Recap: Frendly Gathering 2018

Writer/Photgrapher: Tom Schassler

Located on Mt. Ellen at Sugarbush Resort, Frendly Gathering is a three-day festival, which hosts music, camping and a friendly community. 2017 was the first year it was held at Sugarbush, but unfortunately, the weather left many festival-goers feeling dejected. For others this was just a reason to get out and dance in the rain. This year we faced some quick moving showers on Thursday, followed by beautiful sunny skies Friday and Saturday – thus making it possible for myself, and others, to lay out in the sunshine and enjoy some great music.

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Day One (Thursday, June 28, 2018)

Arms full of camping and photo equipment, I stumbled off the shuttle bus just to be greeted by a fellow attendee handing out fresh strawberries. I thought to myself, with a mouth full of berries, that if it’s all downhill from here at least I got to try some of the best strawberries I’ve ever had. But it was not downhill from there. It was actually an uphill hike I’d have to make to set up camp. And by the time I found a good spot and set up, I was able to sit back and enjoy my view of the Green Mountains.

Now a forewarning, I didn’t catch as many acts as I probably should have. Since I was here on my own, I figured I would take some time during the days to see some of the surrounding towns in the area.

Night one was headlined by Nahko & Mihali, which was a special collaboration set that included songs from both artists and covers. Tim Snider (violin) and Max Ribner (trumpet) accompanied both artists on stage. The highlight for me was their performance of “Subconscious Prelude” by Twiddle. Tim, like many other moments this night, had this opportunity to shine. Playing the melody of “Subconscious Prelude” on violin, then leading into a jaw dropping solo that left many of us hoping it had never ended.

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With the first night winding down, I had a few options of how I would like to spend the rest of my evening. With the silent disco on hold for the night, they were having an acoustic set by singer-songwriter LYNX in the Martin Dome. I decided I was too tired to go on and began to head back to camp for a good night’s rest.

Day Two (Friday, June 29, 2018)

Feeling a little groggy and a tad bit hungover, I made my way over to the food vendors to see what my options were for a good remedy. A vendor by the name of The Skinny Pancake caught my eye immediately, and I was not disappointed with my decision to get a bacon/cheese/pesto filled crepe.

So fueled and ready for the day, I did what most others would not do while at a music festival, and left for a quick road trip to Burlington and surrounding towns. Sure, I should’ve stayed around to catch Strange Machines and a few other play. But I had priorities, like to charge my phone, or check out the world’s tallest filing cabinet over on Flynn Ave in Burlington. I admit it, I missed a lot of good music, but the real beauty of the Frendly Gathering is it’s location within the Green Mountains of Vermont, and I surely took advantage of that.

Fast-forward a few hours, I’m making my way off the shuttle bus once again, this time strawberry man is not there to greet me. But that is OK. Because I brought my own damn strawberries that I picked up from a local farmers market.

I find a good spot on the hill overlooking the main stage to plant my ass and chow down. Just in time for a band by the name of Satsang, a trio that plays music in the form of soul, folk-rock and hip-hop. I personally had never heard their music before, but really started to enjoy it and found myself moving along by the end of their first song. After a brief sit in by Mihali Savoulidis of Twiddle, I decided it was time to wander around for a bit and get in touch with the community.

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9pm rolls around and I make my way to see Nahko & Medicine for the People – the musicianship within the group is amazing. It was obvious that politics were a driving factor for many of his lyrics, and in this current climate, they were welcomed by most.

The headliner of night two was Twiddle, a Vermont based jam band that incorporates a wide variety of genres like rock, jazz, bluegrass, reggae, and funk. With a time slot of 11pm-1am, I expected to only get one set of music, which although turned out to be true, was full of high energy and masterful musicianship.

 

Set One: Jamflowman, Frankenfoote, Orlando’s, Lost In The Cold, Gatsby The Great, Doinkinbonk!!!, Mamunes The Faun> The FRENDS Theme

 The highlight for me would come during the end, although the show as a whole was great. “Mamunes the Faun” > “The FRENDS Theme” really got the crowd moving (“The FRENDS Theme” is a song they wrote for the crew of snowboarders who originally created the Frendly Gathering). Guitarist Mihali Savoulidis even lost his hat at one point. Some dude in the crowd also decided it was a good idea to crowd surf in this moment, and I don’t blame him… because I sure as hell felt the same way. The music ended abruptly at 1am, leaving the crowd wanting more; yet full at the same time. With all the energy we were still feeling, we moved our way back into the campgrounds and continued with the night.

 

Day Three (Saturday, June 30, 2018)

                  With only two bands on my list to see for today (Spafford and Greensky Bluegrass), I decided I would take another day trip and see the surrounding areas. My travels brought me to Stowe, then up north on route 108 to Smugglers Notch. This was by far one of the most beautiful trips I’ve taken in recent years, rivaling only my travels earlier this year in Colorado. I spent the rest of the day wasting my time, stopping to take photos and walking paths on the side of the roads.

The evening rolls around and for the last time I’m stepping off the shuttle bus, this time with a cold case of beer I had recently purchased.

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Spafford, an Arizona based jam band that blends genres of rock, funk, jazz, reggae, ska, and electro-pop takes the stage at 6:45pm. With just an hour time slot, I knew they were going to give it all they got. They opened it up groovy with their tune “Backdoor Funk” and closed it out with “The Postman” off their new album For Amusement Only.

 Set One: Backdoor Funk, Slip and Squander, Lovesick Melody > Soil, The Postman

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Greensky Bluegrass, a five-piece progressive bluegrass/jam band, took the stage at 11pm, greeted by an excited crowd they got right into the music. As they finished out the festival, they welcomed the legalization of marijuana at the hit of midnight with Peter Tosh’s tune “Legalize It” with the help of Mihali Savoulidis on electric guitar.

Set One: Windshield, Living Over, Room Without a Roof, How Mountain Girls Can Love, Old Barns, Blood Sucking F(r)iends, Broke Mountain Breakdown> After Midnight> Legalize It> After Midnight, In Control, Airmail Special, Take Cover, Demons, Don’t Lie

Encore: Bone Digger 

Final thoughts: Frendly Gathering is a great destination for music lovers and adventure seekers alike. The music, community, location and size are the key factors that will keep bringing me back. It is hands down the most welcoming gathering, that invites all ages to attend. Until next year Frendly!

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