by Jeff Hahne
Greetings from Atlanta!
The first-ever Echo Project kicked off on Friday on a farm just outside of Atlanta. I can't say things went off without a hitch, but so far, so good.
After being told to wait for a shuttle to get from the daily parking lot to the festival, a 25-minute wait yielded no bus.
So, myself and a couple other journalists hitched a ride on a food cart heading for concessions.
Once into the festival area, it looked quite a bit like Bonnaroo - five stages, plenty of vendors and large expanses of grass without shade.
The big difference is the crowd size. While 100,000 were rumored at Bonnaroo, the rumor floating around Echo is that 7,000 tickets were sold.
While the temperature hovered around 80, it felt more like 90 under the sun.
The first band I checked out was Stephen Marley who, like the other brothers, looks a lot and sounds just like his famous father.
He kicked off his set with "Punky Reggae Party" and threw a handful of other elder Marley tunes into his setlist.
Lyrics Born brought hip-hop to the event on a side stage (but he wasn't the last).
The Polyphonic Spree tried to solve the "how many people can fit on a stage?" question.
The band started their set dressed in all-black and was high energy for the duration.
Wu-Tang's GZA got things hopping on the main stage - performing some Wu hits and a track or two by ODB.
He knelt down by the swarm of photographers in the photo pit and said he loved the attention (later complaining that there was no more media in the pit.)
I tried to go see Snowden, but the band apparently decided to cancel and Dubconscious played their funky reggae instead.
Medeski, Martin and Wood played a jam-heavy jazz set that got the hippies moving.
Cypress Hill, with only B-Real at the helm, hammered out a hit-heavy set.
JJ Grey performed his Bayou blues in one tent in front of a decent crowd.
On a side note, at least the stages here are pretty easy to find - Lunar Stage, Solar Stage, etc.
Les Claypool performed with what he called his "Fancy Trio." He played a lot of solo stuff, but through a bit of Primus in from time to time.
"Tommy the Cat" made a brief appearance during one song. Claypool told the crowd, "I love new festivals that tolerate people like me."
The Flaming Lips were the headliner for Friday, playing their usual set with the addition of the hamster ball in the beginning of the show (sans UFO).
The amount of confetti and large orange balloons was astounding once again.
It should also be noted here that the temperature at this point had dropped considerably. I could see my breath and the shorts and t-shirt I was wearing that seemed so logical earlier in the day were now causing me to go numb. (A shuttle ride to my car and back enabled me to get a coat and pants.)
As entertaining and unique as The Flaming Lips always are, I have to say that the set of the day belonged to The Secret Machines.
The temperature may have been hovering close to the 40s at this point (The Secret Machines hit the stage around 12:30), but the band showed no hesitation in their set.
The setup may have been simple - just the members a few amps and their guitar/bass/drums - but the music was complex.
Often compared to early Pink Floyd, the band rumbled through their set for more than an hour. Steam was rising off the drummers head and the small crowd of a few hundred were dancing their hearts out.
Tim DeLaughter, frontman for the Spree, was dancing and singing along during the set. (He was also backstage for The Flaming Lips.)
As the music wound down around 2 a.m., attendees shivered their way to their campsites.
I, luckily, have family in the area and got a warm bed (and shower).
Saturday's lineup includes The Killers, Son Volt, Cat Power, Common and a set from Q.C. locals The Avett Brothers.