Everfine Records’ Feeling Better Than Everfine Festival recently celebrated its fifth anniversary and fourth year in Cleveland earlier this week. The annual festival, which has been headlined by Rockville, Maryland natives (with a long layover in Columbus, OH), O.A.R also features unique national talent and spotlights a handful of underexposed bands each year. Here’s an in-depth look at the festival… Past, Present, and Future…
The inaugural FBTE in 2002 was originally just a tour stop at Cleveland’s Tower City Amphitheater that evolved into a half-day, two-stage, six-band festival. The lineup featured three regional acts, The Clarks, Ordinary Peoples, and Red Wanting Blue, along with national talents Carbon Leaf and Graham Colton. In a pre-show interview, O.A.R. saxophonist and Youngstown, Ohio native, Jerry DePizzo said that at Everfine’s inception, “We wanted to make it a yearly thing, really it’s Everfine records brainchild, and we’re just lucky to be a part of it. It’s grown every year. It’s been a success every year and I think we’ve allowed people to discover new bands and turn peoples’ ears on to music they probably wouldn’t hear normally.”
The festival returned to TCA as a full day extravaganza in 2003 and 2004. The number of bands on the bill doubled to 12 and the festival gates were opened at high noon. O.A.R. bassist Benj Gershman downplayed the switch to the full-day format, noting, “It’s basically the same idea, we’re bringing together new music for one day of fun and games.” Everfine two and three showcased several bands on the verge of break-through. Marc Broussard and now multi-platinum recording artist, Maroon 5, both with limited exposure at the time they performed at FBTE; are now both household names. The festival also added a booth where all performers (minus O.A.R) held meet n’ greets and autograph sessions after their sets.
The full lineup for 2003: O.A.R., Maroon 5, Marc Broussard, Ingram Hill, Ari Hest, Pseudopop, The Lost Trailers, Oval Opus, Georgia Avenue, The Low Life, and now Everfine 3peaters, Matt Nathanson and Virginia Coalition.
2004 lineup: O.A.R., Howie Day, Nathanson, The Clarks, Virginia Coalition, Ingram Hill, Ordinary Peoples, Michael Tolcher, Louque, Toothpick, Antigone Rising, and Zox. ‘
**As an incentive for concert-goers to come out early and check out the bands playing in the afternoon slots, O.A.R. kicked off the show with a special acoustic performance at 1:00.**
Despite increasing turnouts from Clevelanders for three consecutive years, Everfine organizers opted to leave the home of Rock and Roll for the Windy City. The move was very disappointing to the Cleveland fans that supported the festival every year. Does loyalty mean nothing? I caught up with Gershman at Bonnaroo 2005 and razzed: “We’ve built this, we’ve come out three years in a row, and you guys just give us the finger and say ‘we’re going to Chicago.”
His rebuttal: “We didn’t give you the finger, first of all. You can’t stay in one place all the time. You grow up in a nest and you have to fly away sometimes”.
Frontman Marc Roberge added, “Everfine Festival, while that’s our indie label, it’s their festival, and we headline it, and we assist with picking some bands and things, it’s their business what they do with it. We love Cleveland, and granted we’re there all the time, for Chicago, it’s bigger. They want to grow the festival.”
Everfine 4.0 was held at CharterOne Pavilion, located in Northerly Island in Chicago. The lineup featured Citizen Cope, Pepper, Michael Tolcher, The Southland, State Radio, Stephen Kellog & The Sixers, As Fast As, Ludo, Small Town Workers, and Alternate Routes.
Noticeably absent from the 2006 lineup were Nathanson and Virginia Coalition, both of which were fan favorites at Everfine Two and Three. Nathanson joked, “You know what? I was like ‘fuck that town.’ You don’t see a river like this (Cuyahoga) in Chicago.”
Benj and Jerry explained Nathanson was absent from the roster due to some form of extortion. Nathanson denied this claim in full, reminding us that, “Benj is drunk all the time. He doesn’t know anything.”
After the one year relocation, Feeling Better Than Everfine returned to Cleveland for year number five. DePizzo explained, “Chicago was great! We had a great turnout, but you know, our heart is in Cleveland with Feeling Better Than Everfine so we came back here.“
The fifth edition of FBTE reverted back to the format of the inaugural event; half-day, six bands. Gershman noted the festival returned to the half-day format because, “In previous years, kids were just dropping like flies. It was just so long of a day… It just made a little more sense to try something different this year; make it kind of special that way.” The 2006 lineup introduced newcomers Jon McLaughlin, Bedouin Soundclash, Dropping Daylight, as well as performances from Everfine vets Virginia Coalition and Nathanson, and of course a full set from O.A.R.
The undisputable highlight of the 2006 fest was a special acoustic set performed by O.A.R. frontman Marc Roberge and Matt Nathanson. Nathanson was at it his finest with his trademarked comical banter. The duo’s show featured a rendition of Paul Simon’s “Obvious Child” and a beautiful cover of “Fall at Your Feet” by Crowded House.
This appears to have been the most successful Everfine to date. The crowd was noticeably larger than 2004, and the bands playing in the earlier slots seemed to have been received better than in previous years.
Dropping Daylight frontman Sebastian Davin summed it up, “It was a fabulous, fabulous experience. It was a really cool event”
When asked about the possibility of making Everfine a traveling festival at some point, Depizzo replied, “Still a possibility. We’re still working the bugs out on that. We’d love to make it a reality. There’s a lot that goes into something like that. If it’s possible we’d like to do it.”