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Review: Stable Studios Music Festival

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Sophistiphunk at Stable Studios Music Festival. Photo by C-Style Photography.
  • Sophistiphunk at Stable Studios Music Festival. Photo by C-Style Photography.
The Stable Studios Music Festival, a classic rock, jam and funk festival headquartered in a horse farm turned studio in Spencer, Ind., had a special, can’t-put-your-finger-on-it quality about it when I showed up Saturday afternoon. Maybe things were just mellow. The weekend’s intermittent drizzle of rain had left a muggy sensation lingering in the air. The crowd’s size was surprisingly small, but it was diverse: ages of attendees ranged from barely old enough to walk to old enough to barely walk.

The festival took a page from West Virginia’s hippie-out, laid-back All Good Music Festival by avoiding any overlap between bands playing one or the other of the fest’s two stages. Additionally, they installed a second, permanent stage on the opposite end of the stable from the original Main Stage, eliminating the hike between far-flung stages which attendees to last year’s Wuhnurth festival, a similar event hosted at Stable Studios, were forced to make.

I heard grumbles that $50 for a pre-sale weekend pass ($70 at the gate) was too pricey for a small, local festival. Others recognized the steep price for what it truly was: commensurate with the unavoidable cost of large headlining names such as Dumpstaphunk and Headtronics. Adding fuel to the fire was the $20 parking fee.

Once inside, however, Stable Studios did a nice job providing a homey atmosphere for the weekend. Atop the pond (the festival ground’s focal point), a paddle boat floated around a handful of swimmers. Hammocks were tied to nearby trees and surrounded by a handful of miniature tepees. A large willow tree had been turned into the “Dream Tree,” decorated with shimmering, painted glass bottles as ornaments.

Saturday evening kicked off with Gravelmouth, winners of the Stable Studios Music Festival fan-voting contest. The southern Indiana-based band kept things mild and relaxed with traditional rock ’n’ roll until their closing number, a rousing version of Rage Against The Machine’s “Killing In The Name.” After a precautionary note — “You might want to put the earmuffs on the kids for this one; we couldn’t resist the opportunity to play it on stage” — Gravelmouth let loose and riled the audience with the fun, familiar cover.

Snake Oil Syndicate played on the opposite end of the stable on the all-new Stable Stage, which, with its walls and backdrop covered in a reflective, tin foil-like material, could have doubled as a life-size grow room for, um, horticulturalists. Snake Oil Syndicate maintained the same warm rock’n’roll vibes generated by Gravelmouth, but introduced jam and jazz elements via a saxophone. Also like Gravelmouth, Snake Oil Syndicate hails from south-central Indiana and is new to the local festival circuit.

Around 8 p.m., Twin Cats fans crawled out of the woodwork to fill the muddy, slushy dance floor in front of the Studio Stage. Older spectators wishing to take less of an interactive approach lined their lawn chairs across the back of the crowd, well out of the way of hoopers and dancers. A noticeably different, mega-funky, voiceover-less introduction to long-time opener “Peloton” marked the beginning of a slightly-tweaked sets that saw the band’s familiar repertoire given reworked intros and extended interludes.

New York-based Sophistafunk made their Indiana debut at the festival, exceeding expectations, to say the least. From a jazzy, mellow alternate version of “Same Mistakes” to a smooth, softened cover of “Renegades of Funk,” the all-male trio from Syracuse, N.Y., impressed with funked-up electro hip hop. “Burn Just to Breathe” was even sexier in person than it is on the Sophistafunk EP, in large part due to keyboardist Adam Gold’s deep voice.

Well-behaved children meandered among the old hippies and free spirits throughout the sets, rarely heading into the fray in front of the stage. During Sophistafunk’s performance, however, one little girl was so moved by the funk that the crowd cleared a circle around her when she started breakdancing. With feet in the air and her airborne body balanced on her hands, the young girl’s face was merely inches from the ground. Later, when Dumpstaphunk called a group of females from the audience on-stage to dance, Little Miss Breakdancer was front-and-center rocking out with the big girls. She was truly one of the weekend's superstars.

Stable Studios scheduled ten bands for Sunday afternoon and evening, but canceled seven of 10 sets that day due to unfavorable weather. Only The Main Squeeze, Howard Lewis and Lovins and The Giving Tree Band played their scheduled sets.

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