019 or if it influenced your life, please tell some people. Let’s pull as many humans as we can into this amazing circle of love and creativity as possible. Let’s make Resonance even bigger in 2020. There is certainly room to grow at Cooper’s Lake, and I’m grateful for the growth this amazing festival has inspired in my own life as well as in the lives of others. It’s mind blowing to think about how each person of the thousands in attendance had a completely different experience than I did. Please share them with some friends. It really is essentially the best festival. Be well. I hope to see you at Resonance number 7.
P.S. Blind faith tickets are available now. Get them at the lowest price they are ever going to be.