The weekend of August 13-15, Camp Barefoot 3 returned to the rolling hills of The Cove campground in Gore, Virginia packed with its best lineup yet. A more fitting name for this year’s festivities might have been "Camp Lotus," with the Philly-based electro-rockers playing a total of three sets over two nights.
Pulling into The Cove Thursday night (after it took about an hour and a half to get through a single file line of cars being checked in one at a time), there were only tales of the Hackensaw Boys jumping off the stage and into the crowd for a true down-home bluegrass jam session, and always spectacular sets from Baltimore rockers The Bridge and world rhythm masters Toubab Krewe. Maryland funk outfit Midnight Spaghetti closed out Thursday night, keeping the late nighter/arriver’s collective butts shaking as the first day came to a close.
Kickstarting the hot Friday afternoon was Raleigh, NC-based Zegg, who showcased some funky and hilarious originals ("Drugs, Drugs, Drugs") and some intricate, almost jazz-oriented changes and progressions. An x-factor for this weekend would be the heat, which kept most attendees confined to their shaded campsite or woods, as opposed to sticking it out to give some very deserving bands their energy. The upside to the heat was an incredible onsite lake with "shuttles" that took festival-goers to and from. These "shuttles" were actually moving trucks in which about 30 people would pile into the back, then be tossed around as a crazy driver barrelled down dusty and rocky roads just a tad bit too fast. Still, a very hilarious and unique aspect of Camp Barefoot.
Following Zegg were generic bluegrassers Pickin’ Buds, good ole’ boys Natural Born Easy, and interesting dub/reggae troop The Iternals. Next up was Jazzam, a funk/jazz/fusion rock band out of Pittsburgh. These guys are one to catch. Featuring excentric and entertaining keyboardist Jeremy McDonough and Marc Sterling (who is probably one of the best bass players in the world), they create a sound that is uniquely their own.
With the sun finally down, it was disappointing to see the lack of concertgoers at excellent, lesser known shows like Jazzam’s and the following act, The Breakfast, by far the best band out there not getting enough recognition. Incredibly talented on all four corners to which they pivot, they’re led by other-worldly guitarist Tim Palmieri. More on them and their ridiculous festival-closing Saturday set shortly.
Folks finally began to come out of the wood works in anticipation of the first of Perpetual Groove‘s two sets. Unfortunately, there were some major technical difficulties with the stage crew and keyboard hookups. This caused many to venture over to the deepwoods Sku Stage to catch a premium electronic set from Silo Effect.
After a frantic 45-minute delay, the Athens, Georgia natives took the stage unphased and delivered a thouroughly energetic set, featuring festival staples "Three Weeks," "Teakwood Betz," and a closing "TTFPJ," with Tim Palmieri assisting Brock Butler with some handy guitar work. Once again, after the PGroove show concluded, the majority of the crowd retreated to their campsites as opposed to sticking around for U-Melt (yet another incredibly undercreditted band). After a premium performance from the NY-based quartet, the masses finally showed back up for the start of Lotus‘ late night set.
On this particular night, the boys from Philly were exceptionally crisp, showcasing many of their newest tunes to appear on their latest album Oil On Glass and Feather On Wood. After taking a bow around 4 a.m. with no encore, the crowd was still plenty loving and satisfied, for they would get two more sets on Saturday night.
Saturday morning came with a little less heat, and an eye-opening set from young and very talented The Former Champions, showcasing precise changes in a sound that lands somewhere between psychedelic rock and electro-based grooves. Following yet another set from Natural Born Easy, came the Jesse Chong Band. Chong navigated them through originals and worthy covers with buttery-smooth licks on his Stratocaster. After a quick bluegrass set from Jackass Flats, up-and-coming funksters Funkuponya took the stage and delivered an array of originals off their latest album with some Robert Walter, Stanton Moore, and even Phish ("Cars, Trucks, Buses") covers mixed in.
Similar to Friday night, festival-goers didn’t really come out of their shells until the sun went down, once dub/reggae masters John Brown’s Body took the stage. With an excellent horn section and one of the most charismatic lead singers out there, they created a powerfully beautiful sound that had everybody smiling.
Jazzam then came on for their second, and even crazier, set of the weekend. With the stars out and an excellent backing light show, Jazzam showcased a more spacey, electronic side, seemingly getting the party started for the Barefooters.
In a brief chat with Lotus guitarist Mike Rempel about the difference between playing Camp Barefoot and a big show such as Rothbury, he explained that, "There’s alot less pressure to go out and put on the best show ever. It’s a lot more relaxed and has a more intimate feel, which is great for us and the crowd."
Between their two extensive sets on this night, Lotus played a number of go-to tunes such as "Nematode," "Wax," "Jump Off," "Tip Of The Tongue" and even a "Legend Of Zelda." The five piece’s performance on this night featured much longer and explorative jamming, as fire was being spun, glowsticks were being hurled, and fireworks were lighting up this Virginia Saturday night.
Even on the last night following Lotus’ sets, many still retired as The Breakfast got cranking on their soon-to-be epic festival closing set. Literally a band that should be playing to sold out crowds, the foursome from Connecticut took off on almost exclusively 20+ minute improv jams throughout their entire set. By the end of the show, the hundred or so people that were witnesses had jaws on the ground and hands in the air, screaming and applauding for more. Feeling the love as well, the band came back out for a "Contour Personality" encore. This is when Palmieri decided to rip any remaining faces off by shredding his axe behind his head and with his teeth………….W-O-W.
To top all that off, late night troopers were treated to the most hilarious game of sunrise kickball (seriously, how long has it been since you’ve played?) before departing the wonderful Cove Campground. With sun, shade, swimming, and top notch music, what could keep you from coming next year?