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I still laugh, simultaneously saying it out loud, as I catch myself writing the title "Jomeokee". The promoters were adamant about the pronunciation during artist introductions on stage, to the point artists wear facetiously helping them out. "Jammy-okee" as Drew Emmitt playfully called it. I believe Stephen Marley was the only one to pronounce it correctly and Iím not sure he knew he was aware of his perfect "Jomeokee" introduction. Jomeokee was a mouthful for sure; the whole weekend was spent pickin' and grinnin'. Fans gathered in North Carolina at Pinnacle Rock on September 14-16, 2012, for some of the rarest musical experiences currently on scene. Jomeokee was a dish served best "hot" and although the weather was chilly, it only heated the stove for the Jomeokee recipe, making this musical feast the pinnacle of Pinnacle Mountain.

Take a cup of bluegrass, a cup of jam, add some of the freshest, top quality musicians; be sure to mix separately in a bowl of the Appalachian mountains. Let settle; then add a pinch of Danberry's, two servings of Lettuce and Yonder; extra Floodwood, and a dash of Matt Butler. Finally, top the whole thing with Del McCoury and you get Jomeokee's recipe for success. Most festival cook books are more concerned with one ingredient, future endeavors, and typically rely on money. It is a shame to watch as some of these promising festivals devolve into "sideshows". Jomeokee has instilled some promising policies and procedures to deter the festival becoming a sideshow.

One major issue with sideshows is when you buy the pricey ticket, they tease you with several worthy headliners. Then you catch yourself in front of the schedule kiosk picking between three acts you were planning on seeing, but now have to choose which to attend. The logistical model for Jomeokee follows that of "AllGood" Festival:  a sharp incline funneling into two stages with moderate accommodations. This model is ingenious in that it provides efficient and comfortable means of transportation and a much more efficient backstage structure. Since there are only two stages, built congruently, Jomeokee offers stellar acts, with no overlapping sets or interference from one to another. One key advantage for Jomeokee, unrecognized by most, was that these very talented musicians came on their terms, as comrades. No strings attached to their touring super bands they play with otherwise. It was apparent they weren't there for money or exposure, but for camaraderie and freedom to play with no contractual obligations. Without the pressure of structured performance, improvisation and raw passion were magnified, exemplified through guest sit-ins and crowd involvement. Aside from logistical structure, there is the music of course. When I said 1 cup of Bluegrass and 1 cup of Jam, I wasn't talking about measuring cups; but more like Stanley Cups. The line-up included Floodwood, The Danberry's, Jimmy Herring Band, Keller Williams and the Travelin McCourys, Emmitt-Nershi, Mantras, Larry Keel and the Natural Bridge, Stephen Marley, Lettuce, Yonder Mountain String Band, Patterson Hood, Captain Midnight, plus more including solo artists in attendance; but was highlighted with Del McCoury's set, topped off with an "All Star Bluegrass Jam" and "The Everyone Orchestra", directed by Matt Butler. It was worth its weight in gold. So many good artists, so few stages:  itís amazing thatís even possible.

It's not every day, or even festival, you can catch a killer YMSB show with Michael Kang (SCI), Del, Ronnie, and Robbie McCoury, Billy Nershi, Drew Emmitt, Jason Carter, and Andy Thorne. I love bluegrass festivals because the artists are typically modest and passionate about their music; and being acoustic, it makes stage operation versatile and allows artists to play and mingle with fans. The modesty shown by each artist was more prevalent at Pinnacleís Jomeokee than any other festival I have seen.  During Del's set a predetermined contest winner, Eleanor Bar, got to sing with Del and the gang. Afterwards, Del started taking requests from the crowd such as "Blue and Lonesome" (an old Hank Sr. tune) and "40 Acres and A Fool". The crowd and artists were feeding off of each other making the experience truly personal.

That was just the appetizer. Hard to swallow? Yeah, because next was the Everyone Orchestra, conducted by brainchild, Matt Butler. The Everyone Orchestra was so delightfully obscure and unbelievable, it is almost ineffable. Hypothetical scenario: A small stage, loaded to the gills with todayís best artists in the scene, Michael Kang, Jennifer Hartwick, Jeff Sipe, Jimmy Herring, Al Schnier, Melvin Seals, Neil Fountain, Tommy Dykes, George Porter Jr. and Lettuce's horn section; all on one stage taking directions from the animated gestures of Matt Butler. Jimmy Herring and Michael Kang are dueling, Jimmy with his axe and Kang with his violin. Butler has faded the others down to a low volume. He writes on his dry-erase board and shows it to the crowd. "A- or D-", the sign says and the boisterous A minor response has Matt turn and write "ascend" over A-. He then shows the band as they switch to A- and fade the backing instruments to one electrifying and intense improv jam. Pretty cool? What if I told you that wasn't hypothetical and happened Saturday night on Pinnacle Rock. We were genuinely blown away, and from the look on the artists face, it seems the feeling was mutual.

There were other musical standouts and notable events:

Some of the more stand out moments, worthy of notation, were Jimmy Herring opening with an instrumental cover of "Since Iíve been loving you" and playing some original favorites like "Miss Poopie", and my favorite off the new album, Subject To Change Without Notice, "Bilge Water Blues". He also played an appropriate "Curfew" enticing the crowd to stomp their feet. He shared othersí stages such as Lettuce and the Everyone Orchestra. He may have been one of the more popular acts billed and he definitely showed his true colors by gracefully entertaining the crowd all weekend. Jimmy Herring has an uncanny talent and an unrivaled humility. The whole weekend was filled with artists kicking back and jamming together, just having fun. The only acts that were a bit different were Stephen Marley and Lettuce. Stephen covered "Buffalo Soldier" and "Could you be Loved", making me wish I could have seen Bob while he was alive. Lettuce brought a funky taste to the party; adding Al Schnier and Jimmy Herring on stage for "Jack Flask" made for a surprising treat. Although neither may have been the typical set, they may have been considered crowd favorites.

One of my standout moments was watching Del, with Robbie and Ronnie McCoury , Jason Fowler, and the rest of the Travelin McCourys on stage playing Foster the People's "Pumped up Kicks" during the Keller set. Del was lead vocals and Keller playfully made childish faces behind him while he was singing, entertaining the crowd in a typical Keller fashion. He also played "Best Feeling" during his set, which seems to be growing popularity with every performance. Another was Drew Emmitt and Billy Nershi joking around on stage until they [Emmitt-Nershi Band] played "Down in the Hollow" with Jason Carter and "Colorado Bluebird Sky", which was an absolute treat. Larry Keel and his beautiful wife on bass gave the fans a schooling on the possible sounds an acoustic is capable of. The Keels have got some serious talent. Yonder put on their typical show, with a little help from their friends. "Deathtrip" is still circulating through my truckís speakers. They also played "Happy Birthday", "2 Hits and the Joint Turned Brown" and, not surprising, my favorite "Sideshow Blues". The Danberry's were also a notable act, covering obscure songs for a bluegrass band like "Whipping Post", their version of "Ramble On" and a great cover of the traditional song "Deep Elem Blues" with Josh Cooker. Jomeokee was further from what can be described as a "Sideshow" than any other festivals on scene. There were a few moments/acts/people that deserve an MVP or Trophy of some sort.


Every festival has those stand-out events or people that need to be recognized for the efforts, out of sheer respect. Jomeokee was packed with awesomeness, but here are my top three:

3)Jason Barady-- From the Adirondacks to the Appalachians the super group Floodwood was jaw-dropping. Floodwood is the genius creation of the merger between Al and Vinnie from moe. and Woodenspoon. Floodwood had 2 sets, both earlier in the day. Their stage presence, guests like Billy Nershi, Mandolin madness by Jason Barady, combined with the picking and vocal talents of Al Schnier make this act debatably the best all weekendÖand they did it twice. Jason Barady was eager to play any gig and was in the crowd almost every gig, showing his proper respects and downright enjoying some good ole' bluegrass.

2)Matt Butler-- Because of this amazing concept called the "Everyone Orchestra" fans and musicians alike get the pleasure of authentic interaction during the act itself. It seems no matter how it sounds, which due to caliber of talent is usually top notch and in sync, everyone involved has a great time with each other; and it is apparent that is most important, making timing and flawless note execution a distant cousin. The opportunity orchestrated by Matt Butler is priceless and makes you feel as if youíre up there right next to him. Iíll be seeing another Everyone Orchestra as soon as possible. It was quite an incredible chance to see Melvin Seals, George Jr, and Jeff Sipe laying a tempo; allowing Al, Jimmy, Kang, and Jennifer Hartswick on vocals the chance to really step outside their usual comfort zone. It was amazing and very much appreciated.

1)Jason Carter-- Enough said. Jason Carter is a premier violinist among other things, but conventionally a "utility" man. He is the MVP in a literal sense. Metaphorically, if it were a baseball game, he would be the guy who can throw, hit, catch, and do it all. I was running around trying to shoot all bands and I started noticing Jason playing with what seemed like every band. He played with Del, Keller, Emmitt-Nershi, Yonder, and more including the Bluegrass All-Star Jam. I thought I was on the move; he was everywhere I was, with one exception:  he was already on stage, in different attire, playing with the next band. His talent is off the charts, his personality is nothing but friendly and it seems as if the other artists made sure they took advantage. It was truly an honor to see Jason perform that weekend and I think he deserves the MVP of the whole weekend.


Review and Photos By: Joey A. Pye

Edited By: Rosemary A.W. Roberts

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