We kicked off a hot day two at 2pm, arriving early to the stage to stake out a spot for one of our favorite live bands, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. If you’ve never seen them, imagine a tall, blonde Janis Joplin backed by the Stones (I exaggerate, but not by much). Heavy on material from their upcoming disc, the only drawback of their set was its brevity, at least from the perspective of the crowd, who was on board from the first two minutes.
After a dip in the ocean, we were back to the same stage for Rodrigo Y Gabriela at 445. They mentioned they were the first act to sign on to the festival and their enthusiasm showed. Musically, I can’t say much about them that hasn’t already been said. They were sensational, blending older material with some of their newer stuff that pays tribute to their metal roots (a cover of Metallica’s Call of Ktulu, for instance).
Then it was over to the main stage for the 6pm Gov’t Mule show. Warren Haynes & Co were the only act we’ve seen to run over their allotted time, stretching their 75 minutes to 90. And good thing, because a combination of newer material and some nagging guitar tech issues kept things from really catching fire until about 40 minutes in. That’s when they delivered a blistering 15 minute Thorazine Shuffle. And then, as ever when Warren’s involved, it was guest star time. First was Davy Knowles from Back Door Slim, who shared vocal and guitar duties with Warren on Almost Cut My Hair. Then out strutted Grace Potter to take on Fleetwood Mac’s Gold Dust Woman. Warren closed out with Soulshine before a very large and happy crowd.
Before I talk about the next acts, a quick note about who wasn’t there: that would be Jacob Dylan, whom, rumor had it, got delayed by weather in Texas. Most people called bullshit on that one, but we were better off anyway–at least if the current reviews of his tour with Neko Case and Kelly Hogan are to be believed. Adjectives like dour, low energy, and one-note. After seeing him solo a couple years ago, I believe it. What we got in his place was the exact opposite: on one stage, the aforementioned Preservation Hall Jazz Band. And on the other, The Roots, themselves a fill-in for the Flaming Lips, whose guitarist was recently hospitalized. As my wife said, “When people tell you not all hip hop sucks, this is what they’re talking about.” They were tremendous, and another good example of why festivals are great: you’ll watch great bands you might not otherwise pay to see.
Which brings us to the night’s headliner, John Legend, someone that those of us in DC have seen more times than we can count, thanks to his willingness to come to town for just about any reason. This was sort of an outlier on the lineup, perhaps an attempt at diversity by the organizers (but aimed at a crowd that could boast very little diversity itself). We informally canvassed a few festival goers at the restaurant where we had dinner: all either thought it strange or had never heard of Mr. Legend. And true enough, when we arrived back in the gates, we found a crowd that paled in comparison to the Zac Brown crowd the night before. His set was fine, if a bit slowly paced, but we couldn’t get over the low energy from a crowd that clearly wasn’t there to hear R&B.