A long, strange trip

All Good Music Festival returns to Legend Valley

 By Zach Rogers
Photo:Freaking out in the front row at the 2012 All Good Festival; photo credit: Brian Hockensmith Photography

Any kind of long-term relationship is special, but the one between the All Good Music Festival and the jam-centric fanatics who come back every year is something else entirely. This year, the festival celebrates its 17th year of serving up music on a cosmic platter by bringing in the best of the best. Headlining the festival is none other than Furthur, featuring Phil Lesh and Bob Weir of Grateful Dead fame. As if that wasn’t enough, it will once again take place at Legend Valley out in Thornville, Ohio. With that kind of firepower, you can expect a weekend worth remembering.

Coming off the tremendous honor of being nominated by Pollstar Magazine for “Music Festival of the Year,” the 2013 All Good Music Festival will take place during the weekend of July 18-21, and feature performances by Furthur, Primus, Yonder Mountain String Band, Pretty Lights, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals and Dark Star Orchestra, to name a few. After so many great years, the people behind the festival couldn’t be happier.

“It’s been an amazing ride,” said Tim Walther, founder and organizer of All Good Festival. “We’ve always believed in slow growth and taking it one step at a time, and as each year gets bigger, the key values of the festival still remain.”

For an entire weekend, All Good encourages people to let loose and freak out, with camping made available for the thousands who flock to the festival each year. It’s this kind of care-free attitude that All Good strives for, and it’s managed to pull it off for nearly two decades.

“All Good is a fantastic escape from the modern world,” said Dave Weissman, head of marketing and publicity for the festival. “You get a chance to hang out, see some incredible music and enjoy everything in your own unique state of being. At All Good, you can be open and free without any worries.”

The festival began in the most grass-roots way possible, with some friends around a campfire. “At first it was just a small gathering of our closest friends, and each year it kind of grew more and more,” explained Weissman. “After a while, I think Tim looked around and realized we had a tremendous opportunity here, and pretty soon it went from hundreds of people to thousands.”

With the help around him, including his partner in crime Junipa Contento, Walther was able to build the festival from the ground up into what’s now become one of the most popular musical events of the summer. “Both Tim and Junipa do an incredible job at running the festival,” said Weissman. “They’re like the yin and yang of All Good.”

As word spread of the magic that was happening, planning and organization became essential in obtaining the perfect vibe. “It’s pretty much a year-round gig,” said Walther. “We’ll usually take a small break once the festival is over, but right around September we start looking ahead to next year.” With a full-time staff of roughly 1,200 people, plus 300-400 volunteers, the execution has never been more flawless. “It’s definitely a massive undertaking,” said Walther, “but we’re lucky to have about 90 percent of our staff come back every year. We’re very loyal to them and they’re loyal to us, so it makes for a good working environment, which then channels back into the festival.”

“I think with All Good it’s still a very home-spun, organic thing,” said Weissman, “and because of that it makes for a great time every year.”

One of the biggest things the festival prides itself in is the fact that there’s never been an overlapping set from any performer in its history, a unique feat to claim in the modern world.

“We want to make sure everyone gets a chance to see every band they came to see,” said Walther. “I feel like a lot of times when festivals get bigger they want to have more acts and add more stages, which isn’t a bad thing to want to do. But in my experience it’s just no fun chasing around music. The fact that we have no overlapping sets certainly sets us apart from other festivals out there.”

No overlapping sets means more time hanging out next to the 12-foot-tall Buddha statue, checking out the array of vendors strung across the festival grounds or getting lost in the different art installations all around you. No matter what you’re into, All Good is sure to provide you with an experience like no other, and after 17 years the future still looks bright.

“I don’t really see an end to it necessarily,” said Walther. “When I first got into this business, it was all about my love and passion for the music, and that’s still true today. So as long as that’s there and the fans still want it, I’ll continue doing it for as long as I can.”

The 2013 All Good Music Festival will take place Thursday, July 18, through Sunday, July 21, at Legend Valley in Thornville, Ohio. Tickets are $199 for 4-day passes, $175 for 3-day passes and $120 for 2-day passes. For more festival information visit allgoodfestival.com.

Reach DCP freelance writer Zach Rogers at ZachRogers@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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