Monday, July 13, 2009

Rothbury Festival Day 4: Love and Friendship

by Dave "Scout" Tafoya

Day 4 of my Rothbury excursion, my final day at this strange bubble, was a good one indeed. I met my friend Eric from the Sam Roberts Band for coffee, and we took in The Ragbirds (who played Ren-Fest Folk Jams) and The Hard Lessons (who sounded like a Lita Ford cover band). He took me back and I said hello to the rest of the band and Sam and I got to take in a little of Toots and the Maytals before his band was slated to begin.

Toots and the Maytals still rocking steady

That's the biggest problem with a festival like this: they save the best set times for the jam bands everybody paid to see. The Dead, Umphrey's McGee, String Cheese Incident, Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan were all competition free. The little guys like Sam, Parlor Mob, Broken Social Scene and Guster had to fight each other for audiences. I missed Guster and White Buffalo for other bands, which was a bummer to say the least.

Sam Roberts

The Sam Roberts Band is a live act not to be missed. I've seen them once before, in Vermont and they once tried to sneak me into a club in Boston. In other words, unfailingly nice guys and their music is just an extension of that. Sam and his band were one of the few straight-up rock acts all weekend, and they really killed it. Moving from song to song with incredible energy, they took advantage of every minute of their set.

James Hall, bass player of the Sam Roberts Band

When they arrived at the end and put on a 15 minute version of "Mind Flood," their most psychedelic song off their second record, Chemical City, I was floored. They threw themselves into their playing so much, a bomb could have gone off next to them and they'd never notice.

Eric Fares, Sam Roberts' keyboard player and a hell of a guy

In fact, the only band that matched their sheer brute force was Parlor Mob

Nick Villapiano of Parlor Mob

Their riff-tastic rock music is blisteringly loud and the guys on stage play the parts of rock gods remarkably well. One look at guitarists Paul Ritchie and Dave Rosen could convince anyone that these guys mean business.

Parlor Mob looking and sounding like the best of the early 70s
Laceless boots, torn up jeans, flying hair, beat-up guitars, high kicks; I'd never seen anything quite like it in person. They rocked in ways that no one else could have that weekend and at a festival that professed commitment to old Grateful Dead show atmospherics, to see a band that lived that life was refreshing.

Parlor Mob's commitment to rock

When I left, halfway through Willie Nelson's set, it was harder than I imagined. I'd slept uncomfortably, gotten aches, pains, burns, and bites, waded through hoardes of people, smelled beer, sweat, portable toilets and marijuana and had to spend absurd amounts of money on hot food and cold drink. That kind of experience can weigh on you pretty heavily, especially if you'd never covered anything of this magnitude. Coachella was big and had more bands, but was not on such a big property. The reason I and everyone else did it was because we were all in it together. Everyone I met was keen to share stories or offer drugs (while I never actually accepted any, it was awfully kind of them to offer). The other press representatives were always looking to talk and drink to wile away the hours between bands. They looked after one another, just as the rest of the fans did. When you're lugging around thousands of dollars worth of equipment, or just looking to tune out, having someone you can trust is important and everybody was willing to be that someone. If everyone here didn't want to help each other and just be together with a lot of like minded individuals, then this kind of event would never work. It was touching to the utmost and as I walked out the door, I was overwhelmed by the love that made it all work. It was tough to go, but then again, it was good to get home to a shower and a real bed, too.

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