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Glass remains half full at Philly FF

Old Pool Farm, Schwenksville, Pa., August 14, 2014

Reviewed by John Lupton

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As the Friday evening concert winds down, with Old Crow Medicine Show celebrating its recent induction into the Grand Ole Opry in front of 15,000 or appreciative folks, it's hard to believe the festival is half over.

Traditionally, throughout the more than a half-century run of one of the country's most venerable and venerated festivals, Thursday has been the day the campers met early in the morning Walmart and Sears parking lots all over the area and planned their assaults for the scheduled 10 a.m. opening of the campground gates. Timing is everything, and if you're lucky your group will navigate the quickly clogging Montgomery County roads directly into the ticketing parking lot, and not be shunted off into the dreaded holding field for an hour - or two or three.

Once you're in and camp is set up, though, there's time to cruise around and see where old friends are camped, and it turns out that with the same large groups (Azzoles, Flids, Front Porch, Spam Hogs and many more) turning up year after year, they generally end up in pretty much the same place.

The addition of a special Thursday evening concert for the campers is a relatively recent addition to a festival where the music historically didn't start until Friday. This year's doings on the Camp Stage (one of a half-dozen or so satellite stages aside from the main stage) was roots-heavy, opening with female solo vocalists Angaleena Presley, one-third of Pistol Annies, and Caroline Rose.

By the time Sturgill Simpson and his band hit the stage, it was standing room only from the fence line up the down to the stage, and Simpson didn't disappoint. The guy, to all appearances, is the living reincarnation of Waylon Jennings, and the crowd (a pretty young one at that) lapped it up.

A rain storm had passed through at dinnertime, and with the temperatures dropping into the 60s as the evening progressed, by the time Parsonsfield, a high-energy roots band took the stage for the finale, cool damp air had turned into a light fog that rolled across the field down to the stage. Working up a sweat in the course of their set, things were literally smoking all the way around. It was a remarkable scene, and one that the media photographers couldn't get enough of.

Friday dawned cool, clear and sunny, and the temperatures held in the 70s all through the day - unusual for an area where mid-August is usually humid and well into the 80s. The afternoon show, featuring New York-based roots/rock band Spuyten Duyvil (SPY-tin DIE-vil) was just about as pleasant a way to spend a summer day as could be hoped for. The festival may be half over, but that just means the glass is still half full.