Smaller festivals are considered to be a more intimate and familiar experience. Domefest 2016 is certainly that, but on a whole different level. There is a palpable energy, a feeling that being a part of this Flock brings with it a love that pulsates in every interaction, welcomes you as you are and most importantly, makes you belong without any doubt.
This year’s Domefest was held in the beautiful back hills of Bedford, PA, at Front Royale Farm; it was the event’s seventh anniversary. The new location was favorable primarily to VA Flockers, PA Flockers and some from New York, but the Flock is everywhere, and some dedicated fans made a much longer drive. Over the years, the event has moved locations a number of times, most recently relocating from Tripp’s Farm in Terra Alta, West VA, where it was held last year. While making my rounds talking to veteran Flockers, I got the impression that this year’s location was the best one yet, due to proximity, ease of navigation and lay of the land.
On Thursday, everyone arrived at the farm greeted by sunlight and a warm breeze pushing the clouds overhead. There was a large forest camping area most of which lined a long stretch of the main cleared road. There was also an option for field camping in the Dome Field that some people opted for. A path with wooden bridges that were fairytale picturesque, albeit a little risky, connected the general camping areas to the concert area. Camps set up and hammocks suspended, the early arrivals had a chance to enjoy the afternoon sun, while soft sounds of acoustic guitars from nearby campsites floated on the wind, laughter and conversation filled the woods.
Music kicked off at 6 p.m. on the Flo Stage with Star City Disco, led by DigitalDevy. Lespecial followed at the main stage sparking the evening heat, spreading their melodies on hard electronic grooves and stirring vocals. This year’s Domefest had three stages again, the Flo Stage for in-between sets, the main Runa Stage and the Late-Night Stage, sponsored by the Bamboo Eater.
Electric Love Machine (ELM) took us into the first evening with an energetic, ethereal “Hattori,” a spectacularly haunting “Rabbit Hole,” closing with a hard grooving “Tomorrow knows.” After that, the Flock, in full dancing mode from ELM’s set, got ready to see the first Pigeons set of the weekend. This set featured old favorites and tracks off their newly released third studio album Pleasure, such as, “Burning Up My Time” and “Live It Up,” along with a first-time cover of “1999” (Prince tribute). Broccoli Samurai did not give people a chance to miss them; opening with a Lotus cover that stopped people in their tracks, and kept them dancing well into the early morning.
Friday morning was perhaps the best weather the Flock saw before rain took over for the rest of the weekend. Everyone emerged from their tents to meet the warm sun, shaded from the heat by the surrounding forest. Workshops kicked off with a Rise and Shine Yoga Flow both Saturday and Friday mornings, with the talented Rebecca Simms. Music kicked off at 1 p.m. with Mateo Monk’s soothing tones, “like gospel on a Saturday morning.” The Jauntee, Litz and McLovins kept the crowds glued in the concert area, while Puremotion and Vibe and Direct kept them from leaving during set changes. The Jauntee started the marathon with funky grooves, which Litz later picked up and reverberated with their unforgettable vocals by Austin Litz, closing out their set with the first song guitarist Justin Robb has ever written for the band, “If you haven’t heard our name, you’re overdue.”
The evening was beginning to gather more and more of the Flockers, as Aqueous played their first set of the weekend (live stream by our Amanda Siedner available in AQuaintences Facebook group), followed by a heavy Mantras set with a memorable “The Way Life’s Been Good During Wartime” mashup. The second night of Pigeons certainly did not disappoint, with a Funky start, “Funk e Zekiel,” slowing a little for “Walk Outside” and “Sunny Day” before bringing the funk back with “Penguins>Funkijam” and a “Julia” with an “Under the Sea” tease. The Pigeons played an original debut “Fun in Funk” before closing out with “Ocean Flows” and “E. The Liquid.” The rain was starting it’s own marathon right around that time. Consider the Source mesmerized the crowd for as long as possible, until they thinned due to the heavy outpour, but many were determined not to let weather deter them from the amazing set. ShwizZ took the stage as the sky really opened the water flow for the remainder of the night, but again those determined were not dismayed and danced with ShwizZ until 5 a.m.
Waking up on the last day of Domefest was a little less warm and a lot less sunny. Flockers were slower to emerge, hoping that the downpour would take a break, but a drizzle was present for the whole day. Music kicked off at 1 p.m. with Strange Machines and Out of Beardspace, while Mateo Monk once again soothed in between sets. The Hornitz rocked the stage with a cool “Dayman” cover (Always Sunny in Philadelphia), vibrating their horns through Dome. Mister F brought their funk with deep bass, synthesizers, high-energy tunes and great covers, at one point sharing the stage with Hornitz. Scrambled Greg got the crowds ready for a Splintered Sunlight Grateful Dead set. Deaf Scene rocked the crowd before and after the amazing Big Something set that got the rainy night rolling with “Closer” and later “Passenger>Tumbleweed” and “Love Generator>The Curse of Julia Brown” to finish. Pigeons closed out their festival with an amazing run, with a “Skipjack” teased with “Paint it Black,” “J-Town>Black Dog>Whoopie” with the Hornitz boys and a first-time cover of “99 Red Balloons” that was sublime. A “Zydeko” finished the set, weaving into “Rainbow” in the middle. The last late-night was held by ELM and Aqueous, who held a sizable crowd in the soft mist until early morning. ELM kicked off the rainy dance party with “Captain Disco” and later went into a fly “Weird Fishes” cover, and Aqueous took the crowd home with “Origami” and “Skyway>Dave’s Song>Kitty Chaser (Explosions)” with Marty teases in Origami and Dave’s Song.
This is the second year that Domefest has held three days of music. The stacked line up made it difficult for Flockers to leave the concert area, despite nature’s best attempt to wash them out. At the end of the weekend, although cold and wet, the Flock packed up with warmth in their hearts from the new memories and friendships that they will hold until we get to do it all over again next year. “Tell the right people,” Greg finished their last set with wisdom for keeping that very special energy that lives at Domefest alive.