This is my accounting of my Roots of the Rocks Revival music festival experience held July 17-19, 2015 at Eagle Point Ski Resort in Beaver, Utah. My timeline date back to January 2015, but I was officially at the Revival from the July 16-20, 2015.
The first I ever heard of the Roots of the Rocks Revival music festival was in the early days of 2015, mere months before it would unfold in all its madness, glory, and greatness atop the high peaks of the Tusher Mountains east of Beaver, UT.
Now, before you start thinking bad things about me for not knowing about this festival, bear in mind I’ve been a genuine fan of heavy metal music for roughly 45 of my 50 years. I’ve only recently made the migration your direction. Make no mistake, I’m hooked but admittedly new.
I had dropped in to visit my friend Robby Reynolds III (Sly and Naz-T; You Topple Over), who was staying in the home of Gigi Love and Peter Nicholson (Gigi Love and the Mystics), and standing in the kitchen was Robby, Gigi, Talia Keys (Talia Keys; Talia Keys and Marinade), and Melahn Atkinson. They were gathered around the kitchen island looking at a freshly printed poster. Excitement was in the air, so I played along.
I knew Robby, Talia, and Melahn but was meeting Gigi for the first time. In what I can now only call a most fortuitous turn of events, Gigi asked me if I was going to the Revival. Well, of course I was going, right? The last music festival I had attended was Uncle Uncanny’s in 2013—its last run—and I was anxious for another.
Music festivals of this nature are a little outside my lifetime of experiences, but I know a lot of the musicians involved, and the vibe of family inclusiveness rings a loud bell in my life. As a family we’ve begun to embrace these types of experiences because ultimately we’ve discovered they’re the truly meaningful interactions and memories, and Zen and I like that in our lives, particularly for our young son, Rex.
As the weeks fell out of the calendar and winter turned to spring and then summer, excitement levels in our family were on the rise. We were formalizing plans with Gigi and JR (The Imagine Nation) to make ourselves useful by pitching in our muscles, our vehicle, our babysitting skills if necessary, our trailer, and any other relevant skills, actual or implied. 😉
JR, whom I essentially knew only by reputation prior to the Revival, assessed what was needed for both tents, and my friend and brother Matt Mayer and I grabbed our 16′ trailer and headed to the Deseret Industries store in Sandy, UT.
We identified the couches, chairs, and tables we needed, and between Matt’s negotiating skills, our stories of the awesome people producing and performing at the Revival, and the store’s manager’s willingness to do their part to help the festival be awesome, we got a tremendous discount on our trailer load of comfy cushions.
Thank you, thank you, thank you Sandy Deseret Industries!
As we loaded our trailer, Matt and I commented to each other on the fullness of the load but the relatively light weight of the cargo. After all, we weren’t hauling couches with hide-a-beds or lead balloons. We felt like it wouldn’t impact our gas mileage too badly. Famous last words, right? The extra weight of the 16′ trailer and a couple of thousand pounds of furniture and band equipment we were carrying cost us roughly five miles per gallon.
No sooner had we exited the freeway in Beaver to head up the mountain, our low fuel indicator came on. When you’re the kind of person who’s feeling the pressures of getting all that gear to the Revival—like me—this wasn’t great news. In fact, in my mind our truck was screaming, “OUT OF GAS!” Still, we slogged up the mountain, determined to get the furniture to the show. We were, however, essentially out of fuel upon arrival.
The collective help of our friends and family at the Revival helped us secure enough fuel to make it back down to Beaver where we could get enough additional fuel to get us home. Thank each of you very much.
We landed early Thursday morning to friendly greetings from Gigi and Peter. We were given the quick tour and promptly made ourselves useful by moving furniture and equipment. We were already having a great time!
In addition to Gigi and Peter, we knew some of the other good folk already onsite. For me, this was the moment that really started to personalize my experience, knowing full-well that many of our other friends would be arriving over the next 24-hours. There are few things better than seeing someone you haven’t seen for a while, right?
The lack of sleep the night before due to packing our own gear, the early departure from Salt Lake City, the work of the day, and the high altitude got the best of me, and before the sun had even set I was exhausted and decided I’d better close my eyes for a few minutes. The next time I opened them it was Friday morning, roughly 12-hours later. I must have needed the sleep because I don’t normally log that many hours in one stretch.
I’ve known Matt Mayer for a long time and one of his real strong suits is his ability to see the final version of something really cool and then build or otherwise create it. I had just met Cole and found out a little more about his presence at the Revival, and honestly I was blown away by what he and his friends are up to.
ReincarNature is a concept Cole Wardley has nurtured since his youth in Huntsville, UT. Whatever I write about what he does will not give it proper credit, so please forgive my poverty of words. Essentially, he listens to his natural surroundings and begins to arrange and rearrange the fallen offerings, like tree branches and fallen logs, in such a way that it shows how that particular area wants to present itself, at least in that moment.
I find it fascinating and hope their very special touch continues to be a part of the festival life.
I walked up the hill still dressed for bed and promptly made some cowboy coffee with Kasidy and Tyler. It was just what the doctor ordered. Rick Gerber (Badfeather) walked through the green room with the good vibe of the day in his stride, and before too long some of the other talent started showing up.
Kasidy Baker and Meagan Coy were in charge of the hospitality in the green room, and I want to make certain I thank them for all their hard work. Their job was thankless and challenging nearly every minute of the Revival, but they smiled and persevered. They made me and my family feel at home, and their interactions with other green room guests was professional and friendly. Thank you both for all your efforts (you, too, Scott Swaby). The Revival would not have been the same without your determination.
Jon Olschewski (Stonefed) and I shared a hug and the agreed if they’d play their great original song “Kindly” tonight, then I’d feed him some of my home cooking. Guarantee I get the better end of the deal because that song is flat out awesome.
Promptly at 1:40 p.m. the Revival kicked off with local Beaver, UT country-western band Loose Connection opening with a very spirited rendition of “Somebody to Love”. I spoke with guitarist Chris Williams and he had to chuckle about being the first band, again, essentially filling the role of a live sound-check band.
I asked what he meant when he said “again”, and he explained they’d just come from the 45th Anniversary of the Summer of Love in Monterrey, CA where they’d also been invited to play, you guessed it, first. He made no bones about their presence in Monterrey: live sound-check. I chuckled, but hear this: Loose Connection are a considerably better band than perhaps he led on (and he knows that, too), but it was still great chatting with him for a few minutes after their upbeat, dance-worthy set. The Revival was definitely off to a great start and folks everywhere on the mountain were already dancing!
Talia Keys live-looped for about an hour and absolutely brought it from first note to taking a bow. I had a chance to chop it up with her after her set. She spoke about the familial nature of the bands and musicians assembled for the Revival and how it’s difficult for performing and touring artists to get to their friends’ shows because of scheduling conflicts. But the Revival, by design, was built around the open schedules of every artist so everyone can see everyone else perform. That’s family. Busy most days in their own lives, but definitely available when it really matters. So far, this has been my experience, too.
Six Impossible Things followed Talia, and my ears say they played six impossible songs. Truly, they were fantastic. I hate using the word “haunting” to describe female vocals, so I won’t. Instead, I’ll just say the combined efforts Secily Saunders, Heidi Nedreberg, and special guest Kate Anderson was tonally complex and rich with harmony. Super effort, and Revival goers responded enthusiastically. Finally, we can believe in impossible things.
Christian Mills (Tony Holiday Band) filled in on bass and looked right at home, just like he always does. Affable guy, truly. Thanks for offering to buy me a beer!
Vinyl Tapestries, led by dedicated frontwoman Samantha Calmes, gladly gave up a few minutes of their main-stage time to Michelle Moonshine who, due to no fault of her own, was running late and missed her time slot on the stage at the Globe Theater. A gracious gesture to be sure.
I have to admit I wasn’t fully prepared for what I heard when Vinyl Tapestries started their set. The first time I heard Samantha sing was at the Woodstock Tribute as presented by Talia Keys. I admit I wasn’t overwhelmed with her singing and sadly took little note of her and her band until the Revival.
The band created a totally psychedelic atmosphere and it was powerful. I am a fan of psychedelic music and was captivated, start to finish. Their sound is fresh and serious.
I had a chance to speak with Samantha after their set, meeting her for just the first time. I shared with her the story of the first time I heard her sing, and she held no hard feelings over my stupidity. She explained at the time “White Rabbit” was simply not in her vocal wheelhouse but gave it the old college try all the same and felt enriched by the challenging experience.
We continued to chat for quite a while, and I was totally captivated by Samantha. We hit it off very well, and for that I’m grateful. It’s safe to say Vinyl Tapestries, led by the very capable Samantha Calmes, is destined to make a mark on the music scene.
I’ve never been a real fan of hip hop, and there’s no reason for that, I just haven’t been. I was, however, anxious to see Grits Green. In fact, they were on my list of “must see” bands at the Revival.
The last time I’d seen them was at Talia’s Halloween Party at the State Room back in 2014. I was totally blown away at that time by their stage presence, their playful attitudes, their totally inappropriate songs, and their interaction with their audience. I’ve been a huge fan ever since, and they brought it hard at the Revival.
Ran into co-front man Rhagenetix sometime after their show, and then again here and there throughout the weekend, and we hit it off right out of the gate. I also caught up with bassist Greg Shaw (billing himself as Uncle Greg along with Jenna Talbott from Lunar Eclits who was billing herself as Aunt Jenna), and I was able to share with both of them how much I love everything about Grits Green and how much I appreciated the effort they brought that night. Can’t wait to see you guys, again!
I’ve been friends with the guys from Stonefed for a while, and slowly but surely I’d started seeing them around the mountain. Jon earlier in the day; David Mealey a bit later that afternoon; Jasper Groff a tad later than that, but where’s Ed Stone?
The sun had set, a chill was in the air, and start time was approaching when Ed finally showed up, and Stonefed were reunited with their drummer. That was good news for the midnight timeslot because the gathering of music lovers was ready to party and Stonefed’s brand of original funk was exactly what we wanted! It was good news, also, because we were quite concerned about him.
Meantime, Badfeather put together one the of best hard rock jams I’ve heard in a very long time. Lots of long songs, extended guitar work, and a great vibe had the crowd dancing to every note. Front man Rick Gerber was terrific tonight, and absolutely at his vocal best when he found himself in the middle of an extended jam that included Jasper Groff and Spencer Kellogg. The crowd was totally engaged from start to finish.
Guitarist Jeremy Whitesides was as good as I’ve ever heard him, and that’s saying a lot. They were definitely feeling it tonight, and so was the crowd. Very solid set and thoroughly entertaining from start to finish. Thanks, guys, for bringing it hard!
Stonefed had the midnight slot, which actually started around 1am. No matter, everyone was ready to party and willing to go until dawn. They played a ruckus “Trombone Philly”, which is one of my favorite Stonefed songs. Actually, I don’t want to sell that song short. It’s one of my favorite songs by any artist. They played a flawless set, which is no small miracle given the chilly temperatures.
David Meservy (Wisebird) by way of Austin, TX by way of Flagstaff, AZ by way of Salt Lake City, UT joined the Moab-based quartet on keyboards, a role he’s jumped into recently. He adds an element of depth to already sophisticated music, and is a terrific improvisational keyboardist. I dig why they’re not a permanent quintet, but damned if they aren’t something special when they are.
My wife and son took a nap so they could see Stonefed play and then promptly didn’t wake up until morning. I think it’s this high mountain air that has them sleepier than normal. It’s a good thing they play a second set at the Revival. Rex really loves to watch Jasper play, but to date, largely because he’s only five-years-old, he’s only seen him in videos. I’ll make certain he gets to see them tomorrow night.
The Tony Holiday Band (billed as Tony Holiday and the Velvetones) were incredibly tight. After Badfeather and Stonefed, the gathered crowd—still into the hundreds—was ready for more, a lot more. Both Tony and bassist Christian Mills played to their audience, and it really paid off. The crowd was loud and full of dance throughout their set.
By request and a little convincing, Tony decided the band would play a song it doesn’t normally play, and the crowd responded with an explosive roar from the very first note of “Hip Shakin'”. You’re a stand-up guy, Tony! Thanks for playing that song. It took the Revival to a whole new level of excitement!