Trinumeral Music and Arts Festival :: 08.08.08 - 08.10.08 :: Deerfields Amphitheatre :: Horse Shoe, NC
As many festivals begin to see a decline in attendance, it's a comfort to know that people are still supporting local and homegrown festivals across the country. This was never more apparent than at the Trinumeral Music and Arts Festival at Deerfields Amphitheatre. Located just outside the confines of picturesque Asheville, NC, the 940-acre family-owned retreat offers a three-pronged attack of swimming, hiking and camping. Two refreshing lakes anchor the main stage, while apple orchards and two authentic wooden cabins accent the concert grounds. Aside from a bumpy ride up the last road into the festival area, the environment is pretty close to ideal.
I honestly think Deerfields is one of the most magical and beautiful places that I have ever been", acknowledged Trinumeral co-organizer Par Neiburger. We chose this location for Trinumeral because of how simply awestruck we were and still are with the whole place."
The evolution [of Trinumeral] has been several years in the making," continues Neiburger. My best friend Grant Howl and I went to New World School of the Arts together in Miami, Florida. We began to notice the separation of different art forms for exhibitions and events. Visual arts were being relegated to galleries and music to concert venues. Our idea was to create an event that bridged the gap and brought several different forms of artistic expression to one gathering. We began Trinumeral in Miami on January 1, 2001 [01-01-01] and it has been held each subsequent year on the date in which the day, month and year align in an auspicious numeric sameness. Our inspiration came from Andy Warhol's Exploding Plastic Inevitable, multimedia events that were the original breakthrough shows for The Velvet Underground."
Moving from the parking lot to the concert grounds fans were greeted at the gate by Victor Sandman" Leong. Originally from North Carolina, Sandman spent more than a decade creating sandcastles reaching larger than life proportions in Miami Beach, FL. When I arrived onsite, Leong was going to work on a gigantic Trinumeral themed sand structure at the base of the lake near the Deerfield's entrance. By the time his masterpiece was finished, candles lined the inside of the body so that the structure was illuminated for nighttime exhibition. Leong's workspace was also a huge hit with all the small children in attendance. With nearly twenty tons of sand being hauled onto the Trinumeral site, some kids even took part in instructional classes with Leong's assistant, where they gained insight into the different techniques of sand sculpting.
While the arts played a big part in the weekend, Trinumeral was heavy on the music which took place on the Ba Stage (Main), Huit Stage (Pond) and Ocho Stage (Plateau).
Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band (Ba Stage)
Asheville's own Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band kicked off the Trinumeral festivities with their own special brand of dirty funk. Being from the mountains myself, I have often times fallen victim to overexposure to this band, but this set was a welcome relief. Booty Band is a textbook party throwdown combining a loud stage presence with colorful costumes that served as a fine icebreaker to welcome the Deerfields crowd. Standout performances go to Al Ingram and Derrick Johnson for their work on the bass and trombone, respectively.
GZA (Ba Stage)
Friday's festivities really didn't seem to kick into high gear until a hip-hop titan took the stage in the form of Gary Grice, better known throughout the entertainment industry as GZA or The Genius. Grice is a founding member of the groundbreaking hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan. Drawing on material from several of his own solo releases, GZA had the Trinumeral crowd singing along as he switched back and forth between album material and impromptu freestyling. While some people may have found this booking a bit out of the ordinary for the weekend's lineup, it was clear the majority of the attendees enjoyed themselves.
I grew up on Wu-Tang Clan and was freaking out the whole time," said Neiburger. From an audience standpoint, GZA was a bit out of his element, but seemed right at home, casually sitting on the edge of the stage and joking with the crowd when he flubbed lyrics. At one point during his set, the pit in front of the stage was so full of media reps that the MC just couldn't help himself from asking, I see we have some Panasonic's in the house tonight. Some Canon's and some Sony's. You get enough video yet?"
Clearly making an exception to his usual video/photo policy, the MC stayed good-natured about all the cameras in the press pit and continued on with his set. GZA obliged the feverish crowd when diehard fans began yelling for his signature track Clan In Da Front" from Wu-Tang's critically acclaimed juggernaut, Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). Throw in some material from his highly regarded Liquid Swords album and the master MC officially warmed up the Deerfields crowd as the sun went down in Mills River. Live painting by Kris D and Vorcan added maximum impact to GZA's performance, while huge props went out to Ishmael for the enormous Gorilla he brought to life during the set.
Galactic (Ba Stage)
There has been considerable back and forth between fans about MCs touring with Galactic since their release From The Corner To The Block hit the market last year. Gaining national interest and boasting a strong supporting cast of MCs, the band was ready to hit the road in support of their ambitious project. Anyone who thought these artists would only sit in during release parties and novelty events were definitely mistaken. If you don't prefer to see these types of collaborations every night, you may consider going to fewer Galactic shows and appreciate these gigs for their unique approach. I think people should support them for trying to branch out creatively, and welcome the likes of Lyrics Born, Chali 2na, Boots Riley and Mr. Lif to the stage. Galactic and guest Boots Riley commanded the stage from the outset. I'm always impressed by the consistency of their shows as they continue to reinvent themselves over and over again. And it would be a disservice if I didn't highlight Galactic's continued support for non-profits and their commitment to giving back to the community of New Orleans.
Dr. Fameus (Ocho Stage)
Allen Aucoin is having himself a great year. Coming into his own behind the kit for The Disco Biscuits, Aucoin has been able to showcase his tremendous percussion skills. He was in town for Trinumeral promoting his alter ego and ambitious side project, Dr. Fameus. I made my first lengthy visit to the Ocho Stage on Friday night to catch Aucoin's set. Aucoin lists DJ Danny Williamson (aka LTJ Bukem) as one of his influences, and being a huge fan of him myself, I had to check out what Aucoin was conjuring up with this new project. As I stood on the back of the stage, I marveled at the focus this guy has. He routinely switched back and forth between the drum kit and his laptop, where he effortlessly programmed synth drums for the enjoyment of Ocho stage attendees. Not only is Aucoin a phenomenal drummer, but he's also a tremendously humble person, making it a joy to watch him in action. Talk about a guy who gets into his work! He routinely walks off stage with a completely sweat soaked shirt and is never far from his trademark Indianapolis Colts hat. As he broke down his set and started bantering with Marc Brownstein (The Disco Biscuits), who was lurking in the midst, you could sense Aucoin wasn't through performing for the evening.
Pnuma Live P.A. (Huit Stage)
Alex Botwin, Lane Shaw and Ben Hazelgrove have come a long way since vaulting out of the Memphis music scene with their ambitious project, Pnuma Trio. I was first exposed to their electro/hip-hop in Asheville a couple years ago and at the time they reminded me of a younger New Deal. I was surprised by their raw talent and felt that big things would start to come their way with proper management. A move out west, a new album and many shows later, the band is coming into their own and gaining many endorsements among their peers in the electronic music stratosphere.
At Trinumeral, the audience was treated to an abridged version of the lineup with Botwin and Shaw showcasing their talents as Pnuma Live P.A. The music is a mixture of original Botwin produced tracks sprinkled with the occasional remixed Pnuma track and a sampling of the duo's favorite producers. A full range of styles are incorporated into their set including drum and bass, down-tempo and electronica, while remaining firmly rooted in hip-hop. The P.A. sets have allowed Botwin to road test some of his newest material before infusing it into the trio's repertoire while at the same time showcasing some of the band's current musical interests in a unique and dynamic setting. I was impressed not only by Botwin's creative mash-ups and Shaw's technical dexterity, but also by the excitement they generated from the overflowing crowd. After seeing the pair perform again, it's not hard to grasp why they drew such a tremendous audience. Without a doubt, Pnuma P.A. was one of the standout electronic performances of the weekend.
EOTO (Ba Stage)
The lineup was comprised of three String Cheese Incident alums in the form of Michael Travis, Jason Hann and special guest Michael Kang. Their focus each gig is unique because every single note is made up on the spot similar to how Zilla (where Travis is also a member) and other live electronic groups conduct their shows. Pre-production is nearly non-existent as they record the tracks and loops on the fly during the set. Hann and Travis not only have the luxury (or burden, depending on your outlook) of recording the parts onstage but also the freedom to manipulate the layered parts from their respective instruments. After leading the crowd on an improvisational journey, EOTO can dump the current tracks and start the process all over again. I was particularly impressed with Hann's concentration onstage. To be honest, I was a lot more familiar with Travis' drumming from my limited SCI background and think I prefer him behind the kit more than I do in his lead role for EOTO. Kang was a bit subdued in the structure of the jams, but that may have been a byproduct of some technical issues he encountered at the start. I knew ahead of time that Kang was a guest musician in this project so it wasn't too surprising to see him provide a more supporting role.
Conspirator (Ba Stage)
If you were one of the fortunate people to stay up late enough for Conspirator's early Saturday morning set you weren't let down. Donning a slimmed down lineup, Marc Brownstein and Aron Magner shook off the cobwebs and eased onto the stage. After a few opening comments, the duo went to work on an 80-minute showcase of top-notch electronic music. Conspirator minus one Omen didn't lose any gas as Magner stepped up the goods and set a tremendous pace while Brownstein held down the low end. The duo played a handful of Conspirator staples to welcome the early morning crowd but one could sense they were antsy to begin parading out their special guests.
Fresh off his slot at the Ocho Stage, Allen Aucoin got behind the drum kit to add support to several Conspirator nuggets, most notably Oname Wa." Also pulling double duty was Lane Shaw from Pnuma, who moved over from the Pond Stage after his P.A. set to join them. Shaw received many deserving cheers from the crowd after completing an energizing take on Commercial Amen." Brownstein hammed it up with the fans, demanding more props be given to Shaw for his worthy contribution. It's always great to see elder statesmen like Brownstein and Magner offer up the stage for young, emerging artists. In my opinion, there was a very strong talent pool of fresh drummers at Trinumeral and Shaw, Aucoin and Tim Haney (SeepeopleS) are leading that charge.
Afromotive (Ba Stage)
Afromotive is another group making some noise in the Southeast over the past year. They play the Asheville area frequently, and the Afrobeat upstart's performance Saturday afternoon was chock full of extras including aerial artistry and memorable collaborations. Ex-Ashevillian Laura Reed and Debrissa from Deep Pocket sat in for a cover of Deee-Lite's Groove is in the Heart."
The songs we did with our special guests were great" remarked Afromotive bassist Ryan Reardon. Laura and Debrissa were tremendous! We don't perform many cover songs but a lot of people seemed to dig it. It was a lot of fun."
Also during the set, right in tune with the message of the festival, were a couple of the Asheville Aerial Artists taking center stage around the band. They hung high in the sky above Afromotive, twirling and improvising along with the music, while deep in the pit Ishmael was putting together a graffiti masterpiece.
We always like to give the crowd something new and sometimes unexpected," said Reardon. I knew the Trinumeral concept was big on collaborations between different art forms so it seemed like the perfect fit. The song we performed with them, 'You Already Said That,' really hits and has this great vamp! It was nice to be able to stretch out the song and let Renee and Candice do their thing. It definitely enhanced our set."
Kaki King (Ba Stage)
One of the exceptional surprises I took away from the weekend was my introduction to Kaki King. A tremendous talent on acoustic instruments, King injected a calming influence with her heavy, intricate guitar work. She began her set with a sampling of songs from her new album, Dreaming of Revenge. Tour mate and Berklee School alum Dan Brantigan joined her for most of the set, supporting notable songs Sad American" and So Much for So Little." An accomplished producer/engineer, Brantigan showcased an Electronic Valve Instrument (EVI), which was a tremendous complement to King's lush guitar work. The EVI [I was playing] is an extremely rare instrument. It's kind of like an analog synth/trumpet that was made in the late '70s," noted Brantigan.
Many people stood enamored with their talents, while others closed their eyes and swayed to the music. It wasn't one of the rowdiest performances of the weekend but it certainly grabbed the attention of many new admirers. I thought the crowd response was good," said Brantigan. Usually these festivals are based around dancing, and I think that our set was a welcomed break for people just to look around and enjoy their surroundings. The festival grounds were beautiful in and of themselves. Hopefully we set a backdrop for people to really be engrossed by the moment and where they were spending it."
The duo performed some improvised material from King's side project, Day Sleeper, before King emphatically closed out the set with a solo rendition of Gay Sons of Lesbian Mothers" from her third album, Until We Felt Red. Saturday afternoon was overcast, but the queen of acoustic guitar combined fret-taps with slap bass techniques to blow away an unsuspecting crowd.
Midnite (Ba Stage)
Over the previous hour dark clouds had begun to form over top the festival and it appeared their set may get delayed. I had only seen the band one previous time in Asheville and was thankful that the heavy rains held off and only a few quick showers passed through. One thing is certain about Midnite, Vaughn Benjamin's vocals lend a certain level of authenticity to a genre rich in tradition, vaulting this group into the upper echelon of roots reggae bands. Raw and simplistic, Midnite's stripped down form of reggae is refreshing and doesn't rely heavily on overdubs or elaborate stage enhancements. Any time they play it's like a religious experience for me," exclaimed Neiburger. The band had to deal with some mild technical issues, but the sextet forged ahead and delivered a set that had people remembering why they are a welcome staple of the festival circuit.
Stephanie's Id (Ocho Stage)
I have lived in Asheville for around four years and one of the first groups I heard about in town was Stephanie's Id. A lot of people around Western North Carolina refer to them as an indie-pop band, but they have a habit of bending genre labels. For the most part, they are led by the duo of Chuck Lichtenberger (keyboards) and Stephanie Morgan (vocals). They are a pretty cool pair because they embrace playing rock clubs with a five or six piece but are also completely at home performing duet-style at a small bistro or art gallery. Versatile enough to charm you with jazz standards and tough enough to pull off moody art rock, diversity is the name of the game with this group.
Their set at Trinumeral was very close to what I would expect, i.e. a solid crowd with lots of enthusiasm. Not without their occasional flaws, Stephanie's Id is a solid regional act and excellent at crossing over from Saturday rock band" to Sunday jazz trio." Matthew Richmond is always great on the vibraphone and their addition of Michael Libramento on guitar added a nice compliment to an ever evolving lineup. New fans should check out notable tunes Drinking at a Party" and Quite Enough."
Lotus (Ba Stage)
Rain finally exploded on Saturday night at the very beginning of Lotus' set. The only significant precipitation of the three-day festival fell at a rapid pace, sending many concertgoers diving under trees and bailing for vendor tents. One brilliant fan brought a PE Parachute (similar to ones you'd use during physical education in elementary school) and was able to help shield about two dozen people from the passing storm.
Lotus was a definite highlight for many in attendance, and I was impressed with their significant tech and equipment upgrades over the past two years. All those purchases really shined through with the opening combination of Bellwether" > Suitcases" and Sandwiches." A seamless transition between those two songs really displayed how tight this band has gotten. I was only able to catch a small amount of their timeslot, but after a long break I made it back for the end of their performance. Fan favorite Tip of the Tongue" and a set closing Jump Off" demonstrated why these guys are becoming a stronger regional draw.
Particle (Ba Stage)
After taking an extended break up on the plateau, I returned to the main concert grounds to catch the tail end of Particle's set. These guys were a crowd favorite and while they still bring the heat, it's hard for me to let go of guitarist Charlie Hitchcock's missing contributions to the band. I was only a casual fan when he was around and from what I've heard this band has fallen on some hard times with lineup changes. From a musical standpoint, they are still a very tight trio with Steve Molitz (keys) and Darren Pujalet continually getting the job done for rabid dance crowds across the country. Electronic bands really pack in enthusiastic crowds and Particle's audience was no different. While it wasn't the largest crowd of the weekend, Particle's audience could probably lay claim to being one of the loudest.
Telepath (Ocho Stage)
Telepath is another band formerly from Asheville, but now calls Philadelphia home. With still a long way to go, this down-beat and ambient trio packed in a passionate tent full of people with an impromptu set on the Ocho Stage. The band wasn't originally slated to perform on the plateau but ended up getting penciled in late night, treating a gracious audience to a solid set of dub and ambience.
SeepeopleS (Ba Stage)
SeepeopleS seems to be a band on the jam scene that you either love or hate. They do really well on the indie circuit playing rock clubs, but I always welcome them at a festival. Aside from their ridiculous, across the board talent, the band's new light show adds tremendous punch to an already sonic juggernaut. Their Trinumeral performance provided even more punch as Matt McDonald, formerly of Perpetual Groove, joined the band for their entire set, adding to an already fierce onslaught of keyboards.
SeepeopleS ripped through about ten songs spanning their past couple releases including Butchers," Apocalypse Cow" and Makes It Go," a new song that was very well received. Ending the evening on a high note, SeepeopleS busted a thunderous rendition of Radiohead's National Anthem" with Will Bradford belting out the ending lyrics with authority. It was one of the better Radiohead covers I've seen on the festival circuit, so huge props to Peter Keys (keyboards), Dan Ingenthron (bass) and Tim Haney (drums).
Some Honorable Mentions
My Subversive Media (Ba Stage)
Matt McDonald pulled triple duty over the weekend sitting in with Lotus, SeepeopleS and he performed a solo electronic set under his new acronym, My Subversive Media.
Roots of Creation (Ocho Stage)
I awoke Sunday morning to a band named Roots of Creation playing the Ocho Stage at around 5:00 a.m. I only heard a few songs in passing but their blend of improvised rock and reggae grabbed my interest.
Asheville Horns (Ba Stage)
The Asheville Horns had their chance to shine on the main stage, making a well-timed guest appearance during Galactic's headlining set on Friday night.
Trinumeral did a great job of bringing a lot of visual artists to this small-scale festival. I've been at much larger gatherings that featured live painting and acrobatics but Trinumeral went above and beyond, giving the event a true multi-disciplined feel. The exhibitions on site were impressive, and the infusion of fire dancing and performance art allowed the fans to gain a deeper perspective behind the significance of the festival.
A lot of the visual artists are friends and people we have collaborated with for years" explained Neiburger. Bhakti Baxter and Tao Rey were founding members of The House, an alternative gallery space that has been credited with being one of the foundational exhibition venues that began the Miami art scene and attracted the attention of Art Basel. Bhakti is now represented internationally by The Emmanuel Perrotin Gallery, one of the best galleries in Paris. TM sisters, Jay Hines, Ricky Rayns and Jason Hedges were all a part of this original art movement in Miami in which I was involved, while artists such as Lebo and Kris D have painted live with some of the biggest names in the music festival scene."
For the better part of a decade David LeBatard (aka Lebo) has been involved in live performance painting. The current art director for Langerado Music Festival cut his teeth alongside The Spam Allstars during warehouse parties in Miami. Lebo has gone on to paint with headline acts such as The Beastie Boys, Bela Fleck, Burning Spear and Thievery Corporation. A permanent fixture of the festival circuit, Lebo could be found in the pit each day at Trinumeral whipping through several signature pieces.
This guy was quite an interesting study over the course of the weekend. During the first day of the festival, a little bit before GZA took the stage, Ishmael (as he refers to himself) threw up a large canvas and began painting a gorilla. The artist has devoted his art to spreading the message of the book Ishmael written by Daniel Quinn. The image of the telepathic" gorilla corresponds to a central character in the story that is crucial to the overall message. Live painting is a fairly new occurrence for Ishmael but he has been a pioneer of the graffiti discipline for quite awhile. I watched him over the course of a few pieces he was working on at Trinumeral and his graffiti artwork was eye opening.
Kris Davidson started live performance painting in 2000 and has since gone on to tour extensively with bands throughout the U.S. and Japan. One of the paintings he worked on during the GZA's set made it all the way into EOTO's performance as well. The deep red/maroon backdrop was covered in a square pattern that looked as though it would hop right off the canvas. He arranges novel forms with strategic color to create compositions that challenge the parameters of the viewer's perception. His live paintings begin with a geometrical background that he responds to in an improvisational manner. Through the course of the show, the paintings capture specific moments in time, incorporating the energy of the musicians as well as the audience.
Since his first painting gig in November 2007, Garfield has worked alongside Zilla, Lotus, Bassnectar, The Everyone Orchestra and The New Deal. This guy was super intense and completely focused on his work the entire weekend. Aside from my lack of technical knowledge, I saw a lot of visual similarities in Garfield and Kris D's art. Both work very close to the canvas and have a unique way of incorporating vivid patterns into their projects. Garfield may not have whipped off as many finished pieces as some of the other artists, but his attention to detail consistently raised the quality bar.
I met these guys about halfway through the weekend. At the time they seemed quite exasperated, but they always seemed to hit their stride down in the pit area around the main stage. Founded in Philadelphia in the Fall of 2006, Vort and Cank started an abstract consulting firm called Vorcan. With more than 250 events under their belt in the U.S. and across Europe, the duo began painting live music of all genres throughout Philadelphia and New York City. Vort and Cank recently accomplished another tremendous feat by painting 50 different works in 50 different U.S. states over the course of 50 days.
John Hairston, Jr.
All I have to say is hip-hop-robo-socio-Saturday morning-comic book-pop-surrealism." Comic book fans would really dig what this guy was working on all weekend.
Other Artistic Endeavors
Asheville Aerial Arts
This group made the most of their presence at Trinumeral by collaborating with a number of bands over the weekend. Suspended acrobatics in a musical environment helped continue the underlying concept of this multi-disciplined event.
This is another regional group from Asheville that seems to pop up at many festivals around the area. The cool thing about Unifire is their dedication to combining theatrical performance with fire arts from across the world. I've seen other dance troupes perform at larger festivals with a much more involved production, but Unifire is a rare treat for those looking for a local alternative.
World Hoop Day
The hula-hoops began to come out in full force starting around 7 p.m. on Friday, as dozens of attendees, young and old, made their way over to the main concert grounds for an hour of freestyle hooping. Slowly gaining steam over a couple hours, World Hoop Day was led by movement specialist Melanie melmacpink" MacNeil of www.ashevillehoops.com. While more dedicated fans tried to one up each other with inventive techniques and varying styles, other participants were merely happy to be out in the open concert field taking in the beautiful natural environment.
In the end what you got from Trinumeral was an ambitious, if at times unorganized, fusion of music and the arts. With more consultation and support I have no doubt Trinumeral will turn into an even larger gathering over the next few years. If they continue to bring in the same caliber of visual artists they had this year much of the great music will also fall into place. I was proud to see so many Asheville music groups (Stephanie's Id, Strut, Afromotive, SeepeopleS, GFE, Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band) go head to head with larger draws and come out on top in their own backyard. And Deerfields itself should be touted as a premium festival experience for those who are looking for a smaller scale concert in a meditative environment.