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Rockweave Music and Arts Festival 2019

We review this new event

Dawes – Photo: LTTL

Rockweave Music and Arts Festival

LaGrange, Georgia

4 and 5 October 2019

Images: Jim Jacob

Words: Rob Dickens

The Beginnings

I spoke with Rob Goldstein, co-founder of both Rockweave Music and Arts Festival and Wild Leap Brew Co., one of the event’s principal sponsors.

The genesis of this new event lay at the partnership between Sweetland Amphitheatre and the brewing business.

Once the city park and pool, Sweetland Amphitheatre was re-built on its history as a gathering spot and the home of LaGrange’s Sweet Land of Liberty Parade, held on the Fourth of July each year. Redeveloped in 2016, the 2,500 seat Amphitheatre is impressive, with over 80 steps down, the stage view is excellent everywhere.

Recently voted the best new brewery in the U.S, Wild Leap Brew Co. was once the Westbrook Service & Tire Co. The first brewery to locate in LaGrange, it features a tasting room, large event space and an outdoor beer garden that looks upon a downtown plaza and is adjacent to Southbend Park.

These organisations share a bond for music and, having launched a concert series, decided to explore ways to expand that concept to bring more visitors to the town of LaGrange. Formerly an old Mill town, the term Rockweave was carefully chosen to reflect its past and ensure it had a deep meaning to the local community.

Eighteen months of planning and it was scheduled for October 4 and 5, timing to a large part based on the weather and the College football program which takes up considerable space.

The festival is shared between the two venues – Sweetland Amphitheatre on Friday night and Wild Leap/Southbend Park on Saturday.

Friday Night

The Suffers – Photo: LTTL

From Houston, Texas, The Suffers kicked off proceedings. I had seen them at AmericanaFest a few years ago and was impressed by their development. It’s been five years since this eight-piece, energetic rhythm ‘n’ blues and soul band turned to full-time musicianship. Lead by vocalist, Kat Franklin, this Houston-based outfit have much to offer.

Photo: LTTL

Husband and wife (Abner Ramirez and Amanda Sudano) are at the core of Johnnyswim. The couple had just returned from Europe the night before and showed no signs of jet lag – drawing just about the biggest crowd for this steamy night – polished, soulful anthems were on display.

Photo: LTTL

Dawes emerged from Southern California about ten years ago, exhibiting a vibe that has always been respectful to the West Coast country rock sound. What is different about the band, however, is their thoughtful lyrics and deep insights. From the get-go lead singer Taylor Goldsmith was fleet-footing and bouncing on stage. The slow build intro and grinding riff of “Living In The Future”, “Things Happen”, the plea for compassion in “Crack The Case” and “Most People” were highlights.

Saturday

Day two was at Wild Leap and Southbend Park where three outdoor stages operated – the Main, the Southbend Park and Overlook stages. The sets for the day were between 30 and 90 minutes.

Sunny War – Photo: LTTL

Los Angeles-based street singer, guitarist and unique soul Sunny War does it her own way. Two excellent albums in recent years are a testament to her talent. The clouds lifted and the weather cranked up as she started her set (in truth it was difficult to detect when the sound check morphed into the set). Her stage banter is not polished or pre-planned – that remains part of her appeal. Raw songs from a young person with plenty of troubled tales to draw on, a striking vocalist and interesting two-finger picking style. Recommended.

Birdtalker – Photo: LTTL
Front Porch Collective – Photo: LTTL

Zack and Dani from Nashville’s Birdtalker head a folk-rock electric outfit which released the well-received album One last year. Front Porch Collective is a LaGrange-based group of part-time musicians who play old-time roots music. Formed in 2016, the tight collective features Callie Hammond on fiddle, Nick Mayfield on guitar & mandolin, Henry Jacobs on percussion and Dylan Norgard on bass.

Durand Jones & The Indications – Photo: LTTL

Durand Jones & the Indications provided one of the best sets of the day. Helmed by vocalists Durand Jones and drummer Aaron Frazer, the Indications gave the growing crowd on the Main Stage some magical rhythm ‘n’ blues, funk and 1970’s soul moments. “Morning In America”, “Walk Away” and “Long Way Home” were standouts. Recommended.

Susto – Photo: LTTL

From Charleston, South Carolina, SUSTO (pronounced “Soosto”) are hard to pin down, sometimes a little Wilco-like with their measured tempo and mellow tones. Beneath the surface, though, there is unpredictability – an occasional growl, or scream which might lead you to think of an on-coming crescendo that often is not forthcoming. A cool breeze started dancing around the stage as if to align with the musical offerings. “Waves” and “Homeboy” soared and “If I Was” was a total gem.

Greensky Bluegrass – Photo: LTTL

After 18 years together, up to 175 shows per year, nearly 1,000 different set lists, six studio albums, and a litany of live releases, Greensky Bluegrass is the epitome of a bunch of talented, cohesive dudes. The bluegrass reference relates more to their instrumentation than their sensibilities. Members Anders Beck, Michael Arlen Bont, Dave Bruzza, Mike Devol, and Paul Hoffman share a creative bond and work ethic. It was a pleasure to see them perform again.

Bishop Gunn – Photo: LTTL
Moon Taxi – Photo: LTTL

Bishop Gunn of Natchez, Mississippi featured a blend of rock god, soul and blues. Enough originality to avoid the mimicry tag. Nashville’s Moon Taxi have honed their stage act to a fine point, having performed at Bonaroo, Coachella and Austin City Limits. Plenty of crowd-pleasing moments for this indie, anthem-based group.

Lucie Salvas – Photo: LTTL

Another Nashvillian, Lucie Silvas had the tough task of arriving in LaGrange with forty minutes to spare and fronting the smallest, Southbend Stage with only a picnic crowd as the evening took hold. The clouds had darkened considerably by this time and lightning was skirting around us. She battled on, good material and a fine voice with a three-piece band in tow. I would like to see her again in a more intimate setting.

Cedric Burnside – Photo: LTTL

I first saw Cedric Burnside on stage in Clarksdale Mississippi in 2008 where he was behind his then-trademark drums, shaking the joint with a dynamo two-piece blues assault. Grandson of R.L. Burnside, he has literally been born to the blues. Over time, he has honed his vocals and guitar work, to be a blues leading man. His repetitive riffs and unorthodox rhythm become hypnotic. The crowd grew with many young faces I suspect experiencing Burnside and Hill Country blues for the first time.

Miscellaneous Observations

For a debut, the event proceeded remarkably smoothly which is of enormous credit to the organisers and the myriad of enthusiastic volunteers that made it so. There was plenty of balance in the line-up and enough diversity to attract most age groups. In truth it was enough to bring Jim and I from a fair distance and we were not disappointed.

The food on offer provided great options, seemingly all sourced from local businesses. I opted for the VIP tickets which provided benefits such as a prime viewing area, some cool resting places, food and beverage sampling. A special mention to Jamie P. Keating of Signature Catering for some special culinary treats.

Sound was generally good. There was some sound bleed between the Main and Southbend stages but scheduling avoided any on-going problems.

Ride sharing could not cope with the demand (we waited for an hour to exit on Saturday night), but I am sure that will be reviewed for next year.

The weather was kind. The people were friendly. The setting was picture perfect. The town attractive.

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We review this new event

We review this new event

We review this new event

We review this new event

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Author: Rob Dickens

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2 Comments

  1. Awesome! Kudos to Keyal Loveland ❤️

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