Gratefulfest at Nelson Ledges Rusted Root loves the vibe at music festival


Nelson Ledges Quarry Park

12001 Nelson Ledge Road, Nelson, OH

By John Benson

Being one with nature, becoming one with fans is the idea behind Pittsburgh-based rock band Rusted Root’s return to Nelson Ledges for a Gratefulfest show Sunday.

“We always have a great time there; it definitely feels like the backyard,” said lead singer Michael Glabicki, calling from Sioux Falls, S.D. “There’s a lot of festivals that we grew up on, The Great Blue Heron in Jamestown, N.Y., or Harvest Moon in Morgantown, W.Va. Those kind of things have their own vibe and spawned its own sense of independence for our band. It’s sort of like those places you could do anything you wanted, and it usually worked out great.

“The crowd was very open, and within that openness you could advance farther as musicians and artists. Nelson Ledges has that kind of nurturing, that kind of vibe around it. It’s a great little oasis for us.SDRq

Glabicki said Rusted Root, which in the mainstream is remembered for its 1994 platinum-selling major-label debut, “When I Woke,” which contained popular radio hit “Send Me on My Way,” is in a great place touring its 2010 album “Stereo Rodeo.” The project was the band’s first studio effort since 2002’s “Welcome to My Party.”

During the interim, the band toured occasionally while some of its members pursued solo projects, including Glabicki. Though fans may have worried Rusted Root would never record again, apparently the band didn’t, with the off-and-on sabbatical yielding dividends on “Stereo Rodeo.”

“With doing a lot of solo work and just going out with an acoustic guitar in front of audiences for a while, I found this new level of dynamics and this more subtle energy and emotion,” Glabicki said. “I brought that back to the band. I think it really expanded our spectrum of where we could go musically more so than we’ve ever been. It’s really a stepping stone for the maturity of the band. It doesn’t feel right saying that, but it’s probably the most mature record we’ve made so far.”

Apparently, that maturity means good things for Rusted Root’s audience. Not only is a live DVD due out soon but also on the horizon is, gasp, another studio effort tentatively due out by the end of the year. The group has a handful of unreleased material that is being road-tested for that future release.

“What we’re doing now is kind of what we did in the old days, which is just go out in front of an audience and try new material even if it’s not ready,” Glabicki said. “It’s a situation where the environment forces you to do just what you have to do. So we’re doing that, and the crowd responds. They also play a part in where we go next with the song. For example, if somebody is dancing right in front of you, you play differently or you feel differently or it gives you a new perspective about the song. So all the new songs are in that phase right now. They’re all going over really well.”

When asked for a comparison between “Stereo Rodeo” and the band’s next album, Glabicki said, “‘Stereo Rodeo’ was deep; there’s big veins of darkness in it. This album will be a little lighter, just emotionally. It’ll be more good vibes. A lot more of a love vibe.”

Whereas “Stereo Rodeo” included a cover of Elvis Presley’s “Suspicious Minds,” perhaps the next Rusted Root album will include The King’s “Viva Las Vegas?”

After a polite laugh, Glabicki quipped, “I don’t think so.”

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