Come and Play Together

Review by Abigail Amor

Photos by Lofty Views

It seems that every year Memorial Day weekend is jammed-packed with great festivals, shows and local events; how do you possibly make a choice? This year The Ville made it easy with a wide verity of artists and activities: a water park, disc golf, Yoga, mini golf, volleyball, kayaks and canoes all included at Clay’s Park in Lawrence, OH. After driving for miles, it was dark as I made my way around the last turn being able to see the lights from the stage dancing across the sky, twisting and turning, flashing beams of color across the darkened night. A beat is created in your head while you guess what song is being played. The anticipation builds as the sound becomes louder, you can feel the electricity in the air.




As I stepped onto the grass I felt a sense of liberation, not only by making it safely to my destination, but to instantly feel at home. Entering through the gate to the top of the bowl, you walk upon the stage and relish in its size and perfection. It is magnificent, one that could match any large scale festival. It is placed perfectly in a natural amphitheater. Effortlessly creating fabulous sound, regardless of where you are standing, the sound was phenomenal.  A collection of energy raced through my feet, as if I should run down the hill into the sea of dancing fans below. I felt this sensation throughout the weekend. No one was a stranger and we were all a unit, ready to embark on a fantastic weekend.




A second challenge soon arrived, with the end of Broccoli Samurai and Papadosio, it was time to hunt down the late night stage. Most campsite were hidden within the woods, only showing themselves by the light of fires flickering through the trees. An array of trails and connecting paths turned the woods into a labyrinth of pathways. We had no sense of direction, we were wondering only by the light of the stars and the moon. It was a clear starry night; you could see constellations for miles with the tall pine trees framing your view of the sky. The paths were pleasant, with soft pine needles and dirt beneath your feet, creating a barefoot friendly venue.  Laughter echoed throughout the forest; it was time for the late night shenanigans to begin with John Welton and Friends.






Fantastic Friday; the music was great from start to finish, with every genre covered. The day opened with The Hot Sauce Committee, a Beastie Boy cover band that nailed every lyric. Not only could you perfectly understand every word, but the beats stayed so tight you could have been listening to a recording. They mashed up a mixture of background music with their live instruments to perfectly recreating the Beastie Boys in sound and feel. This was by far my favorite new-to-me act of the weekend. I want MORE of them! I want to see them at local venues and at festivals alike. Playing at noon, they had the bowl sprinkled with people getting down and dirty to the best of the Beastie Boys.




The day transitioned from Hip-Hop into Bluegrass as Cabinet took the Bowl Stage, followed by the wailing of blues guitars by Chris Robinson’s Brotherhood and Sweeny shredding it for Ekoostik Hookah (my favorite set from the three they played). I love seeing all these spectrums of music being explore. You were able to stick to your favorite flavor or try them all.  The Ville definitely knew how to combine all aspects of musical taste, leaving it up to the patron to set their own limitations.




Everyday different styles could be heard; Saturday added a new genre with EOTO playing the sunset slot on the Field Stage. It was set up perfectly on the horizon. Watching the sun fall behind the stage, while the sky looked as though it was being painted with water colors, as if Mother Nature was adding her own touch to the light show.




Gears switched again when the sun finally set, with Lettuce bringing in the funk. A cold fog fell reflecting the lights from the stage, as the horn section began to rise. Lettuce was not going to let you stand still long enough to get cold. They were ready to bring down the house.




Sunday arrived too fast, as it always does, but it was a perfect sunny day. It was finally hot enough to enjoy the water park provided by Clay’s Park; making The Ville perfect for any age between having: water park, kid craft time, a welcoming crowd, and a quite late night stage; I would highly recommend this festival for the whole family. For the big kids, there is an intense waterslide, zip line, or ring challenge that could intimidate many or exhilarate others. Tucked away in the hills is the Beach Stage, hearing the bands play while you are sliding into the water or soaking up some rays.




Sunday was yet another day filled with a collaboration of music, opening with David Gans and Rumpke Mountain Boys and their trashgrass sound; helped you shake off the daze and dust from the night before. A top shelf performance by Joe Russo’s Almost Dead was the headliner for Sunday night. They covered a mixtures of Grateful Dead songs and styles, displaying their ability of storytelling and being able to jam out. You could tell they were having fun on the stage, which radiated out onto the crowd. Opening the second set with serious jam of “Let it Grow” > “Mississippi Half Step”, hearing those keys play out a to-da-lutie-lu. In this beautiful second set by Joe Russo’s Almost Dead they tangled those first two and “Estimated Profit” > “They Love Each Other”> “Greatest Story Ever Told”; jamming them into each other uniquely and flawlessly. As they transitioned between “Estimated Profit” into “They Love Each Other”, it was as if they were able to twist the notes into a ball, transforming into the melody of “They Love Each Other”. The crowd was fixated on Almost Dead, dancing from the front of the stage to back of the lawn. There was room to move and interact with everyone in the crowd. This was one of the best Dead reincarnation I have seen yet, and my favorite performance at The Ville. Shady Grove (aka Fletcher Grove) capped off the festival with a late night set, collaborating many of the local artists, playing a  super jam that featured: Bluemoon Soup, Glostik Willy, Adams Ale, Jones Revival, John Welton and Rumpke, that lasted till the sun came up. It was so amazing to see all these bands come together and jam as one, just as I felt within the crowd. The sweetest kind of icing on a deliciously moist cup cake.

The Ville has all the perks and comforts of a big name festival, with a small festival feel; never feeling crowed at the stage or having to walk to far. You were able to run into the same people night after night, creating true new friendships. Really feeling that your vibe attracts your tribe, it is funny how many times I found  myself dancing with the same beautiful souls.  There was perfect mixture of local favorites, with headliner that will draw anyone out of the wood work. The Ville perfectly infused all aspects of festival life, into one amazing weekend.