Review: 15th Annual Ogden Music Festival

American roots music can sometimes be too narrowly confined to bluegrass, stringbands, and folk. Though those genres are important to the Americana stew, they are only a small part of the full recipe. The Ogden Friends of Acoustic Music (OFOAM) took the time to build a lineup that also included blues, gospel, soul, funk, rock, country and conjunto making the Ogden Music Festival one full-flavored weekend of American roots music. It was almost too rich for me to digest (ok, no more food metaphors).

This year’s Ogden Music Festival, June 2-4, 2023 served up an amazing lineup of American roots artists. Due to flooding at Fort Buenaventura, the organizers quickly scrambled to get a more suitable location for the event. Nicknamed Fort BDO (the Business District Ogden) the festival featured 13 main stage acts and 10 “tweener” acts, who kept the music flowing between sets. 

Reviewing 23 acts is beyond the scope of a reasonable review. Let me just say that every performer who made it on the festival stages passed through the OFOAM filter and is certified fabulous. I’ll try to highlight the performances that rolled my socks down.

John Craigie

Craigie’s two-set performance (Friday and Saturday) stands out as one of the many highlights from this outstanding weekend of music. Craigie is a Portland-based folk singer and storyteller (think John Prine with Tommy Smothers’ comedic timing) who sold out two nights at The State Room this winter. Craigie coupled well-crafted folk songs with colorful and sometimes irreverent introductions. His song “Laurie Rolled Me a J” is a funny yet poignant tale of life during the pandemic. He sings: “She won’t get the vaccine because of the tracking chip. Hell they can track me, I ain’t doing shit. Track me on my couch, track me in my bed, track me texting you, track me left on red. Track me in the yard puffing my life away. Gone like smoke, Laurie rolled me a J.” Another standout song “I Wrote Mr. Tambourine Man” had him wondering “When the apocalypse is over, I hope you like your job.” 

With “I Am California” he had us singing the chorus: “So drink all my wine, cut all my trees. Make love on my beaches, smoke all my weed. I am California, can’t you see? Wherever you roam, you’ll always want me.” Great lyrics and amusing anecdotes are Craigie’s winning formula. He even held a songwriting workshop, open to all festival goers.

Danielle Ponder

Danielle Ponder mesmerized the crowd with her hypnotic and soulful voice opening with “Some Of Us Are Brave.” Its retro tempo makes this tune feel like a theme song from an old James Bond film. But her lyrics about black female empowerment make it the antithesis to Bond’s misogyny. It’s a powerful and relevant tune. Ponder shared with us the local inspiration for her song “Roll the Credits.” A joyful and trippy meditation on our landscape, she wrote it while doing mushrooms on the shore of the Great Salt Lake.  Her voice reaches another dimension as she echoes repetitive guitar lick-reverb. She sings: “Good God Almighty, I done opened my mind. These holy waters left a chill down my spine.” From “Roll The Credits” she transitioned to an amazing, piano-driven-torch-singer version of Radiohead’s “Creep.” My spine is still tingling. I can’t wait to see her again as a headliner. Her hour-long set went by in an instant and left me wanting more. 

Thee Sacred Souls

Thee Sacred Souls, a retro soul band from San Diego, performed a delightful 15-song headliner set of well-harmonized, life affirming R&B. Familiar yet fresh, “Easier Said Than Done” stirred the crowd with its vintage-sounding ‘70s groove. Lead singer Josh Lane extended the performance space, and made his way through the crowd, serenading us with his rich falsetto voice. They ended the festival’s first evening with a Smokey Robinson-styled original “Can I Call You Rose.” What a perfect end to the festival’s opening night.

Miko Marks

Miko Marks and The Resurrectors delivered an amazing blend of country and gospel over two days (Saturday and Sunday). Marks bridges the 200 miles that separate the musical genres of Nashville and Memphis. Her opening song “One More Night” is something you could imagine hearing on the Grand Ole Opry stage or in a Beale Street nightclub. “Feel Like Going Home ” is another example of the beauty she created with her blues, rock, gospel and country cocktail. She explained that American music used to be divided between black music or “race records” and white music. Artists and audiences were separated, despite their overlapping roots in the musical traditions. Then she dissolved those lines and played Bill Monroe’s “Long Journey Home” from her 2021 EP Race Records and infused bluegrass harmony with gospel soul.

Just prior to Marks taking the stage on Saturday, lightning in the nearby mountains forced the organizers to pause the festivities until it passed. After a half-an-hour or so we were ready to resume despite a light sprinkle. By the time Marks played “Peace of Mind” the clouds parted and the sun shone. Now I don’t believe in divine intervention, but in that moment, with the sun beating on my face, I found my peace of mind.

On Sunday, Marks summoned the spirits with “Ancestors,” “Mercy,” and, “River.” Her excellent backing band–The Resurrectors–included the two members of the duo Effie Zilch (Evanne Barcenas and Steve Wyreman). From their 2022 release Trinity, Vol.2, they performed “Room for Us All,” a soulful duet that blends Marks and Barcenas voices perfectly. Then, Marks took me on an astral journey with a gospel rendition on CCR’s “Long as I Can See the Light.” The new queen of country gospel is on the road to her coronation. She’s released three albums since 2021 and offered us a taste of her soon-to-be-released song “9-Pound Hammer.” Long may she reign.

Della Mae

The all-female string band played a robust 17-song set that included original standout “Dry Town,” and paid homage to my home city with “Boston Town.” They tossed in the folk standard “16 Tons” and gave a fine rendition of the CSNY folk-rock classic “Ohio.” They played us “My Own Highway,” a yet-to-be-released new song. This in-demand band is off to Rotterdam to headline their bluegrass festival. 

Dan Tyminski

What can I say about the festival’s main headliner Dan Tyminski? He has more Grammys on his mantle than I have t-shirts in my drawer. A bluegrass legend and member of Alison Krauss and Union Station, Tyminski may be familiar to non-bluegrass enthusiasts with his work in the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou where he lent his singing voice to George Clooney. Clooney lip-synced Tyminski’s vocals on The Soggy Mountain Boys song “I Am A Man of Constant Sorrow.”

Tweeners

Several between acts–tweeners stood out for me. Local favorite Talia Keys, offered us a sneak peek of an album of reworked classics she’s planning to release. She added her spin to Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, “I Put a Spell On You” and funkified Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams.”

Columbia Jones had the unfortunate time slot following Danielle Ponder’s magic. He’s a talented artist who played five solid songs. I particularly liked “Tourist Town,” a clever tune about Moab that doubles as a metaphor for relationships and abandonment issues.

Utah trio Lucky Find was a lucky find, indeed. Their short tweener set embodied an Eilen Jewell vibe and I wanted to hear more. I’ve already made plans to see them again at Level Crossing on July 9th.

Notables

I discovered a couple of acts I’d really like to see again. Chatham Rabbits, a North Carolina roots duo (expanding to a trio for this show,) impressed me with their nine-song set of original Appalachian music. 

Kate McLeod and her full-band welcomed Melissa Chilinski of Pompe n’ Honey (they played a fine opening set on Saturday.) Chilinski played banjo and provided backup vocals on the bluesy “I Believe I’ll Go Back Home” and “Jubilee.”

National Park Radio is an Arkansas-based husband and wife duo who reminds me of an Ozark Mountain version of the Avett Brothers. They created a big sound (for a duo) and I’d love to hear them again in an intimate listening room.

Despite the nightmarish task of finding an alternate location for the festival, OFOAM made a seamless transition. They are a well-oiled machine of an organization that knows how to put on a stellar three-day music festival. The Ogden Music Festival should be on your radar every year. The festival showcases amazing music with a great vibe. 

What: Ogden Music Festival

Where: Fort BDO–600 N Depot Drive, Ogden

When: June 2-4, 2023

More info: www.ofoam.org


Get the latest on arts and entertainment in and around Utah. And while you’re here, subscribe and get six issues of Salt Lake magazine, your guide to the best of life in Utah.

See our review of the 2024 Ogden Music Festival.

John Nelson
John Nelsonhttps://www.saltlakemagazine.com/
John Nelson covers the local music scene for Salt Lake magazine. He is a 20-year veteran of Uncle Sam’s Flying Circus with a lifelong addiction to American roots music, live music venues, craft beer and baseball.

Similar Articles

Comments