Mad Tea Party Jam
June 20-23 2013
presented by Appalachian Jamwich
Wed-Friday review by Joe Cariola
Saturday review by Becca Cranwell
all photos copyright Roger Gupta Photography 2013
Mad Tea Party Jam 2 : Wednesday – Friday
by Joe Cariola
As with any festival, I find myself getting pre-festy excitement a few days beforehand. Although with this one, I was clock watching a full week and a half in advance. We (my girlfriend, Kim, and I) had the opportunity to arrive on Wednesday evening, the night before the shenanigans officially began. Only a few people arrived this early, mostly volunteers or active members of staff. This was truly a magical weekend, and it took a lot of work. The volunteers and staff worked tirelessly to put on this incredible event and they kept it together better than some of the major fests I’ve attended.
We arrived Wednesday night and frantically setup camp in the Deluxe grounds. We beamed with excitement to see who was around us and to start mingling with our fellow campers. From my own experience, waiting to set up your tent only ends with you sleeping on the ground or in your vehicle that first night. From where we were camped, we could see the massive undertaking which was the constructing and assembling of the main stage. The crew work incessantly to get it situated and I was really impressed to see it completed right before my eyes. We introduced ourselves to our neighbors, made some new friends, and reacquainted ourselves with some familiar faces. Towards the very end of the night, it was just Jason Ireland and me sitting under his easy up. We both had excitement in our chests for what was coming the following day. I had my ideas and expectations, but as you will read, they were completely surpassed and exceeded. I think I finally managed to fall asleep around 2:30 a.m. after a very, valiant effort.
Thursday, we started to see people trickle in. The volunteers kept people where they were supposed to be without any real issues, but you could tell that anticipation was heavy in the air. I want comment early on about something that was truly fantastic… the sound. The technicians did stellar work and you could hear the music from the main stage clearly from anywhere you may have been camped. If you’re like me and lose track of time, it’s easy to figure out roughly where you are in the day based on when the music started and who was playing. The music started around 2 p.m. with Rise of Tides. They, along with the Luke Johnson Band and the Rusty Haywhackers, were setting the mood proper!
At any day, at any festival, there is a band who amps up the entire crowd. It’s when the sun is starting to set, or at least get low in the sky, and everyone is about to come out en masse. On Thursday, this band was Moogatu. They surely got people’s feet moving and bodies swaying! When the next two bands are Kings of Belmont and ZOOGMA, you know it’s about to get real. Those two bands had the crowd absolutely grooving!
I’m going to take a moment to mention something else that event coordinators had on lock down. That was the port-o-john situation. As any festival attendee knows, sometimes this situation can be problematic, especially when everyone in high concentration around the main stage and vendor area. Taco and Elise accommodated this festival because of their own experiences at festivals they’ve attended in the past. There were plenty of them and they were kept in great condition all weekend. This alone is a very simple luxury that can really make a difference in your overall experience. Anyway…back to the music, eh?
There were some serious musicians at this festival. We were treated to Larry Keel & The Natural Bridge, Cabinet, and People’s Blues of Richmond (PBR). I have appreciated bluegrass for a few years now, but there are few bands that do it like Larry Keel & The Natural Bridge. The dance floor that opened in front of the stage was full of smiling, hopping people. The energy during this set made it nearly impossible to stand still! It’s during these times that people really start getting into the evening. Despite Larry and his buddies doing their best to make us dance to the point of exhaustion, Cabinet followed up with a blistering set as well. If you haven’t seen Cabinet, I highly recommend them. Depending on where you are, dear reader, they may or may not be on your local scene. If they come to your area, definitely put them on your radar. If not? Stay with some friends in a town where they’ll be playing. I really don’t see how you could be disappointed.
The night closed out with PBR. Due to time constraints, Sol Frequency, was unable to play that night. The throttle had been fully engaged since Moogatu took the stage and PBR wasn’t about to slow it down. By the time they finished their set, I was exhausted. Those times where you say to yourself, “I’m just going to sit on the blanket for the next song or two….” but then find yourself back up and groovin’ within the next minute? That scenario consistently happened all weekend. By the time I made it back to my camp, a few cold beers and a camp chair was exactly what the doctor ordered.
As we sat with our friends and neighbors, talking and laughing, the sky started to be not quite so dark. During these times you want to stay up, and some of you may, but this one needs his sleep. I caught about five or six hours of sleep before the sun woke me up on Friday morning.
Previously, I asked Elise about the shower situation for the weekend. When she responded with “The Creek. :/”, I couldn’t help but chuckle. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I love swimming in creeks and rivers. When the heat of the day was at its most oppressive, you could find quite a few people just sitting in the initially cold, but quickly comfortable water. I found myself in that water plenty of times over the weekend and I think everyone else had the exact same idea.
Camryn Wessner kicked off the music on Friday and I immediately knew what time it was when I heard her beautiful voice coming from the main stage. Galaxy Dynamite followed her. I first caught these guys at Pink Moon last year and their brand of delicious jam was a wonderful lunch. Things started getting funky really fast on Friday! Immediately following Galaxy Dynamite was a local favorite of Baltimore, Freedom Enterprise. It was pretty hot surrounding the main stage, but people came out to get down despite the heat. It was pretty funny to see all of my Baltimore friends there to show their support and start moving. Former Champions came up right behind them and let us have it, but I had to retire to the shade of my campsite. Fortunately, I could still hear everything. KR-3, Cabinet, and Larry Keel & The Natural Bridge came out, but I dozed off to get some rest for the night. I had so many people come back to the site as I was waking up saying, “You should have been down there! You missed some crazy music!” Although disappointed, I was well rested. I also managed to catch Sol Frequency punishing the campfire stage (this was makeup for their lack of time to play on Thursday night). The sound on the second stage was excellent too! Merritt had them sounding amazing and when they broke into a bit of the Tetris theme, I was all grins.
About twenty minutes before Kung Fu took to the Main Stage, I got my costume on and made my way to the grounds. I was the blue, faceless monstrosity in the tutu. When Taco and Elise told me about the costume events, I had to go all out. I imagine they will start forwarding me the therapy bills for the ocular damage, but it’s ok! Since we are on the topic of going all out, let’s give appropriate mention to Kung Fu. These boys clearly know what Funk is. Everyone was dancing. The lights were going full bore right along with it. There were so many times during the night where I thought to myself, “This is just utterly incredible. This is EXACTLY what I needed.” After Kung Fu, came The Werks. Now, this set was just a taste of what was coming the next night, but they definitely gave us more than a taste. Personally, I’ve only attended a handful of their shows. I will say that each time I see them play, I love them more and more. The music is deep, soulful, touching and just groovy as nobody’s business. On top of it, all of them are absolutely stand up guys. If you see one of them after a show, talk to them. After a matter of minutes you will know exactly what I’m talking about. ZOOGMA and Up Until now came out to finish off the night, with Broccoli Samurai doing a Midnight set at the campfire stage on Saturday. I made it through ZOOGMA but my body was rebelling against my brain. I retired to the campsite to hang with my fellow campers, while Kim and a few others from our group stayed for Up Until Now.
When she got back, she was thoroughly impressed. After hearing her talk about it, I once again scolded myself for not keeping myself up at the main stage. I know they made a new fan that evening, and I’m sure that our future concert plans will have them included as sure as I know that the sun will rise tomorrow.
I want to take a moment and thank Taco and Elise for working so tirelessly. This event was originally created to celebrate their anniversary and what a celebration it was. It is important to recognize, however, that without the love they have for this music, for each other, and for all the people within this scene, none of this would have been possible. They put on an amazing festival that I will be returning to every single year. The vibes and friendliness surrounding this entire event were amazing. I’ve met friends who after only knowing for 48 hours, I will be attending other festivals with. It’s only at festivals like these where you meet those people who you think, “How is it that we are just now meeting?” or “I can’t believe it’s only been two days…I feel like I’ve known these people forever.” Honestly? It’s just the magic of the music and the love from everyone involved.
Taco and Elise? The entire Jamwich Crew? I love you, and thank you for your selfless dedication to a weekend that will not be forgotten, and stories will be told of for months and months to come.
Stay tuned! The big Saturday review is coming!
Fill Your Cup: Mad Tea Party Jam II
by Becca ‘Boo’ Cranwell
“Begin at the beginning . . . and go on ‘til you come
to the end: then stop”- Lewis Carroll
Friday night’s final act—Up Until Now—has been off stage for less than an hour before the sun begins peeking over the mountainside, Saturday morning. Casting a warm golden-orange glow over the misty mountains of Hedgesville, West Virginia, the fiery orb signifies that today is going to be another sunny day in Wonderland. In a matter of hours, Mad Tea Party Jam II will not just be a celebration of music—but a celebration of love and devotion. MTPJ2 is a marriage anniversary festival for creators—Taco and Elise Olmstead—and this year’s fest is also playing host for soon-to-be husband and wife: Nick Hobbs and Bonnie Strayer.
By 8 a.m., beautiful women in delicate sundresses are buzzing around the Bavarian Villa adorning ladies, children and gentlemen with peacock feathers and lace. A group of groomsmen in tangerine button-downs and cream-colored vests stand under a tree sipping beers, laughing, and wiping sweat from their brows. A magical venue, the property features a romantic Bavarian Villa, a through-the-looking-glass pond, and a babbling creek with swimming hole just a short walk from camp. A festie essential, the creek plays host to hoards of heat exhausted Mad Hatters and March Hares throughout the weekend.
Love and adoration mingle through the air as the ceremony begins. With close family and very best friends at all sides, Nick and Bonnie glitter with joy while reading vows riddled with Dead lyrics. There are tears. Lots of tears, but not one of them falls in sadness. Taco Olmstead, the official who blesses the union, was ordained before the festival for the sole purpose of performing the ceremony for his friend. And who could blame the Hobbs’ for wanting not only Taco, but the whole MTPJ2 crew, involved in such a meaningful day. Coordinators, volunteers, artists, and guests—everyone at the Jam is family.
Following the ceremony, Sacred Groove, from ShepherdstownWV, carries on the loving goodness vibes with all your favorite Grateful Dead tunes. Ladies with ribbon dancers and hoops and twirl to “Sugar Magnolia”; “Eyes of the World” incites jubilant dancing and lots of hugging from wedding members as well as those simply watching in the audience. People’s Blues of Richmond follows Sacred Groove with their signature wailing and rocking. Lead guitar and vocalist, Tim Beavers, writhes across the stage howling for the super moon that will show its glowing face in just a few hours.
Kings of Belmont provides perfect Saturday afternoon day-time music—not too heavy and not too far out. The Kings are joined by MTPJ2’s artist at large, alto saxophonist Ron Holloway, who sits in to add his distinct jazz flow to their smooth rock. Because every wedding needs some tunes to get sexy to—Subterranean House Band, from Dayton, Ohio, seduces Mad Tea Partiers with what starts out as silky smooth jazz, then turns into grungy, get-down, baby-makin’ music by the end.
While the music is good enough to suffer through the sun, many festivarians seek shelter from the sweltering heat under the safety of the vendor’s tents. You might get caught up watching Rae Vena or Bryan Bailey paint stunningly psychedelic artwork, while also getting down to Broccoli Samurai. This Cleveland, Ohio jamtronica group creates the transition between rocking day-time music, to a slower and more trip-a-delic vibe. Broccoli Samurai is the perfect bridge into ELM’s set. Now that we’ve all found our groove, ELM—formerly known as Segway—begins their journey to the center; if you have to ask “the center of what!?” Then you need to go see ELM and figure it out for yourself.
Pigeons Playing Ping Pong picks up and gently transitions the vibe from astral and heady jams to funky, heart-pumping and high energy tunes for boogying the night away. The crowd makes an obvious gear change when PPPP takes the stage. While our heads swim through the clouds for ELM, Pigeons bring our focus plummeting back to physical reality—a quick reminder not to take yourself too seriously. As our collective energy slowly pulses, pushes and bumps the opal super moon playfully into the evening sky, the Baltimore funk-fiends are joined by none other than Ron Holloway—the man of the hour, nay, the weekend—for “Chameleon,” a throw-back for all you Herbie Hancock lovers. Professional to the core, Holloway jumps right in and infuses Pigeon-funk with sexy saxophone. If you were hoppin’ and boppin’ with the Pigeons a minute ago, now you’re winding and grinding to the ground and getting downright sexy with it. Greg Ormont, Pigeons guitar and lead vocalist humbly notes, “It’s always a blast playing with a talented horn smith. Ron’s ability to jam is impressive!”
Let’s just take a moment and realize what an exceptional musician and mad-man Ron Holloway is. The WashingtonD.C. native picked up an alto saxophone in middle school and never looked back. He began his career by playing with jazz greats like Freddie Hubbard and Sonny Rollins, moved on to perform with the Allman Brothers, and currently performs with the Warren Haynes Band. Ron Holloway doesn’t shy away from any genre of music. His talent is evidenced by how easily he hops on stage and effortlessly joins in on funk jams just as easily as bluegrass as he did the day before with Cabinet. Over the weekend, Holloway performed in too many sets to possibly name them all. It’s safe to say the majority of artists at MTPJ2 got to work with the Sax icon at some point during the weekend. Holloway’s musical skills are rivaled only by his people skills. Consistently cool as a cucumber, he is one of the most genuine musicians you will ever meet. He isn’t shy or uncomfortable talking to fans—even the wide-eyed and weird ones.
And there are plenty of wide-eyed wildflowers running around at the Mad Tea Party Jam—especially as the night continues. Kung Fu treats hungry listeners to a new song, “Semi,” by guitarist Tim Palmieri. If you haven’t been bumpin’ and groovin’ all night, Kung Fu will definitely bring it out. An intense keyboard solo by Todd Stoops makes all the myelin in your brain shiver with funktastic excitement; all to be brought screaming back down to Earth by deep beats and sensual saxophone by Adrian Tramontano. Naturally, Ron Holloway joins Kung Fu to take the experience to a whole new level; bringing some extra oo-la-la shimmy shimmy to the wippity whomp whomp of Kung Fu. Catch Kung Fu this summer at Kind Roots music festival and All Good.
It’s probably not safe to stop dancing immediately after hearing Kung Fu; seriously, you could hurt yourself. Therefore, the Werks take the stage to remedy post-lack-of-Kung Fu depression. About to perform the final show for Mad Tea Party Jam II, The Werks wastes absolutely no time; they know they have a big job to do. The Pigeons pushed the moon above the mountains and now The Werks must bring us the sun. And bringing the light is exactly what this group loves to do. The Keyboard fills our heads with the electronic constancy that so often leads to a remarkable stream-of-consciousness inner epiphany. The Werks also navigate the seas of experience, realization, and understanding with shredelicious guitar and sick drum solos. I can’t describe a Werks show any better. I’m sorry; you’ll have to experience it for yourself at The Werk Out festival this September—and whatever you do, don’t forget to listen to the lyrics.
The Werks’ pure vibrations of mystical musical freedom reverberate off the mountainsides. Love, friendship, hilarity, and ridiculousness swirl through the festival grounds as the night breaks. Look left, the pale full moon is slung low and she is sinking below a foggy mountain top. And to your right, the sun; he is peering radiantly, fresh and new over the horizon. Then there is you; delightfully stuck—smack in the middle completely enveloped in transcendent tones and esoteric lyrics that leave you wanting more.
Taco and Elise would like to extend a special thanks to everyone who helped with Mad Tea Party Jam:
“Thank you first and foremost to my husband Taco Olmstead for being the most impressively selfless and ambitious person I’ve ever met, and my ring you gave me from Hope at Earthly Essentials is gorgeous. Thank you also to Marc Worden, who without his faith and foundation, this festival could not have happened.
Thanks to all of my staff, especially Kaylee Zielinski, Stevie Nutter, and Molly Coleman who were there for me through thick and thin. And of course George Jones . . . also thanks to my volunteers for helping out. Thank you to the bands, big and small, who came to be a part of the madness . . . a special thank you to The Werks and their crew for being such a big part of this festival and a big part of our lives. You guys became impromptu ice salesman, security officers, vending coordinators…whatever we needed you were there for us.
Thank you also to People’s Blues of Richmond and The Kings of Belmont who were at the original Mad Tea Party Jam and came out once again. You are great friends of ours and also our family. You always put a smile on my face; I shared so many laughs with you. . . So many beautiful, magical people were with us this weekend.
Thank you vendors, live artists, Welsh Sound, Jim Dewey of Earthgrooves productions, Roger Gupta, Corinne at MerchGirl Band Merchandise, and tons of others. Thank you all who came and shared this weekend, it is so dear to my heart, the whole event was my soul brought to life in color and sound.” Elise Olmstead
The final and biggest “thank you” of all is reserved for Taco and Elise Olmstead, who put so much time, effort, heart and soul into Mad Tea Party Jam II. The amount of work these two put into their festival is overwhelming to even try to comprehend. The bands were perfectly fitting and amazing. The decorations were clearly created with care and attention to detail. It was obvious how much the staff, coordinators, and volunteers love the Olmsteads. Their work ethic is an intimidating, friendship inescapable, and they share a capacity for love that is nothing short of inspirational. Simply stepping onto the premises, nothing but the absolute purest sense of light and nurturance is felt. Thank you, Taco and Elise, for sharing your love with all of us Mad Hatters, March Hares, Tweedle Dees, Tweedle Dums and little girls who are just plain lost in Wonderland.
“It seems so long ago, since I first I left my home
Trying to find the music I hear playing through my soul.
You know that I have seen the dark side, and know that
I have seen the light—shining down on me.
It helps me see—because time is not a friend to me—
I live my life chasing all my dreams, I don’t mind
Spending most of my time out on the road—
Because when I get cold, you carry me back home.”
– “Carry Me Back Home” written by Dino and Norman Dimitrouleas
performed by The Werks
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