Working alongside hosts Dark Star Orchestra, All Good Presents main man Tim Walther’s been getting up early and staying up late so groove-seekers can get down day and night at this weekend’s 2nd annual Dark Star Jubilee at Ohio’s legendary Legend Valley.
He recently took a time-out to talk about the Jubilee, which kicks off Friday and runs through Sunday with three days and nights of big performances from DSO along with sets by Grateful Dead legends-led Mickey Hart Band and Donna Jean Godcheaux Band as well as Yonder Mountain String Band, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, The Wailers, The Werks, Melvin Seals and JGB, Greensky Bluegrass, Marco Benevento and many, many more.
Jeff Mattson, Dark Star’s lead guitarist and a member of the Godcheaux band, also took a few moments before a recent DSO Brooklyn Bowl performance to share some words on the Jubilee.
Here’s some of what Walther and Mattson had to say about what’s happening in central Ohio this Memorial Day weekend:
TSI: Tell us what last year’s inaugural Jubilee was like — and some of what and who everyone coming this year may expect to see and hear and feel …
Walther: “The inaugural Dark Star Jubilee was an unforgettable and life-changing experience. Ten of us arrived on the Sunday before, and started the build for the event with a work hard, play hard mentality. Friday went off without a hitch, but on Saturday morning we were hit with a fast and furious three inches of rain, which eroded the grounds underneath the main stage. That was extremely challenging for all of us. We all needed a miracle … and we got it. Every band on the bill got to play, and the incredible circumstances of unity set the stage for some once-in-a- lifetime experiences. This year, we are thrilled to do it all over again.”
Mattson: Last year, “the festival rose above (those torrential rains and related challenges), and was actually better for it. The sense of community that a lot people came away with was a high point for a lot of us.”
TSI: Dark Star Orchestra’s been an integral part of the All Good Music Festival and a lot of its goers for a long time. Tell us a little about what inspired you all to launch the Jubilee as an ‘All Good Presents’ event, and about the ways the All Good is reflected at the Jubilee … and, along with that, what makes the Jubilee unique?
Walther: “The evolution of the Jubilee comes from years of growth at (DSO’s) Ohio event called GratefulFest. It grew to be too big for the site, so plans were made to have the band promote their own festival at a new venue. There are elements of the All Good Festival philosophy happening at the Jubilee, but the intimate size of this event makes it special in different ways. Also, the members of Dark Star Orchestra are the welcoming hosts. When they’re not performing, they will spend the weekend intermingling with the crowd of loyal fans. People like seeing the band hanging around – it makes everyone feel more connected … (And that’s) part of what makes the Jubilee so intimate and grounded with the audience.”
Mattson: With DSO “being purveyors of the Grateful Dead’s music, that’s certainly a central factor” within and throughout the Jubilee. The Dead “were very much about Americana — New Orleans music, bluegrass and just good old rock ‘n roll … (The Jubilee) is built around that panoply of styles the Grateful Dead taps into.”
TSI: Do you see the Jubilee growing like the All Good has in recent years?
Walther: “It would be great to see the Jubilee take on that kind of growth — but this is a smaller event on purpose. By treating the fans right and continuing to bring the music, the Jubilee is destined to grow slowly over time, as the All Good has done over 17 years. Slow growth is the recipe for longevity.”
Mattson: The Jubilee is “relatively intimate compared to the All Good,” but “we’re expecting more people this year. (There’s been) a lot of word-of-mouth. …We think a lot of people are coming and hoping for that same communal sense” they heard about from those who experienced last year’s event.
TSI: How does the Jubilee’s setting inform its vibe?
Walther: “The Legend Valley location, as you know, used to be Buckeye Lake Music Center – the location of some of the most historic Grateful Dead shows of the 80s and 90s, not to mention some of the biggest. Buckeye Lake was the Midwest’s hub for Dead tour — and the setting of the Jubilee in this location is no coincidence. The setting of nature, the rolling hills and being at a place where the Dead did lay down some memorable shows all combine to add luster to the vibe of the Jubilee … (and it also) comes from the attendees who are present and sharing a collective energy. That’s what throwing festivals is about: Gathering all of these diverse people together for a united purpose of enjoyment, and allowing music and community to take us to a higher, sacred space.”
Mattson: It’s a “really chill, lovely setting,” and “anywhere the Dead has actually performed is kinda sacred ground for us. The vibe is there. It’s planted in the ground.”
TSI: What do you have to say to someone who’s maybe a little on the fence about making the journey to Legend Valley this Memorial Day weekend?
Walther: “I would say that the Jubilee is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and that coming to this festival would be a great start to your summer. The location is historic, and the music will be incredible. And the Jubilee is a great way to catch 20-plus bands for a very reasonable price of around $7 a show. We’ve got two members of the original Grateful Dead and dozens of other artists that will blow you away. It’s a diverse musical lineup where, like the All Good Festival, there will be no overlapping sets (so there’s) no need to choose or run to far-away stages. We know people want to enjoy the music they came to see — and they get that at the Jubilee.”
Mattson: “We promise we’ll have a nice variety … and we have plenty of time to play.”