The fifth annual Frendly Gathering was held the last weekend of June at beautiful defunct ski mountain Timber Ridge Resort in the Green Mountains of Southern Vermont. With professional snowboarders Jack Mitrani and Danny Davis at the helm, Frendly set out to bring the masses together for a weekend of incredible music, camping, skateboarding, delicious food, yoga and most importantly, inclusiveness. With the motto “there is no ‘I’ in frends,” the festival was true to its word and brought out the best in their attendees.
For those who bought early arrival passes for Thursday, there was noteworthy music already happening once they were shuttled to the grounds. Devesh Duo Band and Gold Town welcomed Frendly goers setting up camp, followed by Burlington favorites Dead Set . With their unique renditions of classic Grateful Dead tunes, they got the bodies moving during the first beautiful sunset of Frendly Gathering.
Billed as The Smooths, Mihali Savoulidis of Twiddle and Todd Stoops took the stage for a unique, smile-inducing set. A cast of characters joined in on the fun for “Frends Theme,” including Jack and Danny, Ryan Dempsey of Twiddle and Jack’s brother Luke Mitrani. The crowd was full of energy, singing along with every word. The magic began to swell, and it was only a matter of time before the rest of the masses would fill the mountain with hugs, smiles and high-fives.
By Friday morning, it was apparent that people were anxious and ready for the headliners of the weekend, Twiddle. Mihali did several solo shows in the Martin Guitar Dome where anyone could pick up a guitar and play throughout the weekend. But Mihali’s kid’s set in the dome was certainly something special, with the tiniest of Twiddle fans singing every word. The kid’s set really proved that the Gathering wanted every single attendee, from little to big, to be included in the magic. Even Ben and Jerry’s were in on the fun, handing out free ice cream throughout the weekend.
The Wood Stage, set in the dense forest with a giant teepee covering the stage, was the scene of some incredible shows on Friday. New Jersey natives Sleepy Man, consisting of a trio of brothers ranging from age 12 to 17, put on a show that left the masses boggled at what they had witnessed. Spitting out folk and bluegrass like they had been playing for 20 years, Sleepy Man left no stone unturned. The crowd was electric, showing their pride for Frendly’s youngest act. Following Sleepy Man was the sultry sounds of Kat Wright and the Indomitable Soul Band. The eight-piece band sent horns blaring through the mountain, giving people the classic soul sounds sure to get them on their feet and dancing. Jumping back to the Woods Stage, Montana bluegrass band The Kitchen Dwellers took bluegrass to an entirely different level, blending psychedelia and bluegrass effortlessly.
Friday’s lineup was stacked, including Moon Hooch, Valerie June, Spirit Family Reunion and Canyon Collected. Each keeping the energy high, they were only paving the road for what would become an epic evening at Frendly. Heavy-hitting funk band Kung Fu brought the hammer down on Friday night, with new keyboardist Beau Sasser’s Hammond organ giving the crowd exactly what they were craving. The jam-funk brought the energy level at Frendly to new highs, especially when Mihali of Twiddle came on stage for “Hollywood Kisses,” which of course turned into “Mihaliwood Kisses.” After a full day of dancing and high energy acts, the crowd was still very ready for the headliners of the weekend: Twiddle.
If you were looking to hear your favorite Twiddle song, then they were anxious to give it to you. Opening with “Gatsby the Great,” Twiddle came out swinging. Every single person at the venue was on a Twiddle high, singing along and throwing the now-famous “peak” in the air. Torrin Daniels, banjo master from the Kitchen Dwellers, jumped in adding that extra something to an already incredible Twiddle set. Closing out the night with an epic version of “All Along the Watchtower,” no one left without a smile from ear to ear.
Singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and beat-boxer Lynx brought it all home Friday night after Twiddle. Her voice carried through the mountains, even to those too weary to stand after a heavy first day. It wouldn’t be the last we saw of Lynx though, as she played throughout the weekend on several stages, even making a stop in the Martin Guitar Dome.
Saturday came, and with it, some rain. But that didn’t stop the masses from doing their morning yoga and dancing to the incredible music that was to follow. If you were up early enough, your day began with a marching band down the mountain including Twiddle and Jack Mitrani and Danny Davis. As you hopped on the train, it led you down to the pond where Twiddle played to everyone huddled around the tiny body of water. It was an incredible way to kick off the final day, with everyone wearing their weary smiles with pride. The day was riddled with fantastic music, including Americana favorites The Kalob Griffin Band hailing from Philadelphia and an intimate Burton TeePee set from Nahko (of Nahko and Medicine for the People). Turkuaz took the Frendly Stage and before you knew it, the ultimate dance party erupted. Their horn-heavy funk eruption had a sea of people dancing effortlessly. Jumping back to the Wood Stage, soul band Con Brio kept the feet moving with their old-school approach to soul and funk.
In the middle of all the activities and music, there was some very important charity work being done by organizations like Love Your Brain and the newly-founded White Light Foundation. White Light raffled off Twiddle and Burton goods, raising over $2000 for the Kurn Hattin Homes for Children and Love Your Brain. If you bought even just one ticket, you could feel the good being passed on to those in need.
Even when the rain began to fall on Saturday evening, people gathered around for the inspiring international music of Nahko and Medicine for the People. The rain certainly did not deter fans from being included in the soul-healing music of Nahko. If anything, it was a welcomed sign from Mother Nature that we were all in it together.
Still the rain fell, but it did not stop every single person on the mountain from witnessing the final night of Twiddle. The crowd’s collective voices rang through the rain for songs like “Frankenfoot” and “Jamflowman.” It was magical, to say the least. Frendly Gathering most certainly delivered, paying homage to the ties that bind music-lovers together. If you came in with one friend, you left with many. If you came with the stresses of daily life on your shoulders, you left without them. Jack and Danny created the ultimate festival experience in the middle of Vermont, leaving everyone anxious for next year’s Gathering.
If you’re interested in seeing what all the fun was about, check out Frendly Presents YouTube channel, which has high-definition recaps of the entire weekend.