A Fond Farewell to The Sail Inn
Photos by Benjamin Leatherman The Sugar Thieves finish up the last-ever set on the Sail Inn's outdoor stage during the final night of the venue's Farewell Festival on Sunday.
It was a bittersweet send-off, at best, this weekend at The Sail Inn.
On the one hand, it was one of the most amazing local music lineups that could have possibly been arranged, but on the other, there was the idea that this was never going to happen again at this location looming in the back of your mind. For nearly a quarter of a century, The Sail Inn has been a watering hole, dive bar, and a pretty fantastic music venue. The idea that it would ever go away seemed improbable, until the announcement this spring came.
For the past few months, many local music lovers have scrambled to get their aural love in by religiously attending the last few months of shows at the unique venue. The Sail Inn has always had the advantage of having the outdoor stage where it gave a concert-like experience -- something unique for the local venues, plus it could throw enormous shows switching from the outside and inside stages and save on the time between the sets. It was fitting that this weekend played out exactly that way. This weekend's "Farewell Fest" could not have been a better send-off for a venue that, if nothing else, celebrated the diversity of the local scene that it helped grow.
DAY ONE (Friday, June 27)
It started with Mr. Eastwood, well, half of Mr. Eastwood -- the guitar half, and it was a good, intimate start for the weekend with their swamp-blues sound and the introduction to the entire event with their take on "Let the Good Times Roll." They had a big sound for just two guys on stage, and I look forward to catching them with their entire band at another venue soon. The Mojo Farmers were the first injection of true rock 'n' roll for the weekend and by that time the inside crowd had grown considerably. The day drinkers had been there from the start, but by this time folks hungry to hear live music were showing up and the Farmers were there to meet them. One thing must be said, while their originals are great, when they set out to do a cover, they nail it. In this case, Led Zeppelin's "Ramble On" blew the collective mind of the audience in attendance.
A pair of Sail Inn regulars at the Farewell Festival.
One thing The Sail Inn has been known for over the years is its affection for neo-hippie jam bands, and it was no surprise that they were scattered about the lineup liberally throughout the weekend. The first of these was Endoplasmic, and they jammed like there was no tomorrow, which in fact there was, but only two more. I was amazed at their stamina alone. A far as I could tell, their first song was an hour long and in the total span of an hour-and-a-half set they played three songs. This may be inaccurate, but I could only discern the beginnings and ends of three songs. The combination of Kevin Gordon, Daniel Bieber, Johnny Mac, Mikey Mac, Jayson Johnson, Nick Constable and Dave Abare was absolutely hypnotic. It was time to move inside for some of the best garage rock in town and if you check with France, they consider it the best in the world.
The Love Me Nots brought their best to The Sail Inn on Friday, with no apologies. This was the first venue where I saw the Love Me Nots, and it was great to see them play at the Farewell Festival. One time at the Sail, I ended up as their merch guy simply because I was standing next to the pool table where they had their shirts and records displayed and fans were hungry to buy stuff before their set was over. I made up the prices on the fly. Their set on the other hand played like an amazing greatest hits package to the now nearly packed room. Ripping out nearly 20 songs is quite a mean feat, and it got the crowd dancing in no uncertain terms. My favorites were "End of the Line," "Make Up Your Mind," and "Move In Tight," but the entire set was amazing and one of my favorites of theirs that I've ever witnessed.
Prescott's Spafford closed out the outside stage for the evening with their unusual blend of electronica and jam band aesthetic. They played for nearly two hours, delighting the now very intoxicated crowd with their unique "Electro-Funk Therapy." They have pretty amazing mix that joyfully combines typical jam band pop with a techno sensibility and it gets pretty weird -- at one point it feels like they could be an opening act for a Dead show, and then later in the set they sound like they should be playing in a rave tent at Cochella.
The first evening closed with an epic 90-minute set from Sara Robinson & The Midnight Special. I have seen this band a lot and I don't think I've ever seen them play that long before. They played nearly their entire debut album in the set, but I'm pretty sure they played their entire second album, too, which is coming out later this year. It is one of the most highly anticipated local releases of the year, and the preview of the material Friday night, truly heightened the expectation of its release. Throw into that mix covers of The Beatles "Why Don't We Do It in the Road" and Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come" and you have what was one of the finest sets of the entire weekend.