All Go West almost happened in 2015. Despite low financial support from local sponsors, co-founder and director Arieh Samson considered going forward with the free daylong West Asheville music festival, but eventually decided to take a year off. “It wouldn’t have been the event that the community deserves,” he says.
Over the winter, Samson put out a two-sentence feeler to the West Asheville Exchange Facebook group to gauge interest in the festival’s revival. Within the hour, he’d received calls from multiple local print and television news outlets in addition to post after supportive post in response to his query. Interest from local businesses soon followed.
For its Saturday, June 25, return, All Go West adds a stage at The Brew Pump — bringing the stage total to four — and an enhanced family-friendly experience on multiple stages during the day’s first half. As he did in 2014, Samson has booked innovative touring acts (Atlanta psych-rappers The Difference Machine) and those on the fringe of the Asheville scene (krautrockers Nest Egg) for The Mothlight.
Headlining All Go West is Floating Action. Frontman Seth Kauffman started off 2016 with a bang — otherwise known as the double LP Hold Your Fire. Other than guest vocals from Asheville’s Angel Olsen, Brevard’s Shannon Whitworth and Jim James of My Morning Jacket, the Black Mountain-based artist plays all of the instruments on the 66-minute marvel, whose path to listeners involved its share of creative thinking.
Floating Action’s former label New West wasn’t into the idea of a double album, and other record companies with whom Kauffman spoke all advised against the approach, citing its long songs and lack of identifiable singles or radio-ready hits. “Which is baffling, because nothing out there now that is successful — I’m talking outside the weird, Top-40, Katy Perry world — adheres to that decades-old formula,” Kauffman says. “It’s 2016: Nothing is the same in the music industry, but most labels, etc., are too scared to try something that’s unproven.”
In early 2015, Kauffman joined James at La La Land studio in Louisville, Ky., to play guitars on Ray LaMontagne’s Ouroboros. At that point, the Hold Your Fire songs were still mostly in demo form, and Kauffman was figuring out how to tighten up his album. Being around LaMontagne and his commitment to making a fluid work where the songs both work individually and all flow together as one giant piece did the trick. “Ray gave me that final conceptual push, to just step out of the current and go that different direction of the loose, long-form double-album mix-tape vibe,” he says.
Kauffman gets the sense that most artists want to make a record like Hold Your Fire, but are thwarted by myriad interior and exterior forces. “We all have a little-slash-lot of that evil, greedy voice in our heads that’s saying, ‘You could make this pure art, but maybe nobody will like it’ or, ‘You could sell out a just a little — or a lot — and compromise and play it safe, try to make it more like I think people will like and then have a better chance at being successful,’” he says.
As for sharing the music, Kauffman pressed what he dubs “a wise 300 copies” on vinyl through the small boutique label PIAPTK — short for “people in a position to know” — run by his Tucson-based friends Mike Dixon and Dr. Dog multi-instrumentalist Dimitri Manos. Together, the three created what Kauffman calls “cheap, cool, handmade packaging that really looks like those weird ’70s Korean bootleg imports” to fit the album’s vibe. With minimal fanfare preceding its debut, he was happily surprised to see the vinyl run sell out on its opening day.
Aside from his own releases, Kauffman can be heard in a duet with Olsen on a cover of “Attics of My Life,” part of the recent Day of the Dead Grateful Dead tribute organized by the band The National. He also plays on Olsen’s new record, which is set for a September release, and is the bassist in James’ solo band. That ensemble had its first gig on June 1 in New York City, part of a “secret” block party to unveil Cadillac headquarters’ move from Detroit. “There will be tours coming up, but I’m not supposed say much else about it,” Kauffman says.
Prior to the closing All Go West set at the Isis Restaurant & Music Hall — where they’ll be joined by Michael Libramento and Evan Martin of the original Floating Action lineup —Kauffman and guitarist Drew Heller embark on a series of Floating Action shows that take them through Texas, Arizona and California. Kauffman will play a Fender Bass VI, which he says he’s “never really messed with,” and “some weird foot-drums … built out of scrap wood and guitar pickups,” also an unknown entity. With Heller on guitar, playing through “this wild, giant metal loudspeaker that he got in Africa,” Kauffman expects the duo’s tour to be completely different from a full-band vibe — and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“There’s absolutely no crutch or moments where you can just ‘let the band play’ or whatever,” Kauffman says. “[It’s] kind of intense, but I always get excited about a challenge that looks like it could completely flop. So, jumping back into that full-band All Go West fest lineup scenario will likely be extremely fun and powerful.”
WHAT: All Go West Music Festival
WHERE: Isis Restaurant & Music Hall, The Mothlight and The Brew Pump
WHEN: Saturday, June 25. Free. Full schedule at allgowest.com