The Werk Out Music & Arts Festival has wrapped up its 10th annual celebration in the historic Legend Valley Concert Venue & Campground in Thornville, OH. Founded by the namesake Ohio-based band, The Werks, the 10th year celebration hosted a number of additions and surprises including Sean Lennon’s stamp of approval, one-of-a-kind tribute sets to Queen and Pink Floyd’s The Wall, marathon sit-ins from Big Gigantic’s Dominic Lalli The Werk’s final set of 2019, the underwater-themed playground ‘Atlantis’ in the bowl of the grounds, a surprise late-night renegade stage, and more.
Day 1: Sean Lennon Approves
Headliners The Claypool-Lennon Delirium brought a taste of psychedelic rock to Thursday’s lineup and weren’t shy to pepper their commentary with observational quips and crowd interaction as Les Claypool marveled at dancers and fire performance artists. Sean Lennon, son of Beatles’ singer John Lennon and Yoko Ono, went above and beyond in a surprise tweet singing the festival’s praises.
“I’ve never been to @thewerkoutfest before, but it took me 5 mins to realize people here clearly give a damn: good food, nice and clean dressing rooms w 2 showers, shaded stage, and no one grimaces when you show them your pass. I’m sold,” he wrote on August 1st shortly after arriving on site.
Day 2: Dom takes over the main stage with Manic Focus Live Band & STS9 Sit-ins + Big Gigantic Set
Unless you’re living under a rock, you’ve seen Big Gigantic at the top of bills on festivals far and wide and the group itself is known for bringing people out of the woodwork from all over the country to catch their sets. Friday night had Big Gigantic close out the main stage and their performance wasn’t shy of surprises including sit-ins from Twiddle’s Mihali and The Motet’s Lyle Divinsky. However, the headlining performance was closing out a marathon of sit-ins from Dominic Lalli as he sat in with Manic Focus’ Live Band and STS9 on the festival’s main stage.
The Werk Out is known for its intimate community and strong family vibes that permeate directly to artists to explore sonic territories and collaborate amongst themselves. Dom’s endurance test on Day two epitomizes this at its finest.
Day 3: The Werks’ Final Set of 2019
Saturday night’s set found The Werks leaving it all on stage with staff, family, and festival fans alike flocking to the stage to catch the band take their final bow of 2019. The quartet fed off of the energy they’ve poured into the community they’ve cultivated with a high point including an assertive cover of Rush’s “Working Man” which literally had people running to the stage the second the iconic guitar riff strummed. The Werks were joined by Twiddle’s Mihali lending his guitar chops to foster a full-throttle jam that positions itself nicely as a top moment in Werk Out history. On July 11th, The Werks announced that after 14 years of non-stop touring, the band would be taking the rest of the year off to recharge their batteries and spend quality time with family and friends.
Tribute sets to Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’ & ‘We Are the Champions,’ A Tribute to Queen
After the fan-favorite tribute to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon in 2014, members of The Werks, Papadosio, and Dopapod decided to pay tribute to Pink Floyd’s The Wall this go-around. Early entrance attendees were treated to a downpouring “rehearsal” set on Wednesday night and the group’s polished festival set on Thursday was a display of holding the classic album in the capable hands of the new generation. The set featured Rob Chafin, Dan Shaw, Chris Houser, and Jake Goldman of The Werks; Billy & Sam Brouse, Rob McConnell, and Anthony Thogmartin of Papadosio; Eli Winderman, Rob Compa, Chuck Jones, and Neal “Fro” Evans of Dopapod; and festival partner/former Werks bassist Dino Dimitrouleas on bass/vocals.
Friday evening’s “We Are the Champions” tribute to Queen set had all of the festival partners and staff gleefully taking a well-deserved respite to enjoy one of the most anticipated sets of the festival. Josh Schwartz of Turkuaz was adorned as Freddie Mercury from head to toe with slicked-back hair, a signature Chevron mustache, a tight ringer t-shirt, and even sported Mercury’s famous stick microphone. Joined by bandmates Sammi Garett, Shira Elias, and Michaelangelo Carubba, as well as Rob McConnell (Papadosio), Dan Shaw (The Werks), Rob Compa (Dopapod) and Ryan Jalbert (The Motet), the supergroup whipped the crowd into a sing-a-long frenzy performing quintessential hits including “Radio Ga Ga”, “Somebody to Love”, “We Will Rock You”, and of course, “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “We Are the Champions” to top it off.
The Unveiling of Atlantis
New to The Werk Out and illuminating the bowl of the festival grounds was Atlantis, an underwater-themed playground chock full of installations, performing artists, and interactive activities.
The festival’s beloved Jellydome by IlluminEra Studios allowed patrons space to chill and swing on the dome’s blissful jellyfish-themed oasis. Slender Lighting’s triangular light installations paved the way to the Atlantis renegade stage and were a landmark at the festival. Ohio’s own Ohio Mermaid collective brought life to the festival as they gleefully swam in a pool (yes, a pool in the middle of the festival) and were one of the focal points of the weekend. The performance collectives, Lunar Elements and Proprio!, added light to the already illuminated experience with several character performances and flow arts all throughout Atlantis and the entire grounds. Serving as the unofficial backdrop for the festival was the ‘A Trip To Atlantis’ illuminated mural by Connor Degnan (Con Tron Art), Chris Rodriguez (Chilly Rodriguez) and Seth Hopper (Hopper Live Digital).
Atlantis Renegade Stage
It’s no secret that one can survey festival attendees everywhere and when asking about highlights, you almost always hear of surprise renegade sets with secret, unannounced programming popping up after hours. Set in the heart of Atlantis, Northern Michigan-based progressive rock band Biomassive literally set the stage lending their equipment and time into pulling off what’s sure to be the talk of the town leading up to next year’s festivities.
Thursday night Kevin Donohue and Josh Fairman of SunSquabi played an intimate silent disco duo-set (their first ever) which allowed them to play off of their immaculate musical chemistry and road test larvae of budding new songs that may later metamorphosize into future tracks to be played out live with the full band. On Friday, attendees came out to a packed stage 10-people deep for a Biomassive vs. Chachuba silent disco set. Headphones flickered from blue to red and back and forth as the late-night crowd got to toggle between both groups. The highlight of the set was Biomassive’s “live band” rendition of Darude’s 2000 hit “Sandstorm”.
Saturday night pulled out all the stops as the green light was given to do full sound and pack the headphones away. Portland-based circus funk act MarchFourth led the crowd in a parade from the end of The Floozies closing set straight to the renegade stage in Atlantis for an energetic performance of brass band renditions of iconic hits like Blackstreet and Dr. Dre’s “No Diggity” sprinkled in with the band’s high-octane original repertoire. Following MarchFourth was the debut of a DJ/drum duo “Drum Gorilla” featuring Mark Hill of The Floozies on drums and the band’s videographer Daniel Opperman on decks. The energy was soaring in the crowd as the duo was also joined by The Werks’ Rob Chafin on drums while Matt Hill from The Floozies made an appearance to round out the group. Drunken Doja Monkey, the “hard-hitting, dance floor conjuring” duo of Lespecial’s Luke Bemand and Rory Dolan followed, keeping the vibes high and booty-shaking alive and well. Olympic snowboarder Kyle Mack and friends closed out the as they debuted an eclectic DJ set under the moniker Donny Boy and carried the night into sunrise.
The Werks have already dropped hints of Werk Out 11 taking place and with surprises adorning the 10th anniversary, who knows what will happen during next summer’s installment. Stay tuned to the festival website for updates and announcements.
Scroll down for a full gallery from this year’s event, courtesy of the Werk Out Festival photo team including Adam Berta, Bailey Ploughe, Grayson Goldman, B. Hockensmith, Kelley Lauginiger, Sarah Rose, and Travis Stewart.