All good things must come to an end. Nothing lasts, from bands to winning sports franchises and even most relationships. But in the face of conclusive finality, one is still able to look back, smile, and let the memories be a blessing.
Resonance Music & Arts Festival, an institution of the Midwest jam band/electronic scene for nearly a decade, met its end June 29th–July 1st at Nelson Ledges Quarry Park in Garrettsville, OH. The long-running campsite with natural swimming amenities about 45 miles east of downtown Cleveland isn’t far from Resonance’s birthplace and longtime home of Legend Valley some 165 miles south in Thornville, but in other ways, the festival had traveled worlds away from where it started.
After debuting at the now-defunct Frontier Ranch in 2014, Resonance was an annual tradition at Legend Valley from 2015–2018. Hosted by Papadosio and presented by Essential Productions, the event represented an idyllic mix of improvisational rock and electronic bass music that united the two camps under a banner of symbiotic spirituality. In 2018, however, EDM megafest Lost Lands debuted at Legend Valley the weekend prior to Resonance. That next year, Resonance packed up and left Legend Valley where Lost Lands continues to draw upwards of 40,000 attendees a year.
Beginning in 2019, Resonance Music & Arts Festival became a wandering spirit. That year, the festival moved to Cooper’s Lake in Slippery Rock, PA, a site praised by fans for its pastoral landscape. Following a pandemic-induced year off, the festival moved to Marvin’s Mountaintop in Masontown, WV for what proved another one-off gathering that was not well-received by the local population.
In 2022 Resonance was slated to find another new home at Woodlands Nature Reserve in Charleston, SC. With weeks to go until the festival, organizers announced that due to a permitting issue, Woodlands Nature Reserve was not an available site and—with such short notice—there would be no Resonance in 2022. Instead, over 4th of July Weekend 2023, Resonance Music & Arts Festival would celebrate “The Last Dance” at Nelson Ledges Quarry Park, another location sacred to the Midwestern festival faithful.
During the four years of Resonance’s travels, festivalgoers throughout the Midwest traded theories about the inner machinations of the concert production industry like it was the John F. Kennedy assassination. But with “The Last Dance” now over and Nelson’s beach cleared, all we have—and all that really matters—are the memories.
This final Resonance acted as more of a retrospective than it did a final blowout. Topping the weekend’s bill was Goose, a band that made its Resonance debut in 2018, returned in 2019 for three sets (among them a breakout late-night performance), and has since rocketed through the ranks into arenas and onto stages with Trey Anastasio (Phish) and Bob Weir (Grateful Dead). Today, the band commands a fanatical stronghold of support in Ohio, with its inauspicious 3 a.m. performance in what was practically Legend Valley’s parking lot no doubt serving as a foundation.
This year, for the first time in the festival’s history, Papadosio did not perform at Resonance. For explanations on why, visit a Secret Dreams & Music & Arts Festival campsite between the hours of 2–6 a.m. for any raving wook to give you a peek through the looking glass.
While Papadosio was absent, plenty of other longtime Resonance favorites came to pay their respects. Umphrey’s McGee, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, The Floozies, and Keller Williams are all well-established friends of the festival who showed up for one Last Dance.
And while there were many Resonance veterans on stage and in the crowd, there were also plenty of first-timers—including swarms of Goose fans and plenty of emerging artists.
Riding into Resonance on Friday for one night only with a ticket courtesy of Chicago party funk band Sneezy, this writer was able to see the festival’s final iteration through their perspective. This octet making its Resonance debut with multiple sets was not staying in a hotel like higher-billed acts. The members slept in tents like most of the attendees, and like many of those same ticketholders the band woke up to some extra precipitation in their tents early Saturday morning when a torrential rainstorm pummeled Nelson Ledges.
But on Friday, the sun shined bright on Resonance. The perennial prog workhorses of LITZ kicked off the flagship Beach Stage with a quarry-side performance that encapsulated the beauty that has made the Ledges a concert destination for decades. Whether it’s 1 p.m. or 1 a.m., LITZ will show up ready to rage with whatever vibe is required of them.
The main Moon Stage was a site unfamiliar to even some of the more seasoned Ledges residents. In a grass clearing behind the food and art vendors that usually sits vacant, a full and proper festival stage was erected to accommodate the weekend’s top acts, with Goose, The Motet, and Kitchen Dwellers performing there on Friday.
Cementing themselves as pillars of the ever-expanding jamgrass culture, Kitchen Dwellers defied geography to bring a “Mountain” to the Midwest with the earworm staple from their 2017 album Ghost in the Bottle. Baking in the afternoon heat, the band held out on the required “Sundown” for as long as possible, turning up the heat with the set closer before sending the crowd off to the swimming hole.
While clear skies made for an ideal day at the Ledges, across the country severe weather derailed SunSquabi‘s travel plans, forcing the band to cancel its appearance that day. The Sneezy campsite that afternoon when the call came down from festival organizers asking if they’d fill in was like an MLB pitcher’s bullpen: grab your mitts boys (and saxophonist Destiny Pivonka), you’re playing in the big leagues.
Assuming Squab’s lead-in slot for Goose’s first of two sets, Sneezy was handed the opportunity to transition word-of-mouth whispers to full-blown conversations. One of the sharpest dressed bands performing that day, all colors were represented in both the band’s lustrous outfits (particularly acoustic guitarist Jack Holland‘s shimmering gold sequined sport jacket and pant combination) and the pride flag onstage. Given the expansive roster, multicolored wardrobe, and general feel-good funk, the band couldn’t help but draw comparisons to defunct festival veterans Turkuaz (RIP).
For the main event, Goose packed the grassy field at the Moon Stage for two sets showcasing just how far the band has come since Resonance five years ago. Much like the audience, Goose had waited patiently for the festival to arrive, as the band held on as headliners from the canceled 2022 edition. Goose’s growth was palpable in nearly every facet, from percussionist Jeff Arevalo who made his Res debut, to guitarist/keyboardist Peter Anspach‘s ever-expanding keyboard setup, to the impressive lighting rig that lit up the Ledges for the second set.
All of that maturity notwithstanding, Goose was still able to tap into that same goofy spirit that led the band to perform in matching onesies during its 2019 late-night Resonance set. After feeling out the stage with the opening “Jive I”, the band captured the sounds of summer with Kenny Loggins‘ “I’m Alright” as Peter did his best Caddyshack gopher impression.
Goose – “I’m Alright” (Kenny Loggins) – 6/30/23
[Video: Kathy Kerkes]
After traveling 329 miles from a headlining gig at The Peach Music Festival on Thursday, the 5,000-capacity Resonance was a comparatively low-risk gig. The band had little to prove and used this first set to take some risks and explore some new avenues, evident in the slow-build, brick-by-brick jam in “All I Need”. For set two, once the sun had gone down and the lights had come up, the band pulled out its trademark razzle-dazzle including a 30-minute “Arrow”, punctuating the show with a satisfying “Turn On Your Lovelight”.
Goose – “Turn On Your Lovelight” (Bobby “Blue” Bland) – 6/30/23
[Video: Charles R]
Though noise ordinances forced the late-night Sicard Hollow beach set to be reduced to a tasteful volume, there was nothing toned down in the band’s performance. The Nashville dirtygrass unit drew early-morning revelers close to the stage to get an earful of well-received covers like Phish‘s “Down With Disease” alongside a growing cache of originals. Unfortunately, this was the only officially sanctioned late-night show (before the woods came alive with renegade sets), but luckily there was no one better suited for the beach stage after hours than Sicard. In the end, the band’s performance was held to a lean 90 minutes as fans left wanting more, a feeling they would know well come Sunday morning.
While Resonance may be over, the spirit of the event carries on. It’s present in the hearts and eardrums of the generations of fans (like this writer) who through the years found a community there, whether it was at Legend Valley, Cooper’s Lake, Marvin’s Mountaintop, or Nelson Ledges. The soul lives on in acts like Papadosio, Umphrey’s McGee, and now Goose, who became regular fixtures at Resonance, and, most importantly, it lives on through the rising class of artists like Sneezy, Sicard Hollow, and countless others who have used appearances at the festival to make that next jump up the ladder. Who could have known, five years ago, that the band playing an out-of-the-way tent in the middle of the night would headline the final edition of that same festival?
As long as these bands are playing, The Last Dance goes on.