Believe in Music Festival
Saturday July 26th
Oregon Ridge Park, Cockeysville, MD
photos and words by Jack & Rachel Brown
With no traffic, no long waits, no hectic parking fiasco and just a short walk, our trip to the venue was as pleasant as the weather offered by the day itself. We arrived at beautiful Oregon Ridge Park for All Good Presents’ first ever Believe in Music Festival and it was immediately apparent that a number of dedicated fans of Baltimore’s own, The Bridge, showed up early to see them kick off the event. Located just outside of Baltimore, in Cockeysville, MD, the park and its old ski hill made a cozy, natural home for this new event.
With a loyal hometown crowd, The Bridge was more than an ideal choice as the opening act. Clearly not opening act material, they brought an immediate burst of energy that got the crowd in the gates and in front of the stage. While Chris Jacobs brought his usual soulful blues guitar and vocals, Kenny Liner was clearly the star of the day, being the founder of the Believe in Music Organization that was the focus of the day. Each member of The Bridge is very active with other musical side projects or bands and seem to reunite whenever there is a Believe in Music event to support. Clearly there is also a strong connection with All Good music events. This year would have marked the bands 10th consecutive appearance at All Good Music Festival, which is on a 1 year hiatus. The love and respect the band mates have for each other was very apparent, and through their words you could tell they enjoyed being reunited for this great cause. That being said, you’d never know they weren’t still touring together as they rolled through their set playing what are now considered classics to the local fans, sounding as tight as they ever have.
Taking the stage at 1:30pm was an act that typically finds itself holding down late night spots, likely closer to 1:30am. Known for their steady danceable tunes, Boombox got the crowd to its feet and as far forward as they could squeeze, ready to sweat it out under the midday sun. Dawning a feather boa, aviator shades and a fuzzy red hat, Zion Godchaux, brought a lighthearted funky vibe to the stage. Backed by tracks produced live by Russ Randolph, Zion weaved in and out of rhythm and lead guitar. His smooth, unique voice was the touch that brought each song full circle. Randolph hovered over his table of toys, clearly bringing the DJ aspect of this act. With his grey top hat and rolled up sleeves, he worked his way through a steamy afternoon set, at one point even moving his entire set up a few feet back to escape the heat of the sun. The duo pressed on, pleasing fans who joined them in the heat with nothing but smiles on their faces. If there was to be a dancey-dance portion of the day, this was it!
As Boombox loaded out and the stage was cleared, a near shift change took place in front of the stage. Parents and family of The Believe in Music Kids claimed their spots, cameras and phones in hand. “Now, who’s ready for the best part of your day?” shouted Kenny Liner, as the excitement of the kids on stage and the fans in the crowd became one. With cheers twice as loud as anything heard up to this point, everyone was quickly reminded what they were there for. If not yet, it was now the generator behind the event. Having prepared 4 performances for the crowd, the kids were obviously nervous, excited and ready to show their stuff. Liner started things off with a call and response percussion performance played on orange 5 gallon buckets, each plastered with the words “Let’s do this!” After Kenny and the boys finished wailing on their buckets, they made way for the girls who sang the Destiny’s child hit, “I’m A Survivor.” Dancing along in their camo and black attire, the young girls showed an inspiring sense of strength and pride. Up next was a crowd pleasing original rap tune, performed by both boys and girls from the program, which was only 3 weeks into its summer session. Showing their age and innocence they played on relevant topics like keeping cool at the pool, and going back to school. Enter the swagger! Closing it out with high fives and cheers for one another, Liner pulled the entire group together front and center for a crowd sing along to perfectly appropriate Bob Marley hit, “One Love.” As parents this was a high point in our day, and a rejuvenating point that set the stage and energy level for the rest of the event.
Showing a touch of class and likely inspiring the young boys and girls from the Believe in Music program, Lake Street Dive took the stage next with a well-rounded musical performance. The coed four piece illustrated the fact that there are no boundaries and no limits to what one can learn and do if they truly put their mind to it. Lead singer, Rachael Price, even took a moment to share her feelings about the importance of pursuing your dreams, speaking to the Believe in Music theme quite eloquently. With her soulful, sultry voice, she graciously wove in and out of songs, story-telling and band introductions. Accompanied by a unique arrangement featuring a female stand-up bass player, a drummer who also took the lead on vocals at times, and a lead guitar player who periodically traded his strings in for a trumpet, Price had the crowd captivated through their entire set. It was both calming and energizing, showing a true, well-rehearsed and balanced side of live music. While some stood and danced, others made themselves quite at home, even relaxing with a book or newspaper while sitting in lawn chairs slowly bobbing their heads.
The crowd was a buzz as Jimmy Cliff took the stage. You wouldn’t have guessed his age, seeing his vibrant energy during his hip shaking, high kicking, hand-waving performance. It was pretty ironic that this lively bunch was the only reggae band on the bill for the day. “I am Jimmy Cliff!” the legend proudly yelled, with his backing band dawning blue shirts and smiles on their faces. “How do you feel?” Cliff screamed, the crowd responding with cheers. “In Jamaica we say, irie! Now, how do you feel!?!” The crowd happily responded in kind, their energy quickly matching Jimmy Cliff’s stage presence. Battling the heat with his positive vibes, Jimmy brought us back to reality with his message about stopping the wars going on in Ukraine, Israel, Syria, and Iraq, among others. It was evident that no one wanted this set to end as the roar of the crowd brought the band back out for what seemed like four encores, with a final song both titled and leaving us wanting “One More!”
After a spirited performance by Jimmy Cliff, the elaborate band set up was broken down and removed, and we gazed on in wonder as five white-cloth covered cubes were set out. Although it seemed they might be filling the empty space left on stage, Rodrigo y Gabriela left no emptiness as they speedily strummed and percussively tapped their acoustic guitars. The crowd was awe struck, trying to keep up with the amazing talent of this dynamic duo. Rodrigo was showing his heavier roots with his sturdy posture and strong solo skills, almost as if he was holding an electric guitar. From time to time one or the other would take the microphone to speak, cautiously using their English making genuine comments to show their appreciation or make jokes about what they called surprising heat. On only the 2nd stop of their American tour, they were clearly expecting cooler weather. Much to their delight, the sun soon dropped behind the tree line leaving an amber glow in the sky and much cooler temperatures. This may have been the most memorable performance of the night. Clearly an act that people showed up to see.
Long awaited by fans and fresh ears alike, Thievery Corporation was up next. Their stage set-up was very intricate and welcoming with tapestries and even a wooden bench topped with a cheetah print cushion. The group presents a very original approach with 7 different vocalists taking the stage throughout the set, each with their own unique styles, but held steady by the electronic rhythms of Rob Garza and Eric Hilton and a backing band that could easily stand on its own. Bringing a fusion of the heartiness of new age electronic music, the raw feel of jam bands, and vocals ranging from hip hop to soul, it was surely an event worth waiting for! After festival workers swept through the crowd adorning guests with glowing foam sticks, the audience came alive one last time. The dancing came to a peak during this beautiful finale that included an amazing performance by Pyrophilia, a Baltimore based fire arts group lead by Adam Hellfreakii. Although the music came to a close early, with the park closing at 11:00pm, this performance definitely gave you the feeling of being at a full blown, late night set.
With a well-rounded line up and an inspiring theme, it was easy to lose track of time and forget that you were only there for one day. What a beautiful one day event it was. Oregon Ridge Park was very family friendly with an awesome playground at the entrance, a bathroom building with sinks, a shaded pavilion with picnic tables, close parking, and a very thorough and attentive staff. With no All Good Music Festival this year, it was a treat to have this All Good Presents event so close to home. Musicians and fans of all ages showed their love and appreciation for Kenny Liner’s Believe in Music Organization. When it’s all said and done, that’s what it was all about.