Sweetwater 420 Fest 2017 Review
I was fortunate this year to cover Sweetwater 420 Fest in Atlanta, GA, and had one of the best music festival experiences while there. The event started in 2005 as a music festival with an emphasis on the local brewery scene. It traditionally occurs on the weekend closest to Earth day, and also focuses on keeping the earth clean and sustainable. It has grown quite a bit in the 12 years it has occurred, and is much larger than the 3,000 people they had at the first festival.
On Friday, April 21, I arrived at the Centennial Olympic Park excited for a weekend full of good music and good people. The first act of the weekend I had the pleasure of covering was the Dirty Heads. This reggae band from Huntington Beach, California had the whole crowd dancing along to their tropical jams. Having a great balance of rap and reggae made for a great show. My favorite song was “Stand Tall” which every time I hear I think of the ending scene to Surf’s Up (awesome movie that I would recommend to anyone). After enjoying the set from the Dirty Heads, next up was moe. I was fortunate to meet with them before their set and wish them good luck. Moe is characterized as an American jam band, formed at the University at Buffalo in 1989. The band consists of members Rob Derhak on vocals, Al Schnier playing lead guitar and the keys, Chuck Garvey on guitar (guitar), Vinnie Amico on drums, and Jim Loughlin with percussion. Their set started off with Moth, and had everyone jamming along with them. Their Billy goat and Tailspin had everyone going into a tailspin of musical joy. My favorite song from their set was definitely Lazarus. After closing their set off, they came back out and encored with Akimbo. It was a fantastic set, and had everyone waiting for what the festival would have next. Trey Anastasio Band headlined night one, and everyone was excited to see what they’d have in store. Trust me, they did not disappoint. Trey Anastasio Band has included the original members Russ Lawton (drums), and Tony Markellis (bass), and has added over the years Cyro Baptista (percussion), Ray Paczkowski (keys), Jennifer Hartswick (trumpet, vocals), Natalie Cressman (trombone, vocals), and James Casey (saxophones, vocals). After coming out and waving to the crowd, Trey struck the beginning notes of Sand, and the crowd went wild. After that came Magilla and Cayman Review, with the brass section doing great jobs in both. Mozambique and Gotta Jibboo were both great, but what came next was quite interesting. Natalie Cressman put her trombone down, and proceeded to perform Ana Tijoux’s 1977, which was a beautiful, and powerful, Spanish song. It had a hint of rap in it, as Natalie proceeded to lay down some bars from the song. It was a very entertaining song which everyone enjoyed to hear. They closed the first set with the Phish song First Tube, and everyone sat waiting for another set. They came back for set two with Sometime After Sunset, followed by Curlew’s Call, Everything’s Right, and Simple Twist up Dave. After a Crosby, Stills, and Nash cover of 49 Bye-Byes, as well as a Phish cover of Alaska, they played my personal favorite song Alive Again. After this, Jennifer Hartswick put her trumpet down and proceeded to sing the fan favorite cover of the Gorlliaz’ Clint Eastwood. TAB closed out the day with Mr. Completely and Dazed and Confused, and encored The Parting Glass and Push On ‘Til the Day. The first day was amazing, and Trey Anastasio Band did a fantastic job of uniting the crowd in the music.
April 22nd marked Earth day, and the day was as beautiful as the last. My first act of the day was Anders Osbourne. Anders, originally from Sweden, now calls New Orleans his home, and his music is very heavily inspired by the New Orleans style of Jazz and Blues. His style of music switches perfectly between the New Orleans Jazz and the Rock and Roll style he is fond of. He played songs including Back on Dumaine, which refers to his home off Dumaine Street in New Orleans. His powerful music swept through the crowd, and made everyone enjoy the beautiful weather and day we were having. I walked over to the Planet 420 Stage just in time to catch some of Big Something’s set, which consisted of several songs off their new album Tumbleweed, including the title track. Their electronica-jam style was electric. After them came Dopapod, who had a very similar feeling to them as the other jam bands I had seen thus far at the festival. Their feel-good jamming came out of their dynamic sound they produced. The band is Boston born has been catching wind lately, performing at more and more music festivals around the country, and now I know why. Their music has a very funky feeling to it, which caused everyone to break it down. It seemed as if everyone in the crowd were dancing along to them. Following them back at the Sweetwater stage was Slightly Stoopid. The California based band self proclaims their style as “a fusion of folk, rock, reggae and blues with hip-hop, funk, metal and punk.” While that may seem like a lot, it is a very accurate depiction of their musical style. The band has been influenced by many different styles of music, which they incorporated into their own style. Songs such as This Joint and Wiseman had the crowd going wild. Their set was a perfect transition into the headliner of the night: Widespread Panic. Set 1 began with Pigeons and Henry Parsons Died. Cotton was King, Bears Gone Fishin’, and You Got Yours carried the set into some solid jams, which the crowd loved. Set one ended with a great Holden Oversoul. Set two started with Chainsaw city, and included a great rendition of Honky Red, alongside Radio Child, Jack, and Fishwater. Widespread encored with my favorite song Porch Song, and it was the best way to end the second day. The crowd enjoyed the whole show, and I know Widespread had a great time performing.
While I could not attend the third day, the two days of the festival were amazing. So many great people listening to great music filled the beautiful park that there is no way I wouldn’t want to go back. If you have not been to Sweetwater 420 Fest before, I highly suggest going one year.
CBDB, Daily Bread, Samantha Fish, San Holo, Talib Kweli, Tedo Stone, Tep No, The Dirty Heads, The Hip Abduction, Trey Anastasio Band, Twiddle, moe., Anders Osborne, Big Something, Dopapod, Fortunate Youth, G-Buck, Jackie Greene, ProbCause, Savoy, Slightly Stoopid, The Steppin’ Stones. Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews & Orleans Avenue, Widespread Panic, Wild Adriatic, Break Science, Dark Star Orchestra, Futuristic, Lettuce, People’s Blues of Richmond, Sam King, SunSquabi, The Werks, Ween, Widespread Panic