Festival season is upon us, and with that comes 5 months of music and memories in some of the best locations for live music in the nation. As we prepare for our coverage of music festivals this summer – more than 40 across the country and Canada – we asked our staff to revisit some of the great music festival moments that they have experienced. Here are some of those moments.
Jim Gilbert: So many… mudsliding down the SPAC lawn during Red Hot Chili Peppers at Lollapoolza 1992. Clifford Ball and hoping that my ex-wife who was nine months pregnant would go into labor during “The Lizards” (the trick was to surrender to the flow). Or the first H.O.R.D.E. tour and playing fetch with Marley or smoking with Chris Barron. All the way to Rock on the Range last year when Korn’s Brian “Head” Welch saw me and said, “Jim? What are you doing out here?” “Um, Brian, what are you doing here?” “Oh yeah, I’m playing, I imagine that you are shooting.” “Yep.” “Yep.”
Jeremiah Shea: My greatest experience came just last year at Night Lights Fall Music Festival in Sherman, NY. Even though the music was incredible and it was my first time seeing Marco Benevento, the highlight was the setting in which it took place. The festival is known for it’s light show, not on stage, but throughout the venue and the woods surrounding it. The team that coordinates the festival does an installation of about a mile or so of LED lights scattered throughout the forest where it takes place. With multiple stages setup, I was treated to an amazing walk between sets of trees lit up in multiple colors, illuminated walkways, and an obvious show-stealing overall exhibit. I now plan on attending every year regardless of who is taking the stage as that is always held to just as high of a standard as the entire production.
Pete Mason: When I attended The Hangout in 2012, Sunday had a great afternoon lineup at the Chevrolet Stage – Mavis Staples, Steve Winwood, then The Flaming Lips, who were set to perform Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. I stayed put at that end of the beach the entire day, and while the full day was awesome, it was the Lips’ set that made it one of the greatest festival experiences ever. During “Us & Them”, I looked on my phone and saw that an eclipse was taking place momentarily on the other side of the world. I saw images coming through as “Brain Damage” started and as they went into “Eclipse”. As if those lyrics weren’t already some of the best ever, hearing “All that is now and all that is gone and all that’s to come and everything under the sun is in tune but the sun is eclipsed by the moon” was one of the most awesome feelings ever. You know those chills you get despite sweating? I had a rush of those for a few minutes afterward, and any time I hear the song in the future. I can never disconnect the memory of that day at Gulf Shores. The song will never be the same again.
Jimmy Chambers: In 1999, my first non-Phish festival, I was at Gathering of the Vibes. I was enthralled by all the different bands and art and people. It was a truly monumental experience but the one moment that would change my life forever happened early on Saturday as I was walking to my car and to my right was the main stage, where I heard music that was different and better than anything I had ever heard before in my life. It was the Disco Biscuits. 15 years and 65 shows later, I still feel they are the best band out there. That is a festival moment that will live with me forever.
Lindsay Jones: One of my best festival memories was Umphrey’s McGee, Bonnaroo 2006. It was a late show and I was flying solo that night. The set was high energy from the get-go, but when the band broke out into The Beatles “Baby You’re a Rich Man”, one of my favorites, I knew that night was special. As Umphrey’s transitioned into a funky version of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2”, it seemed that the crowd was grooving and moving as one, all dialed in. We were all singing along as “Brain Damage/Eclipse” grew to its climax, and I was absolutely overcome by emotion, bursting out into happy tears. Unbeknownst to me at the time, Marc Brownstein and Aron Magner of the Disco Biscuits and Joe Russo and Tom Hamilton were all on stage contributing to this musical masterpiece. I was just happy to have been there.
Carly Knaszak: My greatest festival was Uproar Festival 2011 at Darien Lake, NY. My friends and I got there early just to see what merch they had out and what bands would be playing early. The headliners were Avenged Sevenfold and Three Days Grace. My friends and I walked into the venue and we saw a stand that was selling Three Days Grace CDs and we approached and saw if you bought their Life Starts Now album, you would be able to have the band sign it for 5 bucks. We bought the CDs and had the experience of a life time meeting Three Days Grace with their former singer, Adam Gontier. Avenged Sevenfold stole the show when they came on with opening with ‘Nightmare’ and ending with the oh so famous, “A Little Piece Of Heaven’. I came out of that concert with a few bruises, a sore throat, ears ringing and the greatest concert experience, ever.
Garrett Woodward: Watching The Dead play the sunset set on the 4th of July. It was a surreal moment to stand on that grassy knoll‚ amid tens of thousands‚ and realize everyone (everything) here is a result of the magic created by a band formed some 44 years ago. The angst and beauty associated with traveling to catch that perfect show‚ the effort to drive dozens of hours in hopes of a correctly guessed opening melody‚ the lifestyle and reality‚ the entire goddamn reason I‚ and all in attendance‚ conduct our lives grew out of our unrelenting love for the Grateful Dead. Before I knew it‚ a handful of teardrops rolled down my cheeks during “US Blues‚” as fireworks exploded over the stage‚ celebrating not only the independence of this great land‚ but the independence and progressive nature of those surrounding me. “Wave that flag‚ wave it wide and high‚ summertime done‚ come and gone…”
Amy Lieberman: My favorite festival moment had to have been back in 2010, at the Gathering of the Vibes, a lovely gathering on the beach at Seaside Park in Bridgeport, Connecticut. This festival always seems to have an all-around positive vibe hanging over it the entire four days, probably due to the fact that this festival was created to provide a forum for music lovers and appreciators to channel the spirit of Jerry Garcia, which is really what attracted me to want to attend the event in the first place. On top of the obviously amazing shows put on by Furthur, Primus, Jimmy Cliff, and Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, my absolute favorite moment of the festival was when Jackie Greene made a surprise guest appearance at the “Teen Scene” stage, where he joined the group of talented young musicians who happened to be playing on the stage after Jackie’s main stage act! I have to admit (and I’m sure I’m not the only one out there), I am a huge admirer of Jackie Greene, but I tend to get extremely starstruck. Well, I managed to work up the courage to tell him what I’ve always wanted to tell him, which was “Your voice makes my heart melt,” and got my photo snapped with him! That was definitely a major highlight of my festival-going years, not to mention my entire life!