taking a listen

by Ryan Snyder

VARIOUS ARTISTS FloydFest 8 — Revival Ahhh, the festival sampler CD; they’re usually a promotional throw-together that rarely include the best tracks, only what the artists and their management approve for use. Most are driven by the festival’s brand name and offer little entertainment value. For the offering from FloydFest 8, however, there are more than a handful of tracks that serves to sweeten the festival’s souvenir package a little more.

It opens with a bounty of Hammond B3, wah-wah guitar and screaming sax from the opening of the Dynamites’ show before front man Charles Walker ever took the stage. Despite the strong start, the following track by Panjaea is just as forgettable as the actual performance itself. Think run-of-the mill worldbeat eclipsed by mindless, almost irritatingly positive “We Are the World”-type lyrics. Fortunately, two tracks by headliner Grace Potter & the Nocturnals gets things back on track. “The Big Collide” features Potter’s huge, unrestrained voice at its inest, while the hypnotic keyboard intro to “St. Peter” works perfectly to show the tender side of Potter’s soulful pipes. One great thing about this disc is that it serves as a reminder of not only some of the great music, but moments as well. The Emmit-Nershi Band’s “Surin’ the Red Sea” opens with a tequila bottle being passed to the band from the crowd who seemed quite thankful, as the track’s vertigo-inducing surfgrass sound seems to spring straight from the bottle.

With so many bands leaning on knock-offs of various international sounds, the contribution by the electric Latin jazz and salsa outit Grupo Fantasma provides easily one of the strongest tracks on the album and reminds just how urgent and genuine the real thing can be. There was an opportunity missed here, however, as the festival’s power outage provided so many great improvisational moments and Grupo Fantasma gave one of the best. Another international act (if you consider Canada to be so), the Duhks are typically known for their strong songwriting, but “Death Came A-Knockin’” is simply well-sung and well-performed, though slightly basic, travelogue. Of all of the great shows at this past summer’s FloydFest, the Yard Dogs Road Show gave one (actually two) of the best.

Picturing guitarist Eenor wearing a shaggy gray beard and glasses while playing his old-man part was part of the fun of their place on this compilation, as his Les Claypool inluence shines on their contribution. The awkward segue at the end, however, begs for the show’s highlight of “New Day” instead. Another of the festival’s best sets, the Felice Brothers, is represented with their beloved “Take This Bread,” but those not in attendance are sadly not privy to the hilarious hype-man act that iddler Farley had going the entire show.

Peter Rowan’s hilariously biting political commentary on “Chopping Down the Trees for Jesus” gives colorful accent to the masterful picking within before the album ends on a timeless live class, Blues Traveler’s “Carolina Blues.” Pound for pound, it’s far better from top to bottom than most other festival compilations — particularly that of Bonnaroo — even if this gem can only be had through the VIP package.