SweetWater’s 15th Annual 420 Fest: Highs, Lows, and Highlights

By #TSRLiveMusic contributing writer Tiffany Clemons

Congrats to SweetWater Brewing Company and Happy Ending Productions for another fantastic 420 Fest. Originally a celebration of Earth Day, we definitely got a taste of mother earth with some crazy weather, some unforgettable music and tasted even more beer. Check out some of our highs and lows of the weekend!

On Friday, Pink Talking Fish was delayed due to weather, but if anything, it gave people more time to get to the fest and catch their high energy set on the 420 Strain Stage. Pink Talking Fish is one of those indescribable bands that, hence the name, covers the music of Pink Floyd, Talking Heads and Phish. I’d try to say more, but you just have to see them for yourself.

Flow Tribe had everyone dancing with their “backbone cracking music” over on the Lyrics and Laughter Stage. Straight out of New Orleans, the guys combine jazz, rock, R&B, funk and FUN into their contagious music. The set brought many “stray” passer-byers who came to get down and included some of their original songs like “BOSS,” “Gimme A Line,” and their latest single “Good Time Girl.” The Lyrics and Laughter stage was located near one of the main entrances and was great for grabbing people by the ears and bringing them in to see some up and coming artists.

Speaking of, Vulfpeck’s Cory Wong closed out the L&L stage on Friday with some fiery and funky guitar. Thanks to FunkCity.net, you can check out the full set here.

The biggest high of the weekend was the Everyone Orchestra on Saturday. The SweetWater Stage was taken over by hand-selected artists that made for an insane and completely improvised set. Conducted by Matt Butler and his marker board, 420 Fest was taken on a journey.

We didn’t know where we were going, we probably don’t remember where we went, but will never forget once in a lifetime set. The roster included Natalie Cressman and James Casey of Trey Anastasio Band, Anders Beck of Greensky Bluegrass, Anders Osborne who just released his latest album, “Buddha and the Blues,” Jon Cleary, Ryan Stasik of Umphrey’s McGee, Stephen Perkins of Jane’s Addiction, Mike Dillon of Les Claypool and Mimi Naja of Fruition.

If you don’t believe that this show is completely off the cuff, you should know that at one point I literally saw Mike Dillon wave his arms in the air at Matt and ask, “What was that?” in reference to the latest marker board instruction. Watching the artists keep eye contact with each other while losing themselves in rhythm was pretty amazing. If you ever get a chance to catch the Everyone Orchestra, whoever it may be at the time, cancel everything else and don’t miss it.

Moon Taxi

Another big high of the weekend? When Moon Taxi covered Lil Nas X’s controversial but oddly popular viral hit, “Old Town Road.” Yeah… that happened. One of my lows was the lack of confetti by Moon Taxi, who is known for their sparkle filled sets. I assume this was because of festival policies and they used smoke cannons, but it wasn’t the same.

SweetWater collaborated with a handful of artists on the lineup and created special brews that were available in the SweetWater Experience tent including rootsy-soul-grass-rock band, Fruition. I took great pleasure of trying “Fruition’s Fire,” a 4.7% ABV Berliner Weiss style with peaches and fresh jalapenos WHILE jamming to their set on Sunday morning at the 420 Strain Stage. I wish they’d brew this all of the time because it was amazing. 

Katie Pruitt, of Nashville, TN ended her set on the L&L stage with a message to be kind, spread love and not hate and to always have good vibes. Donned in camo pants and a black beanie, Katie was a complete surprise with her soulful voice and heart touching lyrics. 

There is no funner (or more colorful) band than Turkuaz. Yes, I said funner. 

The only set of the weekend where I saw people actually RUN to was Zach Deputy & The Yankees. I just wanted to note that because that was during Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit over on the SweetWater Stage which drew one of the largest crowds of the weekend. 

The largest crowds of the weekend were obviously for headliners Widespread Panic who played four sets over Saturday and Sunday nights. Sprinkled with classics like “Pigeons,” “Chilly Water,” and “Disco,” and covers like “Life During Wartime,” (Talking Heads) “And It Stoned Me,” (Van Morrison) and “Cream Puff War,” (Grateful Dead), Widespread Panic gave us everything we wanted and more with a sit-in from Jason Isbell. 

You can’t have highs without the lows, so despite the random monsoon on Friday, (shoutout to Relix for letting me hideout in their tent!) unexpected drop in temp during The Avett Brothers, and Island Noodles not being ready when I wanted them on Sunday morning, (don’t worry, I got them later and they were DELICIOUS) it was another unforgettable festival for the books. 420 Fest is highly organized, well run and consistently great while staying fresh on the festival scene. See you next year!

P.S. from @MCSPIXs:  My favorite weekend discovery outside of the Everyone Orchestra was Easter Sunday’s The Claypool Lennon Delirium set. After shooting the first three songs in the pit, I found a secluded spot without any visual distractions to just sit and take in all of the complex and hauntingly beautiful songs. 

 Follow Tiffany at @tiffdontkillmyvibe on instagram #iwanttoliveinafestivalforever

Photography by Michelle Stancil – @mcspixs & @TSRlivemusic with @CoastalLifestyleMagazine

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *