Amberland XI |

Amberland XI

June 27, 2012

Review By John Michael Hudson

Photos by Lori Sky Twohy

This one of my favorite festivals and Perpetual Groove is one of my favorite bands and it is a great chance to see lots of old friends whom I do not get to see any other time of the year.  

Amberland is held every year on Memorial Day weekend In Lafayette Georgia.  The venue is a busy one that holds many

other events, ranging from other music festivals to more cordial events such as weddings.  Cherokee Farms is a beautiful piece of privately owned land that is situated in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains with lots of space for camping, surrounded by trees and fields covered in white wild flowers growing in the area.

When I arrived this year, I was greeted at the front gate with smiling helpful staff.  To me, it is no surprise; everyone I have met is always happy to be there and would rather be no place else. 

With so few people who come to this event there is normally no line to wait in as tickets are bought or will call is tended to.  This is a treat because I have been to large festivals where I have had to wait hours in line to even get to the front gate.

As I set up camp, Under the Porch started to play a set in the late afternoon which was nice but didn’t help me get everything done since I abandoned my attempts to set up camp for the stage that was so close. 

It was a nice humid afternoon at Amberland and it was the first day and people were coming into the festival with live music already playing giving everyone a great vibe as they set up camp or came down to the stage to enjoy the tunes of a band that is very versatile and fun to listen to.  Everyone that was there was happy to be at their destination for the weekend.  The overall consensus of everyone was that once they arrived and stepped out of their cars all the stress from their everyday life and the car ride just seemed to fade away.  They were here and their problems were left at the door.

Under the Porch played a nice set of original songs and a few cover songs giving the growing crowd some lively jams to help them enjoy their afternoon.  This was exactly what the crowd needed to start their long weekend.  I could already tell by the vibe that I got from the place that this was going to be an awesome weekend.

The Heavy Pets were the second band to play on Friday night.   This was great, because I really like these guys and the style of music that they play.  Not too long ago I covered the Heavy Pets in my home town at a bar and I was excited to actually see them here on a larger stage where they didn’t seem to be cramped for room but it seemed they were just as at home on this stage as they were on a small stage playing for a smaller audience which was interesting.  I also noted that there seemed to be more people here on a Friday then I have ever seen in all the previous times I have been here.  This was good because it was a good showing for them and the crowd seemed to really like them.

Standing amongst the crowd, I couldn’t help but notice all the people having a great time.  People were talking to friends they never see except at this event, smiling faces and people just simply moving and dancing to the music. As all this was going on, the Heavy Pets were getting down and playing great and I couldn’t help but think that I love how music can bring people together and allow them to enjoy a great time like this.

Playing a lot of their original tunes and only a few covers, the Pets were showing of their talent to the growing crowd. They were really letting it their chops show playing to the crowd and getting everyone warmed up for the late night show that was coming up that night.  

The band started off with more structured songs and the Pets seemed to be really on key.  Later they moved onto longer songs that they jammed out to showing how tight they were with playing off each other and making themselves sound better with every song. 

The last song that they played lasted at least twenty minutes. This brought many people to their feet if they were still sitting down and those who were already standing were really starting to get into the music and almost everyone that was there was dancing.  This was a great moment in the festival, because everyone was enjoying themselves and the band was setting the bar pretty high for the weekend and for the super jam that was coming up next.

I love just hanging out in the crowd at this event because the musicians can be seen or approached by people in the audience unlike many other festivals where the large crowds sometimes keep the musicians back stage because of being mobbed by the masses of fans.  I got a chance to talk to Adam Perry during the Heavy Pets last few songs and simply hang out while enjoying the live tunes.  I asked right before he walked back stage if they had anything special that they had in store for us tonight.  Adam smiled at me and said, “We are about to rip this thing wide open!” With that comment, he walked back to get ready and I knew that this night was going to be awesome.

The super jam is the next thing on the agenda and there was a large crowd gathered in front of the stage ready for what seemed to be the main event for the night.  The show started with all of the original members of Perpetual Groove plus the lead guitarist for the Heavy Pets, Jeff Lloyd. They played three songs with him and then musicians started to cycle in and out. They started of playing off with a P Groove original “Bobble Head Funk” and then going into other cover songs such as “Rhymin and Stealin” by the Beastie Boys and other upbeat covers that had the audience singing along and dancing.  Band members from Under the Porch and Moon Taxi came on throughout the set as well.  About half way through, Matt, the original keyboardist, gave up the piano and picked up his guitar and John Hruby came out and played while others also stepped up.  This was a treat because only a few years ago Matt stopped playing with Perpetual Groove and John stepped in to fill his shoes.  John did an awesome job in doing so, but to have John and Matt on stage rocking out together was a treat.  Having them both on stage was a great showing that there is no bad blood with them and the band.  It really showed that they love playing together and it let the fans know just how much they love to play for them.

In past experiences I have had the chance to talk with John Hruby about joining the band.  The most memorable time was when the Georgia Theater burned and there was a last-minute acoustic show put together by the guys that had everyone in P Groove there except for Albert.  After watching Brock and Adam play, John had showed up to support the theater with a benefit concert to help rebuild.  John said “I am really happy to be part of such a great band and I love the music that they play.” He said “I am happy to be part of this band and to have had the reception and the great response to becoming part of this band. The fans are so great and to be accepted after Matt had been such a big part of their history I really didn’t know how they would react but everything has gone great and the fans have all been really accepting.”  It just so happened that when John decided to stop playing in the band Matt wanted back in and it just worked out perfectly.  So to see them both on stage playing is awesome to me.  All in all the supper jam was exactly that.  The fans got what they wanted and the band members that played that night really had fun playing knowing this was just the start of the weekend and that they had two more days to let it all out and all in and enjoy their weekend doing what they loved doing.

Perpetual Groove started off the show Saturday afternoon playing a set of fun up beat songs from around two till about three thirty. Most of the songs that they played were happy sounding with some of them bordering on almost tranquil and in this case made me very relaxed and happy to be where I was as I listened to them and took everything in.

The songs were all original songs except for “Digging in the Dirt” by Peter Gabriel in which case they put their own twist on and jam out in true P Groove style. 

Moon Taxi played next on this Saturday late afternoon.  Never having seen this band before I made sure to make it so that I could take it all in and see some new music.  They started of their set playing two original songs then playing “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears For Fears in their own style. 

My first impression of this band was that they were very much rock-n-role but worked their way into being more jammy.  The band was obviously ready for this show, because they were very tight with playing off each other and letting the longer songs just role with souls. 

The lead singer has a soulful voice that changed to somewhat rough that completed the sound and brought everything together.  Brock came in and played guitar with them toward the end for a few songs. Standing in with them and melding the sounds of his guitar in with the rest of the band, he seemed to be right at home, especially as they covered the song “Full Grown Man.” 

I thought it was great to see other musicians come on with other bands and just jam out without missing a beat and adding that extra element, which makes the music sound so good and have that distinct sound that one has to hear to understand that there is something special happening at that moment in time. 

Moon Taxi let it all out that afternoon.  I’m not sure we were going to the moon this afternoon but they were definitely taking the audience for a fun ride and I liked where things were going.

Perpetual Groove played two sets this afternoon after Moon Taxi. They came on at about seven and played until it was almost dark.  They seemed to be warming up even though there was nothing lacking in the music that was being played in the first set. 

Starting the second set a little after ten thirty they came out swinging. They played their trademark style; rocking and jamming it out to many of their own songs, 

and moving in and out of solos and jams that carry the music far away from the original song that they began to play.  Only bringing the jam back to the original song making me wonder sometimes if they were making this awesome music up as they went or do they practice some of these jams. 

In several of the songs they just segued right into other songs almost as if they didn’t have time to stop because they were on fire this night, and they were playing to a crowd which was responding by dancing like fiends. 

Consider the Source came on very shortly after, to play a late night set.  I had caught them in my home town right before I came here this year and I knew what I was in for.  These guys have a style like I have never heard before.  They have a term for it, and I think it hits pretty close to what they play. They play a style called sci-fi Middle Eastern fusion.  Hard to imagine, let alone explain it.  The music that these three talented young men play is very technical. With only a base, a drum set and a two-headed guitar they have a very powerful sound.  Their music is all instrumental following a Middle Eastern style of undertone that sticks throughout the entirety of most of their songs.  The fusion is in that undertone as the band weaves in and out of other styles that range from funky, metal and sometimes just a little out there.

As they were playing, Brock Butler came out to get in on a little of the action.  He played a few songs with them and sometimes just observing and giving his guitar a strum to add to the funky or heavy jam that Consider the Source was putting out. 

For the most part, the band had been playing very structured technical songs.  In one jam with Brock, they went into a chaotic craziness that hadn’t sounded like anything they had been playing all night that worked its way into a very rhythmic and jammy song that made me wonder how the hell they did it. 

I enjoyed seeing them both times, and I think that they are a totally different animal on a larger stage then on a small one. They put on a good show and I would recommend checking them out if they come around.   

Starting up the next day about nine thirty in the morning, sound checks and equipment could be heard from the stage. Normally this would mean that the sound guys and the stage techs are all just getting an early start to get ready for a show later that day, but they were actually getting ready for a morning show.  Brock Butler likes to play morning set called Brockfest.  This is a sit down acoustic set that he plays and normally has a few guests to come on a play with him.  He also has been known to play a Brockfest at other festivals that I have attended in the past. 

Around ten am Brock came on and said “hey” to everyone, then thanked one of his good friends for the new telecaster guitar that he had been playing all weekend.  He looked happy playing with his new toy. The audience also was enjoying his new baby, because he was playing it for us and breaking it in nicely. 

In a way, it was a celebration because this festival has been great so far and everyone was having a blast. Brock was already warmed. He said that he had already been playing at a friend’s camp site this morning so he was good and ready for his. 

He started the morning show solo and played several songs acoustically looping his own music and really getting into the moment. He seemed to be playing with passion and the music was very emotional as it poured out of him and if you were listing you felt how he felt.  

After a few songs, Michael Blair from Under the Porch came on, and with the two of them playing their acoustic guitars and looping their music together, they really played some beautiful music.  The two also played several covers including “Release” by Pearl Jam, and “Jail House” by Sublime.

Later Matt came on and picked up his acoustic and, to my surprise and delight, they played “Rooster” by Alice in Chains.  Several other musicians came out after that including Jeff from the Heavy Pets. Eventually Matt moved to the Piano and Albert showed up and played finishing off Brockfest nicely.  

As many of the audience members were leaving back to camp, I couldn’t help but over hear them talking about how emotional many of the songs made them feel and how passionate Brock had played throughout the morning.  Everyone was happy that they had made it and were glad that they had not slept in.

Next Perpetual Groove came out and played an early afternoon show.  In good taste and tradition, the band started off playing some of their older original tunes. The nice relaxing jams were flowing nicely and many people had gathered to enjoy the band on the last day of this mind-blowing weekend. 

The happy sounding jams drew many fans to the stage and people were trying to beat the heat by spraying each other with water guns and other devices.  The hot Georgia sun was betting down, but it wasn’t stopping the band from playing and the fans were not about to give in and go home. 

The Heavy Pets came on next to play a late afternoon show.  Having stayed for the entirety of the festival, they were definitely into the spirit of things and let it show by their performance.   In this set the band let it all out.  The Pets were jamming out many of their own songs and covering only a few that they put their own little twist and special touch on. 

The band’s range of music went from rage to rock with many that they played sounding a lot like Phish. 

The last two sets of the night were all for P Groove and there was a sense of excitement in the air, even more so than what is normal for the last night.  As they came on, they started into a real nice long “Playground” and “Devil May Care.”  This song really rocked. 

By this time, the sun is going down and the heat is starting to stave off and being by the stage is a lot easier now. 

In playing the last few songs of the last set, I didn’t know it could get any better than what was hapening.  The crowd had gathered and the band was really cranking it out. To end the set they played several songs without stopping. This is one of my favorite things they do.

After a short break, they were back on stage and all of a sudden it was like a bomb went off. They played “Two Shores” into “Mayday” into an awesome tease of “Paradise City” then back into “Mayday” that played back into “Two Shores.”  Needless to say, they guys were rocking it out and they weren’t holding anything back.  

This was one to go down in the books. Everyone was into it and they were giving the band their approval, by moving, dancing and singing along with Brock. 

Unfortunately towards the end of the Last few songs Brock’s voice started to go out and he took a quick breather to let everyone know and try not to be disappointed.  The positive response back to him was awesome because everyone knew that he had really put himself out there singing so many sets, so they took a small break.

When they came back out, there was about eight, maybe nine, people on stage.  They all did a nice long jam where many of the musicians were playing off of each other and adding to each other’s part in the jam before they lest again and P Groove went into several of the crowd favorites like “Space Paranoids,” “Teakwood Betz” and “Mucumba.” 

At this point, the guys were really rocking out and it seemed like they would have kept playing till their instruments caught on fire or the sun came up and people had to leave, but unfortunately the band was so loud that they had to shut down because of the noise ordinance. This seemed unfortunate, but that’s just rock-n-roll I guess. 

All of the bands that had played had put on awesome shows that I hope to never forget.   This festivals music ended kind of abruptly this year, but that’s very forgivable considering the good time that took place here this weekend.  

Fortunately after the music is over, everyone just doesn’t go their separate ways and many congregate around camp sites and discuss and talk about the weekend and all the great music that had been played.  Many friends that never get to see each other unless they come to these things may start to say good-bye in this late hour because they may not see each other till next year. The great thing about that thought is, is that there are already plans for next year.  Saying that, I don’t know what I would do with myself if Amberland didn’t happen. I try not to think about things like that; because this is a really special event that I hope I am able to continue come back to for many years to come.  



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