Though it almost didn’t happen. After it’s inaugural year on the Double J Ranch in Rothbury, MI in 2008, the Double J went belly-up in the property price collapse later that year. Things looked dim for the festival, before a federal bankruptcy judge cleared the way for a lease for the event through a trustee.
Who knows what the future holds for Rothbury, for Michigan, but in 2009 they’ll play host to bunch of acts. Like many American festivals, the focus is on jam bands, but there’s also indie, electronica, hip-hop, country and more. And what more can any festival, jam band or otherwise, ask for out of headliners than The Dead & Bob Dylan!?!
THURSDAY, JULY 2ND
10:30 PM – 11:45 PM, Tripolee Stage
An electronic trio from Chicago, Future Rock adds progressive house & dance rock into their electronica, which led to their breakout in 2006 on the festival circuit.
The Cool Kids
12:00 AM – 12:45 AM, Sherwood Court
The hip-hop duo of Antoine ‘Mikey Rocks’ Reed & Evan ‘Chuck Inglish’ Ingersol (QRO photos) hail from right around the Great Lakes, and have played with numerous non-hip-hop acts like Matt & Kim (QRO photos on the bill with Cool Kids), so are a good fit to bring the beats to Rothbury.
The Disco Biscuits
12:45 AM – close, The Raneh Arena
Coming up on another end of the jam-band spectrum is The Disco Biscuits, who add electronic instrumentation and elements to their jams (dubbed ‘trance fusion’ or ‘livetronica’). Another festival mainstay, including last year’s inaugural Rothbury, maybe they’ll introduce the hippies to electronica, and the ravers to jams…
Cold War Kids
1:15 AM – close, Sherwood Court
After a string of EPs, Fullerton, California’s Cold War Kids (QRO photos) blew up in 2006 with their full-length debut, Robbers & Cowards. While last year’s Loyalty to Loyalty (QRO review) suffered something of a sophomore slump, their live show (QRO live review outdoors) is still electric, especially outside, as they still ring with singles from the recent “Something Is Not Right With Me” to their break-out “We Used To Vacation” and “Hang Me Out To Dry”.
FRIDAY, JULY 3RD
2:15 PM – 3:15 PM, Sherwood Court
There might not be a wilder band – live (QRO live review) or on record (QRO album review) – than Philadelphia’s Man Man. The self-described ‘Viking-vaudeville’ collective bring a powerful percussion and more, setting up right at the lip of the stage, dressed in tennis whites and war paint, with more instruments than you can throw a stick at. And things only get crazier outside… (QRO photos outdoors) – especially at a festival (QRO photos from Norman 2009 Music Festival).
G. Love & Special Sauce
3:30 PM – 5:00 PM, The Odeum
Since coming out of Philadelphia in the nineties, G. Love (real name: Garrett Dutton) & Special Sauce have become festival mainstays, thanks to their ‘sloppy’ hip-hop/blues, which fits well with the laid-back festival crowd. They’ve also nicely balanced mainstream appeal, charting with their most recent two records, 2006’s Lemonade and last year’s Superhero Brother (not to mention appearing in a Coca-Cola commercial, with their own version of “I’d Like To Teach the World To Sing”, in 2005), and their own style.
3:45 PM – 5:00 PM, The Raneh Arena
The Boston Americana-folk singer/songwriter had garnered himself a slot on Atlantic in the late nineties, but after two albums left to form his own label, Kitchen Table Records, on which he’s kept going, most recently with 2007’s Seeds and 2008’s Solo.
Femi Kuti & The Positive Force
5:15 PM – 6:30 PM, Sherwood Court
The oldest son of legendary afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti, Nigeria’s Femi Kuti has been making waves on this side of the Atlantic, whether with Positive Force, or as a DJ on radio station ‘International Funk 99’ on Grand Theft Auto IV.
Broken Social Scene
5:45 PM – 7:00 PM, The Raneh Arena
Since being part of the indie-rock ‘Canadian Invasion’ of 2003/2004, Toronto’s Broken Social Scene have also become one of the most sought-after festival bands in the alternative music arena, whether indoors at industry showcases (QRO photos from CMJ 2008) or outdoors at more traditional fests (QRO photos outdoors from Siren Festival 2008). Fronted by singer/guitarists Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning (QRO interview), this giant collective includes The Apostle of Hustle, Andrew Whiteman (QRO interview), Do Make Say Think’s Charles Spearin (QRO interview), and a rotating female vocalist spot that’s included Metric’s Emily Haines (QRO live review), Leslie Feist (QRO live review), and Land of Talk’s Elizabeth Powell (QRO interview). While their most recent releases were ‘BSS Presents:’ records focused on Drew (Something For All of Us… – QRO review) and Canning (Spirit If… – QRO review), their live show (QRO live review) includes everything from Spearin’s fascinating new Happiness Project (QRO review) to the old ‘hits’ like “K.C. Accidental” (QRO video) and “Fire Eyed Boy” (QRO video).
Damian ‘Jr. Gong’ Marley & Nas
6:30 PM – 8:00 PM, The Odeum
The youngest son of legendary reggae artist Bob Marley, Damian ‘Jr. Gong’ Marley actually breaks somewhat from the Marley tradition by embracing ‘toasting’, a Jamaican song styling that predated rap. This year, he collaborates with famed rapper (and political lightning rod) Nas in the ‘Rock the Bells’ tour and with Distant Relatives, out right before Rothbury.
7:00 PM – 8:15 PM, Sherwood Court
The Buffalo funk/jazz trio is a touring mainstay, both in festivals & on their own, with a rotating guest vocalist slot. April saw the release of their latest, Up Here.
7:30 PM – 8:45 PM, The Raneh Arena
Flogging Molly (QRO photos) is on the leading edge of today’s workingman’s punk rock. The Celtic tinge to this Los Angeles act has only grown, with last year’s produced-in-Eire Float reaching new heights in popularity for the genre, as well as bringing it to the wide open air (QRO photos outdoors).
The String Cheese Incident
8:45 PM – 10:15 PM (Set I), The Odeum
10:30 PM – 12:30 AM (Set 2), The Odeum
Colorado’s String Cheese Incident had been one of the jam bands hardest working the road circuit, combining bluegrass and a whole host of other sounds. But after the 2007 departure of guitarist Bill Nershi following that summer’s tour, the band went into hiatus as they worked on their various solo projects.
All of those solo projects came to the inaugural Rothbury 2008 Festival, but the rumored reunion never happened. But in 2009, Rothbury will be the site of the ‘Incident’ – their only performance(s – they re doing two sets, back-to-back) this year, or scheduled at all.
12:30 AM – 1:30 AM, Sherwood Court
There are combos and then there are combos: Montreal’s electrofunk duo of Dave 1 (David Macklovitch) and P-Thugg (Patrick Gemayel) has been best friends since childhood, billing themselves “The only successful Arab/Jewish collaboration since the beginning of time” (but what is their stance on Québécois independence?…).
Sound Tribe Sector 9
1:00 AM – close, The Raneh Arena
The acclaimed instrumental act combines numerous influences, including funk, jazz, psychedelic, and hip-hop. But they’re best known for their live concerts, which stretch to over two hours, and feature improvisational collaborative work not known in the jam-band community. Their festival performances, however, go even bigger, including last year at the inaugural Rothbury.
2:00 AM – close, Sherwood Court
Gregg Gillis (Girl Talk) moved from biomedical tissue engineering to DJ mash-up engineering, taking samples from across the spectrum and making something very new. More used to playing the clubs, who knows what he’ll look and sound like outdoors…
SATURDAY, JULY 4TH
Ralph Stanley & The Clinch Mountain Boys
1:30 PM – 2:45 PM, The Odeum
‘Dr.’ Ralph Stanley is a legendary bluegrass artist and banjo player. At age eighty-two, he still shows no sign of slowing down, from being featured in O Brother, Where Are Thou? (winning a Grammy for Best Male Country Vocal Performance) to doing a benefit show for John Edwards last year (you win some, you lose some…).
2:30 PM – 3:45 PM, The Raneh Arena
Out of the ashes of Illinois’ Uncle Tupelo came Jeff Tweedy’s Wilco (QRO live review) and Jay Farrar’s Son Volt, which hewed more closely to Tupelo’s alt-country ways, most recently on 2007’s The Search (QRO review). But the band has a new album, American Central Dust, coming out this July on fabled independent imprint Rounder Records, so expect the new as well as the old.
Hill Country Revue
3:00 PM – 4:00 PM, Sherwood Court
While Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars took some time off to work with The Black Crowes (see below), fellow Allstar & brother Cody, along with North Mississippi’s Chris Chew, took the opportunity to form their own country-blues twang side-project, Hill Country Revue. And now both will be at Rothbury…
4:15 PM – 5:45 PM, The Raneh Arena
Stillwater, New Jersey’s Railroad Earth has been part of the roots-revival movement this entire decade, including last year’s Amen Corner. Another band with a steady touring schedule, they return to Rothbury after playing last year’s inaugural fest.
Zappa Plays Zappa
4:30 PM – 6:00 PM, Sherwood Court
Okay, so you’re sixteen years too late to ever see the legendary, one-and-only, superlative-heavy Frank Zappa. But if you’re gonna see someone else play Zappa’s music, who better than his son, Dweezil (who still loses out on the ‘weirdest Zappa name’ to his sister, Moon Unit)? The Zappa name returns to Rothbury after playing last year’s inaugural event.
The Black Crowes
5:30 PM – 7:00 PM, The Odeum
Atlanta brothers Chris & Rich Robinson hit it big in the early nineties as The Black Crowes, with such output as Shake Your Money Maker and “Remedy”. When the record sales in the late nineties couldn’t match up, label problems followed, but the band found success on the road. Yet they still went on hiatus for much of the first half of this decade, but their blues-rock jam returned, most recently with last year’s Warpaint and this year’s Warpaint Live – and coming up is the country/bluegrass-influenced double-disc Before the Frost, Until the Freeze.
6:30 PM – 8:00 PM, Sherwood Court
Being known as one of the greatest bass players in rock ‘n’ roll might sound like a bit of a backhanded compliment, but Les Claypool’s mix of funk, experimental, finger-pluck, strum, slap & more has earned him respect and acclaim. While still primarily known for his work in Primus (who played the first Rothbury last year), Claypool has been expanding his solo work, even into film and novels.
8:00 PM – 12:00 AM (2 Sets), The Odeum
There is no more famed American touring rock band than The Grateful Dead, who pretty much defined ‘hippie’ & what we think of as The Sixties, with their long hair, long jams, loyal fans, and psychedelica-meets-country sound. And they kept going like a VW bus – up until the death of lead singer/guitarist/icon Jerry Garcia in 1995, with a new generation of jam bands, like Phish & Widespread Panic taking up the touring reigns.
However, The Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart, and Bill Kreutzmann – all accomplished solo musicians in their own right – kept it going for a while, first as The Strange Ones, then simply ‘The Dead’, but closed up shop for real in 2004. What could bring The Dead back to life? As South Park’s Randy Marsh would say, “Obama!!!”, in a couple benefit shows for the then-Senator, and even rocked one of the inaugural balls. They then rocked a spring tour for all stripes of Americans, and are capping it off at Rothbury, with their only summer performance.
Yes, Deadheads will be out in force, a certain smell will most certainly be in the air, and the jams can go on forever, but there’s no one who does it like those who invented it, The Dead.
12:00 AM – 1:00 AM, Tripolee Stage
Colorado-based producer Derek Vincent Smith puts some energy behind his electronic work as Pretty Lights, with the new Filling Up the City Skies free to download.
12:15 AM – 1:30 AM, Sherwood Court
While Sebastien Grainger took the punk side of acclaimed Toronto act Death From Above 1979 in solo career (QRO album review), the other half of DFA1979, Jesse F. Keeler, went electro-house with new partner Al-P. Though the critical response to this year’s Fist of God has been average at best, MSTRKRFT still know how to throw a show.
12:30 AM – close, The Raneh Arena
It’s kind of surprising that Umphrey’s McGee wasn’t at Rothbury last year. The ‘progressive improvisation’ of the band combines the live ways of such hippie legends as Phish and The Grateful Dead (often-changing set lists, heavy live jam sessions, fanatic fans recording) with more progressive-inspired music, making them a festival mainstay.
SUNDAY, JULY 5TH
The Hard Lessons
1:00 PM – 1:45 PM, Sherwood Court
Detroit has always known how to rock!, and keeping up that trend is guitarist/vocalist Augie Visocchi, and vocalist/organist/synthesist Korin Louise Visocchi, who together make up The Hard Lessons.
Sam Roberts Band
2:15 PM – 3:15 PM, Sherwood Court
While not very well known in America, Sam Roberts Band is one of the biggest acts in Canada – they’re like the hockey of rock ‘n’ roll. 2001 debut The Inhuman Condition was one of the best-selling independent releases in Canadian history, and the trilingual Quebecois musician is a mainstay up north, even touring coast-to-coast during the Canadian winter (with fellow Montréalais The Stills – QRO spotlight on). So raise a can of Molson, eh, and find out what they’re all talking a-boot.
3:15 PM – 4:30 PM, The Raneh Arena
Another festival mainstay with a loyal fanbase, Guster has managed to balance alt-rock and jam band – as well as underground cult status and mainstream attention. Their sixth studio album comes out this year, so expect to see them honing some new material.
Grace Potter & The Nocturnals
3:45 PM – 5:00 PM, Sherwood Court
While many jam bands on the festival circuit seem to have been playing forever, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals only recently formed & broke out, thanks to 2007’s This Is Somewhere, and opening for the likes of Gov’t Mule & Black Crowes (see below & above). The funky blues-soul act is readying for its follow-up to Somewhere, so they should be trying out some new material at Rothbury.
The Parlor Mob
4:15 PM – 5:15 PM, Tripolee Stage
Emerging out of the same Jersey rock shores as The Boss (QRO live review) and guitarist Paul Ritchie’s girlfriend Nicole Atkins & The Sea (QRO live review), The Parlor Mob had a lot of interest & a record deal in 2007 – until the merger of of Capitol & Virgin left them stranded. But Roadrunner picked them up, and the rest is/will be history.
The Hold Steady
5:00 PM – 6:15 PM, The Raneh Arena
Brooklyn’s The Hold Steady have reached serious heights with their classic rock and singer/guitarist Craig Finn’s talk-sing storytelling, most recently with last year’s Stay Positive and this year’s live A Positive Rage. They’re also incredibly overrated, but certainly have fun outdoors (QRO live review outdoors).
5:30 PM – 6:45 PM, Sherwood Court
While many still focus on how he’s an Orthodox Jew who plays reggae & rap, Matisyahu has grown out of his initial oddity to marry reggae and rap in his own style. Along the way, he has also become a festival favorite, starting at his breakthrough guest-spot with Phish at Bonnaroo 2005, and continuing on to today (QRO photos outdoors from Langerado Music Festival 2007).
Willie Nelson & Family
6:00 PM – 7:30 PM, The Odeum
There are few musicians as beloved across the spectrum as Willie Nelson. The practical inventor of the seventies’ ‘outlaw country’ genre, he’s beloved even in the reddest of states, including his native Texas (Hank Hill of King of the Hill even cites him as his favorite musician…). But his musical appeal spans the political divide (Bobby Hill called him “alternative”…), aided by his high-profile advocacy of environmental causes – including his own bio-diesel bus – and marijuana.
He’s worked with everyone from Dolly Parton to Snoop Dogg to Norwegian pop star Kurt Nilsen, but comes to Rothbury along with Bob Dylan as part of their stadium tour. And he’s backed up by The Willie Nelson family, including his sister Bobbie.
6:45 PM – 8:30 PM, The Raneh Arena
Many festival jam bands draw their lineage back to sixties hippies bands like The Grateful Dead, but few as directly as Gov’t Mule. Originally begun as a side-project to the reformed Allman Brothers Band in the early nineties, Gov’t Mule was right at the cusp of breaking out on their own in 2000 when bassist Allen Woody died. But guitarist Warren Haynes and drummer Matt Abts recovered to become a festival mainstay, featuring a rotating cast of guest members and being guest members, like Haynes’ work in The Dead (see above).
7:15 PM – 8:30 PM, Sherwood Court
The celebrated, Grammy Award-winning feminist icon has also been a prolific singer/songwriter, releasing over twenty records, with her Righteous Babe imprint. Most recent was last year’s Red Letter Day, but before that came the Canon compilation, so new & old should be on the bill at Rothbury.
Bob Dylan & His Band
8:30 PM – 11:00 PM, The Odeum
One can maybe be forgiven for not immediately recognizing The Dead, i.e. as the posthumous Grateful Dead, but how can any American able to physically make it to a festival have not heard of Bob Dylan? The folk-rock singer was acclaimed the ‘voice of a generation’ of baby-boomers, and gave more iconic songs than you can shake a stick at – “Blowin’ In the Wind”, “The Times They Are A-Changin’”, “Like a Rolling Stone”, “Highway 61 Revisited”, “Shelter From the Storm”, “Gotta Serve Somebody”… not to mention defining a color with tracks like “Bob Dylan’s Blues”, “Talking World War III Blues”, “Subterranean Homesick Blues”, “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”, “Tangled Up In Blue”…
And Dylan has kept on going, from controversially ‘going electric’ at one festival to a horrific motorcycle accident and even being born again. And he’s been doing his ‘Never Ending Tour’ for over twenty years now, even inspiring others like in Martin Scorsese’s acclaimed film biography No Direction Home or the most unusual pseudo-biopic I’m Not There, where Dylan-like characters were played by everyone from the late Heath Ledger to the (female) Cate Blanchett. Now out with his latest, Together Through Life, Dylan stands as one of the most important musicians in American history.
Sort of following in the footsteps of his son, Jakob, who played last year’s inaugural festival, the one-and-only Bob Dylan comes to Rothbury.
11:00 PM – close (Nightcap), The Raneh Arena
Umphrey’s McGee (see above) close out Rothbury with their own bonus, ‘Nightcap’, set.
For festival website, go here: www.rothburyfestival.com