Top 8 Moments at Beardfest 2016

All Photography by Lauren Silvestri

The weekend of June 16th, I attended my first Beardfest, and it certainly won’t be my last. Despite its title, Beardfest has nothing to do with facial hair, but rather it is a music, art and sustainability festival put on every year by local band Out of the Beardspace.

It’s truly amazing how one band with members in their early and mid-twenties were able to accomplish something on such a large scale. Featuring three days of workshops, art, and over 25 bands on two stages at Paradise Lakes Campground in Hammonton, NJ, Beardfest ran like a well-oiled machine.

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It’s hard to narrow down the highlights of the weekend, and unfortunately I had to leave for part of it, but below are some of my most memorable moments:

8. Live art performances from ROMPUS

Beardfest wouldn’t have felt complete without its longterm art collaboration with ROMPUS. This year, there were more collaborative art spaces around the campground where festival-goers could paint with one another to create something unique. On the main stage, there were decorated scrims enveloping the stage. Behind the scrims, you could see the ROMPUS team dancing to the rhythm of whatever band was playing, including some acro yoga. It was a beautiful sight you couldn’t look away from, and complemented the music beautifully.

7. Mystery Fyre rocks out hard

If you are a fan of classic and/or psychedelic rock, Mystery Fyre will be your new favorite band. This band surprised me with their heavy psychedelic rock set during Friday afternoon by the lake. They played around with some Cream and Led Zeppelin riffs intertwined with their original material, and then did a wonderful cover of Black Sabbath’s “Sabotage.” As one of the heavier rock acts in the Beardfest lineup, Mystery Fyre gave Beardfest some edge.

6. Muscle Tough gets real funky

Playing late on Saturday night, Muscle Tough energized the crowd for the next round of music still to come. Muscle Tough surprised the audience with their eclectic sound, as each song sounded distinctly different than the next. Highlights of the set included a funky instrumental of Madonna’s hit “Borderline” and crowd favorite “Year of the Dog,” a proggy, futuristic instrumental number. It’s time you #gettough.

5. Appreciating the natural beauty of the campground through workshops

Throughout the three days of the festival, Beardfest offered workshops ranging from yoga, soapmaking, arrowmaking, beekeeping, women’s empowerment, civic engagement, and so much more. These workshops were held in “classrooms” outside in the campgrounds, which allowed you to really take in the beautiful scenery.

I participated in the “Collective Connection Meditation” workshop, where I was guided through a meditation in a large circle with others. It was a very cool experience and it allowed me to fully appreciate where I was in that moment. All the workshops emphasized the community aspect of Beardfest that separates the festival from the others.

4. Darla proves themselves as a more than a college band

By the time Darla came on the second stage, it was past 1:30 am and Out of the Beardspace just finished their explosive last set of the fest. It was a tough slot to have, but the 8-piece progressive funk group that formed at Drexel University was ready. By the end of their sax-filled, jazzy funk set, the crowd was going crazy, wanting more. Surprised by the amount of love, the band pulled together an encore. “We need to get some more material,” joked member Mike Morrongiello. Look out for this band on the festival circuit this season, they are a must-see.

3. Start Making Sense faithfully pays tribute to the Talking Heads

Once Start Making Sense took the stage early evening on Friday, Beardfest transformed from a chill afternoon to an energetic night. People gathered around the main stage, dancing on the beach to the infectious Talking Heads tunes. This 7-piece plays all of the hits, and reminds you of the large catalog the Talking Heads created. Lead singer and guitarist Jon Braun does a spot-on David Byrne, and he knew how to draw the crowd in. Lead guitarist Jon Fadem also shined in his guitar solo during the “Nothing but Flowers” number. All the members feed on each others’ energy, and Start Making Sense is truly more than the sum of its parts.

2. Consider the Source does Radiohead

One of the most anticipated moments of Beardfest was “Sci-Fi Middle Eastern Fusion” trio Consider the Source doing a Radiohead set. Infusing their own sound into the songs, they covered an interesting range of of songs, including “15 Step,” “2+2=5,” and “Pyramid Song.” It was really cool to see a band interpret Radiohead in such an unexpected way.

1. All the collaborations in Out of the Beardspace’s sets

Out of the Beardspace organizes Beardfest every year, and it actually started in member Zach LoPresti’s backyard. Beardfest is their moment to shine, and they played two sets this year. Their sound is hard to describe, with some songs veering on progressive rock and others a little more jam-oriented, but the crowd was loving everything they played.

Throughout their sets, OOTB brought up other artists to play alongside them, including Johnny Showcase and the Mystic Ticket, Freedom Bremner from Screaming Headless Torsos, and School of Rock students (OOTB met as students in School of Rock, and now Zach LoPresti is their Music Director). It was a special moment to see OOTB play with their mentors, and then with their mentees in School of Rock; it symbolized the efforts of OOTB and their past, present, and future. Also, those School of Rock students killed it!

Don’t take my word for it; next year experience this wonderful DIY festival for yourself! You can watch some of the highlights below from the Beardfest YouTube channel. Until then, like the Beardfest page on Facebook to stay updated for next year!

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