Sweney and Haynes steals the show at Hookahville XXXIII

warren haynes, steve sweney
Warren Haynes and Steve Sweney

Written by Gretchen Gregory – [email protected]
Photos by Scott Preston

THORNVILLE – The official tally hasn’t come in yet, but Hookahville XXXIII was off the charts as far as attendance and performances go. Although there weren’t as many people as 10 years ago because of the economy, the lineup which included Gov’t Mule, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Oakhurst and Donna the Buffalo certainly brought out the crowd this past weekend.

Between hearing the lineup of great artists at one of my favorite venues, Legend Valley, and the great new sound emanating from the new members of Ekoostik Hookah, I was blown away and had a fabulous weekend.

Everyone was cordial for the most part, except for a few scattered incidents, and the kids area was hopping with some sort of bouncy house thing during the day. It was kind of nice seeing younger kids run around during the day, an indication (as some say) that it’s truly become a Hookah Family. It was especially interesting to see a man dressed as Gumby walking around the camping grounds, eagerly followed by a crowd of 15 kids in patchwork clothes and colorful tie dyes.

I spent much of my time at the Hookah Fans for Food Booth, trying to help a group of volunteers earn money for the Licking County Humane Society. In between the music, chances are I was there.

I can tell you that after hearing Steve Sweney perform alongside Gov’t Mule’s Warren Haynes Saturday, I’m a firm believer that this man is one of the most amazing guitar players in any music scene today. Without a doubt.

Saturday night, with Haynes on the left and Sweney on the right, the duo took turns swapping guitar rifts back and forth, and once Sweeney found his footing in the music, off he roared, taking the audience with him on an improvisational rock journey and proving to the crowd that he really is the man behind the scenes who keeps people coming back for more.

The voice of Haynes is a remarkable one, and hearing uplifting songs about soulshine and keeping on the sunny side of life struck a nerve for many listening, including myself.

So when the bluesy, grungy guitar sounds etched from Sweney’s guitar, it was one of those times when everything fell in line and came together just right. What a night indeed.

I thought Cliff Starbuck coming back from California to play with Ekoostik Hookah Friday night was terrific, especially when both he and Phil Risko played, but Sweney and Haynes’ performance truly was one I’ll never forget.

The one thing I have to say about Risko and Sargent is they have great harmony when they sing together. I’m not sure if it’s because they have the youngest voices, but it demonstrated that the band can evolve with the times and still come out on top. Both Risko and Sargent really jumped right into the band after Starbuck left following the New Years show and Mullins in April. This past weekend was a chance for them to showcase to the crowd they are talented enough to keep up with the band that popularized the Ohio jam scene. And I think they did it well.

Combine that with the great folk and bluegrass of Donna the Buffalo, Oakhurst, and the Rumpke Mountain Boys, the rhythmic jams of Boogie Matrix Mechanism and Freekbass, technical aspects of Strange Arrangement, sunshine and a slight breeze, my Memorial Day Weekend was truly complete.

Hats off to Steve Trickle for all his fine work.