Headstash's MANTRABASH 2012 Review Guide
- By Ben Suarez
- Published on July 05, 2012
June 21-23 – Ferguson, NC
Festival Website: http://www.mantrabash.com/
The weather at Mantrabash was quite nice overall. Highs in the mid-90s were tempered by plenty of shade, allowing early arrivals a great scene to arrive to.
There were a few intense rain showers and some instances of thunder Friday and Saturday afternoon, but it just gave festivalgoers the opportunity to share the shelters of their canopies and make new friends.
The skies cleared up each night in time for the later acts to perform, and starry nights in the mountains of North Carolina created a beautiful setting for some wonderful live music.
Mantras overload. The Mantras weaved their way through three increasingly outlandish and creative sets, displaying their incredible ability to draw from nearly any genre of music and create their own unique version of it. Guitarist Keith Allen also sat in with Silo Effect’s late-night set on Thursday for a trancey, improvisational jam.
Awesome covers. The Mantras started out their set on Friday evening with a cover of Boston’s “Smokin’.”
Electronic up-and-comers Imperial Blend dropped a dirty cover of the Mighty Morphing Power Rangers theme song.
Big Something covered The Brothers Johnson’s “Strawberry Letter 23,” Rick James’ “Mary Jane” and Rage Against The Machine’s “Calm Like A Bomb.”
Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band covered Ol’ Dirty Bastard.
Matter of Fact covered “Play That Funky Music” by Wild Cherry.
The setting. Two campgrounds separated by a small creek that, after the rain showers, turned into a raging river, provided campers with an option of where to rest their heads at the end of each night. There was plenty of shade, and nearly half of those attending Mantrabash were able to camp in the woods fully covered by the trees.
It can be difficult to sleep late at most summer festivals due to the heat, but Mantrabash was cool and comfortable. The best aspect of the grounds was, however, the intimacy. Attendees could hear the music no matter where they were, making returning to one’s campsite a pleasant experience rather than one to avoid.
“Shimmy Shimmy Ya” Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band dropped an amazing cover of ODB’s single from his album, “Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version.” The audience went crazy, rapping along with the lyrics and dancing happily to the classic hip-hop groove.
Minimal food vending. Although it was quite a small festival, it was interesting that there was only one food vendor. However, this certainly wasn’t a lowlight, as the staff of this vendor stand was cheerful and the food they served was delicious and prepared with love. Try the “Big Gigantic Burrito” or the “Girl Talkitos” next time. Both were amazing.
No cops. Mantrabash was tucked away deep in the woods of Ferguson, North Carolina, at the High Country Motor Cycle Camp. Johnny Law was nowhere to be found and everyone felt safe and comfortable.
Mantrabash was relaxed and very intimate. The grounds didn’t fill up all the way until the last day, while the early-birds could be found making friends and sharing in the good vibes. The crowd was extremely friendly and went out of their way to get to know each other. Almost every band member took some time either before or after his or her performance to mingle with fans.
While there was a backstage area reserved for artists and staff, this did not stop the artists and their fans from interacting in a way that is usually prevented at larger festivals. Many of them had close friends in the crowd, and joyous reunions were frequently spotted.
Whether you’ve driven 20 minutes, two hours, or two days, there’s nothing like the excitement of getting out of your car for the first time at a music festival. The music kicked off with Asleep in the Weeds playing some Zappa-like improvisational grooves.
The night progressed and as roughly 400 people began pulling into the grounds, bands like Electric Soul Pandemic and Matter of Fact set the stage for The Mantras’ first performance.
The festival hosts kicked off their three-night run by ecstatically announcing that three of the members were celebrating anniversaries with their wives. And then they began jamming. They played a wild and intense set that kept the crowd dancing yet leaving them wanting more from the next two shows.
Silo Effect closed out the first night with an amazing set. Bassist Steve Owen gushed enthusiastically at the crowd love he and his band were receiving. The band proved once again that they deserve the late-night timeslot at these East Coast festivals.
Friday began with thunderstorms, and the schedule for the day was shifted to accommodate Mother Nature. The rain let up by mid-afternoon, and stand-out performances by Octopus and The Native Sway built up the anticipation for another night of fun. Native Sway started out with one of their most amazing songs, “86” and tore it up for over 15 minutes.
Later, the MC for the weekend took great pleasure in announcing BIG Something’s primetime set, and they did not disappoint. Hard-hitting jams, incredible soloing by their lead guitarist, Jesse Hensley and saxophone player Casey Cranford and their cover of “Strawberry Letter 23” by the Brothers Johnson all combined for a truly incredible show.
Next came the Robert Walter Trio, featuring bassist Reed Mathis (Tea Leaf Green). Hypnotizing piano melodies laid over Mathis’ strutting bass lines made the crowd “ooh” and “ahh” appreciatively, as these two titans of improv displayed their prowess.
Later, the late-night sets by Brothers Past and The Mantras had the crowd in high spirits as they spent the remaining hours of their Friday night dancing until nearly sunrise. Almost everyone attending the festival stayed until the end of The Mantras’ set.
Rain showers also plagued Day 3, but by late-afternoon the sun was shining once more and the bands were ready to close out Mantrabash in style. The Heavy Pets started the evening round of bands with an impressive set that had the much larger crowd of about 600 plus dancing and enjoying the festivities. They played one of their older songs “So Thank You Music” accompanied by an enthusiastic round of applause and yells of approval from those in the crowd who had obviously seen them before.
Next came The Mantras, and despite modestly beginning the night by saying, “thanks for putting up with three nights of our music,” they once again put on an impressive performance. They opened their set with a cover of Boston’s “Smokin’” and took off from there.
The Werks put on a great show, keeping the dance party rocking with high-energy electronic songs that were perfect for the small yet dedicated audience. Particle closed out the festival with a late-night set that left nothing to be desired. Kicking off their set with an amazing “Launchpad,” they played a nearly half-hour “Golden Gator” and kept the night rolling well after they were supposed to stop.
Overall, Mantrabash was a great success, and it sure seems as if everyone who attended is eagerly awaiting next year.
Check out our coverage of all your favorite summer festivals in our 2012 Festival Guide.
What did you think of Mantrabash 2012? Highlights, lowlights and surprises. Let us know in the comments below.