With the inception of a dream, Sam Shear, founder of POTM, set forth on the adventure of a lifetime to create a Midwest festival that would house a community of talented musicians, artists, healers and beautiful people. It would take two years for his dream to come to fruition, teaming with his father, Barry Shear and Artist in Residence David Gans the team set forth to create the inaugural Phases of the Moon Music and Art Festival. The festival would kick off on Thursday, September 11th and go through Sunday, September 14th in the majestic 3000 acre Kennekuk County Park in Danville, IL. The kick off would share in its own roller coaster of setbacks and challenges testing the teams intuitive resolve to create a unique experience.
With less than a month before gates would open, POTM would face a huge challenge with the cancellation of festival headliner Bob Weir and RatDog. The announcement came as a shock to the jamband community and all sent their well wishes and good vibes to Bobby Weir. Within days POTM released the announcement that Grace Potter and the Nocturnals and a second set of the String Cheese Incident would be added to the festival lineup. Another challenge arose the night before the festival was scheduled to open its gates to the public as torrential rains and flash floods covered Kennekuk County. The rain flooded the campgrounds while the wind whipped up a high velocity of issues for the POTM team. To protect the stages, several already completed structures were partially taken down. Several of the performance artists and healers had to seek shelter in the historical buildings on the property. As the rains subsided around 2:00 in the morning the POTM team begun to implement the necessary actions. They made the decision to close the park until 12:00 PM on Thursday, September 11th to “allow crews to perform maintenance and make necessary adjustments to ensure all roads and public areas were safe and easily accessible for all to enjoy during the next four days.”
As production crews and media rolled in on Thursday, September 11th before the gates were opened to the general public the shared concern was how would Phasers be able to access the soggy site and how would the team protect the park that at this time was in sections sunk in mud. Gravel trucks had already begun unloading truckloads of gravel as soon as the rain subsided the night before and to help dry the fields a helicopter could be found flying low, using the huge blades as a giant fan to help dry the grass. It was awe inspiring moment to see the diligence of all those involved trying to get the site up and running before the gates were to open at noon. As the moments ticked into hours the anxiety began to build and the music was pushed back an hour. Inside the staging area crews rushed to re-rig giant cloth projection screens next to the stages, several bobcats could be seen hauling in mulch in giant buckets and tilling the mulch into the ground, their speedy synchronized earth moving dance would be a foreshadowing of the dances to come.
David Gans and the Rumpke Mountain Boys would kick off the music to a small handful of people who made it into the festival on the Harvest Moon Stage. The trash-grass bluegrass filled the festival with twinkles of banjo and provided hope that all would be in place. As the early evening approached the California Honeydrops took the main stage, the bobcats were still busy laying mulch in front of the stages. A group of close to 50-100 people filled in the stands by the soundboard of the Full Moon Stage and they danced and cheered as the band began to play. The Honeydrops known to jump off stage to parade through the crowd did not hesitate; they jumped from the stage midway through their set and jumped the rail to walk through the now spongy mulch filled area. The Honeydrops reached the stands to the cheers of their fans and performed there for several minutes, dancing and singing. As the band made their way back to the stage, the audience followed…the Honeydrops became the Pied Piper of Phases leading the dancing feet of the crowd into the now amazingly dry area in front of the stage.
The Full Moon and the New Moon stages were set up to not overlap schedules and were close enough to each other to allow Phasers enough time to wander to and fro and not miss any music. After the California Honeydrops wrapped up their set the Revivalists would take the New Moon Stage. The funky southern New Orleans root based rock band warmed up the evening and the horns would meld into the night air.
Chris Robinson Brotherhood took the Full Moon Stage by storm. They kicked off the set with Let’s Go, Let’s go, Let’s Go, their rhythm and rhyme never falling out of time, they wove their set through psychedelic tunes centered on astrological scenes and good vibrations. They closed their set with Rosalee.
The New Moon stage was once again filled with horns by the New Orleans funk based band Galactic. By the time the set was finished several hundred people had made their way into the campgrounds and stage area. The lines outside of festival were stacking up as people waited patiently to get into the campgrounds. The multiple entrance lines originally set up had been closed due to the flooding and mud and the lines were condensed to a single line making it a slow process. The POTM team worked with local law enforcement and the message was sent out that those wishing to walk into the festival and leave their cars would be allowed to do so. The line of cars some five miles deep seemed an impossible feet to get moved into the festival on time for the first set to be performed by the String Cheese Incident. Several diehard SCI fans would do just that, abandon their car and haul their gear in so they would not miss the act they longed to see. For those that made it in, they would not be disappointed by the set SCI would perform that night. The opening SCI set was filled with an amazement of tunes including Desert Dawn, Mouna Bowa, Big Shoes and Betray the Dark. They closed their set with an 18 minute Howard into Let’s Go Outside. The late night sets and Performance artists would continue into the wee hours of the night as people continued to fill in the venue.
Friday morning folks who weathered through the mud would awake to the surprise of a completely dried out venue. Overnight straw had been laid, the bobcats had continued their synchronized dance of mulch tilling, the transformation was nothing short miraculous. The Sanctuary, greeted the day with morning family yoga. The structure built in a geometric shape with shade infrastructure designed by Guildworks and installations by Nature Dreamweaver and Symbiotic Creations was filled with healers. The collaboration of talented healers was led by Sanctuary Producer, Danny Goldberg and the assistance of Naomi Charanpal, the two have put together energy festivals on the west coast, I AM HEALING and Lucidity Festival LLC. One of the goals Sam Shear had for the festival was to create an atmosphere to foster the idea that there is something bigger than me; he wanted to give people the chance to tap into something greater than self. The Sanctuary provided such an opportunity, healers from all over the states specializing in a range of energy work would offer their services all weekend by simple donation.
David Gans would introduce the Town Square Stage to a morning of light picking while Dumpstaphunk would pick up the pace on the New Moon Stage. Jackie Green would fill the air with his folk art numbers reflecting the sounds of the Grateful Dead on the Full Moon Stage. Anders Osborne would fill in the afternoon before JJ Grey and MOFRO assembled onto the Full Moon Stage. By the time JJ Grey took the stage around 5:30 in the evening, the venue was filling up. Through the coordination of the POTM team, local law enforcement and local residents a plan had been put into place to shuttle in people from multiple places and festival goers were able to safely set up camp. Grace Potter and the Nocturnals hit the New Moon Stage promptly at 7:15, Grace’s beauty lit up the night and her powerful vocals could be heard throughout the venue. The String Cheese Incident treated fans to another night of impressive jams. They would play favorites Rollover, Restless Wind, BollyMunster, Look at Where We Are, You’ve Got the World. During Jellyfish, front man Billy Nershi, would leave off a lyrical chorus to catch himself and giggle while busting into an improve be-bop skit before jumping back into the groove of Jellyfish. They ended the first set by reprising Rollover. Set two kicked off with, Also Sprach Zarathustra into several moon phased tunes, Moon Rocks, Yellow Moon. JJ Grey took the stage to take vocals on Bad Moon Rising with Bill Payne on keys before Vince Herman from Leftover Salmon would come out to take vocals on Spanish Moon. Vince known for his festival antics sported a rainbow cape and space helmet, his vocals growled and seared through the night and sent everyone reeling. Bill Payne remained on stage playing next to Kyle Hollingsworth of SCI. Sunshine Becker and Andy Thorn would join SCI and Vince Herman for Midnight Moonlight. Travis would take vocals for Walkin’ on the Moon and had everyone howling at the chance to hear the SCI drummer on vocals. They wrapped up the Lunar Conspiracy with Brain Damage into Eclipse. Their tribute to the full moon with acrobatic areal performers, fire twirlers and special guests was fantastic. Late night continued with fire folk scattered throughout the venue, dancing and spinning fire and several great performances by The Brothers Comatose, Monophonics, Kung Fu, The Steepwater Band and Mingo Fishtrap.
Saturday was a special treat with Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers kicking off the day on the Full Moon Stage. Jackie Greene and Vince Herman made special appearances during her set. The Jeff Austin Band would fill the midafternoon day with the day’s introduction to bluegrass followed by a stellar set by Leftover Salmon. Jackie Greene would play his second set of the festival with special guest appearances by Nicki Bluhm and Deren Ney. Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe would light up the Full Moon stage with brass and massive jams before giving way to Tedeschi Trucks Band on the New Moon Stage. Susan Tedeschi’s vocals could only be matched by husband Derek Trucks slide across the strings of his guitar. There was a very touching moment when she dedicated Shelter to Gov’t Mule’s roady, Brian Farmer who had just recently passed. Widespread Panic would close the main stage Saturday evening. The light show was incredible and fans were ready to be engulfed by the southern rocks jams. Late night VIP would include a special treat by Jeff Austin and Friends. The stage was nestled on the other side of the park deep in the woods. The private show was eccentric and filled with spacey psychedelic jams and a pure treat for those that were able to attend. The psychedelic bluegrass jams would not stop with Jeff Austin and Friends. The Cornmeal Ramble with Cornmeal in the Kitchen would dip folks deep into the night and wrap up almost at sunrise. The set was an amazing venture full of energy and life, the crowd was huge and everyone danced until the wee hours of the morning. New fiddler player Phillip Roach formerly of the Giving Tree Band has been an amazing addition to Cornmeal in the Kitchen.
The last day of the festival would be as packed full of amazing performances as the first three. Leon Russell, band pick by founder and father Barry Shear welcomed the day on the Full Moon. Donavon Frankenreiter’s Cali based surf sound opened the day on the New Moon stage. The colder weather turned warm and the sun shown high in the afternoon sky. Vintage Trouble’s set on the Full Moon stage was a delight and lead into more veraciously packed jams of Robert Randolph and the Family Band. Gov’t Mule’s set was a nice mix as the afternoon sun slipped from the sky that included World Boss, Steppin’ Lightly, Broke Down on the Brazo’s, No Quarter, and an amazing Thorozine Shuffle > Funny Little Tragedy > Thorazine Shuffle. Railroad Earth closed out the New Moon Stage, their impeccable musician ship was a gentle reminder of the amazing bluegrass that was sprinkled throughout the weekend. Widespread Panic would close out the festival on the Full Moon Stage.
As folks made their way back to camp as the last set ended with David Gans and Rumpke Mountain Boys there was a consensus that echoed from one camp to another, everyone was very excited for next years Phases of the Moon and not everyone was ready for this year’s event to be over. The Shears and David Gans exceeded expectations of grandeur even in the midst of challenges and provided an oasis for relaxation, rejuvenation, music and art. What an incredible event!