The fifth annual Mad Tea Party Jam took place in Artemas, PA, on June 16 through 18 at the Four Quarters Interfaith Sanctuary, assembling an epic troupe of inspirational visionaries, talented musicians and creative party animals. It was a weekend made magical by a storybook setting, featuring alluring decorations coaxing you deeper down the “Rabbit Hole” and into the love-infused small community that surrounds organizers, Taco and Elise Olmstead.
Four Quarters is a splendid piece of land, shaded by luscious greenery and cooled by the waters of Sideling Hill Creek running alongside; it offered a private, sacred place for us to call home for the weekend. The festival had three stages, the Gypsy Rose stage, the Main Stage or the Stone Circle Stage, named for the ethereal formation of stones that towered over us with silent power, and the Late Night Stage at the Barn, which doubled as the Workshop Pavilion during the day.
This magic that I keep alluding to, it must have had at least some part in protecting us all on Thursday, when we were hit by the worst hail storm that I’ve ever witnessed. While driving up to the festival, we saw a tornado warning, and though we figured that would bring a good bit of rain, no one was prepared for the winds that tore apart our campsites, saturated us with freezing cold rain or the baseball-sized hail that catapulted from the sky. While most were left with jangled pop-ups and soaked tents, no one was hurt, and that was the most important and wonderful thing. After the worst of the storm passed, everyone hugged each other, made sure their neighbors were OK, offered shelter, clothes and helped each other rebuild the camps. Taco Olmstead drove around checking on the campsites, and we heard stories of people helping the artists protect their art; in all, it ended up bringing us all so much closer.
Thursday’s music did get pushed a little, while the staff worked hard to restore order. We lost sets by Manor and Friends and Litz and Aqueous, unfortunately. Music started with a ’70s themed Big Something set. Fittingly, they kicked off with a cover of the theme song from That 70’s Show, got us fired up with “Disco Inferno” (The Tramps) with a sit-in by Jeremy Schon, of Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, artist at large, and then an awesome “Frankenstein” (Edgar Winter Group) cover into “Pinky’s Ride,” finishing with “Fly Like an Eagle” (Steve Miller Band).
Twiddle took the stage at 9:45 p.m. and played until a little past midnight at the Stone Circle Stage. Their set began with the deeply funky jam, “Amydst the Myst,” filling the circle with their graceful resonance and picking up speed at the end. Their first set included “Jamflowman” and later “Indigo Trigger-> Gatsby The Great->Pachelbel’s Canon In D->Gatsby The Great.” The second set had “When It Rains, It Poors,” “Lost in the Cold” and “Frankenfoote” with Dino Dimitrouleas (bass, The Werks), the other artist at large for the weekend.
Broccoli Samurai kicked off the first late-night at the barn, and let me say, no one can spark a late-night dance party the way Broccoli Samurai can; they were followed by Spaceship Earth and Ascentient, and before we knew it, we were walking back to our tents at daybreak.
Friday morning was a hot one, but trust me, no one complained about the sunshine, after what we’d lived through. Music kicked off at 11:30 a.m. at the Gypsy Rose Stage with Of Tomorrow, followed by Definition of One, performing for the first time with their new drummer, Travis Jenkins. They kicked off the afternoon with “Depths of Perception>Sonic Tonic>Mantis Vision” (Brick in the Wall).