Like ~40,000 other people, we were destined for Curveball on Thursday when we got word that the festival was cancelled. There we were, in the middle of New Jersey traffic, with our big weekend plans evaporating with a series of texts and calls from other concerned Phish fans.
With the weekend off and a car full of gear, going home wasn’t an option. Instead we found a nearby campsite for the night, and lurked JamBase for festivals within driving distance. We found the Smokin’ Seafood Bluegrass Festival, 5 hours away just into Ohio from Pennsylvania, and decided why the hell not. I love seafood. Bluegrass is great. Leftover Salmon and the Infamous Stringdusters are both playing…it’s not the thing we were planning for but it couldn’t be a bad consolation prize, right?
It’s a pleasure to report that it was not only a solid consolation prize, but an absolutely beautiful weekend with a couple of killer, jammin’ bluegrass bands in an absolutely wonderful park. About a thousand Curveball refugees showed up to the privately owned section of Ohio’s State Park, and made the absolute most of their weekend with beach hangs, good barbecue and seafood, and some really killer bluegrass.
Leftover Salmon took the stage night one as the stage area filled up. People came creeping out of their campsites in the woods with beers in hand (the festival was BYOB) and ready to get down. Salmon wasted no time with a high-energy first set that leaned heavy on the country and bluegrass stylings of their incredibly eclectic catalogue. Second set started off with a couple of Dead tunes with “Big Railroad Blues” leading into “Playing in the Band”, which sandwiched the great new tunes “House of Cards” off their great, recently-released album Something Higher. (Definitely check that out if you haven’t yet.)
Neil Young’s “Ohio” got the crowd singing along to the geographically relevant tune before diving into “Catfish John”, a song brought to prominence – at least in the jam world – by Jerry Garcia. The second set ended up with an upbeat cover of T. Rex’s “Get It On” (one of those know-it-when-you-hear-it upbeat 80’s glam-rock jams) and then they encored with Blind Willie Johnson’s “It’s Nobody’s Fault but Mine”. You can check out the full setlist and listen to a solid audio recording below.
Leftover Salmon Setlist
Lumpy Beanpole & Dirt Steam Powered Aero Plane Jokester Shawnee Town Shuckin’ the Corn Darkness & Light fiddle tune High Country Dance On Your Head Burdened Heart Lawyers, Guns and Money
Big Railroad Blues Playing In The Band > House Of Cards> Playing In The Band Ohio I Don’t Owe You a Thang Catfish John Aquatic Hitchhiker Show Me Something Higher Light Behind the Rain Get It On (Bang A Gong)
E: It’s Nobody’s Fault but Mine
Saturday had a full schedule of programming with local acts taking the stage throughout the afternoon, however, the real attraction was the Quarry (for you city folk out there, it’s like a lake). With a beach adjacent to the stage, that was the place to be on Saturday. Swimming in the quarry under the beautiful sunny Ohio sky was just the kind of R&R we were looking for after having our weekend effectively blown up. We jumped off their cliff jump and walked around the beautiful camp grounds, enjoying a chill day in a scenic area that we would have otherwise never seen. For reference, this is where Grateful Fest has taken place over the years, and where Lotus throws their SummerDance festival (which is next weekend, by the way, and we’d strongly recommend you attend).
After a good barbecue dinner, the Infamous Stringdusters took the stage with a ‘refugee-friendly menu’ of a setlist. They kicked things off with Phish’s “Free” and arms went up to the sky, many people still visably sporting their Curveball wristbands. They’d revisit the melody a few songs later during an absolutely spectacular reprise jam during “Porcupine Cove”. The Stringdusters’ ability to weave melodies in and out of each other is spectacular, but Nashville quintet aren’t just ace jammers, they have the songwriting skills to win a Grammy to boot. As they alternated between originals, covers, and jams, it became super clear how these guys have became one of the leading string music acts in the country.
The second set was incredibly ‘refugee-friendly’, as Chris Pandolfi put it. One of the Dusters most popular songs, “Fork In The Road” led into “Shakedown Street” to much glee from the crowd. “Gravity”, a newer one from the fantastic album Laws of Gravity, lead into an absolutely killer cover of “Possum”, another Phish tune for people to freak-out to. A cover of Sly Stone’s “Take You Higher” featured a “Bathtub Gin” jam that was one of the musical high-points of the whole weekend, and the band expertly threw portions of “2001” in between their set-ending segue. These cats are on absolute fire and if you’re not already on the bandwagon, go ahead and visit your local venue next time they set ablaze to it.
Overall it was a fantastic weekend in Nelson Ledges, a beautiful campground with kind people, good vendors, a relaxed small-festival vibe, and absolutely smokin’ bluegrass music. Be sure to visit when you can.
Infamous Stringdusters Setlist
Free Well, Well The Place That I Call Home Porcupine Cove I’ll Get Away It’ll Be Alright > Mr Charlie No More To Leave You Behind
Fork In The Road > Shakedown Street > Gravity > Possum This Ol’ Building Tears Of The Earth > Take You Highter Machines Let It Go Hard Life > 2001 > Blockygrass