As the Friday morning migration of early risers dispersed to acquire their first fix of caffeine, the fairly priced $3 cups were a welcome relief from the $9 beers that drained wallets the night before. Local rock group Sun-Dried Opossum, aided by the climbing heat of the mid-morning sun, beckoned attendees out of their tents and campers toward the Relix stage.
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Marcus King Band followed, upping the rock and roll intensity even more, to a noticeably larger crowd. The Relix field’s undulating topography provides varying levels that aid people further back in viewing the stage, but also offers some rather slanted footing that can make it trickier to find a comfortable place to stand. But patrons weren’t letting that stop them from gathering to soak in the sultry southern rock led by Marcus King. His rough around the edges vocals accompanied by trumpet, sax and organ blended to form a rich and mature sound. The heavy rock made a fitting soundtrack for the crowds dragging footsteps, weighed down with the increasing heat.
New York band TAUK brought a level of sophistication with their polished sound, releasing beautifully executed instrumentation with a slightly spacey, ethereal tone. Accompanied by some much appreciated cloud cover, they provided the perfect soundtrack for the web of frisbee throwers flinging their tiny UFO’s through the air on the main stage field.
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The tribal soul vibes of Sinkane mellowed out the atmosphere with a lighthearted sound as people mingled, sprawled out in hammocks between whatever trees they could claim, and made the whole show field feel like one giant living room shared by all.
The main stage welcomed Blackberry Smoke as it’s first performer of the day. They put out a satisfying performance of savory southern rock before Jim James completely switched up the energy with a solo acoustic performance. Despite his softer sound, he had a way of focusing the crowd’s attention with thought-provoking sentiments.
He opened his set with an acoustic rendition of “Young at Heart” before paraphrasing the Nelson Mandela quote: “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background or his religion. People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” He explained it’s a quote he’d been thinking about a lot recently. He poignantly followed it with a tune about people making the same mistakes over and over again.
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Brandi Carlile took to the stage next and exploded through the speakers with a full band and really tight, controlled sound that laid a strong foundation for her unbelievable vocal ability. There was a lot of love for Carlile at the start of her set, but as she bounced around on stage, exuding positivity and grace, she quickly won over a lot more hearts too. The crowd was in awe to the point that she took notice and expressed to the crowd, “This is some of the best energy I’ve felt on stage.” The mutual love and respect between Carlile and the adoring crowd continued to grow throughout her set.
After each song she wistfully tossed her guitar pick into the crowd, to the cheers and delight of many. One of her set highlights was an acoustic rendition of “The Eye.” She sung in a three-part harmony with two of her bandmates whom she has been performing with for fifteen years. They happen to be twin brothers, and she humbly introduced the tune exclaiming, “They are amazing singers and they could be standing at this center mic any day of the week and we’re about to show you why.”
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Next the band picked things up with “Hard Way Home,” followed by an energetic rendition of “Folsom Prison Blues,” which she sang in an effortless flutter between sweet and smooth to gruff and rusty vocals. Carlile remarked right after, “Momma’s getting’ to old for that shit,” and the crowd hollered in laughter at her sincerity, and ability to level with the crowd. Her conversational style between songs allowed her to genuinely connect with the audience. She played “The Mother,” a song off her new album about the impact of having a daughter. Jim James came back out to duet with her and their mutual respect for each other provided the glue for great stage chemistry. Next she dedicated “The Story” to Charlottesville before ending her set by covering “Going to California,” which she sang effortlessly because she is the queen of country rock.
Phil Lesh and The Terrapin Family Band came out next to the utter joy of the very Grateful Dead-centric crowd. Their mellow rock sound was punctuated by a sea of cheers as fans recognized their favorite songs and proudly brandished their vibrant tye dyes. Gov’t Mule followed with more heavy rock, aided by the sharp vocals of Heart’s Ann Wilson during a one-two punch cover of “Immigrant Song” aptly followed by “Black Dog.”
Wilson took a moment to express, “We judge each other by what we have or how successful we are, but that’s complete and utter bullshit. So let’s take it all back.” Wilson and Gov’t Mule then went into a deep bluesy, “I Don’t Care What You’re Wearing,” as a man donning a glitter-laden jellyfish hat paraded through the crowd at just the right moment.
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