The Werk Out Brings Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Umphrey’s McGee, Twiddle and More to Thornville, Ohio (FESTIVAL REVIEW/PHOTOS)

Umphrey’s Mcgee

Fans gathered at Legend Valley in Thornville, Ohio for the ninth year of The Werk Out August 2-4, which is hosted by the Ohio homegrown band The Werks, and after hearing great things about this festival over the years, I now see why people keep coming back! With top tier music, art, fire performances, and late night acts, this was my favorite festival of the summer.

The weekend kicked off early on Thursday, August 2nd, with the first set being Electric Orange Peel late in the afternoon, which was a great integration of jam, rock, blues, and even delivered a special guest: Rob Compa of Dopapod! The theme for the night was “Fairy Tale”, and the fans wore glitter, tutu’s, and wings, as we flew into the evening with Mungion. Now that our dancing shoes were warmed up, the funk took over the main stage with Lettuce, and the sun turned into our disco ball as the crowd was grooving. Spafford is an act I was excited to see because of their rise in the jam scene the past two years, and I was not disappointed! Their jamming was improvisational, varying from rock, jazz, and bass heavy jams, and the crowd was filled with people smiling ear to ear. There’s no denying that Joe Russo’s Almost Dead was the highlight of Thursday night; with two smoking sets of jamtronic style Grateful Dead hits, JRAD is one of the best Dead tribute acts out there right now. The first set may have started off spacey, but “Jack Straw” was powerful and led fans into joyful spinning. The second set highlight was “Reuben & Cherise”, which went into a deep psychedelic jam with teases of “Goin’ Down The Road”, and closing with “I Know You Rider”. And for those of us who were ready to venture into the late night of Fairy Tale wonders, Turkuaz and Rumpke Mountain Boys kept us going until the wee hours of the morning.

Friday hosted the theme of “Freaks and Geeks”, the classic Netflix series well known amongst fans as it references going on the road with the Grateful Dead, and the appreciation for rock and roll. Music kicked off early in the afternoon, and despite the heat, attendees were out dancing in the sunshine to Conscious Pilot, Ekoostik Hookah, Mom and Dad (featuring members of Dopapod), Zach Deputy, and Ghost Light, featuring Tom Hamilton and Holly Bowling. The sky was still light and bright for evening tunes, and as it cooled down, more people came out from their campsites to dance to the electronic, soul-felt music of Papadosio. There is joy in their lyrics and watching them perform as musicians; it is mirrored onto the crowd in a beautiful way and inspires people to dance, uninhibited. Flow artists brought out their LED hula hoops and poi, entertaining by passers and those of us who needed to take a seat on the grass to rest our feet, as there was still hours of music ahead of us. The Werks headlined Friday night with two sets that lit the whole venue up! The members of the band are outstanding musicians, performing with eccentricity and delivering top tier jams with a funky electronic sound. The fans are friendly, kind, and eager to share in the groove, with strangers and familiar faces. There is something special about strangers being together in a space, and the commonality of music alone being the initiator for a friendship to bloom. Ignited from the fiery sets from The Werks, people continued to dance the night away at the tent for some Pigeons Playing Ping Pong.

Saturday’s theme was “Animal Night”, and the crowd came prepared! With cat ears, panda masks, and unicorn onesies, the attendees of The Werk Out were having fun being silly with their inner child. The afternoon was a scorcher, with temperatures reading in the high 90’s, but that certainly did not stop people from going out and seeing music that was scheduled for the day. The Werks and Friends kicked off the afternoon with collaborative jams, and with the Main Stage and Side Stage being right next to each other, it was easy to continue to transition into Rumpke Mountain Boys, The Marcus King Band, and Octave Cat. People that couldn’t make it out in the heat during the day time were sure to run out as soon as they heard the opening notes of Twiddle. The one of a kind jams rocked the stage in the early evening, and Mihali even had Rob Compa come out as a special guest! Pigeons Playing Ping Pong kept the crowd high on the vibration we were riding on from Twiddle’s set, and got us ready for some rock and roll to be delivered by the best rock dads in the scene, Umphrey’s McGee. We were lucky to keep it rollin’ into the night with two sets of their smooth transitional jams with notes of rock, blues, reggae, and even metal.  As if the music alone wasn’t an example of major talent, it is eloquently paired with the light show that Jefferson Waful captivates us with every time. The crowd sang along to their favorite Umph songs, like “In The Kitchen” and “Life During Exodus”. With all of the hype from the day, and rest we took between when the heat became too much, we danced into the night with the debut of Werktronic, presented by The Werks, and the superhouse jam of Twerkapod: A Tribute to the 90’s.  With a song-to-song rotation of members from The Werks, Dopapod, Twiddle, and more, this was truly the best way to showcase all of the talent that was at Legend Valley this weekend. Mihali took the stage and sang his heart out to Red Hot Chili Peppers “Under The Bridge”, and there was not a silent soul in the crowd; everyone sang along, as we relived some of our favorite songs growing up, and basked in the splendor of nostalgia.

The Werk Out Festival was truly my favorite festival of the summer – from the musical acts, art installations, vendors, fire performances, and kind energy at Legend Valley, there was plenty of fun to be had by all.  The hospitality was exemplary, with home cooked food for staff behind stage, polite security who were friends by the end of the weekend, and the luxurious “Fun Tent” which was fully furnished with hammocks, recliners, and happy hour for VIP ticket holders daily.  There aren’t enough good things to say about this festival, and with continuously impressive line ups, I expect that 2019 will be just as much of a disco party at this beautiful venue!

Written by: Amy Renner

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