Rothbury’s first night ends Friday morning

3 07 2009

By Justin Jacobs (@justinhjacobs)

Keller Williams

Keller Williams, The Ranch Arena, Thursday

Before dusk on Rothbury’s opening day — well before the crowd size will swell to its largest — more than 16,000 people converged on the site’s center, tree-enclosed stage, The Ranch.

It was the first major moment of the festival, and Keller Williams was the ringleader.

For a 90-minute, mostly-solo set, Williams gleefully bounced around stage like a happy child with new toys, playfully looping a whole cache of onstage guitars.

Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You,” reworked into Keller’s skittish, rhythmic guitar playing took on new life — it was a fitting tribute, and unlikely to be the last of the festival.

Keller’s quilt of covers flowing into originals and back into guitar acrobatics included, most entertainingly, Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock.” Again, the soothing melody juxtaposed with Keller’s frenetic guitar made for a quirky musical contradiction.


The Tripolee stage, set up like a black-lit carousel, was a colorful mass of glow-stick adorned fans dancing like mad; set aside as the stage for the festival’s electronic acts (bass-heavy bangers The Glitch Mob will take the stage tonight… at 2:45 a.m.), the spot is where the thousands of rave kids will call home.

Last night’s sets by Future Rock and 2020 Soundsystem got the party moving quickly with pulsing lights and even brighter beats.

The centerpiece of Thursday night, though, was undeniably festival mainstays The Disco Biscuits. For over three hours, the band played impossibly fast and impressively consistent synthesizer-driven guitar jams.

The Philadelphia natives have one of the more dedicated followings in improvisational rock, and the cheering didn’t let up until well after the band left the stage around 3:45.

But, aside from sheer set length, why the Biscuit-fan dedication? Whereas most jam bands at least feign to take breaks between songs, The Disco Biscuits simply don’t let up.

One guitar riff builds and swells as the band stacks on layer upon layer of synthesizer squiggles and rumbling bass lines.

Just when the music can’t possibly get any more intense — when the music is closer to aural shock therapy than comprehensible melodies — the band shifts to a new groove and the cycle starts anew.

For three hours plus, the band shook the forest. It’ll be hard for any band to match a performance quite so joyous, quite so heart-stoppingly intense.

But I don’t doubt some band will pull it off. My money’s on Sound Tribe Sector 9, one of tonight’s late-night sets.




One response

3 07 2009

Thanks for the great post! I’ve got HDR pics up for Rothbury 09 on my blog and will be adding more for the next week.

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