Pasture Palooza 7 Review
July 14-16, 2016, Berryville, VA
Written by August West
QUOTE OF THE WEEKEND: “Hey man, your kid just bit my dog” – Unknown
Seven years ago two brothers who had been throwing get-togethers and parties in a cow pasture in Berryville Va decided they wanted to up the ante a bit and have a band come out and play for everyone. Since then that idea has morphed and evolved into one of the best festivals in the region, attracting nice crowds and some of the best music and artists around. They dubbed it appropriately “Pasture Palooza” . Now, in its 7th year, Pasture Palooza offered an absolutely incredible line up so when I was presented with the opportunity to attend finally, I jumped on it.
I arrived in Berryville va around 3 o’clock Friday afternoon with a thirsty mouth and some much needed downtime after 2 excruciating days of moving in 90+ degree heat. I stopped at the 711 right outside of the festival grounds and stocked up on Beer, cigarettes and water….. Priority’s folks… priorities. The store was jammed full of people in high spirits who were obviously there for the fest. It always amuses me to see a bunch of festival folk together in places of business mixing with the locals. I couldn’t help but ask a few people how the music was Thursday night to see what I had missed.
I talked to a guy named Frank and his girlfriend Laura from Richmond Va who told me about the epic evening of music I had squandered… including a surprise set from Peoples Blues of Richmond. It was, “Insane” they said. Damn……. I was already bummed about missing The Big Somethings set Thursday and this bit of information didn’t help the feeling that I had screwed myself by not getting there the night before…. I gnawed on a piece of beef jerky and reminded myself that there was still an awesome Friday and Saturday lineup to come and countless other bits of awesomeness to look forward to.
I packed the booze in my cooler and drove down the long winding driveway to the festival grounds, got my wristband, exchanged some hugs with some familiar faces at the gate, opened an ice cold PBR and continued down towards the music that I could already hear floating through the trees. I came into a clearing and got my first look at the festivities already in full swing. That ole beautiful familiar sight of tents and ez ups dotted the rolling hills of the cow pasture and I immediately felt as if I had been there before…. Maybe I had…….. People were milling around as far as I could see in all directions…grooving, laughing, dancing, hugging, drinking…celebrating…the good life….together.
I should note that it was hot….Very Hot. So I parked my van, loaded my cargo pockets up with cold beer and began looking for shade. My friends Average Dan and The Girl in the Red Hat of Average Booduh were vending and I was happy to find that their booth was close to the stages where I could check out the bands in the comfort of the shade beneath their canopy. It was too hot for me to venture out much until the sun went down so I spent most of my time during the days there with them and their fine display of glass art, paintings, and ever changing creations. This weekend The Average Booduh had combined forces and set ups with the glass artists of Glass Flow, Glass of the Dragon, and Captain Crunch Glass. All under one big roof. Hot damn! There were some incredible pieces of glass art that made me take a 2nd, and, 3rd, and 4th look….. Including one that was up for raffle that contained and included a live fish named Heathcliff. The intricacies of each piece were stunning and I was greatly impressed. Not just by the art on display but also by the fact that the artists had their torches and equipment right there on the spot taking and creating custom orders for people to take home with them.
The Girl in the Red Hat brought me some whiskey just as I positioned myself to check out Dalton Dash, a soulful 4 piece acoustic band from Richmond Va. A Mandolin, guitar, and fiddle traded leads on some great tunes including my all-time favorite Bob Dylan song, “Isis”. The Upright bass player was an absolute beast and made me reconsider what could be done with that instrument.
Litz came on at 4:45 and did it up big as usual. They are in my opinion one of the best up and coming bands in the region. They got the crowd moving their feet right away with their funky psychedelic jams and soulful lyrics. Bending and melting into a kaleidoscope of sounds streaming through different colorful dimensions of time and space, the keys, the horns, the drums, the guitars, and the bass at times seemed to be a single living organism, breathing and operating as one, slithering and flashing in and out of existence until the eerie voice of a robotic Austin Litz brings you back into some recognizable form of reality for a moment or two before you’re off again into another wormhole. 14 year old Alex Olmsted sat in on saxophone towards the end of the set just as a water balloon fight broke out in front of the stage and he absolutely killed it! Keep an eye out for that kid!
After Litz’s set I was feeling a little sideways so i decided to venture up to the food venders to put a little food on top the beer and whiskey in my stomach and regain the little composure I suspected might still be in me. I stopped at the chuck wagon and got a tasty plate of Hash, eggs, and bacon…..and water… that did the trick…YUM!
On my way back to my oasis in the shade I struck up a conversation with a girl named Jo Anne who told me she had recently paid $7,000 for her breast implants. I was intrigued and when I asked her “How do they look?” She quickly said, “Take a gander for yourself.” and even insisted that I touched them. “Don’t they feel real?” she asked…..“Don’t they feel real? She asked….. “Don’t they………feel real?” she asked. “Hey……….ummmm…..Are you okay?” she asked.
I was…… and they did.
I also noticed that the medical staff, Bear Care was on hand and on top of their game as usual. I watched them taking care of attendees all through the weekend and I must say, just knowing that there are such solid, loving, professionals looking out for everyones safety, always puts any concerns I might have had to rest immediately. Bear Care is a great crew of experienced nurses, counselors, medics and EMTs who know how to handle anything a festival might throw their way with genuine love and concern.
I caught the tail end of The Congress and dug them a lot. A bluesy rock and roll band with an incredible female vocalist, sick guitar and keyboard leads made it impossible for me to sit down through their set . They played a beautiful song called, “Shine On” that was the highlight of their set for me. Great song!
I took my whiskey up to the stage to catch The Southern Belles. It was ice cold and aplenty’ so I shared it with a girl I met named Song who told me that she was recently colorblind and had just been stung by a bee a few hours ago. I asked her if she thought the colorblindness and the bee sting were related. She stared at me blankly for a moment and told me that this was her first festival on the east coast and pondered whether or not the bee sting was some kind of an omen from the festival gods telling her that she didn’t belong there. I told her that it was most likely the work of a disgruntled rouge bee with a taste for misdirected vengeance and nothing more. This seemed to please her and I could tell by the way her dancing changed from a slow bopping to a quicker repeated alternating half spin into a full spin, that a weight of concern had indeed been lifted from her. I suggested that we go up closer to the stage and she agreed. We danced through their whole set mesmerized by the music and the lights provided by Videometry Visuals. They were incredible. We took a walk up to her friend’s campsite and hung out beside the fire and talked about consciousness of and conversations with nature. Future Rock took the stage and I could hear them from afar but after a while the sounds from the stage began bending and splitting into vivid patterns of a soft multidimensional fabric interconnecting all matter and non-matter within and without….. Each section of energy bearing its own distinct twisted smiling face unfolding and expanding infinitely from within until time itself ultimately fell away completely and we were both swept up into the whole of everything that ever was, is, or ever will be.
I came to thirsty around 10am beside the fire. I sat up to find that Song was gone, “To reflect” her friends told me. As I searched for my boots and explained the dreams I had just experienced, they just sat there and stared at me suspiciously and said nothing. I told them to tell Song that, “Bees are usually yellowish and black for a reason and whenever she finds out what that reason is, her colorblindness will clear up and life will be relatively normal again.” I bummed a cigarette and left them to enjoy their own strange brand of awkwardness in peace.
I was feeling a little run down from my journeys and bought a much needed mango smoothie from a vender. After the first sip my mouth actually said “thank you” to ME… completely independently and separate from my conscious mind. Now that kind of freaked me out a bit so I quickly moved over to the sound booth to distract myself and let the sound engineer know how great everything sounded the night before. John Duncan of Shenandoah Sounds thanked me and told me it was his 5th year running sound at Pasture Palooza. All the music really did sound amazing all weekend. The dude is a wizard.
Matt Jones & The Bobs kicked off Saturday with a perfectly mellow morning set of blues and folk. Playing some great original tunes and awesome covers including the classic “Soulshine” by Greg Allman and “Codeine” by Trampled by Turtles, they got everyone primed and ready for another day of badass music.
I had seen some artists doing live painting Friday night and was floored by what I saw so I ventured over to the Artists gallery tent to check out the rest of the paintings I hadn’t seen yet by artists such as Love Light Leslie (My personal favorite), Daniel Rioux, Sam Navarre, Bryan Baily, Allison Nickens, and Lacey Vilandry.. I cannot stress enough how phenomenal the art was. I was left speechless and in awe by just about every piece I saw on display. I walked away wishing I could’ve bought them all.
Dale and the Z Dubs took the stage at 3:15 and immediately transformed the atmosphere from a chill laidback mellow vibe into a full blown ruckus of a party. A rock, reggae, ska band from DC, Dale and the Z Dubs absolutely killed it. Their high energy set pulled people from the far reaches of the site right up to the front of the stage. Amid the great original songs (Give me Oxygen was my favorite) and covers tunes of bands such as Sublime and Rage Against the Machine, front man Dale danced and stomped around the stage like he owned to joint…. And for the duration of their performance…..he did. One part of their set that was particularly memorable for me was at a certain point between songs when Dale was giving a shout out to the “sometimes unsung heroes of festivals”, the sound engineers “Give it up for the sound engineers! Without them I’d just be a homeless looking guy wearing a skirt” everyone had a good laugh at that one. Yes he was indeed wearing a skirt. After a few more rowdy kick ass songs Dale and the Z Dubs closed out their set by ripping a hole in the sky with a crooked middle finger, giving us all a much needed and welcomed rainstorm pouring down. With arms stretched towards the sky, the crowd cheered with relief as the cool rain fell down upon our sun baked skin like a gift from the gods of rock and roll.
After the Zdubs, I went back down to see The Girl in the Red Hat for a refill on my whiskey and a much needed rest. As I sipped my whiskey I saw Bear Care again assisting a guy who this time was having a seizer. After the worst of it had passed, they kept him in the shade, gave him water, rubbed his forehead down with a cold wet cloth, and stayed by his side keeping vigilant watch over him the entire time. I can’t emphasize enough how impressed I was with Bear Care and all of the security personnel that I saw assisting them.
The whiskey was beginning to make its presence known between my ears as I went to the stage to catch Toubab Krewe. I had misheard someone earlier and thought they had said that “2 Live Crew” was playing. Can you imagine that? Someone should make that happen for real. Despite the fact they were not 2 Live Crew, they rocked the place! A powerhouse of a band from Ashville NC, they truly are one of a kind. Combining seemingly endless variations of rock, African traditions, jam, and folk, this five piece monster of a band kicks down doors that you didn’t even know were there before the hinges shattered. Their set was on fire and left everyone licking their chops for more.
The Mantras played a “Talking Dead” set next which consisted exclusively of cover tunes of Grateful Dead and The Talking Heads. It was nice to get a fresh take on some old favorites and I danced my ass off for the duration of their set…. The phenomenal visuals during their set left many a mind a’blown.
The absolute highlight of the weekend for me was watching the fire performance of “Fire My Spirit” out of Richmond Va. I have seen countless fire spinners in my day and most are damn good. However, I have never seen anything come even remotely close to the skill, precision, vision, and presentation that “Fire My Spirit” showcased at Pasture Palooza this year. My jaw literally dropped when I saw the feats being pulled off in front of me. This troupe has raised the bar much higher than anything I’ve seen anyone else do….ever. Trying to describe what I saw wouldn’t do them justice. Just check em out…….Seriously.
John Kadlecik Band closed the fest out in fine style! Having been a member of Furthur and Dark Star Orchestra, I had expected to hear more Grateful Dead covers but John K played mostly original tunes that I hadn’t heard before but were pretty good just the same. The band was solid and John K’s Jerry-ish guitar licks and voice drifted out over the crowd causing a frenzy of dancing and nostalgic close eyed head swaying.
I stumbled back to see my friends at Average Booduh and was pleasantly surprised to find a full on DANCE PARTY at their spot. And while a few of us questioned the wisdom of hosting a dance party in a glass booth, nothing was broken and the night raged on and on and on to the choicest old school dance tunes blasting and a microphone being passed around to any and all who wished to engage the crowd. I finally lost an arm wrestling match with a Jar of moonshine and woke up in the front seat of my van thirsty and wondering how and when I had made it there.
I wandered back to The Chuck Wagon again Sunday and got the same order that I had before, walked down to my post to enjoy a pleasant Sunday breakfast, listen to Billie Holiday, collect my thoughts, reflect , and go over the notes I had been taking all weekend for this here review you’re now reading . As I was sitting there munchin on my breakfast, looking through my notebook and sipping on a “ManMosa” (PBR, OJ, and Ice.) two very strange guys came rushing up urgently to where I was sitting. They introduced themselves as Nelson and Germy. I couldn’t make out exactly what they wanted from me but they were saying some nonsense about ground scoring a meatball sub that they had since lost and needed help finding. I explained to them that I was in no shape to offer any kind of help with their dilemma and I wished them both a sincere, “Good luck!”…. I got back to my notes and they scurried off bickering and mumbling something about balloons and family…….
Everyone began waking up and packing their camps so I made my last rounds and said my goodbyes to friends, old and new, and headed for home. I had about an hour drive to replay the weekend in my head and I figured that I‘d try to come up with a final conclusion of some kind to wrap up my Pasture Palooza experience. Here goes….
I see that Pasture Palooza and everyone involved with it, definitely have the right idea, the right people working with the right people, and most importantly, the love and willingness to go above and beyond what is expected of them to transform what began as a few friends hanging out in a pasture, into an annual event where memories ,connections, and friendships that will last forever are forged and nurtured again and again, year after year in a safe, loving, environment where the good life can be lived well and family and friends can come together to celebrate the beauty of this life with beautiful people in a beautiful spot while beautiful music fills the air. When the organizers of any event strive to make sure the experience is a magical one, for everyone, it not only shows, it shines. Pasture Palooza shines bright. So bring sunglasses!