Camp Barefoot Review
Aug 20-22, 2015, Bartow, WV
by Joy Hendricks
(featured image above by Roger Gupta)
Down in the mountains and valleys of West Virginia, the town of Bartow holds a vast yet so intertwined gathering of people. As a first time go-er of Camp Barefoot I feel I had the pleasure of fresh eyes to be able to transcribe the feelings behind it. Before I say anything else, I’d like to start by saying from the moment I arrived I felt at home. I didn’t even know where I was! It was so beautiful, a slice of heaven tucked on to the side of a mountainous hillside.
There was something about those grounds that were so organized and relaxed; there’s something different about small festivals where people working and volunteering are actually there for the festival itself, as well as the music of course. Everyone that I spoke to doing some kind of work for the fest, was purely and so genuinely in love with Camp Barefoot. It seemed like everyone pretty much knew one another, and if you didn’t one of your friends probably did. The entire event was so tightly knit and perfectly sewn. They even had a kid zone!
This really is a festival where they are about promoting and emphasizing the small bands. For instance, People’s Blues of Richmond had a huge crowd show up, even while Big Gigantic was playing on the Main Stage. From there the masterminded quartet, Twiddle, took over Main Stage with their improvisational skills. One of the most fire sets of the weekend happened to be ELM, which everyone made sure to make it over to the Car Camping Stage for at 4 in the morning. There was so much talent to cross four stages in three days! The stagehands as well as the light and sound guys, they were all so prepped and ready for this weekend of bliss. I could see clearly how even under any stress they still made things work for the greater good of the festival itself. From a viewer’s perspective at least, things were going as smooth as possible always. No delays in show times at all even.
Wednesday got the festivities started early with music popping off at 8:30PM. That One Guy is always such an entertaining and personable show to see. It’s great how he interacts with the crowd. I loved seeing the little kiddo’s I was around have a ball when he played a “duck, duck, goose” funky spin off. Zach Deputy, who played his first set Wednesday, played again on Thursday to an excited crowd. Saying “I can’t explain how much this song means to me,” he proceeded to play the tongue-in-cheek “Chicken Pot Pie.” The headliner of the night, Emancipator, blew me away. It was definitely the perfect blissful sound that they always produce so well. Doug Appling and live violin player Ilya Goldbergalways work so well together on stage. They clearly know one another well enough to improvise and play around. On Friday, soul powerhouse band-on-the-rise The Nth Power amassed a new group of fans before the nights headliner, Big Gigantic. The power duo Dominic Lalli on production and saxaphone, and Jeremy Salken on drums crushed their set, throwing it back and mixing it up like I haven’t seen in years. It was so enjoyable hearing some older familiar sounds out of them with all the new style they are putting out these days.
I have to say, Tauk always puts on an amazingly, well thought-out show, but this one was something else. Their sound is so unique, blending and meshing together an array of musical styles and influences. We most definitely got a delicious taste of the new live album, ‘Headroom.’ I was lucky enough to get to sit down and talk with the guitarist, Matt Jalbert. He told me a lot of the songs on the album came from opening up for Umphrey’s McGee on the tour in early 2015. They jammed out and played around, creating a double-disk album. ‘Headroom’ was produced by 13/20 Records and comes out September 3rd for purchase! “In this live album, the focus becomes more on the quality of the music. We picked the best songs and we found someone who knew what they were doing and devoted time into perfecting this whole album.” -Matt Jalbert.
Matt was even raving about the Camp Barefoot vibes! “I love this part of the country. It’s so good to see people all coming out for the same reason – family. Not to mention the perfect climate, not too hot and not too cold.” I also asked what makes playing at a venue show different than that of a festival show. “Festivals are so different to play at, so fast past and exciting because of all the energy. Club shows are where you can have more of a plan to think things out.” It makes sense that this new finely orchestrated album, compiled of melodies from shows with Umphrey’s, is so impeccable.
Saturday started and ended perfectly line-up wise. Pgrass was perfect to shake and slap feet around to during the beautiful sunshine, to the dance-athon during The Floozies, who I hadn’t ever had the pleasure to catch, and back up to to Big Something at the BSC Boro Woods Stage bringing in some flat out funky covers in the moonlight. That got us all ready to bring down the house for some Kung Fu back on the Main Stage.
This year, there were also so many amazing and eclectic visual artists brought together. Thanks to Roger Gupta for making that possible for us all to enjoy! It is beautiful to be able to watch not only paintings progress over three days, but the collaborations that form between artists and styles. Barefoot seems to be a place where the music meets the arts and they coincide, propelling one another.
Overall, as far as festivals go, I’d have to say that Camp Barefoot 9 was easily my favorite fest of the summer, not just for the wonderful variety and selection of bands, but the people–the people that made it possible and the ones working all together to make sure that it felt good the minute you drove in the gate. I have definitely found a festival that I will return to year after year. If you are looking for a festival that is not only consciously aware, but one of the silliest adventure lands with some of the best bands, you might have just found a home, too.