By Molly Karna
Special to The Dagger
When contributor Brian Goodman asked me to write a review of last Thursday’s All For One Cure (AFOC) Benefit Festival, I was determined to write an objective, even critical, piece from the viewpoint of an observant audience member. Unsurprisingly, this proved to be nearly impossible, considering I was a co-organizer for the event. Managing a music festival is a job that keeps you literally running from backstage crisis to center stage to ticketing gate to the side stage – over and over. In between each Crisis of the Moment, however, is a treat only a true music-lover could appreciate: being able to watch twenty-seven separate bands perform. So, although I am unable to offer you an unbiased review of the Festival, I can offer you a taste of it from the perspective of both an audience member and manager:
As early as 9 a.m., bands start arriving for the concert, which officially begins at 11 a.m. Stages are set up on two sports fields of Cedar Lane Regional Park, and bands begin to set up merchandise tables and start jamming with their acoustic instruments. Participants send silent prayers for the gunmetal clouds to hold their storm through this completely outdoor festival.
On the side stage around 4 p.m., The Willmatics’ jazzy brass and upbeat drums of their cover of the Jackson 5 song “I Want You Back” can be heard. A sizeable crowd has gathered in front of the stage, and almost everyone is on their feet and grooving. To the crowd’s delight, The Willmatics accept the chants for an encore and pump out one more original song, garnering even more enthusiasm. Big City Love Affair has the luck of channeling the crowd’s already-charged energy through electro-house remixes, and once again everyone is on their feet.
The Wild Hunt doubles the crowd at the side stage, which is now seated on the grass and lying on blankets, basking in the sweet indie-folk banjo and tambourine of the melodic group. When they finish, ambient group Pallid transforms the once-throbbing atmosphere even further into one of relaxed harmonies. After planting some lighted incense in the grass, all the band members seat themselves on and in front of the stage; chords and notes are held out until they hover in the thick summer air for what seem to be minutes.
Chasing Morgan, the headlining band for the event, has fan-girls jumping exuberantly in front of the stage, where upbeat pop-punk riffs make it hard not to get up and at least nod a head or tap a foot. At one point, lead vocalist Mark Weider leaps down to the grass and invites the audience to join the rest of the band onstage. Stage shaking, about ten girls and boys jump up and down in sync with the beat, screaming the chorus they’ve just learned to Chasing Morgan’s song “Friday Night.” A beach ball bobs through the air between the hands of the audience onstage and watching from the grass.
Though the day appears to be all about music, the main cause for the Festival is to raise money to donate to the American Cancer Society. Band and audience members add change to the donation bucket, and one vendor is generous enough to donate all tips to the cause. The secondary goal for the event, to expose local bands to new crowds and provide them a place to play, is met in full. This is no shocker, considering the enthusiasm Harford County and the surrounding areas have for creating music and supporting their musician peers.