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Beardfest- Hammonton, NJ

Beardfest 2017 lineup
Friday began at 3:30 am in Streetsboro Ohio with my phone alarm. My car to the airport would be here at 4:15 for a 6 am flight back to Newark. I ate breakfast at a Michael Symon restaurant and slept the entire hour flight. At Newark, my car was in a garage and loaded with everything I’d need for a weekend at a south jersey campground for a music fest I have never been to. Beardfest came on my radar through Hayley Jane and the Primates. When I saw they were playing with Antibalas and Ike Willis I knew I had to come.
Being alone in the woods was nice. Of course, I was surrounded by young wooks who partied all night, new families, kids, and some old heads. I did interact with a few people; I had my tarot cards read, I connected with food vendors who have mutual friends, I played a huge singing bowl, there was yoga, improv workshops, and more. Most of my time, however, was spent recovering energy, enjoying the trees, and reading in my hammock. Sadly I missed the dog parade. My expected excitement for that event was replaced with a solid 30 minutes of petsitting for Morrison the ferret. He curled up in my arm, licked my nose and received all the belly rubs I could generate.
Sonically all was good. The sound on both stages was great. Musically, all was (mostly) good as well. There was one performance that probably got added to the mix without optimal screening. The open mic performances were more solid. Speaking of open mic, I think that is a great addition to a festival. Lots of amazing talent on hand and how much fun for them to be on stage. I almost tried to make something happen but watched instead.

Antibalas still has many recognizable members and they played many of their own songs tonight. In the past they played a lot of Fela (no complaints from me) but tonight he was pushed most noticeably to the encore. They closed the main stage for the day and had everyone dance their way from the lakeside back into the woods.
Ike was awesome! He sat upstage on a stool conducting, playing guitar, singing, and drinking a beer. The one running the show was the bass player though. As I saw Josh from the Primates across the sand, I walked over to make sure he saw the same thing. “Dude, Ike Willis is opening for you!” I mentioned this fact to Hayley later and she had the same excited reaction. Back to Ike. He played a great mix of tunes from the vast Zappa catalog including some from Joe’s Garage. I was excited by the Son of Orange County soundcheck and Outside Now later in the set. His band took over for a bit to play some originals which had a clear Zappa influence and made for a great afternoon/ evening set. Here’s the full set:

Hayley and I were chatting as she readied to go on stage. I left to pack my camp so I could leave after her set. There was some pull to stay for the other bands (whom I didn’t know well) but it was also nice to be out and on my way to a local festival in my hometown where some friends were. After her set, Hayley confirmed an impression I had about the show. The crowd was scattered and seemingly distracted. The heat was coming, the long nights were kicking in. She said she was nervous about pulling the crowd as was I. Not for lack of musical quality of course. The dancing started, the songs traveled, the energy built, and the people came closer and closer. The woman dancing with me kept trying to justify jumping on stage to kiss Hayley (“and that guitarist is cute too”). I heard some of my favorite originals and a Magic Dance cover which induced cheers of “Labyrinth is my favorite movie!” Here is one of their newer songs:

Some of the other memorable bands that are new to me were Remember Jones the old school big band vibe, Mammal Dap and their electrofusion, and Earthcry‘s chilled out electronic vibe. The fest overall was great. It will certainly be on my radar and if the timing works and the lineup is as good or better I’ll be there.
beardfest workshop schedule
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