About THE BEAT: Marc Shapiro, a lifelong musician and concert-goer, writes about regional and national musicians, concerts, festivals and the music industry. He is managing editor at the Baltimore Jewish Times, a sister publication of Baltimore Style.
When the All Good Festival started back in 1996, it was one of a small number of events that offered a full weekend of music and camping, a pioneering concept at the time. Twenty years later, with a music industry flooded with festivals all over the country and world, All Good is reimagining its annual throw-down this summer.
For many like myself, the All Good Festival brings to mind the scenic Marvin’s Mountaintop in Masontown, West Virginia, All Good’s home of many years. The festival will always hold a special place in my heart, having attended several All Goods during college, when my musical palette was greatly expanding. There were shows by Umphrey’s McGee, RAQ, Baltimore’s The Bridge, The Black Crowes, Les Claypool, The String Cheese Incident and so many others that I can still remember vividly.
To say the least, All Good was the place to capture once-in-a-lifetime shows, see your favorite bands at their best and catch up-and-coming bands and promising local acts.
All Good Presents, the company behind the festival and hundreds of concerts in the Baltimore/DC region, is holding the aptly named Merryland Music Fest at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia on July 9 and 10.
Keeping in the spirit of featuring eclectic bands from the local to the longtime national headliners, the festival features The String Cheese Incident, Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals, Grace Potter, Lotus, Stephen “Ragga” Marley, Greensky Bluegrass, Shakey Graves, Yonder Mountain String Band, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Nahko & Medicine for the People, Langhorne Slim & The Law, Protoje, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Turkuaz, Tauk, the Cris Jacobs Band and Elm.
I was able to chat via email with All Good Presents founder Tim Walther about the decision to hold a two-day event at Merriweather, picking a lineup and keeping the All Good atmosphere alive. Here’s what he had to say:
I know All Good had changed venues in recent years, what was the reasoning behind throwing a two-day event at Merriweather rather than a weekend with camping?
Honestly, the camping festival scene has become oversaturated and we just couldn’t find the right home after we left Marvin’s Mountaintop. When All Good Festival was born in 1996 we were spearheading one of the only events of this type in the country, I can only name two others that go back that far, Gathering of the Vibes and High Sierra Music Festival. An intern reached out to me recently from one of the major booking agencies looking for festival dates and within the conversation, he told me that they had a running list of over 800 festivals nationwide. Over the years the fans that jumped on the All Good bandwagon early have gotten older while new and younger fans have joined the mix. Having been around as long as we have, some of the kids that were conceived at All Good are now teenagers, those that got married at All Good are celebrating 10+ years. A bunch of our most avid fans are no longer able to take the time and energy to do the camp-out thing but are super excited to return to the scene and enjoy the music at such a wonderful setting as Merriweather Post Pavilion. The music, the community, the laughter and memorable moments with both friends and strangers alike will be abundant at the fest. The greatest benefit to the move away from camping is that fans of all ages and walks of life can feel invited and have the convenient opportunity to experience what Merryland will bring to Merriweather Post Pavilion.
How does the Merryland Music Fest carry on the spirit of the All Good Festival?
Merryland is a different animal, it’s a two-day event with no camping and will create and carry on its own spirit and energy.
Merryland Music Fest is set to take place at one of the nation’s most beautiful and legendary outdoor amphitheaters, Merriweather Post Pavilion. Merryland will include an expanded footprint featuring a second stage and an interactive space amongst Symphony Woods, with unique local artisans, philanthropic organizations and crowd performers. For microbrew fans, Flying Dog Brewery will be serving up our very own All Good ISA (India Seasonal Ale) along with other selected brands. Beyond Merryland’s two days and nights of music at Merriweather Post, All Good Presents is offering those hardcore music enthusiasts their choice of Kickoff and Late Night concerts at premiere venues in Baltimore and DC.
Although many have already scored their tickets and are revving up for the big weekend, with Merriweather’s proximity to most fans in the metro area and their being able to commute to the fest, fans can make their plans at any time up until the day of the show. Fans can expect cultural magic to take place amongst the talented bands, thriving music and each other. Bring your fellow music lovers and join us in the celebration of life and music.
Can you tell me about how you selected the eclectic lineup of performers, both national and local?
Choosing the bands for Merryland Music Fest is an exciting and challenging task. Having history and relationships with hundreds of bands through All Good Presents makes it tough to decide amongst my favorite acts, some of which we have been working with for nearly 20 years. As a general practice, I do my best to erase any bias for any band and to choose the band that makes the most sense for each given slot. Starting from the headliner, choosing the band prior to the headliner and so on, the bands that flow properly from one to the next. Other than the flow, the goal is to land the most stellar headliners and to bring the most groundbreaking young acts in the scene to spotlight them on a major festival level; these bookings are the most rewarding. To have the opportunity to expand the reach and strength of an up-and-coming band is what it’s all about. Fresh and innovative original music, musicians letting it all hang out, doing what they believe in for peanuts on the dollar, in the end, it’s the musicians that make these festivals thrive. It’s the music that brings fans together and cleanses their souls. Music is healing.
What can fans expect at the kick-off and late night concerts?
The kick-off concerts on Friday night are set the tone for the weekend. Besides our throwing down to one of the local favorites, ELM, the other three acts on these bills are not also performing at the festival. The idea is to incorporate more great acts into the weekend, to feature the venues we work with year round and to give fans the incentive to go see more live music. The clubs and the festivals work together when it comes to growing acts, the growth in clubs leads to the interest for acts to play the festivals, then reciprocally, the acts that crush it at the festivals, return to the clubs to continue their growth with their individual fan base. This is what All Good Presents has done for years, to work with bands at the club level, highlight them on festivals and return with a collaborative effort to build their scenes within four walls. We have grown with many acts this way and are looking forward to participating in this process through Merryland Music Fest. The Late Night concept is simple, it’s there to keep the energy moving forward into the late night hours. Fans get into their celebration mode with the music and with their friends and want to keep the party going so to speak. Kung Fu will make for a great host of a late night jam with Karl Denson and other potential guests. Come join a weekend of celebration like no other in the area.
For more information and to purchase tickets, visit merrylandmusicfest.com.