SweetWater 420 Fest returned on Saturday for another day of music at Atlanta, GA’s Centennial Olympic Park, delivering a quintessential lineup of top jam acts including Trey Anastasio Band, Goose, Umphrey’s McGee, and many more.
After JJ Grey & Mofro ushered in the day with a slow, Southern waltz on the SweetWater Stage, it was time for Flagstaff, AZ’s finest, Spafford, to fire it up in the H.A.Z.Y. Stage. The quartet was “All In” from the get-go, setting the tone for a day of peak jams on the B stage, with Goose set to follow later in the afternoon.
SweetWater 420 Festival: Livestream From Atlanta, GA, Saturday 4/30/22 – H.A.Z.Y. Stage
With a leisurely two-hour set, Spafford played like it had nowhere to be, as “Pursuit of Madness” ebbed and flowed like the passing clouds that offered brief respite from the beating Georgia sun. The jam inevitably slowed to a crawl as the band activated the landing gear for a smooth touchdown into “Leave The Light On”. Keyboardist Andrew “Red” Johnson used the bouncy funk vamp as an opportunity to push a slightly jamtronic direction the band has favored of late with his use of synthesizers and space keys.
An idyllic “Beautiful Day” came next, with its adage “You know days like these come around only once in a while” ringing so prescient after two years of COVID delays finally gave way to the 18th installment of SweetWater 420 Fest. Spafford delivered a set so engaging, one could be forgiven for forgetting that Kitchen Dwellers were playing on the Happy Ending Stage.
Across the park, Umphrey’s McGee took the stage for the umpteenth time that weekend. Following TAUKing McGee and “All Night Wrong” sets at the Thursday pre-party and a single-set late-night show at the Variety Playhouse on Friday, the South Bend, IN favorites turned in a two-setter to finish out their weekend.
Playing without ax-man Jake Cinninger, who the band said is taking “some necessary time to work on his health and well-being,” Brendan Bayliss‘ frontman and guitar capabilities were put on full display. There is no replacing Jake, but Brendan can hold down the fort. The band delivered oldies like the opening “August”, “Der Bluten Kat”, and a closing movement of “Puppet String” and “Hajimemashite” alongside “I Don’t Know What I Want” from the forthcoming Asking For A Friend.
SweetWater 420 Festival: Livestream From Atlanta, GA, Saturday 4/30/22 – SweetWater Stage
Back on the H.A.Z.Y. Stage, one of the clear fan favorites, Goose, took the stage to a massive crowd that nearly spilled through the fences and onto Marietta Street. From a practical standpoint, this will likely mark the Norwalk, CT quintet’s last time on the H.A.Z.Y. Stage.
After Peter Anspach wished a happy birthday to the late Col. Bruce Hampton, the show began with “Hot Tea”. A brief outing was followed by “Rockdale”, which opened up into the leg-stretching jam of the two-hour slot. Peter for his part laid into the clavinet as Rick Mitarotonda threw down fierce guitar leads for a slow burn, stoking the embers of improvisation.
“Hungersite“, set to appear on the group’s forthcoming LP Dripfield, came next as Anspach set the keys aflame with great balls of fire runs up and down the ivories. The sweltering crowd was offered a brief breather with the Ted Tapes cut “Moby”, as bassist Trevor Weekz was given a chance to feast on the dub groove, immediately proceeded by the slap attack of “Yeti”.
Related: I Know That Life Comes Better: Backstage With Goose [Interview]
As the day drew on, it came time for the main event on the SweetWater Stage with two sets by Trey Anastasio band. Prescient lyricism flowed through Centennial Olympic Park on Saturday, as the Phish guitarist opened with “Money, Love and Change” with the line, “Change is the one thing you can count on.” Sometimes, Trey is the one thing you can count on.
Saxophonist James Casey was firmly back in full force at the head of “Olivia”, as newly-minted bassist Dezron Douglas provided rollicking low-end accompaniment. “Moma Dance” went literally around the horn as Casey, Jennifer Hartswick (trumpet), and Natalie “Chainsaw” Cressman (trombone) each got their licks in. The set flowed along with “Mozambique” before walking a straight line into “Valentine”, with TAB providing the positivity needed to keep the crowd uplifted.
Big Red threw down some heat for “Blaze On” before beckoning the audience to be “Alive Again”, resulting in a full-throated jam. Between songs, Trey recounted the group’s pandemic and health-stinted 2021 summer tour which saw a constantly changing cast of musicians. He observed that this was the first time the entire band had performed together ahead of a fitting “I Never Needed You Like This Before” with Ray “Grabs A Skunk By The Tail” Paczkowski laid the bedrock for the jam on the clavinet.
As night fell, the band slipped into a groove a little more comfortable with “Dark and Down” followed by “Night Speaks to a Woman”, with “Sand” finishing out the second frame as Trey utilized his low-end MIDI pedal introduced on last summer’s Phish tour.
“Set Your Soul Free” opened set two, as Cyro Baptista threw his whole frame into the percussion, while Trey and the horns enjoyed a lively exchange of ideas. James Casey commanded the floor on a “Simple Twist Up Dave”, followed by “No Man In No Man’s Land” and “Cayman Review”.
A therapeutic “Life Beyond A Dream” served as a mid-set breather, beckoning us all not to give up hope and keep on dreaming. “46 Days” then kicked off a run of Phish songs as the horn section departed the stage, leaving Trey, Ray, Cyril, Dezron, and Russ Lawton to their devices. A jovial “Everything’s Right” came next, with the band sliding into a jam as comfortable as the title may suggest. Ray put all the strength of his organ behind “Ghost” prior to the horn section coming back in full force for an exceptionally danceable “First Tube” that set up a layup for “Push On ‘Till The Day” to close the set. Taking the SweetWater Stage one last time, Trey Anastasio Band burst out with “Carini”, as James Casey’s baritone saxophone added extra teeth to the gritty Phish stomper.
Trey Anastasio Band – SweetWater 420 Fest – 4/30/22
Setlist [via Phish.net]: Trey Anastasio Band | SweetWater 420 Fest | Atlanta, GA | 4/30/22
SET 1: Money, Love and Change, Olivia, The Moma Dance, Mozambique, Valentine, Blaze On, Alive Again, I Never Needed You Like This Before, Dark and Down, Night Speaks to a Woman > Sand
SET 2: Set Your Soul Free, Simple Twist Up Dave, No Men In No Man’s Land, Cayman Review, A Life Beyond The Dream, 46 Days, Everything’s Right, Ghost > First Tube, Push On ‘Til the Day
With the official festival programming finished for the day, those so inclined descended upon Euclid Avenue for neighboring late-night shows from Neighbor and Thievery Corporation. At the Variety Playhouse, Thievery Corp delivered a variety show fitting of the venue. The musical collective centered around Rob Garza and Eric Hilton offered an anointing change of pace following a jam-heavy day at SweetWater, as the group’s influences reached far beyond the U.S. coastlines.
The ever-shifting lineup of musicians, which features new bassist Dan Africano, touched on a wide variety of influences from India to Jamaica to the Missippi Delta and all over the world. Between songs, anyone’s guess was as good as the next as to what style of music the ensemble would adopt, as a rotating cast of vocalists took over the stage from track to track. Thievery Corp possesses an endless grab bag of musical tools as it breaks down music to its most fundamental essence, joining seemingly disparate threads. The late night soon gave way to the early morning, as the clock ticked ever closer to Sunday’s opening gates at the festival grounds.
SweetWater 420 Fest returns to Centennial Olympic Park today, May 1st, for one more day of music. Check out photo galleries from Christian Stewart and Bahram Foroughi and revisit our coverage of Thursday and Friday.