Umph Love Brings Immersive Festival To Charleston
Written By Sanchez Tortuga
The Woodlands Festival is finally providing Charleston the camping festival it deserves. Teenie Boppers, Wooks, Hippies, Yuppies, Old Heads, and music lovers in general throughout the Low Country are delighted to no longer drive to the Live Oak, Florida’s or Manchester, Tennessee’s of the world to attend a camping festival that draws national talent.
George Claussen and Hank Wharton of Friends With Benefits Productions teamed up with Umphrey’s McGee manager Vincent Iwinski and with critical input from the veteran festival band itself to make this festival a reality.
When asking Ryan Stasik (Bass Player: Umphrey’s McGee & Doom Flamingo) what sparked the motivation to create this festival he said, “Umphrey’s’ manager moved to Charleston 8 years ago then I followed him down 7 years ago. We have great weather in November, combined with great food, people love camping, and the area around Middleton Place Plantation is beautiful. Charleston seemed like a natural fit for a camping festival.”
When I asked Stasik what we the people could expect from Umphrey’s McGee during this festival he made no commitment of putting a theme behind either one of their two sets. However, the local legend himself hinted at bringing local musicians in on their production.
Seeing how Charleston’s finest sax player, Mike Quinn, is already going to be on location for his Huey Lewis and The News cover, The Fake News, he seems like a natural fit for the brassless Umphrey’s.
After asking Stasik what playing at Hulaween with Umphrey’s McGee and Doom Flaming just a few weeks before does to your mind and body. He confidently said, “Umphrey’s is a well-oiled machine. Playing Festivals in back-to-back weekends is nothing for us. Try having two kids. Now that is hard.”
Keeping on the theme of Hulaween, I asked him if there would be art installations similar to that of Hulaween. Stasik honorably noted his main business is slapping the bass but followed that statement by saying, "Maybe the people who curate Hula's art installation will come up here. It's not that far away..."
The Woodlands’ and Hulaween’s festival grounds share a lot of similarities. Both are covered in beautiful live oaks draped in Spanish moss, have lakes in the heart of the festival, and are headlined and curated by the best jam bands in the world: Umphrey’s McGee and The String Cheese Incident. Immersing the surrounding woods with light-responsive paintings, psychedelic projection mapping, and interactive sculptures could really put The Woodlands festival on the same level as Electric Forest or Hulaween.
Maybe Stasik is hands-off in the art department, as he wants us to believe, or maybe he is just keeping it hush-hush. Unbeknownst to him, I have on good authority that the people from Friends with Benefits Productions are working hard behind the scenes to make sure the woods light up and dance at night.
When asked, Stasik stated the band he is most stoked to see is, "The New Deal. I have always been a fan since the late ’90s and I am anticipating the first time I see them live with their new drummer. They bring an electro-funk breakbeat with no overdubs, everything is performed live.”
His excitement continued as he started talking about The Omega Moos getting back together for The Woodlands Festival pre-party. The Moos are an 80’s era jam side project featuring Brendan Bayliss of Umphreys, Jamie Shields of The New Deal, Mick Billastic, and Ryan Stasik himself, comprise the Omega Moos.
Maintaining his enthusiasm, he then let slip that Doom Flamingo will also be joining the lineup as a late addition.That is right, Doom Disciples, Charleston’s very own supergroup, also consisting of Ryan Stasik will be joining The Woodlands lineup. Between Omega Moos’ ‘80s covers and Doom Flamingo’s heavy synth ‘80s style dance music, ‘80s lovers will be in paradise. Too bad SexBruise? and their snack throwing sexiness won’t be joining the lineup. The underdogs of ‘80s style original music, they are local royalty, having sold out The Commodore and The Charleston Pour House. Maybe it’s not too late to end the Party in The ’80s. Wink wink.
The differentiating factor in The Woodlands lineup composition is their dedication to produce a vision that aligns with the values of their festival location. Charlestonians will flock by the hundreds to these woods, bee-lining to our hometown favorites: Runaway Gin. The band has regularly blessed Charleston on The Pour House’s main stage with epic Phish covers.
Charleston is undoubtedly full of world class talent. This talent has cultivated a wealth of die-hard music enthusiasts, who travel the globe in search of an immersive camping festival featuring top talent. Now they must search no longer as The Woodlands Festival promises to fill this need with great music, inspiring art, savory food, and amazing people.