The Dave Matthews Band offered up an epic headlining set last night (July 5) at the inaugural Rothbury Festival in Rothbury, Mich., utilizing an expanded eight-piece lineup for favorites like "Rhyme &
The Dave Matthews Band offered up an epic headlining set last night (July 5) at the inaugural Rothbury Festival in Rothbury, Mich., utilizing an expanded eight-piece lineup for favorites like "Rhyme & Reason," "Seek Up" and "Ants Marching" plus extended jams on "#41" and "Jimi Thing."
Early in the show Matthews expressed his approval of the new festival's site on the Double JJ Ranch, normally a summer camp and resort, declaring it "a beautiful place to hang out and listen to music." He also spoke about hanging out in Sherwood Forest, the elaborately decorated wooded area near the center of the 200-acre site. "It's a little bit overwhelming looking at you all looking so good and partly naked," he noted at one point, though owing to a chilly (but clear) evening, most of the fans were indeed clothed.
Matthews played much more than he spoke, however, much to the crowd's delight. Guest saxophonist Jeff Coffin, filling in for the injured Leroi Moore, acquitted himself well, and the group offered a balance blend of more obscure material ("Proudest Monkey," "Louisiana Bayou") with hits such as "So Much To Say," "Too Much" and "Satellite."
DMB also busted out covers of Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer" and an encore of Sly & the Family Stone's "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again)."
With Rothburians staying up into the wee hours after Friday night's festivities, Saturday got off to a relatively quiet start as many festival goers chose to relax, swim or check out the other amenities of the Double JJ Ranch. The quiet, however, was shaken by New York psychedelic rockers Secret Machines -- reconstituted with new guitarist Phil Karnats -- who gave Rothbury a wake-up call with a speaker-rattling six-song set. It featured a pair of new songs, "Dreaming of Dreaming" and the long, droning opus "The Fire is Waiting," due out this fall on the group's third album.
Akron, Ohio-based rock duo the Black Keys covered Captain Beefheart's "I'm Glad" during its hour-long set, while a frenetic Michael Franti and his band Spearhead had fans hopping and waving their fists in affirmation of both his consciousness anthems and a romp through Sublime's "What I Got."
Allman Brothers Band guitarist Derek Trucks and his wife, Susan Tedeschi, brought a bit more musical rapture to Rothbury with an early evening set by their Soul Stew Revival, an 11-piece outfit that played 95 minutes of mostly R&B, blues and rock covers. While their two children ran around and blew bubbles backstage, the couple led the ensemble through the Allmans' "Stand Back," Stevie Wonder's "Sugar," Derek & the Dominos' "Any Day" and "Key to the Highway," Allen Toussaint's "Hercules" and the Aretha Franklin arrangement of the Beatles' "Hey Jude."
Col. Bruce Hampton, who also sang with Medeski, Martin and Wood on Saturday, joined the Soul Stew crew for Bobby Blue Bland's "Don't Cry No More."
The rest of Rothbury kicked back up following Matthews' set, rocking well into Sunday morning with A3 performing "Woke Up This Morning," its theme for "The Sopranos," on the Sherwood Court stage while Sound Tribe Sector 9 played a four-hour set of trancey electronic music for a packed field at the bucolic Ranch Arena Stage.
New York's DJ Rashka played Indian Bangra music, accompanied by Bollywood film footage, for dancers at the Tripoli Domes, while Crystal Method rolled out three video screens and plenty of woofer power for its late-night performance.
While Rothbury attendees roundly praised the festival's environmental initiative -- and, for the most part, cooperated in picking up and disposing of their trash in specially designated areas. But the Think Tank aspect of the program, featuring symposiums and panel discussions, proved far less popular than the music and other festival attractions.
Organizers acknowledged that despite the presence of artists such as Citizen Cope and Widespread Panic's John Bell, turnout was light at the session. "The people who were there were fantastic," said Dr. Terry Root, a Senior Fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment. "But it was dismaying to me that more people didn't attend."
Dr. Stephen Schneider, a Nobel Peace Price-winning professor at Stanford University who curated the Think Tank, said he, too, was "very pleased with the energy in the room" at the sessions" and was "confident" that their popularity would grow in future years. The most valuable part of Rothbury, he said, was being able to network its participants -- for instance, hooking up musician Michael Kang of String Cheese Incident, who operates a non-governmental organization called Our Future Now, and members of the non-profit Focus the Nation with Pacific Gas & Electric chief Robert Park for possible sponsorship opportunities and joint ventures.
"It's great to get kids in a room all hyped up about sustainability," said Schneider, who, along with his academic colleagues, was busy working the backstage area during the festival. "I'd like to have larger audiences, but on the other hand we're spreading way beyond that and putting together communities that normally wouldn't exist if they weren't coming together in a place like this."
Schneider's favorite anecdote of the weekend: watching rapper Snoop Dogg, "him, not his staff," sorting his the waste from his meal into separate bins for recycling, composting and landfill trash.