By: Anand Harsh
Nelson Ledges Quarry Park is nothing short of picturesque. The setting for the third Summerdance is nestled in Northeast Ohio, in the idyllic community of Garrettsville. The park is surrounded by towering trees, broken up infrequently by rolling meadows. Nerds: think the moon of Endor. Late in the night, I could have sworn I saw an Ewok swinging on a vine. To find a camping spot, you have to snake your car at or below 5mph through twisty sand path. With markers few are far between, and the absolute absence of light, the night is filled with dazed crowds of oddly dressed audience members, wandering desperately lost until daybreak.
In the middle of the park is a lake surrounded by craggy cliff walls. Sweaty fans can take a dip in the water between sets or just laze on the sandy beach not thirty yards from the main stage. If I wasn’t on duty—or a giant nancy boy—I would have done some cliff diving. There isn’t a better natural setting for a couple of days of music and camping. With no more than two thousand hearty souls in attendance, the festival is relaxed and well-stocked with plenty of cutting edge electronic tunes.
Archnemesis started off my afternoon right. These guys exude talent from their pores. Justin Aubuchon (Mo Theory) and Curt Heiny (Telepath) are a two-headed hydra blasting what I’d like to call glitch-step. Fans began pouring into the main square to catch their sound. Dripping swimmers grabbed towels and moseyed on up to the second stage, drawn by the upbeat swagger of cut-up synth samples and firmly thumping bass and drums. Lots of club bangers with an indie twist, and plenty of fuzzy basslines to get dub fans’ rocks off. The new Archnemesis EP Diamonds and Glass
actually just came out today. You can grab that at www.archnemesismusic.com
. Heiny and Aubuchon are going to be busy this fall, so I’d suggest catching them on the road at your favorite late-night spot.
There’s something odd about an EOTO daytime set. It’s generally comprised of such evil sounds, it only makes sense that it would go down in pitch black, lit only by medieval torches or human skull candle holders. Sound issues plagued the first part of the set, but the crowd wasn’t put off one bit. Hula-hoopers swirled and gyrated incessantly, and the masses head-bobbed away the heat of the late afternoon sun. While there was plenty of nasty whomp, EOTO decided to be a little playful. Michael Travis brought out his bass, guitar, and keys a lot more than usual, backing off of his usual array of sampled wobbles. Jason Hann was having a grand old time—no surprise there—keeping his drumming light and tight. Late in the set, a sunny calypso jam gave way to a full-on First Tube, setting the crowd ablaze. With a jam-packed summer coming to an end, EOTO has emerged from a season of wild exploration that can and should continue into the fall. If you throw a dart at a map of North America, chances are you’ll hit a city EOTO is playing twice in the third week of October, early November, or a special Christmas brunch replete with sassafras flavored syrup.
Lotus took the stage as the last remaining rays of sun slipped over the lake, kicking off their set with “Scrapple,” a nice fusing of breaks and jam. Lots of soaring 3rds and 5ths from guitarists Mike Rempel and Luke Miller. A “Livingston Storm,” “Wooly Mammoth,” “Spiritualize” triad showed off Rempel’s smooth runs. Recently departed drummer Steve Clemens joined in on Mammoth and Spiritualize. The old standbys injected passion and excitement into the already bubbling crowd. Lotus was playing off the fact that, despite Summerdance not officially being their festival, this was their crowd. Drummer Mike Greenfield, percussionist Chuck Morris, and bassist Jesse Miller provided a buoyant battery. Molluskunk, a nice rewiring of the Inspector Gadget theme song, lightened the mood even further. A bruising “Sid” segueing into “Wax,” an ebullient 90’s California-funk getdown, ended the first set.
I’m not going to lie, after set break, things got a little hazy. From what I can piece together, Lotus was dancy, trancy, and kept the energy high. The manna was flowing forth from the forest and lake that night. Now I love television, couches, and central air, but cool, crisp evenings out in the trees get me off. Lotus was feeding the crowd, and they responded with love. After the set, fans sat quietly on the sandy beach and enjoyed some soggy New-York-style pizza and fire poi, politely golf clapping each whiz and twirl. A few DJs spun some ambient trip-hop on the second stage, but most of the crowd disappeared into the woods, in search of the never-ending party. Or a Honda Civic blasting filthy dubstep from the Pacific Northwest.
There’s no doubt in my mind the Lotus Family is strong, and they’re still young. I’ve witnessed several “jam” bands crash and burn in the past few years. Summerdance is a laid-back scenes that’s got nothing to prove. No one’s trying to make it the Midwest’s Lightning in a Bottle or Sonic Bloom, it just is what it is. With a strong fan base, and countless re-imaginings of the band’s sound and image, Lotus isn’t going away anytime soon, and the end of the summer dance isn’t either.