Sunday, June 25, 2017

Two Roads' #RoadJam 2017

Sally and I attended Two Roads Brewery's 4th annual RoadJam music festival yesterday, and it's become one of my favorite annual events.  We went with our good friends Colin and Elizabeth, with whom we also went camping last weekend.  I was, to say the very least, pretty damned excited in the run up to the day.

Me and Sally in front of the Brewery Stage.  West End Blend is behind us.
Though last year's festival was pretty big, Two Roads stepped up their game this year.  Among other improvements, they put local favorites The Alpaca Gnomes over on the big stage this year and a little later in the day.  The Gnomes wound up packing the Hop Yard to bursting and were my personal highlight.

The RoadJam set list.
Colin, Elizabeth, and my beautiful wife Sally in front of the Hop Yard Stage.
RoadJam was organized with two stages, one in the parking lot--The Brewery Stage--and another, slightly larger stage out back in the brewery's massive hop yard--The Hop Yard Stage.  The Hop Yard Stage sat out in front of a big field; there was basically nothing there besides the stage and a lot of grass.  It was there that we set up our lawn chairs.  By comparison, the Brewery Stage featured much less crowd-space--it was essentially standing room only--but there was more depth behind the music, with both the brewery's beer garden and a small hammock area set up by the brewery entrance, alongside Two Roads' signature beer-dispensing Airstream.  The brewery building itself then separated the stages, as did a giant circle of food trucks, the infamous Clustertruck.  A giant white festival tent sat at the center of the Clustertruck, with a line of beer barrels and several beer stations separating the eating area from the Hop Yard Stage concert area.

Lounging on the RoadJam sign, set up in front of the brewery building.

We walked in just as West End Blend was beginning their set on the Brewery Stage but kept going, setting up camp for Arc & Stones, a hard rock band out of Nashville with a decided 90s sound.  This reflected my personal musical preferences, and I really liked Arc & Stones, especially once they got into their set and opened it up a bit with their guitar work.  In retrospect, however, I wish we'd caught more of West End Blend's set.  They sounded good when we came in, and we caught their last song after Arc & Stones finished, and it was very impressive.  They are very much what the Cool Kids are doing these days, at least in and around New York City.
Temperatures hovered around 90 degrees yesterday, so we didn't really start drinking until after Arc & Stones left the stage.  Two Roads had a good mix available in the Hop Yard, including a hefeweizen, a raspberry wheat seasonal, a session IPA, a saison, a sour gose, and a lime-sour gose, but in deference to the heat, they left all of their high-ABV brews back up in the taproom.  This being my season of sours, I spent the afternoon drinking the lime-sour gose (4.5% ABV), and it was perfect for the conditions at hand.  Two Roads also gave out free water bottles--with signs saying "Stay Hydrated"--and I took one every time I got a beer.

Good idea.
Natural born hippie.
Still in full hippie-mode.  Look at those arms!
The Alpaca Gnomes are a local southern rock with a sound that I'd place somewhere between Charlie Daniels and an updated version of the Allman Brothers.  We'd seen them before and knew they were going to be crowd favorites.  Sally brought her hoola hoop this year just so she could go play with all the other hippie-girls during the Gnomes' set, and we also bought their album.

They didn't disappoint.  Great set!

Tree pose with hoola hoop & the Alpaca Gnomes.
The Alpaca Gnomes
The Gnomes left the stage, and Colin, Sally, and Elizabeth went over to the Brewery Stage to catch the big band stylings of the Fogcutters.  I stuck around in the Hop Yard and hung out with some friends, just shooting the breeze and drinking beer.  Personally, I think I got the better end of the deal.

The Pimps of Joytime hit the stage almost an hour late, but they were excellent.  After watching them online, I expected them to sound something like West End Blend, a kind of hip, jazz-influenced version of rock and funk.  In fact, they turned out to be something like an epic jam-band, infused with plenty of funk but also lots of straight-guitar-based rock and a touch of electronica.  Theirs was an unusual set, but I really enjoyed it.

We wound up buying their newest album as well, and I can't wait to give it a listen.

The Pimps left, and Colin and Elizabeth walked back across to catch Stratford's own Mates of State.  Somehow the Mates live in our town, and their kids actually go to the same gym that my kids go to for gymnastics, and yet, we don't actually know them.  Amazing!  I thought I knew all the local Cool Kids, but apparently, there's a whole social scene that I've never encountered.  I wouldn't have believed it.

Colin and Elizabeth loved the Mates' set, but Sally and I spent that time eating dinner at the Clustertruck.  We went first to Chief Brody's Banh Mi, a Vietnamese/Euro-fusion food truck that I remembered as a highlight of last year's show.  I had an epic brat hoagie topped with spicy kimchi and mango sauce that I just loved.  Sally got some kind of noodle dish, also topped with kimchi, but it was a little too hot for her, and I wound up eating that too!  I was very hot, but maybe because I lived in Korea for a year, I enjoyed it quite a bit.  Plus, I respect that they gave us the heat rather than the "white people" spices, even if my wife couldn't quite handle it.  Anyway, Sally wandered over to the Rice and Beans food truck and got... well, rice and beans, topped with beef and avocados.  Also very good; definitely not spicy.

By this time, it was getting on towards eight o'clock, and Sally was thinking about getting home.  Our kids had been at dance rehearsal all day, but despite the fact that our daughter Hannah is now a rising high school freshman, I think my wife was a little concerned that the kids were gonna burn the house down making dinner.  That didn't happen, but Sally still headed out just as closing act Twiddle was taking the stage.

Twiddle is another epic jam band, with a sound that strays between southern rock, funk, and Blues Traveler, and though they are out of Vermont, they had a truly massive following in the Hop Yard at RoadJam.  The first song they played ran a full ten minutes, and they just kept jamming after that.  It was really something.  Still, we headed out about halfway through their set, having been well-scorched and placated with plenty of beer.

I had a good day and plenty of pictures.  What else can you ask for?

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