Words By: Vinny Cortese
Photos By: Greg Horowitz
Over the weekend of June 19-21st thousands of music fans from all over the greater East Coast gathered in Hedgesville, WV for the 3rd edition of the Mad Tea Party Jam. Although it was the first for many, feedback regarding the experience ensured that attendees were looking forward to next year immediately after its conclusion. The Mad Tea Party is run by Taco and Elise Olmstead of Appalachian Jamwich. The atmosphere at Mad Tea Party was full of love, unity, and good vibes. Family was the theme of the weekend and attendees rallied together to make this a memorable weekend. The family atmosphere started from the top down with the festival marking Taco & Elise’s wedding anniversary. It was capped off with a memorable sit in by Taco’s 13 year old son Alex with The Mantras on the last night. Furthermore fans were treated to a handful of one time only’s as band members hopped in with their friends on various occasions.
Although Mad Tea Party is a homegrown festival, the staff operated at an extremely professional level. The location was less than two hours west of D.C., the ideal meet up spot for festival goers from New England to North Carolina and as far west as Ohio. The Mad Tea Party assembled a terrific lineup that featured Papadosio, Dopapod (x2), The Werks (x3), Pigeons Playing Ping Pong (x2), Turkuaz (x2), Tauk (x2), The Mantras (x2), and ELM (x2). They also hosted artists at large Ron Holloway (Warren Hayes band) and Fareed Haque, the who together sat-in with nearly everyone. The production value was remarkable, 2 main stages side by side, a woods stage, and a dance tent with DJs mixing and looping till sun rise each morning. Each stage boasted a massive sound system with bass that vibrated through your entire body and ear piercing highs. The dance tent had projections both as a back drop for the stage as well as on the trees next to the tent. There was also a dome for festival goers to gather and unwind. It was decked out with pillows, yoga mats, lights, and movies played all night.
The festival kicked off Thursday evening with Pigeons Playing Ping Pong and Turkuaz, followed by Dopapod and Tauk, who turned things up a notch. They performed massive sets that set the tone for the weekend to come. Dopapod came out first with a trancy, high tempo performance.
Tauk followed up Dopapod’s performance by incorporated Dopapod’s trademark synths into a set that made them the talk of the festival. The band is firing on all cylinders and is really becoming a highlight performance at festivals all over the country. Be sure to catch them soon!
Baltimore based band ELM, ensued with some funky untz led by keyboardist Jon Brady. The high point of ELM’s first set of the weekend was a flavor full drum solo by Steve O’Goursh that had the entire crowd bopping their head and shoulders before the band dove into another jam. Closing out the night was Deltanine, an electro-soul 3 piece from Baltimore that utilizes Ableton bass tones, shredding guitar, and live drums. Deltanine smooth bass fueled performance was the ideal night cap to an amazing kick off.
Friday morning started with an acoustic workshop featuring Consider the Source. The band performed with a unique selection of acoustic instruments a number of different songs while taking breaks in between to describe the instruments they were playing. It was an informative and mesmerizing experience.
Up next was The Primate Fiasco, a band full of funk and brass. They provided soothing grooves that woke the festival up and created the proper mood for the day to come. One of the highlights of the early afternoon came from LITZ, a DC/Maryland based funk band revolving around front man Austin Litz. Austin is a highly skilled musician, playing keys, saxophone, and jazz flute. He also rocks the mic with raspy improvised vocals. LITZ’s style can be best described as cyber funk meets Go-Go. The LITZ boys have roots in GO-GO, a staple of African-American culture in the DC/Baltimore region. Following their performance Austin spoke about attending GO-GO’s during his youth and pioneer Chuck Brown’s influence.
Our good friends Turkauz and Tauk got everyone to the grooving by the main stage Friday afternoon. Turkuaz brought their Brooklyn power funk and style in the afternoon heat that featured sit-ins by Chuck Jones of Dopapod, Ron Holloway and Fareed Haque.
Tauk came in with a heavy, low end centered set as Isaac Teel displayed power and precession on the drums. Dopapod later took the stage for their second set of the weekend which was fueled by Chuck Jones’ bass guitar. The highlight of Dopapod’s set came during their 26-minute version of Trapper Keeper. Check out the video below.
The song began with all of Dopapod on stage and slowly Scotty (drums) switched with Isaac Teel of Tauk, Chuck (bass) swapped with John Ferrara of Consider the Source, and Rob (guitar) swapped with Craig Brodhead of Turkuaz, before all of Dopapod returned to the stage to finish the set. Their set also featured a sit-in with Fareed Haque of Garaj Mahal.
Papadosio was The Mad Tea Party’s main attraction Saturday night. The crowd danced and sang while hearing a handful of their favorite songs, but compared to the hyper energetic performances by all of the other bands it seemed as if Papadosio went in a different direction, putting together a soothing, instrumental electronic set.
Their production was fantastic, as they brought with them large screens with videos being mixed as well as a monstrous lighting rig that lit up the entire festival.
The Werks first set Friday night was full of soul, legendary tenor Ron Holloway joined them for an amazing improvised jam. Holloway and guitarist Chris Houser bounced back and forth with one another trading riffs on the guitar and belting sax solos.
This was definitely one of the top musical performances of the weekend. The night was eventually cut short however as rain moved in while ELM covered Led Zeppelin’s No Quarter slowly shutting things down.
At The Mad Tea Party, it was apparent that art is equally important as the music. The festival booked 35 painters, built large galleries as well as live painting stations at the main stage, and in the back of the field. There was a heavy dose of visionary art which draws from surrealism, cubism, symbolism, eastern religion, spirituality, psychedelic experiences, and paganism. Featured artist Blake Bower aka Teddy Ruxspin’s tent was full of viewers. On display were action figures and other hand sculpted objects such as army tanks, super heroes, and even Hulk Hogan.
Also presented, were various cubist paintings, they were full of geometrical symmetry and vibrant layers. You could also catch Blake working on a large canvas that he chipped away at the entire weekend. He even performed a DJ set while painting Saturday night. His vibrant colors and shapes meshed nicely as he threw down groovy, high frequency bass lines behind the controller.
Another artist that deserves recognition is Annie Kyla Bennett. Bennett’s surreal paintings and clothing are outstanding. Her t-shirts are one of a kind, multi layered printing with themes of sacred geometry and the chakras while her paintings are extremely sharp and defined. The sun, spirituality and psychedelic visions are themes present in several of her paintings. In addition to Bennett, there were several fashion designers vending. Moon Life and Proper Playground both had their new lines on display. If you have a chance, hop on their catalogues, sort through their designs, and make a purchase.
Saturday came around and although the dread of going back to reality was present, festival goers were out in full force. The Shack Band and Tweed threw down terrific sets in the early afternoon. Tweed sent their audience home with CDs for their car rides. On the main stage People’s Blues of Richmond was a big hit. Drummer Nekoro Williams stood out, was full of energy, and had a great stage presence. PBR has a unique style, heavily influenced by southern blues that made for a delightful mid-day set.
Arguably the best act of the entire festival was former Dopapod drummer Neal Evans’ band Elephant Wrecking Ball. The dubby, downtempo three piece exhibits a forward approach to minimalism. Bassist Dan Africano and Evans have a tight connection that had everyone grooving while Scott Flynn blew the crowd away with his trombone. Flynn uses special effects and pedals that give his instrument a futuristic sound that is unprecedented. Checking out Elephant Wrecking ball is a must whenever you can…especially if you are on a quest for that “new sound.”
Two bands that should be on everyone’s radar are Moogatu and UV Hippo, as both bands impressed on the main stage. Kicking off the evening, Consider the Source brought a super high intensity set to the main stage. Jeff Mann (drums) and John Ferrara (bass) established a penetrating groove while Gabriel Marin shredded his double neck guitar. The most striking part of the set was when Farred Haque joined in on guitar and the quartet performed Nine Inch Nails’ Closer.
Another band that stole the spotlight was the Ron Holloway Band. Their performance at the Mad Tea Party Jam marked the debut for the new band fronted by the sax legend who regularly performs with the Warren Haynes Band.
The group performed a number of tunes and kept the crowd rocking after an electric performance from Consider the Source, not an easy feat by any means. The band was really fantastic and sounded incredibly tight, leaving the crowd beyond surprised that is was their debut performance.
The band opened with “The Letter” and performed a number of other hits including a funky rendition of “Blackbird” by the Beatles, “Make It Rain” by Tom Waits, “Down By The River” by Neil Young, and “What Is Hip” by Tower of Power.
Keep your eyes on this band as they will definitely be making moves in the festival scene and beyond. The band features Ron Holloway on sax, Amanda Lynne and Jenny Poppen on vocals, Joe Poppen on guitar, Christopher Brown on bass and Barry Hart on drums.
The Werks capped the weekend off with two high quality sets, one at 11 pm and the other at sun rise. The late night set was intense, as they played on the heavy side especially during their hit “Onslaught.” On the flip side, the sun rise set had the audience in a groovy trance. They opened with the Mission Impossible theme song before jumping into Techno classic Sandstorm by Darude as they jammed well into the morning. No one could have asked for a better finish!
Overall, The Mad Tea Party Jam was one of the best festivals of the summer. A home grown festival with the glamour and professionalism of a million dollar production. From the musicians to the fans, it was clear that everyone was there for the right reason. If you care for a genuine good time, The Mad Tea Party is for you!