Written by Bill Whiting
Photos by Scott Preston
Fall Hookahville 2011 in Thornville, Ohio lit up the hillsides on September 2-5 with a hoe down type atmosphere, and shockingly great performances by all artists involved. There was claustrophobic heat on Saturday as Cincinnati’s elite bluegrass unit, The Rumpke Mountain Boys, tore it up on the main stage with a deft mixture of front porch ballads and racing hi and lonesome instrumentals. Rumpke Mountain Boys set the standard and pace for the festival, and one hopes that they will get a chance on the main stage the next time around. The side stage at Hookahville is a good place to soak up some new sounds, and Chicago’s Thinner Teed fit the bill as they wrapped a half hour set of high energy jams into a cohesive whirlwind of epic proportions. Hookahville’s old school stalwarts, Little Feat, took no time in getting down to business. Leader Paul Barrere had a pure tone from his guitar that echoed off the hillsides at Hookahville. As Fred Tackett and Bill Payne worked together to coalesce around the defining strains of “Dixie Chicken,” Barrere led the throng in front of the stage in a perfect sing a long. Ekoostik Hookah invited Little Feat back on stage for an inspired run through of The Band’s “Rag Mama Rag.” Hookah made the most of their Saturday night appearance, putting together a strong evening of old standards, “Slipjig Through the Poppy Fields” and recent material, “El Bandito” and “Song and Dance.” The second set had their followers talking with intense, firece renditions of “Roller Coaster” and “Life is Good” lighting up Legend Valley’s community campgrounds. Hookah ended their performance on Saturday with a galvanizing cover of The Beatles’ “I Am the Walrus.”
Sunday at Hookahville was a return to the spritual side of the bi annual get together, and Howlin’ Moons’ Sunday afternoon set woke everyone up with friendly vibes. Columbus’ The Ark Band continues to refine and evolve through their appearances on the main stage, and Sunday’s reggae concert was no exception with appropriate call outs to Peter Tosh and Bob Marley. Jesse Henry’s impromptu jam on the second stage was a delight, as he led the patrons gathering near the front of the stage in a fist pumping chorus of the classic number, “Stealin’.” Truth & Salvage put on a dazzling hour and a half of country rock originals on the main stage, setting up the atmosphere for headliner of Black Crowes singer Chris Robinson. Robinson and his Brotherhood rolled around a swirling night of originals and covers, including a stunning take on Jerry Garcia’s “They Love Each Other.” Robinson’s electric stage presence left an indelible mark on Fall Hookahville 2011. Ekoostik Hookah powered into Sunday night’s set with all pistons firing. The opening compositions “Black Mamba” and “Lookout Below” had the twirlers dancing manically around the soundboard area. Dave Katz’s “Backwoods Rose” was a highlight of Fall ’11, and Hookah opened the second set with bold improvisations on “Serpentine” and “Hidden Away.” Wrapping up Fall Hookahville 2011, Ekoostik Hookah waltzed down memory lane with fine excursions into their past on “Ecstasy,” and a bitingly brilliant cover of Dr. John’s “Right Place, Wrong Time.” They made Fall Hookahville 2011 into one of their most memorable fests in recent years, and left one in rabid anticipation of their return at Spring Hookahville in 2012.