Written by Michelle Lesch
Photos by Kristan Whitlow Hughes
Tumble Down, Twiddle’s fourth annual festival, took place July 26-27, 2019 on the Burlington, VT waterfront. As part of the Lake Champlain Maritime Festival, the evening concert series brought musicians, vendors and artists from near and far to this special city to celebrate the history and ecology of Lake Champlain. Collaboration and community were the themes of the weekend, as musicians, artists, and organizations all worked together seamlessly to deliver an unforgettable experience.
Entering the festival grounds on Friday afternoon, attendees were met with breathtaking views of Lake Champlain. We instantly had to pause to take it all in. The rocky shoreline giving way to the serene waters and sailboats gliding by in the distance, while the Adirondack mountains rose across the horizon. The scene was perfection, and it really made you understand why Twiddle comes back to this venue to host Tumble Down year after year.
The artists and vendors were another impressive aspect of Tumble Down. Danny Steinman, frend of Twiddle, brought his psychedelic selection of prints, stickers and pins. Danny also collaborated with Mellow Mood Creations to put his “White Light” design onto their trademark festival blanket, creating a beautiful and functional memento for the occasion. Pingala, The Skinny Pancake, and Sisters of Anarchy Ice Cream represented the delectable local foodie scene within the fest, while Fiddlehead Brewing Company served up their brews, including the Twiddle-inspired “Relax & Dream” APA. For those looking for a craft-alternative to booze, the Green Hut tent offered tasty, CBD-infused seltzers, sodas, and cold brew.
First up on the side stage of Tumble Down was acoustic duo, Owl & Crow, who kicked off the fest with a beautiful performance that seemed like a perfect fit alongside the afternoon sun sparkling on the water. Next, on the main stage, Ghost Light kicked up the tempo with their psychedelic, jam-filled set that held both soulful, serene keys matched with the pure rock ‘n roll fire that got us pumped for what was to come.
Before Twiddle took the stage, Steve Perlah, CEO of the White Light Foundation, an organization partnered with Twiddle, whose goal is to combat the opioid crisis, welcomed the crowd to Tumble Down and talked about the community programs that would benefit from the weekend’s fundraising efforts. Indeed, it was clear that the non-profit is extremely important to the band as well as the fan base, as support for WLF permeated throughout the entire festival. Along with the various artwork and merchandise offered at the White Light tent, the organization also partnered with Reverb to sell reusable Tumble Down water bottles at the filling station, a raffle for swag, art and a gorgeous Martin guitar, and conducted the Wampahoofus Charity Disc Golf Tournament. In an emotional tribute, Steve spoke about Marc Machette, Twiddle superfan, founding member of the Daydream Farmers (the support group for sober Twiddle fans), and WLF collaborator, who lost his battle with cancer earlier this year. He concluded with a moment of silence for all of those who have been affected by the opioid crisis.
Twiddle’s first of five sets was an acoustic performance on the side stage, where they opened up with their “Glycerine Medley”, which gave us a groovy start as we bounced and sang along to the familiar tunes. They gave us a particularly beautiful “Five” and romping rendition of “Hattibagen McRat”. One very special moment of the show was when Mihali called his former guitar teacher, Steve Girardi, up to play on the stage, closing the set with “Hattie’s Jam > When it Rains it Poors”. It was very heartwarming to see the collaboration there and it was clear that the admiration between the student and teacher was mutual.
Quickly after Twiddle left the side stage, Stephen Marley was getting started over on the main stage. Tumble Down had no overlapping sets, and with the stages being so close to each other, festival-goers could appreciate not needing to miss a single beat of each performance. Marley’s vocals, along with his supporting band, were a superb addition to the Tumble Down lineup. The golden light of the descending sun streaked across the viewing area as he sang his originals as well as several of his father’s classic hits, including “Three Little Birds” and “I Shot the Sheriff”. Next on the lineup was Jaden Carlson Band, whose front lady is impressively just 18 years old. Her performance on the guitar was extraordinary, showing us that she has huge things in store for her future.
Twiddle’s second set of the day, over on the main stage, began with “Colonel Norco” calling out to the crowd over the sound system, “Is there anyone out there?!” with a fun, trippy rant as the band took the stage. The guys went right into “Orlando’s” as the sun started to go down and the breeze came off the water through crowd. “Doinkinbonk” had the crowd raging, while Todd Stoops sat in for a funky as ever “Apples”, and they finished with “Mamunes the Fawn” into a rowdy “Every Soul”.
When they returned for round three, we got another speech on the loudspeaker, only this time, it was Mihali’s voice giving us a little backstory on the infamous Jamflowman before they launched into their first number. “Jamflowman” was even given a new verse, played for the first time. A definite highlight of this performance was the dark and spacey “Nicodemus” into “Milk”. Crowd favorite “Lost in the Cold” featured a sit-in with sax player Dave Grippo, which added a lovely jazzy touch to the tune. After their encore of “River Drift”, we left the waterfront with light hearts and ready to keep the party going. Everyone’s Dead was scheduled for a late-night set at Higher Ground, and there were after-parties all over the city, including at Orlando’s and Nectar’s.
Saturday morning was the fourth annual Wampahoofus Charity Disc Golf Tournament, located just a short drive from the waterfront. About 60 participants competed for awesome prizes and the chance to receive their medals up on stage. All proceeds benefited the White Light Foundation, and players had a blast making new friendships during their scenic competition through the woods. The tournament has grown a lot since its inception, so it was exciting to hear about past years and their plans for the future of the event.
Although thunder in the distance caused Higher Ground to delay the opening of the festival grounds in the afternoon, the storm quickly rolled past, and the show went on as planned. Local quartet The Big Sip took to the side stage with a jazzy feel. Kitchen Dwellers were highly anticipated on the main stage and delivered the high energy bluegrass jams that they’re known for. The Tumble Down crowd is no stranger to the Dwellers, who have been growing their fan base rapidly over the past couple of years, and the excitement permeated the audience. Nina’s Brew was a delightful folksy blues trio from Burlington, followed by Turkuaz on the main stage. Turkuaz’s performance was a blast to witness, as their brightly colored outfits and unique blend of old school funk and modern jam had everybody dancing and feeling right for the main event.
Twiddle’s first set of Saturday evening began with another pre-song backstory played over the PA system, (narrated by Mihali) telling the origins of the character behind “The Fantastic Tale of Ricky Snickle”. We got to then enjoy a sit-in by Jaden Carlson for the song “Syncopated Healing”, and another by Kitchen Dwellers for their own song, “Visions of Mohr”. “Latin Tang” was especially killer, with Gubb and Brook laying down a ridiculous 5-minute drum and bass solo before Ryan walked out with the keytar, adding another layer to the funky number, with Mihali out last to bring it home. They closed with the epic “Beethoven & Green”.
To open the second set, Twiddle welcomed on stage Zach Nugent and Todd Stoops for a nearly 20-minute “Polluted Beauty”. Other highlights were the crowd favorite “Gatsby the Great”, as well as when they finished the “Grandpa Fox” that was left incomplete the evening before. The encore began with another origin story read by Mihali over the PA of the infamous creature, “Frankenfoote”. Ryan really shined through this one with his beautiful keys, and we also got a surprise new verse at the end, where we learned that our beloved Frankie made it home to his family.
Whether you were heading to Mihali & Frends, or one of the other after parties across Burlington, as you left Tumble Down, you felt brimming with community and love. The extra care that was taken to make sure the waterfront stayed clean, as we borrowed this sacred space for two days, as well as the focus on local vendors and the work being done with the White Light Foundation; It all showed us just how much this city means to the band. Twiddle poured their heart and soul into this festival, adding twists and surprises in each set, and always reminding us to be kind and to take care of each other, demonstrating just how much the fans mean to them too. To have been a part of Tumble Down this year was a very special privilege, and one that I’m sure thousands are already looking forward to in 2020.
See below for some more photos of this epic weekend in Burlington: