Much anticipation is expected the week before a music festival. We’re excited to see our friends who have become family and celebrate our mutual love of music. The week before Ragamaru was no different.
My excitement was growing stronger as the work day progressed. I could hardly hold in my anticipation. I was going to be a part of history that weekend. The only thing standing in my way was the rest of the work day and a few hours of driving. It was really hard to have to choose between two of my favorite bands, Litz and Bumpin Uglies, and their first ever festivals. I had already chosen to go to Ragamaru before I knew about Weekend at Wolfies, but last minute, I decided I had to be at both. I raced home and packed my camping gear faster than I could even think. As soon as my friend Kassy arrived at my house, we hit the road.
The ride was smooth sailing the whole way to Weekend at Wolfies in Bedford, Pennsylvania. As we inched closer to our destination on the GPS, we went deeper into the mountains. The GPS said we were six miles away and instructs us to turn right in half a mile. All of a sudden, we look to the right and there’s an enormous black bear 20 feet away from us. This was one of the most beautiful creatures I’d ever seen. His fur was deep black and silky. He looked up at us as to acknowledge our existence and went about his business, as did we.
As we pull up to our right turn, it becomes clear to us that there is no way this is the road that we were supposed to be turning on. It was muddy with fallen trees and looked like an old four wheeler path. With absolutely no cell phone service, we had no choice but to drive back the way we came until we got service. Once we were able to pull the directions back up, we got back on the road. But once again, the GPS took us to this old dirt road. As we were pulling out, the man who lived right by the path came outside. I informed him that we were really lost, had no service and the GPS kept trying to take us down this non-drivable road. He replied that we aren’t the only ones that this has happened to and he gave us directions to get back on the right path. At this point, we had been driving around so long that I needed to stop and get gas. We were now 2 hours late from the time we were supposed to arrive. We missed the Bumpin Uglies set and were feeling pretty defeated. The first gas station we could found was closed so I kept on driving until we found one. We got the correct directions and made our way to the festival.
By the time we got there, most of our friends were asleep and the gate was closed. So we parked at the gate and made our way in to let someone know we were there and where we were parked. A friend met us and walked us to where they were camped. We got to say hi and hang out for a little while. My friend Tawyna said she would make us breakfast early in the morning since we had to leave, I just had to promise to bring her coffee. I hastily agreed and we made our way back down the mountain so they could get some rest. On the way to the front gate to sleep in my car, we came across the family fire where some people we playing guitar and singing, so of course we had to join. We sat at the fire for some time and then headed to bed.
It’s around six o’clock in the morning and Kassy wakes me up to let me know that Brandon Hardesty, the lead singer of Bumpin Uglies, had gotten back to her and was already asleep when got there the night before. He met us at the gate and walked us up to get coffee. We chatted for a while and then went back up the mountain to wake up our friends. I peek into Tawnya’s tent and say, “Good morning, I brought coffee!” She wakes up along with a few others. I walk down the road a little to see if anyone else is up and I hear from another tent, “Is that Shealyn? I’m waking up, I’m waking up now!” My friend Britney emerges from her tent to give me a bear hug. Our friend Dom also woke up early and got a ride up to us and the rest of the crew woke up and started making breakfast. Now this is where I start to get a little teary eyed. Many people have searched their whole lives just to find friends who care even a little bit. I’ve gotten to know this amazing group of people who woke up really early, at a music festival, just to say hi and see me for a few minutes. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.
After we finish breakfast, Kassy and I head to the car to begin the next leg of our adventure, Ragamaru: The Litz Family Ball. Next, we stopped at walmart to grab groceries and a few more things for our friend whose birthday we were celebrating at the festival. Then we were finally on our way. This location was far easier to get to than the last one. We made it to Romney, WV around noon. We pull in and are greeted by Lou Mic Koy, who is in charge of their street team. I’d been corresponding with him since I’m on the Litz street team and it was great to finally meet him in person. I got to meet Taco Olmstead, Litz’s manager, finally and we all chatted for a while. I park the car and walk in to analyze where we want to set up camp. The venue is a little property owned by Cody Fowler and Zach Johnson of The Sweet Life and Eric Rioux. They love Litz and did an incredible job setting everything up and making to the property perfect for the weekend. There wasn’t many people there yet so we got to choose the prime location to set up. Right in front of the stage. We began to set up Bullshit BLVD for the weekend.
As the day progresses and everyone starts to get there, the sense of love and family begins to feel overwhelming. We all came together for a purpose. To celebrate the people we love and our mutual love for music. After a while all of our friends arrived and we all were enjoying each others presence to the fullest. It’s finally dinner time and time for the potluck. Everyone brought their share of dishes, our crew made tacos. Since it was our friend Lily’s birthday, she made a Lit’z inspired cake and we all sang happy birthday to her. Everything was delicious. After dinner, bellies too full to do anything, a few of us decided to lay down in a kiddie pool we blew up and filled with blankets and pillows. I don’t think I’ve been that relaxed in a long time.
Next it was time for Litz’s first ever acoustic set which consisted of:
- Turn On Delight
- Steamboat Girls
- Summertime Breeze
- Ratt Daddy
- Holy Mountain
- Tomatoes in Summertime
- Japanese Love Affair
- Everybody Wants To Be A Cat
The set was absolutely beautiful. After it was over, we all dispersed. Some going to sit at the fire and play music, some hanging out at camp. Wherever we were, we were all together and loving life.
The next morning, I wake up early to work a shift at the front gate with Kassy. A few of our friends came down to hang out with us and brought my stove top so I could make some breakfast while we worked. To help us pass the time, Lily brought us some chalk and we decorated the road leading into the festival.
While we were coloring, my friend Ray took a walk in the woods and when he emerged, he was holding what can only be described as a halloween totem. The totem was made up of a head, a black wig, red light up eyes and a black dress all perched on top of a mop. We named her Raggy and she instantly became part of the family. The rest of the day everyone danced with her. After my shift at the gate was over, I went back to camp to enjoy the rest of the bands for the day.
They consisted of:
Sun & Rain
Of Good Nature
Litz Set 1:
- Red Roses > Lindsey Low Hands
- Cheap Thrills
- Give Us The Weed > Funkin Problem >
- Use Me
- Midnight Bus >
- You N Me
The Sweet Life
Litz Set 2:
- Stawberry Letter 23>
- Round Trip Ticket
- No Sleep XL
- 5th Element
- Pleasant Street
- Whosa Whatsa
- Super Jam Good Good*
- Jungle Boogie*
*Super jam with special guests Justin Robb, Mike Litz, Natalie Brooke, Dan Gellerman and Zach Johnson
After the show was over I sat at the fire for a while and then went back to camp to watch my friend Tiz spin fire. We all sat around to enjoy the last little bit of time we had to enjoy each others company and then we went to sleep. In the morning I packed up and headed home.
I asked the band members and their street team coordinators (Lou Mic Koy and Galen Davis) a few questions and here’s how they responded:
Me-“When did Litz form and what changes have been made, artist and genre wise?”
Austin Litz–“LITZ officially formed in 2013. Michael and Logan, the twins, had a spot in Gaithersburg and I was crashing on their couch after college and we would often party and jam in the basement for fun. I had a psychedelic vision that starting a band was the right move for my life around the same time and we formed the band. We briefly were rock, reggae, ska vibes due to our punk/ska/reggae history but quickly started experimenting with funk and go go beats with synthesizers. We have been refining our own unique blend of future funk rock ever since.”
Me-“How and when did you join the band?”
Pat Shine-” Their old guitar player Justin Robb is a good friend of mine. He called me up one day and asked me if I wanted in. My first time playing on stage with LITZ was 1/1/2018 at Gypsy Sally’s in DC.”
Nick Thrasher–“I joined the band shortly after it’s inception in (I believe?) 2013. I’ve been playing music with Austin for over 15 years now and after he finished college he came back home and started a band with his brothers. I knew he had a vision that I wanted to be a part of so I asked if they wanted a percussionist and the rest is history.”
Me-“What does ragamaru stand for?”
Austin Litz–“Ragamaru is an exclamatory word expressing a positive outlook towards life, situations, and events despite the challenges, paradox’s, and negative energies that may be involved. It is a word designed as a tool to help navigate thinking around fear and propaganda”
Me-“Do you want to keep the festival small and intimate for as long as possible or let it grow as fast as it can?”
Austin Litz–“The bottom line of the festival is to keep the vibes true to heart and cultivate a magical experience, therefore we will grow at a natural rate to whatever size it is destined for. We’re hoping for big sunflowers this year.”
Me-“What was your favorite part of the weekend?”
Austin Litz–“My favorite part of the weekend was the super jam. Always a pleasure to jam with my big brother, who used to tour with the band, Mike Litz, my roommate and my wonderful amazingly talented girlfriend, Natalie Brooke.”
Logan Litz–“Watch people trying to ride the bull in the pool as the sun came up.”
Pat Shine–” My favorite part of the weekend was hanging out with everybody. We have a strong family vibe with our fans and I really enjoy spending time with everybody.”
Nick Thrasher–“Favorite part of the weekend for me was people telling me how much of an amazing time they were having and how much they loved the festival. Made me feel like a job well done.”
Me-“What would you change for next year?”
Austin Litz–“Next year we would like to do music a good bit later into the night with late night sets, etc..”
Me-“What set this festival aside from other festivals?”
Austin Litz–“I feel like our vibes and purpose towards the art of music and event throwing really set this festival apart from others. Everyone uniting under love is a powerful thing. With open minds and hearts and protection from fear we will change the world.”
Logan Litz–“It felt like everyone knew everyone there. It was just a great party with close family.”
Pat Shine–“The special connection that we have with our fans is what made it different for me. It really does feel like family.”
Nick Thrasher–“We definitely drew a lot of inspiration from all of the various festival experiences we’ve had collectively, so there’s definitely lots of similarities to other events, but I think what separated ours from others was the amount of inclusion we were going for this year. We wanted everyone to feel at home with family and to have a sense of involvement in the whole project.”
Lou Mic Koy–“Litz and Ragamaru is a re-imagination of a festival band and a festival. Ragamaru follows in the footsteps of Taco and Elise’s, ‘The Mad Tea Party Jam.’ A lot of bands and festivals have formulas that work, a very niche crowd that really likes a specific type of jam, funk, bluegrass, or even pop music. What we’re trying to put together is a movement. Our motto is Love is an action word. This team is competent and able to carry out that and truly live it. I have grown with the band as a professional in the music industry, and the Litz family are my second family.”
Galen Davis–“I think Ragamaru was really different from a lot of festivals because of the feeling of family, we truly are a LITZ family in every sense. Family members of the band showed up in mass, parents and siblings, fans brought there kids and loved ones, my own little sister even came out for her first camping festival, that was really special. Everyone there treated each other with respect, acceptance and love and I know that no matter how big the band gets and Ragamaru gets we will always maintain that sense of family. I wanna thank all the attendees because it literally could not have happened without a single one of you!”
Me-“Who or what is your biggest music inspiration?”
Austin Litz–“My musical inspirations are all over the place and it’s really hard to say I have a favorite but if I were to pick one the moves my heart the most I’d have to say Pink Floyd.”
Logan Litz–“I have so many musical inspirations and they are constantly changing but my big style inspirations are Johnny Thunders and Mick Jones.”
Pat Shine–“Its very tough for me to narrow it down to one particular influence, but if I had to pick one it would be Jimi Hendrix. He was an artist way ahead of his time, and there is a lot of magic in that. Robert Johnson is also a classic example of that. I have a lot of appreciation for artists like that, in all different forms of art.”
Nick Thrasher–“Although the band itself has a ton of different routes of inspiration coming in, most of personal inspiration in the past decade has come from Papadosio and other similar acts like Lotus and Sound Tribe, etc. music that really pushes the boundaries on what can be accomplished with sound.”
Me-“If you could have one person or band sit or play at your festival, who would it be?”
Logan Litz–“Angelo Moore from Fishbone because he’s bad ass at everything.”
Pat Shine-“Tenacious D…. that would just be awesome.”
Nick Thrasher-“This probably comes down to my own personal opinion, but having Ghost Note would be amazing and being able to coordinate some sort of sit in with them would be even more amazing. They’re just a bunch of world renowned musicians having an incredible time jamming on stage.”
Me-“What was the role you played in the planning process of the festival and what role do you play with the band?”
Lou Mic Koy–“I have been street team manager for two and a half years and now I share street team manager role with my counterpart Galen. I run the grassroots promo efforts for the festival. Taco, Galen and I were in charge of the invitation process getting the core fan base to the Ragamaru private group for updates about the event. I also planned and ran the gate process at rag.”
Galen Davis–“I’ll answer the second part first if that’s ok. My role for the band has mostly been promoting, helping to run the LITZ street team with Lou. We focus on online promoting through social media that engages the fans by giving them an opportunity to share shows on LITZ tour with there friends and social media groups for a chance to earn free tickets to that show. More recently I’ve been helping whenever needed running the merch table. As far my involvement for the planning of Ragamaru, we used the LITZ street team and LITZ family pages to make sure fans knew the process to apply for invites. Beside that I really just tried to make sure I could help provide any extra supplies the festival may have needed, stuff like lots of tape, zip ties, pens, markers and such since I knew he would need these things for the merch table.”
Me-“How long have you been working with band?”
Lou Mic Koy–“I’ve been working with the band for about 2 and a half years but I’ve known and been seeing Austin’s projects since we met in my freshman year of college in 2011.”
Galen Davis-“I’m terrible with time but I wanna say I started sometime in 2017 after being an avid fan since about 2014.”
Me-“Do you enjoy working the merch table and did you ever have an off the wall experience?”
Galen Davis-“I love working the merch table. Its the center of the action if you ask me. You get to meet a lot of people, new fans who want album recommendations for there first LITZ album to buy, die hard fans who want all the latest merch, and LITZ friends and family who want to continue to support the band. Regardless of who comes up to the booth they are always in a great mood and you can’t help but be in a great mood while you do it. Off the wall experiences? Nothing too crazy yet but I’ve had a few odd experiences. One time when the guys opened for Papadosio I was asked when Dosio would play ‘Find Your Cloud’ because the person wanted to go smoke and didn’t want to miss it, not crazy but so far probably the oddest thing so far. You see a lot of crazy stuff people watching but for the most part the craziness avoids the merch booth.”
Me-“What made you want to get involved with the work you do in the music scene?”
Galen Davis–“It was a snowballing series of events that got me involved with the work I do in the scene. I was a huge fan of the scene and everything about it ever since I started going to festivals. By the time I was going to the 8×10 every opportunity I had and following bands like LITZ to shows and festivals in the region, I started to ask myself, how can I give back to the scene? So after I joined my first street team I was hooked. I’ve had the opportunity to work with and help a lot of great bands and festivals in the scene and I found it immensely satisfying. I feel very lucky Lou asked me to help him with LITZ street team because not only did I love the music I love the energy and love they put into the everything they do and I can tell the other fans feel the same way. A lot of that love and energy was put into Ragamaru and it definitely showed.”
In conclusion, this was one of the best weekends of my life by far. This is what I live for; celebrating with friends who’ve become family, crying because of the joy of music, meeting new people, and just enjoying life. The festival only held 200 people so it was intimate and we each got to know one another on a special level. I want to end this by thanking everyone involved in making this such an amazing weekend and I can’t wait to see what next year has in store!
Litz’s is a four piece ensemble that consists of:
They describe themselves as a band that, “Brings together a wide array of musical influences ranging from funk, jam, go-go, soul, electronica and just about everywhere in between to amalgamate a new sound for the ears of the world. Their sound strides to sonically transport it’s listeners to another planet free of the stress, struggles, and tribulations of modern day life through the use of funky horn riffs, wah-wah keys, pounding bass, driving/progressive rhythms and met your face guitar.”