Another perfect day for another record crowd at the Seattle Hemp Fest at Seattle's Myrtle Edwards Park, and for the second year in a row, the Great Spirit blessed the gathering by not raining on the festivities. An estimated 100,000 people packed in to a 100 yard-wide and 2 mile long stretch of land to hear some of the best bands from Seattle as well as bands from other cities as well as speakers and activists from all over the country voicing their crusade for drug-law reform.
There were a ton of great bands, but because the area was so huge, I wasn't able to see all of them. MY tour started with a band called The Zen Tricksters. Hailing from New York, The Tricksters are known as one of the most popular Grateful Dead cover bands on the East Coast and have even recently lost their long-time keyboardist to former Grateful Dead Bassist, Phil Lesh's band. I caught both of their performances yesterday, with the first ending up in a forced acoustic set due to technical difficulties with the power at the Seeley Stage in the early afternoon. Half way through their first song, power cut out leaving only acoustic guitar and drums for the music. Singer/Lead Guitarist Jeff Mattson didn't lose a beat or even seem to care about the sound, and continued singing as though nothing happened! The crowd moved up close enough to hear the acoustic guitar and totally loved it! Because of the power problems at this stage, the Tricksters did an acoustic sing-along with the audience to some Grateful Dead classics like "Ripple".
From there, I worked my way over to the main stage in time to hear a long-time Seattle favorite, Gruntruck. One of the original grunge bands from Seattle's heyday of the early 90's, Gruntruck is back from a 2 year break and sound better than ever! They put out a wall of sound that was unmatched for the day's events that satisfied even the deafest the head-bangers in the crowd. This band definitely brought back some memories of the music "gold rush" in Seattle and got the crowd charged.
Back at the Seeley Stage, Seattle freakster Larry Steiner and his band El Steiner did their show. A showman from the heart, Larry Steiner is usually one of the most colorful characters at Hemp-Fest, and it's always a surprise to see what his costume for the year will be. His band El Steiner is more or less a hippy-rock rapcore band that relies on a lot of audience participation in a call-reply fashion and lots of "oh-yeah's". Although they seemed a little light on hooks and lyrics, they more than made up for it in energy, and the crowd loved them.
I got my pics and braved the crowd again so I could get to the Seeley Stage in time to see Phat Sidy Smokehouse, who played almost all new material that is coming out on their next CD. Because the layout of Myrtle Edwards Park is long and narrow, it makes it impossible to see all of the shows, so I caught what I could and missed out on most. I really wanted to see Uncle Salty's Cabin, but couldn't get through the crowds in time!
I also headed up to the beer garden located just at the entrance to Myrtle Edwards Park at RC's pub where the RC Stage was (one of 5 stages) and caught a Los Angeles band named St. James Infirmary fronted by a babacious tall blonde from Arkansas named Billie James. Their band sounded similar to very early Zepplin hard-edged blues/rock. The guitarist definitely studied his Jimmy Page guitar manual and had all the licks. Life Without Sun was the next band at the RC and I caught only a bit of their music before I headed back to the main stage. With an almost post-punk sound, LWS was as raw as rock can get and still be called rock.
Another long-time Seattle band that had broken up and got back together was the Super-Sonic Soul Pimps. Together for 5 years with a 2-year break, SSSP's played their first gig in 2 years and blew the audience away! "It's really difficult to get the Pimps together for a show these days" said SSSP bassist Zak Melony. "Johnny Burke (the guitarist) and I are in a band called Jester, Wells Hamlin is now drumming with Phat Sidy Smokehouse sometimes too, and the keyboardist, Daniel Spils is an Amazon.com executive." My opinion? Too bad! These guys are one of the livest bands in the Seattle area for sure!
After the Pimps did their thing, another group of speakers took the stage. Among these was former Nirvana bassist turned activist, Krist Novoselic.
The Zen Tricksters had another run at a good set, and took the main stage this time. One thing I can say for sure is that they sure sound like The Dead! The crowd was into it and they didn't have any sound problems this time! The audience was in a great mood and the Tricksters were a welcomed treat to wind down a day of heavy partying!
As the Sun dipped in the horizon, the temperature dropped considerably, but there were 10,000+ die-hard fans that didn't want the day to end, and the Cannabis Cup Band took the 2000 Hemp-Fest out in style with their roots-rock-reggae sound.
Vivian McPeak is one of the most dynamic and energetic speakers I've ever seen. His passion and commitment to the cause is what makes the Seattle Hemp-Fest the largest pro-hemp rally in the world, and I'm sure we can all look forward him organizing many more of these festivals....unless of course they (the government) happen to legalize it! Then what? I guess Vivian will have to retire to running for Mayor of Seattle or something! If so, he has my vote!
Last Year's Hemp-Fest Review