The Werk Out Music and Arts Festival Exceeds Expectations

The 7th annual Werk Out Music and Arts Festival at Legend Valley Music Venue and Campground was stacked for success with a powerhouse line-up.  Taking place in Thornville, Ohio, August 4-6,  it was more than just the music that fueled the success of this year’s festival.  Anchored by moving tributes in honor of former Werks’ keyboardist Norman Dimitrouleas, as well a plethora of artist sit-ins and breakout performances, this year’s festival was marked with emotion and surprises.

The Werk Out’s biggest surprise literally fell on STS9 drummer Zach Velmer, when a female fan managed to bypass festival security.  Once onstage, the fan made Werk Out history by attempting a trust fall onto Velmer and his kit.  STS9 left the stage to regroup and returned for a high energy second set that closed out the Main Stage on Friday Night.

Friday afternoon was highlighted by the Big Damn Jam’s performance of the Beatles’ classic album Abbey Road. The performance was dedicated to Dimitrouleas, who passed earlier this year.  As a member of Big Damn Jam, Dimitrouleas always wanted to perform the album.  After his passing, BDJ decided to honor him posthumously with the performance at this year’s Werk Out Music Festival.

The Abbey Road set included a rotating cast of musicians most notably Dino Dimitrouleas (The Werks), Todd Stoop, Alex Delk (Octopus’ Garden), Marcus Cornwell (The Vibe) and Justin Robb (Litz) as well almost a dozen other musicians throughout the afternoon set.  Most of the musicians participating had played with Dimitrouleas in various projects over the year.  During the set, fabric flowers fashioned from Dimitrouleas’ old shirts were passed out in his honor.  Fans and musicians wore them on hats, backpacks and various pieces of clothing throughout the rest of the weekend.

The tributes to Dimitrouleas continued throughout the weekend including The Werks’ Saturday night encore with a dedicated performance of “Carry Me Back Home.”

“I’ve never been so emotionally touched by a musical performance as I was during the Werks encore tribute to Norman on Saturday night,” said Zachary Burns of Grand Rapids, MI.  “Everything from the crowd chanting ‘DINO! DINO! DINO!’, to Dino’s speech before the song starting, to seemingly every member and a good portion of the crowd crying during ‘Carry Me Back Home.’ That was the definition of being happy and sad at the same time.”

The Werk Out’s most talked about performance came in the form of the Twerkapod “Tribute to the 90s.”  Featuring members of Twiddle, The Werks, and Dopapod, the Friday night late night set was packed with a mix of obvious choices (Green Day, Blink 182, Sublime, Nirvana, Rage Against the Machine) and stunning surprises (Britney Spears, Hanson and TLC).  Highlighted performances from the set included “Gangsta’s Paradise” which featured a perfect reproduction of the song’s ending choral arrangement and Twerkapod’s word perfect performance of TLC’s “Waterfalls.”

Fans of The Werks weren’t in agreement on which of the weekends multiple sets were the band’s best.  Most found that each of the weekend’s set contributed a different experience for the weekend.

“I really enjoyed the first Werks set on Thursday,” noted Tyler Raymond of Michigan. “I’ve seen the Werks more than any other band and the sound and production was top notch from them. The way the light show was coordinated with the band was seriously next level. You could really tell that they were putting the shows on for us and that the guys really love us.”

Dino Dimitrouleas, currently on a hiatus from bass duties with The Werks,  joined his band mates on several occasions for sit-ins throughout the weekend starting Friday night.  “When Dino came on stage in the tent everyone was so happy” Raymond told NYS Music, “Definitely a moment to always remember.”

Vermont based quartet Twiddle continued to create a buzz about their unique brand of jam.  Raymond also noted that the band’s Saturday night sunset performance on the Side Stage was among his favorite non-Werks set of the weekend.  “They are moving up the list of my favorite bands quickly because what they bring to the take is so fresh and different than anyone else out there right now.”

The weekend also featured several breakout performances.  New York’s Mister F and Teddy Midnight created a buzz in the Big Tent Stage.  North Carolina’s Big Something capitalized on their first Werk Out appearance on the Side Stage with a high energy afternoon performance on Saturday afternoon, while Maryland based band Litz turned heads during their Big Tent Stage set, which featured a sit-in from Twiddle keyboardist Ryan Dempsey.

In fact, the weekend was full of sit-ins including Twiddle’s Mihali Savoulidis and The Werks’ Chris Houser performing with Greensky Bluegrass and Dopapod’s Rob Compa shredding during Twiddle’s “Apples.”  And according to Derrick Webber of Ypsilanti, MI, these sit-ins add a new element of musicianship for some of his favorite musicians. “It blows me away to hear such clean performances from guys that don’t typically play together, and the passion they still have is inspiring.

The weekend’s ultimate sit-in featured members of the Werks, Twiddle, Greensky Bluegrass and Big Something in Matt Butler’s Everyone Orchestra. Butler finds a way to coordinate a variety of musical sounds, while leading his EO members to create unique and one time only jams. Twiddle bassist Zdenek Gubb stepped on stage to lead the EO to the highest energy, grooved out dance party of the set.  However, Houser received the set’s MVP award for showcasing a variety of styles, genres and face-melting solos throughout the performance.

Beyond the music, the Werk Out featured a large number of vendors, giving attendee’s a variety of food, beverages, merchandise and crafts to choose from over the weekend. Vendors for the weekend all were competitively priced, creating a fairly priced and active marketplace throughout the weekend.

Nick Augustine, a first time Werk Out attendee from Maryland, noted that his favorite non-musical part of the weekend was the fire spinners and propane dance floor set up near the late night stage.  “What a cool addition to the atmosphere!”

The Werk Out looks to return to the Legend Valley Music Venue and Campground for its eighth installment next August.  The venue has plenty of space for the festival to grow without the inconvenience of having to move locations to accommodate its growing popularity.  What the Werk Out does right is that it cultivates an environment of friendship and community while packing its line-up with musicians and artists that clearly have solid working relationships and mutual respect for their fellow musicians.

Augustine, who told NYS Music that he will be making the Werk Out an annual addition to his summer festival plans, said it was the overwhelming sense of community that made the festival a stand-out event.  “The staff, the crew and the people were all adding to making this festival fun, beautiful, exciting and safe. From the decorations to the sound and lights to the amount of good vibes and vending, this festival was one of the best I’ve attended!”