Tuck Fest Days One & Two
Welcome to Tuck Fest, where the dogs and chacos outnumber the people. A four day outdoor festival filled with kayaking, obstacle courses, biking, paddle boarding, races, and most importantly, music. With a stacked music lineup and entertainment for people of all ages, held at Charlotte’s White Water Rafting Center, thousands enjoyed the free annual event.
Night one kicked off with music at 7:00PM as Pigeons Playing Ping Pong brought the funk to the Queen City. Composed of three guitar players and a drummer, the psychedelic group set a groovy vibe as fans filled in. The people watching during their set was almost as fun as the concert. I witnessed grown men in Care Bear onesies, a plethora of tye dye shirts, a man wearing a pigeon hat, girls hula hooping, kids blowing bubbles, and barefoot crowd members.
Thursday night would have made for a amusing fashion show as it wasn’t just the crowd members without shoes and funky attire, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong’s bass player was sporting some sort of strange half sock/half shoe footwear and lead singer, Greg Ormont, wore classic lumberjack red and black flannel pajama bottoms. There was no explanation as to why – it could have been the wind and cold temperatures, a lack of preparation when packing, laundry day, or just Ormont wanting to have fun in comfort. At the end of the day, he rocked the look and fans praised him for his fun sense of style. Bass player Ben Carrey switched out various headbands and sunglasses throughout the set while sporting a dreamy shirt that appeared to have two eagles on it. With each headband/sunglass change, fans cheered and whistled for the fashion icon.
Based out of Baltimore, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong formed in 2009 and has since played hundreds of shows each year. During their set, they announced their excitement for festival season and to play Bonnaroo and Lockn’ Festival this summer, as well as their first show at Red Rocks in Colorado. The band jammed hard at Tuck Fest. They had the crowd chanting along to “F.U.”, singing “F.U.N.K.!!”, a song they dragged out much longer than its usual four minutes for the fans pleasure. Feeling as if I was at the beach in the 1960’s with the amount of tye dye I was immersed in and the mellow atmosphere, I watched Pigeons Playing Ping Pong sing “Somethin’ For Ya”, “Horizon”, and many others of their hits. Everyone danced as the beat would pick up bobbing their heads and swaying back and forth. When it came time to end their set, fans pleaded for more, however, it was Lettuce’s turn to hit the stage so there was no time for an encore.
By the time Lettuce walked out onstage, the sun had set and it was as if the entire population of Asheville had showed up at the Whitewater center, hippies left and right. At 9:00 p.m., Lettuce casually strolled onto the platform and began to jam.
The fun thing about “jam bands” is their ability to make it seem as though they are playing one continuous song for an hour and thirty minutes without losing your interest, and Lettuce did just that. Barely stopping between songs before fading into the next, Lettuce played songs like “Do It Like You Do” and “Phyllis”. Equipped with multiple instruments such as a trumpet, saxophone, keyboard, drums, lead guitar, and bass, the band put on a captivating show.
As the night got later, it got dramatically colder but Lettuce kept things hot and spicy with their electro-funk grooves. With eight albums and 26 years together as a band, the chemistry onstage was powerful and only helped to fuel the love from the crowd as they cheered for more.
As night one came to an end, fans trekked to the parking lot with their blankets, lawn chairs, children, and dogs as they felt satisfied after two talented band’s performances and anxious for day two of Tuck Fest.
Day two of Tuck Fest began on Friday night with Walden, an up and coming rock band from Athens, Georgia. The young quartet played songs infused with modern rock and a stripped back approach. Walden played all three of their currently released songs from the Green Lights EP, which came out earlier in the month. The band also sang a few covers such as “White Flag” and “The Chain”. Ending with “Fools Gold” for the festival’s early birds, lead singer, Richard Becker jumped out into the crowd to play the last verse acapella and unplugged. For those who were lounging in their lawn chairs, it had them quickly on their feet.
After Walden, was soulful storyteller, John Moreland. Moreland’s raspy and delicate voice combined with heavy Americana influence left the crowd in silence filled with awe and wonder. Moreland didn’t need a upbeat and reckless anthem to earn the crowd’s attention and respect. Fitting the vibe of Tuck Fest, I imagine Moreland would be the perfect person to see live at a Brewery somewhere in the mountains with a pack of dogs. Singing multiple songs solo after playing many with a band, Moreland embraced being vulnerable in front of the crowd and poured out his heart for the eager listeners. Picking and strumming an acoustic guitar delicately, Moreland played “God’s Medicine”, a beautifully crafted song.
As the sunset and sounds of the white water rapids in the background trickled in the background, Moreland was able to bring peace to the festival. Hailing from Tulsa, Oklahoma, the 32 year old was as humble as could be and expressed his appreciation for the slot at the festival and the current tour opening up for Deer Tick. Moreland ended with a Tom Petty cover, highly appropriate to catch the attention of those just arriving and to have fans singing along while he closed out his set.
The third and final band of Friday night was Deer Tick. Not knowing much about the band before they hit the stage, I can easily say I was blown away by how talented and articulately exquisite they were. As it got closer to 9:00 p.m. I overheard conversations from the crowd discussing how many times they had seen band. The couple in front of me was seeing the band for their 18th time and were on their way to a music festival in Charleston, SC. Others talked of bands they liked such as Father John Misty, Langhorne Slim, and Fleet Foxes. Enjoying the aforementioned bands myself, I felt as though this was a good sign for how the night would play out. The stage was decorated with an abundance of amps and fun black and white signs to the left and right side of the stage that depicted “Deer Tick” in a medieval font. Having released two albums in 2017 and a new single this year, Deer Tick had a lot of material to pull from for the night. Lead singer, John McCauley, walked out wearing a jean jacket and a blue sweatshirt with a photo of Tom Hanks titled “Mr. Hankey and Me”.
Deer Tick attracted a much different crowd as opposed to Thursday, sadly, as there were no men wearing onesies; it was mostly just fans dressed in flannel and drinking craft beers while enjoying the music.
Of all the acts during Tuck Fest, Deer Tick had the most passionate fans. Having been a band and releasing their first album in 2007, there were many individuals who had been supporting the group from the beginning and seeing Deer Tick at a free outdoor music festival was too good to be true. Playing “The Dream’s In The Ditch” and “Twenty Miles”, fans sang along joined by an occasional bark from a dog amidst the sea of people.
The band’s ability to play shows that engage fans contribute to why they are so loved. Deer Tick is a REAL band, playing everything live, no autotune, and imperfections are accepted and embraced.
With half of Tuck Fest over and half to go, fans left ready for Saturday with ideas of a fun and long weekend ahead of them.
See full gallery of the fest here.