2012 Music Memory – Funk in the Field – Newport, OH – 8/4/12 

words by Ryan Neeley = photo by Bekah Williamson/Ryan Neeley

If you’ve ever chatted with me about writing, you know that I am a big fan of journals, especially “show journals”.   Every night after trekking home, to camp, or back to the hotel from seeing a band perform live, I take five or ten minutes to write in my journal about the night.   Not just what the band played, but what actually happened, who I was with and how I felt.    Going back over the course of over twenty years of seeing many a live show is a joy, with notes like a post from 1994 when I saw Phish for the first time , “saw Phish last night – front row at AJ Palumbo with Matt – WOW!   Trampolines and Vaccuums and a drummer in a moomoo!” and when I got to see The Grateful Dead at Three Rivers Stadium “I think they can control the weather – I know – heard that before – But BOOM – Thunder than they go straight into a RAIN Montauge just as the clouds break – watching the rain droplet drip off Ficca’s nose as he looked over and grinned at me was an image I’ll never forget.”

So as I went through my battered journal that my good friend bought me for 2012, it brought back some fond memories.   Although it’s very difficult to pin down, one of my favorite memories this year has to be seeing The Rumpke Mountain Boys at Funk in the Field down in Newport, OH in early August.  Looking back at in now, there are a few reasons for this.   First off, it was spur of the moment.   As most of you know, I am a Rumpke Mountain Boys fan.  They just do it for me – can’t explain it – don’t need to or want to try.   So any time the Boys play within a few hours jaunt and I’m free, I go.   On Thursday, I got a notification that Rumpke was playing down in Newport, OH at Funk in the Field, put on by Squirrel Productions.   Since it was short notice, I didn’t even attempt to “work” the show, taking pictures, keeping track of setlists, etc.  Plus I was bringing the family with me, and I have to really pick and choose where I can take a 5 and 7 year old, so this was an exciting yet challenging proposition.  Unfortunately, due to work, I missed Thursday and Friday, which had some really good artists like Elemental Groove Theory, Sassafras and Jones for Revival, but that’s life.

Secondly, I was taking my   18 year old nephew Patrick.   For those of you who don’t know me, I lost my little brother Chris over five years ago in a situation that could have easily been prevented – I had taken Chris to his first festivals, Phish and Furthur shows, and I miss him dearly.   So this was my chance to relive some of that with my nephew, teach him right from wrong within the scene, what’s acceptable and what’s not, etc.  So needless to say, this was super special to me to share this with him.  As we pulled into the location off a side road in a small town/village? in Ohio near the Ohio River, it clearly was simply a field.   There were camps dotting the perimiter of a big square, with the stage at the “top-middle” of the square.   We set up camp, and my kids played in a bounce house they had set up.   There were a few vendors of hand made goods and a food vendor and there weren’t a ton of people there; however, you could tell that it was a very close-knit group.  The Rumpke Mountain Boys, after having some vehicle problems, went on in the early evening and played a blustery set that included one of my favorites, Lily Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts and The Grateful Dead’s Althea.

Rumpke Mountain Boys at Funk in the Field

As night fell, the kids wanted their beds so I sent them to a hotel down the road and made it back just in time for Into the Blue.  This group tore up the stage with a fantastic set of Grateful Dead tunes that had the field bumpin.   One of the things that remains in my memory bank is watching one of the concert go-ers shedding tears to an emotionally ripping Let it Grow.   They also fired through Shakedown Street, Fire on the Mountain, I Know you Rider and an especially fiery Deal.  During this time, I met many of the “squirrel crew” and talked to Daniel, who had run sound all weekend, and found out that it was his birthday.  As I talked to them, I felt welcome in their group and was given Squirell Status for the night.   Just as things were really heating up, it seemed that the neighbors complained that the band was playing past curphew as the police showed up to shut it down.   However, this is when the fun really began.

the only photo I could find – courtesy – Bekah Williamson

As we walked past the “square”, down the hill and across the stream, there was a log cabin.   Next to it was a huge bon fire, and this is where less than eighty of us would gather to listen to some heavenly unplugged music.  As the fire popped and illuminated the faces gathered around the fire, I took a step to the side and wrote in my journal, “Man, it doesn’t get much better than this.   Good People, Nice Fire, Rumpke playing on the porch of a log cabin with a stream running nearby – Someone pinch me.”   Ben, Wolfie, JD and Adam took turns playing songs that included Pickin Till Dawn, The Dead’s Sugaree, Hoist that Rag and a host of others others, with whoever had an extra instrument joining in – Someone playing a sax, my friend Austin grabbed his guitar, and the boys sat around, drank some W.V. water, and just like one of the songs they had played, picked till dawn, honoring request after request..   And as the sun came up and shed light on the spot we had been posted up at for over six hours, I gave my nephew a hug and looked around, realizing that the boys were playing for less than twenty of us.   I knew as I laid down that morning to get a little rest before heading out that THIS would be in the running for one of my most memorable nights of music in 2012, and across the top of the page from that August post are three letters and some stars.   It simply says,   *********** WOW *************