Contributing Writer/Photographer : Bryan Flanagan
Thanks to kyshmoo at YouTube for the video!
Looking for a low-key festival over a holiday weekend that is well-ran, with great bands, good people and the freedom to come and go? Head Jamz is your festival and you will need to make plans to attend next Labor Day in Adams, TN.
If you read my preview (http://therfw.com/2010/08/introducing-bryan-and-head-jamz-2010/), you would know that I had my doubts about how everything would go down. After all was said and done, I ended up quite surprised and thrilled with the results.
During the devastating spring floods in middle TN, the campground was literally under 50 feet of water raging at over 50 mph. Water reached all the way to the rafters of the covered pavilion that was creatively used as the stage, marked by a small poster that eerily reminded everyone how lucky we were to be standing there. Despite huge challenges, Head Jamz rocked in its’ 2nd year over Labor Day Weekend. We had no waiting line to get in, onsite access to necessities (other than a run to the Dollar General for cold pills- wife caught a minor cold), plentiful great vendors, amazing weather (kind of a shot in the dark for Labor Day weekend in TN) and a very well organized event.
Now onto the music, and what a lineup it turned out to be. With so many great bands scheduled I was amazed the lineup was arranged in a way that I was almost able to catch them all. I can only hope to be fortunate enough next time to have as solid a campsite as I had this year, as I could hear all bands clearly from it. This meant instead of waking up in the morning to eat quickly and get to a specific stage, I could simply roll out of my tent, put the coffee on the percolator and listen to the first bands of the day.
We headed over Friday afternoon to hear Charles Butler and the Associates (http://www.myspace.com/progressivebanjo) and they were a great start to the fest. Hyryder (http://www.hyryder.com/) was the next band that we hit. They did some covers of bands I love and did them very well. Normally it is difficult to cover Phish, Grateful Dead, Talking Heads and really make it sound like their own, but Hyryder does this extremely well. This band kept us in front of the stage the entire set with songs that never get old. I was really anticipating Emmit-Nershi Band (http://www.emmittnershiband.com/) as I have been to a few String Cheese Incident and Leftover Salmon shows and they were absolutely not a letdown. As a matter of fact, I prefer the bluegrassier side to String Cheese and I definitely got it with Emmit-Nershi Band. Of course I am always a huge sucker for the song “Jellyfish” and we got a fantastic version. I thought at that point my weekend was a huge success, only to be proven that there was MUCH more in store for me the rest of the weekend.
The Friday late nite set came from Chicago’s Future Rock (http://www.futurerock.net/) and the energy was exactly what the crowd needed to keep them going on the first day of the fest. I especially loved the drive the band had onstage: the drummer never stops and the keyboard player kept the crowd into it by giving hand signals letting us know it was going to rage soon. Perfect mix of synth and drums with this group and they are worth checking out as soon as possible.
Saturday started out a bit rough as it normally would at a festival, but Flea Market Hustlers (http://www.myspace.com/fleamarkethustlers) was a perfect fix. I wasn’t the only festival goer that thought Flea Market Hustlers could have played even later in the day as they were fantastic. They stuck around all weekend as fans had the constant party going late night with some live tunes under the stars and a sweet disco ball hanging from a tree. I never made it over to their late night jams, but heard much about it and will make a point to hit it up next year. They play some unexpected bluegrass covers of songs I wouldn’t have imagined done that way and it was great.
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Saturday afternoon we tried out the Disc Golf course that is built on the grounds each year (18 holes done by Cloud 9 Disc Golf http://www.cloud9discgolf.com/). It got up near 90 during the day, so it was pretty damn hot and we didn’t pack enough beer in the cooler to finish all 18 (9 of which were in the woods). It seemed many other attendees were disc golf players as the course was quite busy, but the setup allowed for many players at one time on the course.
After relaxing for a bit back at the campsite, we got back over to the stage for Old Union (http://www.myspace.com/oldunion), and they were firing on all cylinders. I cannot express how much I enjoy the lead singer’s voice as it reminds me a bit of Warren Haynes. It was my first time seeing them live after hearing them on local radio (www.lightning100.com) and I will be sure to check out some more shows. Next up was Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk (www.dumpstaphunk.com) and they surely brought the funk. It came to me during this set that we were so lucky to be hearing excellent tunes at this small venue, especially since 2 weeks prior I had visited and questioned if this would work. The stage was absolutely beat down from the 50 ft. flooding and had looked as though it had not been used in years. We were seeing a big name headliner at the same stage, in a perfect setting and with everything we needed around us. I guess the funk brought out some profound thoughts and it was a nice end to the evening by the stage.
We were able to listen to the last band by a fire at our site as the temps dropped into the high 40’s. I will have to see The Twin Cats (http://www.myspace.com/thetwincats) again because they had a great sound that made me keep wondering exactly what was going on onstage; fortunately, Skippy the Hippy (great neighbors) brought the laser pen with different tips and we had a private light show in the woods.
We had paid for a Sunday canoe trip ahead of time. It seemed not to matter if you paid for the 4 or 6 hour trip; you jumped on the bus and rode to the drop spot. It was a long trip with lots of spilled beer, but we had a blast. We again didn’t pack enough beer and were definitely done with canoeing about 4 hrs in. Definitely should have started a bit earlier with the canoe trip as we missed most of the bands during the afternoon. I did make it back over for the unique rockin style of Captain Midnite Band, whose lead singer also seemed to be on site volunteering all weekend. Costumed and all, they had a good set that we caught the latter half of. We listened to the Max Allen Band (http://www.maxallenmusic.com/ ) from the campsite while making dinner that night and because we were beat from the canoe trip. I was really excited for the rest of the night so some rest was needed. They were really a different sound, a combination of a lot of the music we had heard so far during the weekend.
There was a definite buzz throughout the weekend in anticipation for Cornmeal (http://www.myspace.com/cornmealinthekitchen) and they pleased everyone. With their jam-grass style, they are able to start a song, break into a jam as long as they want it to go, and then end the tune very clearly for even folks that had never seen them before. They are one of those rare gems that you sometimes wish had a ton more success, but are glad they have stuck to their sound and continue to be there for us to enjoy in intimate settings. They definitely now have a few more fans out there, including my cousin. After Cornmeal, the raffle numbers were called off (all money went to Flood Relief for local area) and some really cool prizes were given out (cigar box guitar, signed festival poster, etc). Hoping they get the word out about the raffle better next year, because it seemed they sold very few tickets.
Sunday nite was The New Mastersounds, a smooth way to end the weekend for us. They kept us grooving past midnite and really felt like a good soundtrack to end the weekend. The last band came on at roughly 2 AM and I was done for the weekend so we crashed as the only thing left to do was pack everything up and head home in the morning.
There is no doubt we will be back at Headjamz next year, probably with an even bigger group. Between the stellar performances, great people and vendors, location on the river, and surprisingly affordable price, you really can’t go wrong.