Photos by: Ryan Patrick (White Rhino Photographics)
Story by: Kyle Rutherford
As predicted, The Werk Out Music & Arts Festival was an intimate and beautiful experience. In fact, it was the largest and most successful incarnation in its six-year history.
The large throngs of fest goers descended upon Legend Valley’s grounds Thornville, OH month in a fervor of excitement on a gray Thursday afternoon earlier this month. They were greeted with a beautifully decorated venue with copious numbers of art installations and geo-domes that contained musical sound labs, educational workshops, and even swing sets.
Music kicked off amidst cloudy skies and occasional rain sprinkles, but that didn’t keep anyone confined to their tents. It almost seemed as if Tropidelic’s afternoon reggae infused hip-hop set would miraculously bring the sun back out. The cloudy skies didn’t matter when Papadosio came out and performed their beautiful laser filled livetronica set during the sunset.
When The Werks took the stage for their first of four sets, Legend Valley erupted into a frenzy. During their whole set and each one after, the look of happiness and absolute passion on each member’s face showed their true devotion to creating the best festival experience possible. Later that evening, the late night tent from My Best Friends Party was an insane eruption of bass from The Floozies, EarthCry, and Buku.
On Friday afternoon, even more attendees filled the grounds while some left to catch Phish in Cleveland later that evening. Thankfully, the weather for the next two days turned sunny and gorgeous, even enough for a beautiful wedding between two Werkers beneath one of the geo-domes.
Fans were warmed up by sets from The Heard, The Mantras, and The Nth Power on the main stage, but were blown away when Turbo Suit (formally Cosby Sweater) took the stage. The pit of the side main stage turned into a full on dance party fueled by their saxophone fueled electronic jams. They were even joined by Chuck Jones and Rob Compa from Dopapod for a song.
After another laidback Papadosio set came Dopapod’s first of two sets. The hour long set was upbeat and energetic from start to finish, with crowd favorites like “Trapper Keeper” thrown in and even a cover of Weezer’s “Holiday,” which acted as a perfect soundtrack to the setting sun. Afterwards came the back-to-back sets from co-headliners Umphrey’s Mcgee. The long time progressive rock champions didn’t disappoint, blowing the minds of attendees with transitions from downtempo jam rock to upbeat heavy metal. One of the highlights included a mash up of Frankie Goes to Hollywood/White Zombie/Pink called “Frankie Zombie” as well as a rendition of Prince’s “When Doves Cry.”
After the lights of the main stage went down, the late night Tent was alive again. After a bass filled set from Midwest powerhouse DJ duo Attak & Carma came a colossal but intimate set from The Werks. The set included a plethora of sit ins from members of Umphrey’s. Papadosio, and Dopapod playing crowd favorites like “Galactic Passport,” “Hard to Find” and a cover of “Renegades of Funk” sung by The Werks drummer Rob Chafin.
The heavily anticipated EOTO & Friends set was next up to bat, and it was definitely one of the most legendary sets of the whole festival. Chris Houser and Dan Shaw of stayed on stage and were also joined by Steve Sweeney of Ekoostik Hookah. The whole set was an all out shred fest, with Sweeney and Houser going back-to-back over EOTO and Shaw’s improvised beats and keys.
Somehow people were able to wake up the following morning after the previous evening’s shenanigans. The day began with a laidback bluegrass set from Perpetual Grass, followed by funk-filled set from Chicago’s The Main Squeeze. After a fusion-jam set from Tauk came Ohio psychedelic rock legends Ekoostik Hookah, performing a more relaxed set amidst Sweney’s constant shredding. Afterwards the crowd was split between Zach Deputy on the main stage and a surprise set from Particle in the tent, who were joined by sits ins from Eli Winderman from Dopapod as well as Turbo Suit’s drummer Jeff Peterson.
As the sun went down, The Werks came out for their next to last set of the festival. Everything seemed a bit more watered down, most likely to prepare for their second set as well as to keep everyone’s dancing shoes ready for the following Lettuce set. The boundless amount of talent within Lettuce is definitely something to behold live, with each member having many ventures outside the band. Their funk has the tendency to make you feel as if you’re back in the heyday of Motown compared to a music festival in the middle of Ohio.
“Werking for the Weekend” was how The Werks began their final set, and throughout the rest was a smorgasbord of hits that hadn’t played yet, including favorites “Cloudhopper,” “Not Alone” and “OG,” which feature another appearance from Steve Sweney. After their biggest hit “Duck Farm” was played, most thought it would be the final song of their set. Then drummer/festival coordinator Rob Chafin took to the mic for a beautiful rendition of “Hey Jude,” calling everyone from backstage to come out and sing along. Looking around the stage and the crowd, tears could be seeing welling up in everyone’s eyes due to seeing the amazing work these Ohio boys accomplished.
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