Some Kind of Jam 4 April 24-26 2009

After almost a week of April Showers, it seemed as if even the sunshine was coming out for Some Kind of Jam, an intimate music festival held in the rolling foothills and farmland of Kempton, PA.
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The weekend's forecast of 80-plus degree weather was a pleasant surprise after the chilly rain of the previous year. We knew we were in for a treat as we approached the Kempton County Fairgrounds, home of the festival for the second year now.

    We waited in a minimal line before purchasing our recession-friendly $50 tickets and paid a small $5 per car parking fee.  It was at this time that the parking attendant informed us that we could park and camp wherever we wanted, a great change of pace from other festivals, where you are often directed to camp in certain locations.  The fairgrounds provide about 60 grassy acres for campers to choose from, with the outermost camping area being kept company by a herd of cows from a neighboring farm.  We chose a central location, not too far from Shakedown and the festival's two stages, one indoor and one under a covered pavilion, ensuring that unpredictable spring weather is never an issue.

   Each year, Some Kind of Jam features a number of local and regional acts, as well as some national groups.  These acts often highlight a number of different musical styles, from rock to Americana, electronic to folk, providing something for fans of all genres.  The crowds at the stages started out small on Friday and gradually grew, with people arriving throughout the afternoon.  Friday evening at the outdoor stage, festival goers were served up a funky portion of Turtle Soup.  Hailing from Red Bank, New Jersey, their funky jam-rock rhythms got everyone's feet moving, a great warm-up for the night ahead. 

   As the sun went down, Splintered Sunlight took the outdoor stage, playing a set that featured not only the music of the Grateful Dead, but also a number of Jerry Garcia Band selections.  This being the first set of the night to take place after the sun went down, the light show began, with psychedelic patterns dancing on the rafters of the pavilion and on the stage's backdrop.  During a rendition of "Deep Elem Blues," hoards of glow sticks were thrown out into the audience, providing even more eye candy for the crowd.  The set also featured songs like "Black Throated Wind" and a great segue from "The Other One" into "Midnight Moonlight."

   Friday night's late night shows offered such a wide array of music for festival goers to choose from, one almost felt like a kid in a candy store.  The indoor stage featured an eclectic combination of Cabinet, a foot-stomping bluegrass band, followed by Codename, a more electronic, progressive-rock and dance band.  Both bands provided different grooves, but were packed full of energy that kept everyone on their feet and dancing.  The outdoor stage featured the Chicago Afrobeat Project, a band that encompasses an abundance of influences, including Afro-Cuban, jazz, funk, and rock.  Their two drummers, horn section, and keyboards added rich depth to the funky and driving guitar and bass lines, keeping the audience moving throughout their entire performance.  For a number of the weekend's attendees, my camp included, CAbP was a favorite of the festival.

   On Saturday afternoon, everyone was treated to the New Orleans style, big band jazz of the Hoppin' John Orchestra.  For a change of pace, they started their set off marching through the playground and Shakedown, forming a parade of people following behind.  The afternoon sets also featured the multi-instrumental, father and son duo of Beaucoup Blue and the bluegrass and Americana of Mason Porter.

   Post Junction got the audience into the groove on Saturday night, bringing their soulful and jazzy improvisations to the outdoor stage.  At one point, a young man joined the band on stage, assisting with various percussion instruments and dancing along with band members.  Their funky jams invoked Sly and the Family Stone and Parliament Funkadelic and were a great way to get everyone up and grooving through the night.

   Saturday's night sets again offered a variety of music for campers to choose from.  The outdoor stage featured the Breakfast, a fun, progressive-rock band whose set featured a number of experimental jazz jams.  Playing indoors was the Big Dirty, with their funky, Phish-inspired R&B that had just a taste of twang.  Also featured on the indoor stage was Jimkata, an experimental rock group whose music featured progressive, layered improvisation.

   Nestled in between the two stages, Shakedown is made up of a number of different vendors, some of whom were returning from previous years and others who were new to this festival.  One of the returning vendors was Love Peace and Dye, a recycled art, clothing and craft store run by TiffyPop.  It is clear that she has been present at previous years, as her signature swirly skirts were spotted on folks dancing and hula hoping all weekend long.  One newcomer to the festival this year was hand blown glass artist TriSymbolize, who showed diversity in his glass art by offering guitar slides and wine corks, in addition to the usual glass fare.  There was also a drum vendor there, who encouraged spontaneous drum circles all weekend long by leaving his djembes arranged on stands in an oval in front of his booth.  Needless to say, festival attendees did not need to be told twice to help themselves to the drums, while some brought their own instruments, ranging from flutes to didgeridoos.  In between sets each night, the audience would flock over to the drums and form a drum circle for a spur-of-the-moment intermission.

   In addition to music and vendors, a number of activities were provided for both adults and children.  There were multiple yoga sessions held throughout the weekend.  On Saturday afternoon, there were hula hooping workshops, during which hoopers of all ages could start learning some of the tricks of the trade.  Later in the day, hoopers extraordinaire were given the opportunity to showcase their skills in a Hooper Showdown.  Saturday night also gave festival goers the opportunity to watch some fire dancing.  Lucky for the kids (and their parents) there was a rather large playground, fully equipped with swings, slides, monkey bars and a merry-go-round on the festival grounds, located between the outdoor stage and the family camping.  Late-night bonfires are also a regular occurrence at this festival, which is good because it can get a little chilly at night.

   Some Kind of Jam is a grassroots festival that started out small and has continued to grow each year.  By booking quality acts, both well-known and under-the-radar, this festival has built a name for itself and is forming an ever-growing and always loyal fan base.  Also, Jibberjazz has a hard-working staff that is dedicated to providing a safe, fun environment for all who attend their festival.  This has created a family vibe that is evident all throughout the weekend.  Families and friends, along with their pets, are always having a good time together and smiles and hugs are everywhere.  Jibberjazz promoter Jon Sten shares these sentiments.  "I believe we attract the right kind of festival people...people who are there for the music, to fall in love, and make friends."  I do believe he may be onto something.

Written by: Jennifer Svenningsen

Photo's Courtesy of: Bruce Berman and Rebecca Stirner

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