Favorite This400+ pics from 'the best' year of The Werk Out yet!

Published: August 23, 2017

Photos by: Bradford Watkins Creations

Story by: Kyle Rutherford

“This is the best vibe we’ve had in eight years,” yelled drummer Rob Chafin, right before The Werks started their second set of the evening on Saturday, August 5 at The Werk Out Festival. Between August 3rd and 5th, fans of the Ohio band ascended on Legend Valley in Thornville, Ohio to see the multiple sets from the band, along with music from of their other favorite jam, funk and livetronica bands.

It was my third Werk Out, and I would have to agree with Chafin. The good vibes were extremely thick around the festival grounds, from the time the gates opened until the time everyone went home. The music was great, the crowd was wonderful, and the sense of community around the Midwest jam scene was showcased in every way possible.

The festival grounds filled up quickly on Thursday afternoon. It was definitely a pretty hot start and with rain in the forecast, but people weren’t deterred. Cleveland, Ohio favorites Wanyama kicked the main stage music for the festival with a nice funk-fueled set. It was nice to see a nice crowd forming for an early set, especially due to the lack of shade around the stage area. The quintet definitely showcased much of the Cleveland inspired sound, fusing hip-hop vocals with excellent guitar riffs and saxophone-laden melodies.

Back at the Weird Music stage, festivalgoers hid from the sun to see Ann Arbor’s Stormy Chromer. Though not all too well known to Ohio, their brilliant progressive rock based sounds attracted a good crowd to the tent. Their dual lead guitars created a nice, atmospheric sound together, while their bassist gave the crowd some killer deep grooves. The highlight of their set was “Lose Your Zombies,” which is an insane mash-up of fellow Michigan native Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” with “Zombie” by The Cranberries. The guitar riffs were reminiscent of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir,” making the tune so much crazier.

After a nice introduction from the weekend’s host Jonathan Schwartz from SiriusXM’s Jam On station, Columbus natives Electric Orange Peel kicked into some bluegrassy, rockabilly-esque tunes. This was a fairly different start compared to their normal progressive sounds, but was still a great way to show off their diverse songwriting ability, along with some impressive organ runs and guitar licks. As they switched up into some more progressive, heavy rock n’ roll sounds, their music took on somewhat of a rising and falling manner. Guitarist Austin Crumrine and keyboardist Marko Manastyrskyj would build the sound almost into an epic climax, but would lead the band into pulling off before anything got too crazy. To end the set, listeners got to experience some more southern rock flavor, remisenset of “Tuesday’s Gone” by Lynyrd Skynyrd, along with a “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka tease from Crumrine.

Back in the big tent, Albany, NY’s Formula 5 took the opportunity to show off their fusion skills to a nice crowd looking to get some shade. Their tempo was constantly upbeat, and their vocals were bright, uplifting, and just overall happy. The songwriting was superb, but nothing too crazy and flashy.

To give The Werk Out a bit of southern flavor, Memphis, TN’s Southern Avenue stepped to the main stage to throw down a set that was all things southern. The impressive quintet was probably one of the best young fusion acts at the festival, utilizing soulful vocals, the occasional bluegrassy-based guitars and funky, organ driven keyboards. As with many funkier groups, the vocalist and the keyboardist are the driving force for the group. Southern Avenue definitely showcases that element of funk. The vocals on their cover of “Come Together” by The Beatles were extremely smooth and soulful, while the instrumental section was super funky. The cover itself was probably one of the most unique Beatles covers I’ve ever heard.

Back at the Weird stage, Philadelphia’s Tweed showed that they’re definitely a band that deserves to be heard on a massive scale. Their fusion of funk and heavy electronics makes them perfect to be heard all hours of the day and night. Keyboardist Jon Tomczak deserves to be sponsored by Moog due to his insane live sound design and unique improvisation.

Speaking of improvisation, the master of improvisational band leading, Joe Marcinek brought together a nice crew for his tent set. Marcinek’s sets are pretty much like an Everyone Orchestra set, but with each band member reading off each other instead of needing to be conducted. This edition of the band featured Marcinek on guitar, The Werks’ Dan Shaw on keys and Jake Goldberg on bass, and Earphorik’s Ryan Moreno on drums. The whole set flowed so well due to the free form nature of the jam session. Each member brought their own unique playing skills to the set, showing why it is one of the best touring jam sessions around.

Back on the side main stage, Cleveland’s Broccoli Samurai kicked off their tribute to Lotus. The quartet expertly recreated the sounds of the iconic band that they have performed with many times, completely nailing the synthesizer based sounds, bright guitar riffs and deep low-end bass grooves. Listeners also got a nice surprise when the band perfectly covered the Rick & Morty theme song, which fit in perfectly to their spacey set.

Kicking into their sunset set with a nice atmospheric intro, Dopapod quickly worked their way into their famous, gritty cover of “Toxic” by Britney Spears. This was definitely a way of showing that the evening was about to get started and the raging was going to truly begin. Keyboardist Eli Winderman and guitarist Rob Compa really crushed the melodies and quirky sound effects of the song, while drummer Neal “Fro” Evans created a bit of a hard rock element to the tune. After a jazzy “Like a Ball,” Eli led the way into a jam heavy cover of the Donkey Kong theme music. As the set progressed, their music got extremely deep and progressive. While Eli was clearly feeling himself throughout the entire set and was hands down the star of the show, Rob and bassist Chuck Jones helped created a very avant-garde nature to their music.

Werk Out attendees were then given a real treat when they were given the opportunity to witness some of jam rock’s newer legends performing on the side stage. Frequent Grateful Dead collaborator Reed Mathis brought his friends Jay Lane (Primus, Furthur,) Werk Out favorite Todd Stoops (RAQ) and Clay Welch together for his newest project, Electric Beethoven. This set stylized as “classical dance music” seemed almost like an hour long, nonstop jam session, but had many noticeable roots in classically arranged music. While it could have seemed free formed, it was evidently very structured and amazing to see these phenomenal players work with the classic sounds. Stoops was really the star of the show, combining a stellar mixture of organic piano sounds with more modern synthesizer tones.

While storms loomed in the area and lightning was seen across the sky, guitarist Chris Houser strummed into “Into the Moss;” one of the most popular songs off The Werks’ newest album, Magic. It has definitely become a staple for The Werks to start their first set of the festival with a more laidback tune, and this time was no different. Keyboardist Dan Shaw really took the reigns on the popular sing-a-long tune “Alive,” and was then joined by Todd Stoops for an incredible jam session on “Galactic Passport.” The two have amazing chemistry when performing together, trading licks and runs, overall creating some of the best live keyboard onslaughts around.

“Magic” gave the quartet an opportunity to dial things back a bit, creating a drawn out, serene tone to the song. Drummer/vocalist Rob Chafin’s soft voice paired well with Shaw’s gorgeous synths and Houser’s souring guitar work. Unfortunately the band’s set was cut short due to the storm, but that wasn’t before a super jam heavy “Drop.” It wasn’t the 30-minute heater like the previous year’s performance, but it was definitely just as killer and in a third of the time. As the music on the main stage ended, the rain finally came and it was pretty fierce.

After the delay, the big tent filled up for the return of Emancipator to Legend Valley. Doug Appling, along with violinist Ilya Goldberg, really curated the perfect set for a late night tent, full of gorgeous, downtempo tunes like “Ocelot” and “Nevergreen,” as was as an upbeat, drum and bass remix of Luniz’s “I Got 5 On It” and instrumentation of his stellar tune, “First Snow.” Overall it was a superb mixture of downtempo, uptempo and psychedelia, and you could even see tears in people’s eyes due to the beauty of the music.

To end the night, Oxford, Mississippi’s Zoogma put on an excellent showing and a downright impeccable late night rager. While the quartet showcased their strong electronic production skills, they also put their brilliant live instrumentation to good use.

Day two started out a bit more cool and breezy than the first. This gave festivalgoers an opportunity to sleep a bit longer compared to typically having to leave your tent at 9 am due to the early Ohio sun creating a furnace within your tent early in the morning. Friday began with some amazing cover acts as well, which was even more motivation for everyone to venture out and start their day a little bit earlier.

At the big tent stage, Arrows of Neon played an excellent Grateful Dead cover set to a great early crowd. The quintet kicked their set off with an outstanding “Shakedown Street,” which is always the perfect way to get the day’s music started at any jam band festival. Through tunes like “Friend of the Devil” and “The Other One,” the cover act not only showcased their ability to recreate the legendary tunes, but also exhibited their phenomenal improvisational capabilities. Festivalgoers young and old flocked to the tent, dancing and hooping almost non stop to their hour long set.

On the main stage, Ohio’s premier Pink Floyd tribute act, Any Colour, kicked their set off with a perfect “Speak to Me” > “Breathe.” The Athens, Ohio based powerhouse were able to get themselves a nice early crowd due to their brilliant performance skills, including vocal styles that mirrored Roger Waters and excellent slide guitar from Joe Etgen. The quintet really made the tunes their own too, creating an excellent spacey vibe to both “Time” and “Echoes.” There was a bit of improvisation to their act, but nothing too flashy that took away too much emphasis from the backbone of the iconic music.

Orlando’s Savi Fernandez band switched the vibe up a bit with some excellent funk infused reggae and ska music on the side stage. It was really unfortunate that they performed beneath overcast skies, because it was the perfect kind of music to dance to in the sun. Back at the big tent, The Werk Out had a nice southwest Ohio jam reunion for Oh Kee Pa. Chris Houser joined former Werks bassist Dino Dimitrouleas and Subterranean drummer Rob Brockman, donned in a replica of John Fishman’s famous dress, to put on an excellent tribute of Phish tunes. While attendees danced, hooped and even relaxed in the shade, it was apparent that the age range of festivalgoers showed just how crucial The Werks have been to longtime strength of the Midwest jam scene.

Up-and-coming jam favorites Big Something kept the groove going on the main stage with a colossal set. Starting things off with “Blue Dream,” the North Carolina sextet showed off their amazing fusion of hard rock, funk and heavy electronics. “The Flood” gave vocalist/guitarist Nick MacDaniels a chance to show off his gritty, hard rock influenced voice, while saxophonist Casey Cranford and lead guitarist Jesse Hensley constantly traded epic licks and solos. You could also tell there’s a lot of influence from Umphrey’s McGee from their cover of “Burning Down the House” by the Talking Heads. Cranford’s use of his electronic woodwind instrument for much of the tune’s melodies really made the cover something unique and spectacular. I’m pretty sure we’ll be seeing these guys at The Werk Out for many years to come.

Alabama’s CBDB kept the fusion fashion going with an excellent set full of funk grooves and progressive rock melodies. Their soulful vocals and saxophone led tunes really added something extraordinary to their tunes. Arizona based quartet Spafford got the big tent packed with their no frills approach to electro infused rock and roll. They’re definitely a band that is really making waves in the scene, and the fact they got the tent quickly filled up really showed that.

For their second set of the festival, Dopapod absolutely crushed it. They got their set started with a chill and groovy “Mucho,” which included some excellent vocal harmonizing between Eli and Rob. Eli came back and crushed some excellent soundscapes beneath Rob’s shredding during “French Bowling.” Following a spacey “Turn By Turn” and a crazy “Black and White,” the band brought out their lighting designer Luke Stratton for his birthday, which has actually become a Werk Out tradition. Between their banter, Rob sang “Wind Beneath My Wings” while Luke was given a sash, flowers and a pretty little crown.

It took a while for Jahman Brahman to fill up the big tent due to much of the crowd being at Dopapod, but once it filled up, they killed it for their hometown fans. Their southern rock tinged guitars and soulful vocals were brilliantly complemented by the keyboard wizardry of Daniel Combs throughout their entire set. It was amazing to see such a great turnout for them when most Werk Out attendees typically keep themselves planted in the main stage area during most of the early evening.

Boulder, CO’s SunSquabi were responsible for turning the evening’s vibe into more of full-blown dance party. Their funky, organic instrumentation mixed with insane live electronics were extremely well received by the Werk Out attendees. Tunes like “Cinnamon” kept things a bit laid back and gave them a chance to improvise a little bit, while tracks like “Deluxe” got the crowd moving and head banging to their colossal synths and epic guitar work.

Taking the excellent upbeat vibes from SunSquabi, The Floozies brought Legend Valley up into an utter fever pitch. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of their live shows, but this one changed my mind. It was definitely the most impressive live performances I’ve seen from the Hill brothers because they took the Werk Out’s emphasis on jam music and used it as a chance to focus on improvisation. Performing new tracks like “Good For You” and old ones like “Wild Card,” the Matt and Mark absolutely crushed their set and left attendees wanting more and more.

On the side stage, Zoogma played the perfect ‘tweener set; their upbeat nature kept people dancing, but they didn’t get too crazy as to wear people out for the upcoming evening of great sets. They also took the opportunity to perform their newest album, A Future in Blue, in its entirety.

Donned in sunglasses and black shirts with metallic silver logos, The Werks stepped on the Legend Valley stage for the first time as Werktronic. Similar to the Tractorbeam sets performed by The Disco Biscuits, the band “remixes” songs to give off more of an electronic based vibe. The quartet brought the energy hard right off the bat with “Chillin’ Groove,” which is a fast paced rendition of their old classic “Burnin’ Groove.” Dan took the lead hard with some amazing high-pitched organ sounds backed up by some gritty, low-end synths, while Jake helped keep the a bit of the original tune in tact with the familiar, groovy bassline. Chafin kept the tempo up and Jake kept a solid groove into another old tune, “Sane,” which is a song that no one would expect to hear played in this sort of fashion. The original is chill and relaxed, while the “remix” is bright extremely uplifting. Houser and Dan traded melodies back and forth meant to replicate the vocals of the song, and when they joined forces on it all at once it ended up being truly marvelous.

Matt Hill from The Floozies then joined the band to help them perform 2pac & Dr. Dre’s classic “California Love.” His utilization of his talkbox for the vocals and his guitar solos added something extraordinary and unique to the tune, and I’m sure no one will ever hear the rap classic played in this manner ever again. Hill also continued his excellent evening of improvisation with a killer trading of licks with Houser. Mark Hill also decided to join the band, dancing around on stage and playing the tambourine.

After a psychedelic intro solo from Jake, the band brought the energy back up with “Rollin’.” Because of the more electronic influence on the song, Dan joined Houser for his famous “Top Gun Theme” tease on it, which helped add a ton of euphoric power to the tune. The power became almost too much to handle after Eli Winderman sat in and absolutely crushed a MOOG solo. Houser and Dan took back the lead trades during “Heading South,” then out of nowhere after an insane halftime jam, the band reprised “Rollin’!”

After not being able to perform it last year, it only made sense for The Werks to perform their hit “Duck Farm” during their Werktronic. They kept it deep and spacey during the beginning, with Dan adding a nice light touch one the melody usually undertaken by Houser. They then lifted the energy and brought the song back to its true, essential form. Out of nowhere once again, Dan reprised “Sane” for a short moment, then shot right back into the “Duck Farm” melody. Chafin brought the tempo back down and gave Houser the chance to epically solo, while Dan ripped up some high-end synth parts. It will probably go down in the band’s history as the most colossal and memorable “Duck Farm” ever.

To close things out, The Werks kicked into what is most notably their most electronic heavy song they’ve written in over five years, “Moonset.” The studio track itself relies on gnarly synths from Dan, and the live version is even more spectacular. Aside from the gritty low-end keys from him, Dan also added in some dramatic, almost theatrical high-end synths that were utterly breathtaking. This was all complemented so well by Houser’s insane riffage and soloing.

Back for their second Werk Out in a row, Twiddle had the honor of kicking things off the late night in the quickly packed big tent. They really worked off the end of The Werks’ set really well with their opener, “The Box,” whether it was intentional or not. While it was just as upbeat as the main stage closing tune, it was also just as deep and psychedelic at times. “Drifter” showed off their more southern rock side, with a bit of twang in both Mihali Savoulidis’ guitar and voice, as well some nice organic piano runs from Ryan Dempsey. The quartet got fairly progressive with their jams during “Indigo Trigger,” which helped provided the perfect vibes for the late night, while the uptempo nature of “Latin Tang” created an all out dance party.

The theme of the day was “90’s,” and Werk Out attendees pulled out all the stops when it came to their costumes in anticipation for the Twerkapod 90’s Tribute. The tent was filled with basketball jerseys from iconic players such as Michael Jordan, 90’s tour shirts from the Grateful Dead, and even a couple cartoon character costumes. The best by far was Werks soundman Aaron Oakley and lighting designer Alex “Herm” Schneider doing a perfect Wayne & Garth from Wayne’s World. Costumed or not, the excitement in the tent was thick in anticipation for the set.

To kick things off, Mihali stayed front and center for an awesome cover of Sublime’s “Caress Me Down,” with Houser on backing vocals, Baby Hands on bass, Fro on drums and Eli Winderman on keys. It was almost a comical way to get things started, but still a perfect beginning to an amazing set. While the set itself wasn’t exactly “jam” heavy at all, we still got some nice lick trades between Eli and Mihali on the opener. After a quick substitution, Rob Chafin performed the vocals on Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” almost perfectly, along with brilliant riffage and soloing from Dopapod’s Rob Compa.

After the soulfulness, the set turned into what was pretty much expected of it: the best bad karaoke ever. Eli and Mihali took to the center of the stage and traded leads on “Wannabe” by The Spice Girls, while Houser provided some great falsetto vocals and Ryan Dempsey killed it on the keytar. Even though it was all in good fun and not taken all TOO seriously, it was still a great cover. Rob Compa dedicated it to “all of the big sisters of the 90’s,” and Dan Shaw tuned in by asking “have you ever seen 12 grown men sing the Spice Girls?”

Eli got back to the keys with Shaw and perfectly brought kicked off Rammstein’s “Du Hast,” which featured an impeccable vocal performance from Twiddle bassist Zdenek Gubb. Out of all the covers of the night, this one provided some of the best sing-alongs and cheers.

Dopapod took over the stage after the industrial madness to perform their cover of R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly.” The band has been performing this cover for many years, so it was only obvious that they, especially Eli, would kill it. The sing-along from the crowd was actually pretty beautiful and created perfect synchronicity between them and the performers. After another substitution, Houser and Compa strummed into Billy Ray Cyrus’s “Achy Breaky Heart.” It seemed completely out of the ordinary to hear a country song in the set, but Houser killed the twang of Cyrus’s voice on a tune he so fervently hates.

Dino Dimitrouleas stepped on stage in full velvet attire to perform MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This.” He’s such a goofy dude, so it’s always funny to see him perform rap songs. The set chugged on with great renditions of Beck’s “Loser,” Blackstreet’s “No Diggity,” Nirvana’s “In Bloom,” and Collective Soul’s “Shine.” The whole thing culminated with an unrehearsed cover of Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know.” While it featured Compa and Mihali trading lead vocals perfectly, all 13 performers were on stage to play, grabbing any open keyboard, microphone and drumstick they could find. For a song they didn’t practice together, they all killed it and it was the perfect way to end the set and the evening.

Day three started off with just as amazing of vibes as the previous two. It was definitely hotter than the previous two, so it did take a while for people to get into full party mode.

However, the heat didn’t detract too many from waking up and raging to the first set of the day, Bulls on Parade. The Athens, Ohio based Rage Against the Machine is known as one of the premier tribute acts of its kind in state, and damn did they put on a phenomenal show. Kicking their set off with “Wake Up,” festivalgoers were quickly drawn to the stage due to the band’s perfect replication of the band’s instrumental aspects, along with vocalist Emcee Schwartz’s uncanny sonic resemblance to Zack de la Rocha. Ripping through iconic tunes like “Killing in the Name Of,” “How I Could Just Kill a Man,” and “Renegades of Funk,” the act had the crowd dancing and moshing as if they were at a full on metal show. Closing with, of course, “Bulls on Parade,” Schwartz and crew really gave it their all, even with the sun beating right down on them. Guitarist Joe Etgen mirrored Tom Morello’s unique guitar styling to a t, while bassist Josh Wicker brought the low end hard. It really was the perfect start to a crazy last night.

After a slight delay due to their van breaking down a short ways from the venue, Asheville, North Carolina’s Jonathan Scales Fourchestra got the reggae vibes going strong on the main stage. After two days of cloudiness during more reggae-oriented acts, it was awesome to finally dance to some tropical tunes in the sun. The group lacked in vocals, but they really made up for it with pristine percussion prowess. Jonathan Scales took on much of the melodies with his steel pan drum and was backed by an insanely talented bassist and two drummers performing polyrhythmic perfection. While not technically a “jam band,” their jazz influences helped create some incredible improvisation.

Back at the big tent, Werk Out attendees got the pleasure of witnessing one of the most soulful, up-and-coming acts around, Aaron Kamm and the One Drops. Kamm’s soulful voice is definitely the core of the band’s music. Whether it’s a reggae song, a bluesy tune, or an energetic groovy number, Kamm and company slay everything that they bring to the masses.

Keeping the side stage sound system booming into the afternoon was another one of Dayton’s prides, Subterranean. The quartet has become a Werk Out staple over the years, and their infectious grooves make it obvious as to why they are continuously asked to return. Made up of original Werks bassist Chuckie Love, The Maji’s (a disbanded group that was made of two Werks members) Rob Brockman, the ever amazing sax slinger Danny Sauers, and six string aficionado Chris Coalt, the band plays some of the tightest sets you’ll ever see, which is a talent only honed from many years of performing. Never breaking away from the energy, Love’s basslines are always unbelievable, and Sauers’s ability to nail going back and forth between saxophone and harmonica is just outstanding.

Back at the main stage, Werk Out attendees got an opportunity to witness another living legend; Ivan Neville and his band Dumpstaphunk. A large crowd met the iconic keyboardist/vocalist before he and the band even had a chance to play a single note. It was pretty obvious that no one wanted to miss a minute of this memorable set.

Right from the beginning, you knew the funk was going to flow heavy throughout the entire set due to the band’s double bass guitar onslaught pounding through the speakers. This approach for the band’s low-end grooves really adds a nice unique appeal to their funk, along with assisting in creating their colossal sound. Ivan Neville loved to make speeches between songs that helped describe his lyrics. They were always lighthearted and motivational and really helped add to essence of songs like “Let’s Get At It,” “Justice” and “Do Ya.” Along with his vocals, Neville constantly showed off his key tickling prowess, flawlessly moving back and forth between organic organ based keys to more glitchy, high-end synth sounds.

Flagstaff, Arizona’s Brothers Gow had their work cut out for them when it came to following Dumpstaphunk, but they definitely did their side stage set time justice and absolutely killed it. Their set was groovy as hell from start to finish, with perfect keyboard sounds and constantly back and forth lead vocal trading between multiple talented singers. Their set’s highlight was “I Keep Regulating,” which was an amazing Umphrey’s style mashup of Warren G’s “Regulate” and “I Keep Forgettin’” by Michael McDonald.

For their second set of the festival, Twiddle got things started on more of the instrumental side. This really got the excited crowd dancing hard and gave the band an opportunity to display some incredible improvisational sections. Mihali busted out some incredible vocals for the reggae inspired “Lost in the Cold,” which quickly turned into a long-winded jam between the band mates. Along with his vocals, Mihali’s energetic guitar riffs were on display throughout the entire set, along with a multitude of otherworldly keyboard runs from Ryan Dempsey. Major props to Zdenek Gubb for his on point bassline during “Every Soul,” which brought the band down and deep into a cover of Primus’ “Too Many Puppies” that came entirely out of nowhere.

Taking to the side stage for their first ever Werk Out performance, Exmag was given the duty of turning up the final evening’s energy, and they performed the task splendidly. The New York based livetronica outfit kicked things off with some more chill grooves, gradually building the energy into some killer drum and bass, and then backing off on the tempo. The whole set up and down between uptempo and downtempo, which really kept dancers on their toes throughout their whole performance. Their nice light synths were complemented extremely well by funk-fueled guitar riffage, and they also kept the 90’s theme from the night before going with groovy remix of Blackstreet’s “No Diggity.”

The final two sets by The Werks are always considered the festival’s “Main Event.” Attendees never really know what is going to happen, and the sets are always full of insane jams, various surprise sit-ins, and a setlist of tunes both old and new.

To the happiness of their loyal fan base known as “The Werkers Union,” the hosts kicked things off with “Wide Awake,” the opening track off of Magic. Many members of The Union thought this would be the band’s opener for their first appearance of the festival, so it was amazing that they opened with it when they knew that the majority of their core fanbase would be right up front. Before they even began, Chafin said that this year’s Werk Out had the best vibes in all eight years, and it was made extremely apparent by the amount of attendees singing along to the gorgeous, inspirational lyrics. The jam was gorgeous, and Dan really killed it during his soloing. The highlight was Jake leading the band into a tease of System of a Down’s “Aerials.” It was so good that the full band had to join him and Chafin even had to recite a few lines from the iconic nu-metal tune. Dan and Houser consistently traded solos in the most epic fashion, with Dan gritting his teeth and head banging, while Houser looked like he was about to fall over because he was feeling himself so much.

The positive, motivational vibes kept moving on through “Moving On,” another tune from Magic, yet it originally premiered at the 2015 Werk Out. One of the great things about many songs by the band is the random cuts in the music, where fans scream “Woo!” or “Yeah!” This was one of those, and further showed the comradery within the fan base.

Similar to last year’s passing of Norman Dimitrouleas, The Werks and many members of the Midwest jam scene lost a crucial member. John “Chubby” Howard was a taper that had been at every Werk Out since 2010, along with a multitude of shows and festivals in the Midwest for decades. You could always go to The Werk Out and see him right next to the soundboard, and after his recent death to cancer, The Werks dedicated the soundboard tent to him. “Golden Shore,” which is rarity in the band’s set, was dedicated to him and it really was an emotional one. It is such a somber one, but Houser really crushed it. His solo was pristine and you could really hear the emotion in his eyes and hear it in his voice.

Things then turned from melancholy to joyful, when Jake invited his father Mike Goldberg to the stage for “Guido.” Goldberg fronts a Santana cover band in Cleveland, so is musical love has definitely rubbed off on his son. You could tell he was a bit nervous to be performing in front of a different crowd, but when given the opportunity to solo over Jake’s groovy bass line, Mike absolutely crushed it. The song ended with cheers of “Dad Dad Dad!”

After a quick birthday celebration for Houser’s wife Ashley, along with The Jamwich’s creative director Elise Olmstead, the band struck into a short, sweet, and upbeat “Compares to You.” Dino Dimitrouleas was then invited on stage for the classic, yet epic “Cloud Hopper,” which also featured an appearance from Mihali. It was the perfect first set closer because of the dynamic range of musical styles it holds; from progressive psychedelia, to bluegrass, to insane space rock. It was also unfortunately the last time we got to see Mihali and Houser trade licks together, but I’m pretty sure we’ll see it again at the next Werk Out.

Set two began with, in my opinion, the band’s best cover: “Also sprach Zarathustra,” also know as music from 2001: A Space Odyssey. When played live, the jams are incredible, and the band really creates some amazing rises, falls, and climaxes. This version was no different. Dan led the way into “Slab” with a light piano intro, which really acted as a great counterpart to Houser’s angelic voice throughout the tune.

“For You” brought things back up into a more bright and upbeat nature, which also continued on with the back and forth between old and new songs from the band. They then went back into the new with “Lights Outs,” which was pretty much the funkiest we saw the band throughout the entire festival. As always, Dan killed his organ solo during the jam, and the whole band brought forth a wonderful “Fly Like An Eagle” tease, which has honestly become something heard many times from the band.

The second set itself was extremely jam heavy; something a bit of a staple for a band for their last set. This definitely didn’t bore and detract the fans. It kept them up front and amazed by ever note they played, even excited to sing along to the ever inspiring “Find Your Way.” Even the bright blue and green lights fit in well with the song’s uplifting nature. After it seemed like the band left it all out on the stage, they came back on and performed another festival favorite, “O.G.” The Legend Valley will truly miss the band until next year.

After The Werks gave it their all on the stage, Werk Out attendees gave it their all back at the big tent for the electronic heavy late night. Gramatik kept the energy going strong to an insanely packed tent. This was definitely the biggest electronic act to hit Werk Out, and fans didn’t want to miss a second. Similar to The Floozies, the set flowed more like a live band set rather than a DJ set. There wasn’t much mixing, guitars were heavily emphasized, and songs were played out in their entirety.

To close out the big tent and much of the festival was livetronica OG’s Future Rock. Opening with a cover of “Robot Rock,” the seasoned veterans showed just how they are truly the epitome of livetronica. There was also not a laptop in site, which really attested to their organic approach to live electronic rock. Hopefully we won’t have to wait another few years to see them back at Legend Valley.

Next year will be nine years of The Werk Out. Too many festivals don’t even make it past five years without taking a break or completely imploding entirely. The Werk Out is definitely here to stay. The band, along with the Midwest scene itself, has way too much momentum behind it and the music will never stop any time soon, just as long as the vibes stay thick and the music stays pure.


Tags: DowntempoGlitchHip HopLivetronica