PROUDLY CELEBRATING 21+ WONDERFUL YEARS OF MUSIC - CULTURE & FAMILY, ALL THANKS TO YOU!

MAY 26 - 28, 2023

THREE SISTERS PARK - CHILLICOTHE, IL

Camp Counselor Sasha’s Rocktober in Asheville

For all 20 years of my adult life, I’ve spent much of my time traveling for live music. After two decades, the music finally came to me. This is my recap of what went down during ROCKtober in Asheville.

After a very busy summer on the road, my wife and I decided to “settle down” for a few months and spend fall in one of our favorite places on Earth – Asheville, North Carolina. 

We got married here seven years ago and are very fortunate to have a family house in the mountains to crash at. While we knew there would be leaves to peep, we weren’t prepared for the mass influx of our favorite bands as well.

The Infamous Stringdusters

It all started out with The Infamous Stringdusters at Salvage Station. Inclement weather moved the show indoors, which led to a packed house of sweaty folks tapping their feet to some bluegrass.

Sierra Hull kicked things off, and while we only caught the last few songs, I was thoroughly impressed. She would proceed to join the Dusters later in their set, which was a fantastic sit-in.

The jamgrass quintet started their set off with “Clinch Mountain” followed by a crowd-pleasing “Touch of Grey.” This would be the first of two Dead songs (“He’s Gone”), and the Dusters did an excellent job with both.

Sierra Hull joined the band for what was labeled as “GB Liza Jane Disco” on the setlist. She stuck around for a rousing cover of Avicci’s “Wake Me Up” to end the set. This was a surprising cover, as was Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.” The band crushed both of them and had the crowd going wild.

I’m not that familiar with their catalog, but I enjoyed every song played on this particular night. The show-ending “Hillbillies” was a raucous number and the perfect way to send us out into the hurricane-induced rainy evening.

infamous stringdusters

Eggy

The following weekend, we went straight from working a wedding to downtown Asheville. We would usually call it a night after a long day like that, but our friends Eggy were in town to make their debut at the Asheville Music Hall.

We first caught them last March in Charlotte and then again at Summer Camp. Since then, we’ve listened to tons of their recordings on Nugs and have become big fans. It was great fun being able to sing along to some of their songs on a Saturday night.

They opened with “Here and Now” and immediately got loose, taking it for a 13-minute walk. And that was just the beginning…

The first set highlight was without a doubt the Crosby Stills & Nash tune “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.” Not only did Eggy nail the harmonies in this classic 60s tune, but they took it on a psychedelic journey lasting a whopping 23 minutes. 

eggy band

Set break was a much-needed chance to sit down and make new friends. The band returned with a jammy “Zugzwang” followed by “One Stop Shop,” a fitting choice considering the venue downstairs is called the One Stop. 

After one more 20-minute beast of a jam with “Shadow,” we got another choice cover with Little Feat’s  “Spanish Moon.” I just love the lyrics to this one:

“Don’t care who, you could all face ruinYou could lose it all down at the Spanish MoonWhiskey, and bad cocainePoison get you just the same”

A one-two punch of “Bloomlight” and “Portable Air Scrubber” cracked us open, and then Elton John’s “Saturday Night’s Alright (for Fighting)” scrambled us properly. Little did we know the band was hinting at their upcoming Halloween theme. Clever eggs, they are. 

They’re also super nice guys, as they started the encore with “Eggy Happy Birthday Song” for a friend in attendance. An epic night concluded with “Golden Gate Dancer” and the ending of “Judy Blue Eyes” to bring things full circle.

eggy

Kitchen Dwellers & Daniel Donato

The following Thursday, we headed back to Salvage Station for an intriguing co-bill. It was Daniel Donato and his Cosmic Country and the Kitchen Dwellers with their Galactic Grass. I’m all for outer space and toe-tapping live music, so you know I was into this.

After seeing him sit in with several of my favorite bands over the past few months on live streams, I was stoked to finally see Daniel Donato in the flesh. We don’t always make it on time for the opener. Tonight was an exception as we caught all of his set.

To be honest, I don’t know the names of any of his songs and I can’t find a setlist. What I will say it was a damn good time, and I’m a pretty big hater of country music in general. This guy can rip it on guitar and I see big things for his band in store. Hopefully, we get them to come to Three Sisters one of these days!

daniel donato

I had seen the Dwellers a few times at SCamp, but this was my first time seeing them outside our beloved festival. Asheville loves bluegrass and it loves crunchy grooves. The Kitchen Dwellers create a perfect storm here that got the crowd going from the first note.

They started things off with “Ghost in a Bottle,” officially kicking off the spooky season part of ROCKtober. While I knew these Montana dudes could jam, I’ll admit I was not prepared for a 20-minute opener!

I’m still learning the names of Dwellers tunes, but one I can’t forget is “Willie the Wandering Gypsy and Me.” Since our blog is called Grateful Gypsies, I’ll gladly claim this as a theme song of sorts.

A nice “Mountain” sandwich took the 90-minute set home, featuring “The Living Dread” and “Everybody’s Gotta Live” as the meat and cheese in this tasty bluegrass sammy. It was nice to kick up some metaphorical dirt on the indoor stage and let loose a bit on a Thursday to kick off an epic weekend in Asheville.

kitchen dwellers

Here Come the Mummies & Saxsquatch

Halloween is and always has been one of my favorite holidays. Halfway through ROCKtober, I still didn’t really feel that Halloween vibe. Well, that all changed with the arrival of Saxsquatch and Here Come the Mummies.

This diabolic duo rolled into Black Mountain – a small town just down the road – for an outdoor show at Silverado’s. I had only been there once before to see our homies Funk You on a rainy summer evening, so I was excited to get back and catch a show on a nice fall night.

We see a lot of bears around here, but this was the first sasquatch sighting that I know of. Saxsquatch kicked things off and did a great job warming the crowd up. Whereas downtown Asheville usually gets a very, shall we say, “wooktastic” crowd, Black Mountain is much more of a towny vibe and family affair.

He really played to the crowd and quickly got people to ditch their folding chairs to hit the dancefloor. At one point, Saxsquatch even left the stage and wandered through the crowd – sax in hand – and didn’t miss a note. I even stealth-chugged him for a video for Beer Chugging McGee (yes, that’s really a thing). That was awesome.

saxsquatch

In between acts, the owner of the venue gave what was basically an amateur stand-up comedy routine and he actually kind of killed it. I had to go talk to him after that and I introduced myself and Summer Camp. It’s great that these bands and venues invite me out to shows and I’m super grateful for the opportunity to do what I love and cover it for the Campfire here!

Some say the Mummies are a group of Grammy-award-winning musicians from Nashville. Others think they were cursed thousands of years ago in Egypt for deflowering a Pharaoh’s daughter. Either way, they keep things under wraps and it remains a mystery.

What’s for sure with this 10-piece funk machine is a damn good time, and that’s exactly what we got on a chilly Friday night. They treated us to the title track off their latest studio release “House Party” as well as many of their funkiest hits like “Fenk Shui” and “Freak Flag.”

The big ass beers were flowing and people were getting down to the ancient funk. You just can’t help but move your body and have fun at a Here Come the Mummies show. I’m pretty sure it’s physically impossible.

here come the mummies

As expected, Saxsquatch made his return to the stage for a sit-in with the Mummies. Now that’s a winning combination I can get used to seeing! Maybe at #SCamp23?

While you would think this would have been enough entertainment for us on a Friday, you would be sorely mistaken. We jumped in the car and high-tailed it back to Asheville for yet another indoor show at Salvage Station.

Doom Flamingo

It’s a good thing they have plenty of smooth drinkin’ beer at this particular venue, because Doom Flamingo was in town. The Charleston-based band graced us with their presence for the first time since the Umphrey’s late-night back in February during my “Jamtastic Winter.”

We missed the first couple of tunes, but they brought us “Along for the Ride” as we danced in the “Moonlight” at the back of the venue. By the time I had a tall PBR in hand and was up front, I was definitely a “Happy Boi.” And that’s how you use the setlist to tell a story, kids.

A lot of Doom Flamingo songs make me feel like I’m playing a video game in the late 80s. None more so, perhaps, than “Night Marchers.” The whole room levels up when the band breaks into this one, with Kanika Moore on stage holding the crowd in the palm of her hand.

doom flamingo

While she had us there, she led us through a fantastic cover of Aeroplane’s “Love On Hold.” She definitely has the power of “Telepathy” and had the crowd hanging on her every note. The band is pretty awesome, too, even that Stasik guy. It’s been amazing watching them grow over the past few years and I love all the new material.

Spooky season continued with “Evil Runaway” ahead of a set-ending “Replicant.” The crowd demanded Moore, and the band obliged with an encore full of choice covers. First was “House of Jealous Lovers” by The Rapture, which I had never heard of but really enjoyed. It has a dancey LCD Soundsystem vibe and was a great choice for Doom.

After a run through their original “Runaway,” Kanika and Co. reminded us why we’re simply “The Best” in Asheville. Talk about an epic sing-along to send a crowd home late on a Friday night! We can’t wait until we’re doomed again.

Also – huge thanks to Kanika for hanging out after the show and chatting with us for a bit. You rock!

kanika moore

STS9 with Daily Bread and Maddy O’Neal

Long before the days of Spotify, I used to trade live recordings with people all over the country. You youngsters out there might never have heard of a B&P (blank & postage). That’s when you would send blank CDs and return postage to someone, who would mail you back those discs with some live shows on them.

At first, I focused on my Phish and Dead collection. Along the way, though, people started adding extra shows into the envelope to introduce me to new bands. That’s exactly how I found out about STS9 way back in 2002.

I was hooked instantly (not just some of the time…) and they became my go-to music to study and drive around to. They just put me in a sort of trance, and they still do to this very day!

You can imagine my excitement when I found out I would finally get to see them in Asheville. Not only that, but it was going to be a 2-night run with support from Daily Bread and Maddy O’Neal. Ok, ya’ll, ROCKtober is officially off to the races!

daily bread music

While we love our pre-game time with friends, we showed up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed on Friday so we didn’t miss a beat of Daily Bread. Shout out to Camp Counselors Ashlee and Nikki for getting us old folks to check him out at SCamp this year. We loved it so much that we came back for seconds that weekend, and we still had room in our bellies for more Bread a few months later.

We’ve been listening to a lot of DB lately and really enjoyed his Bread & Breakfast stream a few weeks ago. He took us into the golden hour with an upbeat set as we all scanned the sky for “Purple Clouds.” He packed a lot into 45 minutes and we only wish he could have played more.

I know everyone uses the acronym now, but they’ll always be Sound Tribe Sector 9 to me. Our heroes from Cali (via Atlanta) hit the stage around 7:30 PM to a packed outdoor stage at Salvage Station. They opened with a quick run-through of “This, Us” before diving into “Grizzly.” Apparently, it’s a remix of sorts of the Grizzly Bear song “Two Weeks.” You learn something new at every show.

The rest of the first set took me back to my heyday of seeing STS9, which was probably between 2005-2008 when I was at Michigan State and a carefree college wook. They played “F. Word,” “One a Day,” “Rent,” and even “Instantly.” I danced as hard as I ever have at a Tribe show, only my back hurts afterward now.

While the music was epic all weekend, the highlight of this run for me was 100% seeing friends old and new at every turn. That’s what I love the most about this community, whether we’re dancing at an old junkyard in Asheville or under the moonlight at Summer Camp.

sts9

Set two kicked off with “Presence of Light” – a newer Tribe song that I heard for the first time that night. This band continues to innovate and create genre-bending music, and I respect the hell out of them for that.

The “King Pharaoh’s Tomb” that followed put an ear-to-ear smile on my face, and it remained for the rest of the night. Other highlights of the second stanza included “Beyond Right Now” and a super dancey “Get Loud.” They capped the set off with “Awesome” > “The Unquestionable Supremacy of Nature” and it was, well, awesome.

On Saturday afternoon, we headed to a friend’s Airbnb, which was an amazing cabin in the woods with a hot tub. I love it when my jamband friends roll deep into town! Just look at this beautiful crew…

tribe

Despite having to herd cats, we still made it to the venue in time for the 6 PM sharp set from our homie Maddy O’Neal. She is out there crushing it on tour now in support of her new album Ricochet. Give it a spin and a heart and support one of our favorite SCamp artists!

Maddy brought her infectious positivity for a dance party of a 45-minute set. I usually linger at the back and take a seat during openers, but I couldn’t help but get up to the rail for this one. Rage Crab approves of her set, for sure.

maddy o'neal

Sound Tribe started a bit earlier on Saturday and came out swinging with “Tokyo” > “The Rabble.” This is that old-school Tribe that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I should mention that I was also wearing a unicorn onesie, so that may have had something to do with it…

To be honest, I wasn’t familiar with a majority of the songs in the first set. I barely even noticed as I was having so much fun cutting a rug, and by rug I mean the woodchips of Salvage Station. The set ending “Really Wut?” brought me back from space as I high-fived a friend who absolutely loves this song.

While I was having a blast with my friends by the soundboard, the energy pulled me to the front during the second set. I don’t see this band often enough and I wanted to really soak it all in. They opened with “New Dawn New Day” and proceeded to take us on an interstellar musical journey.

The second set was basically one giant segue, which is rare at STS9 shows. An “Untitled” jam led into “Enceladus” > “Scheme” > “Out of This World” > “Frequencies Peace 2 & 3.” A brief pause was given before a massive “Inspire Strikes Back” to end the set.

As if that weren’t enough, we got a freaking “Baraka” for an encore. I literally danced my way around the entire outdoor stage area high-fiving every single person I could. There were tears of joy shed during this one, for sure.

Wow. Just wow. And just thanks, STS9.

sts9 asheville

A Few Other Shows

We didn’t exactly have a week off, as the Aussie legends King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard came to town on a Monday. Holy crap was that a wild 90 minutes! These dudes can rip.

That Friday night, we were also graced by the presence of the Disco Biscuits. How about we get them back to Three Sisters soon? That sure would be cool. We definitely want to step on the Rocket Ship, and we did just that in Asheville.

Another past SCamp artist rolled into town Halloween weekend for some Lord of the Rings party. You may have heard of this guy named William Apostol. He certainly is the Lord of the Strings and he put on quite the spectacle as we went Away from the Shire.

billy

 

Andy Frasco

On Saturday night after BMFS burned the arena to the ground, the living legend Andy Frasco threw a little after-party. He brought along his friends and fellow SCampers Little Stranger, who both dressed as Frasco for Halloween. Well played, gentlemen, well played.

We managed to make it into the venue in time to catch their last few tunes and I’m glad we did. I can definitely vibe with “Coffee & a Joint,” as I need both of those things every day as well. These guys are a lot of fun and I hope we get them back at Summer Camp next year.

Seeing as how he is a Halloween costume now, Andy Frasco didn’t need to dress up for the gig. Afro, Lakers jersey, bare feet, and a bottle of Jamo on the piano – check. Hell, even Ryan Stasik went as Andy Frasco this year.

I first saw Andy Frasco a few years ago at Summer Camp. It seemed like every single counselor was excited about his set, so I had to check it out. I’m so glad I did because it was one of the most entertaining sets of the weekend. Then he closed the Campfire Stage down this year with a who’s who of guests. I’m so glad he’s a SCamp regular already!

Well aware that the costumed crowd had just had their brains spilled by Billy Strings and that most people were in an altered state, Andy and Co. wasted no time in keeping the party going.

I can’t find a setlist for this show, but I know he played a lot of the hits such as “Dancing Around My Grave,” “Mature as F**k,” and “Smokin’ Dope n Rock & Roll.” The show also featured plenty of shenanigans as you might expect, including a hilarious sit-in from Little Stranger (“Three guys, one fro!”).

As he tends to do, Frasco gave us an emotional and motivational speech to send us out into the wee hours of Sunday morning. This is my church service, and I left the show with a full heart & soul.

Lespecial

After that absolutely massive ROCKtober, I’ll admit my tank was running close to empty by the 30th. Good thing we had seats at Billy so we could give our weary legs a break here and there. We needed to save all the energy we had for another late night, this time with the progtronic power trio of Lespecial.

We first caught these guys back in February when they opened for Umphrey’s, and it was love at first sight. Before I got into Phish and Widespread Panic, I was big on bands like Rage Against the Machine, Pearl Jam, Tool, and Primus.

I get to scratch that head-banging itch with a little bit of untz on the side at Lespecial, and I freaking love it. Even my wife is digging the heavier stuff now thanks to these guys!

After making the commute and waiting in line, we still managed to get in for the “Fruit Wolf Dance” > “Are You That Somebody” combo. Who knew Aaliyah songs could slap so hard?

lespecial

The indoor stage at Salvage was packed for this one, as all the ancient homies came out of the woodwork. Good thing, because we all got to “Enter the Homieverse” on this Sunday night/Monday morning.

Lespecial also took us on a romp through their “Antler Suite” and a fitting “Halloween Suite.” The drum solo in between was indeed sweet as well. I got up to the rail and went bonkers for their take on Primus’s “Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweekers.” Rage Crab was raging harder than I’ve ever seen him at a show. He even lost an eyeball…

For the encore, the band treated us to some more head-banging material with Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” before going into their mashup of “Enter Sandman” with Darude’s “Sandstorm.” The resulting “Enter Sandstorm” is so much fun for this 90s kid who grew up driving my parents crazy with both songs.

Sweaty and exhausted, I dragged my weary ass out of the venue around who-knows-what o’clock. Some friends came back to the house with us and we enjoyed charcuterie and frozen pizza along with an old Umphrey’s McGee stream to cap it all off.

 

sts9 fans

In all my years of seeing shows, it’s hard to think of a month that can come close to topping this ROCKtober in Asheville. So many great bands, so many great friends, and all I had to do was drive down the road. Thanks so much to all the Summer Camp artists who had us out to cover the shows. We’re beyond grateful for the experience and can’t wait to do it again real soon!

Until next time, SCampers,

Camp Counselor Sasha