Amberland X

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Perpetual Groove
Amberland
Lafayette, Georgia
May 24-25, 2009

For the tenth year running, Perpetual Groove held Amberland over Memorial Day weekend. What started as a back yard party has become an institution for the PGroove faithful.

pg-ht-1.jpgFriday night is not part of the official weekend, but there is usually a band with some connection to PGroove. This year it was Guest, John Hurby’s  previous Ohio-based band.  Hruby said that remembering the Guest songs proved to be a difficult task with all the new material he had to learn since joining PGroove.

On Saturday morning, the cars, vans, and campers rolled in.  Tents popped up on the hill, which is a wide field where those who are not as interested in sleep seem to congregate every year. Many parked along the road for ease of access to their vehicles and set up grills and produce the more elaborate meals. Some headed for the trees and quieter spots. There is one vendor every year who serves breakfast until noon and then seafood dinners until later in the eveing.

pg-ht-2.jpgAt 3pm the band took the stage and broke into a long opening jam that became "Tu Sevun," a fairly rare song but a crowd favorite. This was followed by "Crowded Tub," the Talking Heads’ "Naïve Melody" and then "Cabulo," which featured some funky keyboard and bass work. The set ended with "Tupelo Honey."

The second set consisted of shorter songs that featured Brock Butler’s compelling lyrics.  The exception was "Crockett and Tubbs," which has recently had a slower tempo than in the past, but had just as much fire;  the tune crossed 18 minutes.

At nightfall fest-goers were treated to the next set, which comprised the unreleased new album in its entirety, played in order. Several of the songs have been in rotation for a while, but the band broke out three very new ones: "Honeycut", "40 Roses" and "Up Again." "Downside" and "Too Close to the Sun," two more that will be on the new album, have only ben played a few times. From the sound of it, the new material is definitely fresh and exciting.

Due to trouble last year with a noise ordinance, the band elected to go with a headphone broadcast when they broke out a batch of 80s covers starting with "The Globe" by Big Audio Dynamite. In between "Free Ride" PGroove debuted their take on The Outfield’s "Your Love." Even though the band could barely be heard – not being amplified – the crowd’s sing along with the falsetto parts was hilarious.

pg-ht-93.jpgRounding out the set was "Money for Nothing" by Dire Straits, "Take on Me" by Ah Ha and "All Night Long" by Lionel Richie. This was maybe the most unusual set ever played by this band. It ended around 4 AM with "Sundog."

Sunday morning at Amberland is always reserved for a Brock Butler solo set. He started playing to a very small crowd of folks, those that straggled onto a damp and soggy field from the rain late the night before. The forecast had been excellent just before the weekend but weather came up from the south instead and brought heavy storms into the area Saturday night and again later on Sunday.

Brock started with a Simon and Garfunkel’s ” Only Living Boy in New York;” the set also included versions of Brett Dennen’s “There is So Much More” and the Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood.” Brock brought other musicians up to the stage, a few at a time, from a band called Under the Porch, with whom he intends to make a solo album soon. During “Crime Story” Brock dropped in one of his now-trademark raps. He weaved other material into with his own, creating onestream of consciousness rap.

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Sunday afternoon the sets were fairly standard with a few nice touches, like "All This Everything Part 1," which sandwiched the set with "Part II."

pg-ht-4.jpgSet two jammed, with Peter Gabriel’s “Diggin’ in the Dirt.” "Breeze" gave John Hruby a chance to show his stuff, although sometime around this point the rain began to leak through the roof and settle on his keyboards, which took at least one out of action for the evening set.

Around 6 PM Uncledaddy grabbed his bullhorn to announce the commencement of the annual whole pig barbeque. An event not to be missed, this fest was complete with roasted corn on the cob and baked beans.

Set 3 started in the evening and under a continued threat of heavy storms and lightning. The band opened with "Cairo," into Warren Zevon’s “Detox Mansion,” marking the first time PGroove covered the song. Damien Perry helped out on lead guitar.

Next was "Teakwood" with a very slow bass intro by Adam Perry, followed by Hruby making chords to fill in the low end. They approached the song very slowly and stretched it out for 30 minutes.

pg-ht-7.jpgThere was a first time cover of Van Morrison’s “Glad Tidings,” and at the end of the evening "TTFPJ" filled 20 minutes with a sweet sax solo. The clock passed 3 AM, and since the police had not appeared, the band continued to rock, with a forceful “Speed Queen” to end the evening.

Historically Amberland had been a place for fans to hear nearly the band’s entire catalogue. This weekend, there were many more covers than usual, as they covered everything from Ah-Ha to Zevon. They treated the fans to a preview of the new album, both the studio and live versions, and a headphone jam set.

Over the course of a few days, Perpetual Groove took technical glitches, a flood on stage, and trouble with equipment in stride, all while jamming for around 20 hours over the weekend.  Not many bands would go to such lengths for their fans.

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