If there’s one thing that made Twiddle and The Werks‘ drive-in show at Legend Valley on Friday night feel like a real concert, it was me getting there partway through the opening song. In an act that will surely get my certified Ohio head status revoked, I drove right past exit 132 for Newark/Thornville which lets you off right at the venue formerly known as Buckeye Lake.
With the two bands—whose friendship is well documented over the years with collaborative gigs, sit-ins, and more—splitting the bill for the two-night run, things got off to a punctual start as Twiddle took the stage at 8 pm sharp. Saturday night will see The Werks playing first with Twiddle closing things out. However The Werks may have gotten the raw end of the deal closing out the show on Friday, but more on that later.
Regardless of when we got in, Twiddle wasted absolutely no time with an opening “Nicodemus Portulay” which immediately threw down into a pulsating jam. The persistent rain—and distant thunder—that plagued LV was no deterrent to Twiddle and, following some high-intensity improvisation, the band took things down a notch with some slow funk that ultimately segued into “Subconscious Prelude”. Upon completion of Mihali Savoulidis‘ lyrics, the tune stopped on a dime for a funky break, which opened up some tag team interplay between bassist Zdenek Gubb and keyboardist Ryan Dempsey, whose extensive use of the clavinet really upped the funk factor.
After more of what can only be described as primal jamming, things took another hard turn when the band explored some electronic elements that ultimately gave way to “The Box”. After a thorough telling of the Somewhere on the Mountain track came the first stoppage in play in the nearly 50 minutes the band was onstage. Yet the show showed no sign of slowing down as Twiddle loaded up “Enter” which flowed straight into “Orlando’s”.
Admittedly, I am not the biggest Twiddle aficionado and—to this point in the show—wasn’t entirely familiar with any of the songs. Thus the band playing one that I know and love from seeing Twiddle at numerous festivals added an inclusive element that made me finally feel like I was in on the joke. The beautiful movement enjoyed a healthy mid-song jam that ultimately led straight into “Apples”. The deft ear could pick up teases of Michael Jackson‘s “Smooth Criminal” during the improvisation as the band gradually brought the BPM down to cow funk levels.
Yet another familiar tune—at least for me—came with the sing-along “Every Soul”. Through the end of “Every Soul” the band brought “Orlando’s” back around to finish the composition, before eventually bringing up The Werks guitarist Chris Houser to close out the set. While the crowd was abuzz with guesses as to what song the two venerable guitarists would play, I sincerely doubt anyone anticipated them to go into Celine Dion‘s “My Heart Will Go On” from the soundtrack to the motion picture Titanic. The brief telling of the instantly-recognizable instrumental soon flowed into “Hatti’s Jam”, where unfortunately it appeared that Houser was merely providing backup guitar to Mihali.
Finally, as the rain continued to batter the dedicated fans—whose night of music wasn’t even halfway through—Mihali led the band into a fitting “When It Rains It Pours”. It was here that Houser was finally able to break out of his roll of playing second fiddle and truly command the stage, a stage that is rightfully his after years of headlining The Werk Out at Legend Valley. With that, Twiddle departed to make way for The Werks.
As punctual as ever, The Werks took the stage at 10 pm sharp as weather conditions refused to improve. The set opened with a truly out-of-left-field take on “O Fortuna” by composer Carl Off—the cliche classical music from any B-list action movie trailer. The Werks took the composition most people know by just “dun dun DUN dun” and spun it in a dark, terrifying even, direction. However, soon this gave way to Houser’s beacon two-note phrase that kicks off “Not Alone”.
It took a moment for it to fully set in that here I was, back seeing The Werks at Legend Valley. Sure, it didn’t look much like The Werk Out—one of the most influential musical gatherings to my formative years—but the pieces were all there, with Twiddle playing no small part in that formula. These feelings where perhaps kickstarted by drummer Rob Chafin‘s ode to alienation in “Not Alone”, and reminding me of when I found acceptance in this community of dedicated Midwestern fans.
The Inside A Dream track saw keyboardist Dan Shaw quickly take over with dominating synth work in the ensuing jam. Meanwhile, the bolts of lightning in the sky drew perilously closer, and each song the band played could have been there last. In fact, “Not Alone”—the second song of the set—was their last as The Werks, as well as The Werkers Union (their fanbase), took shelter for a 30 minute rain/lightning delay as the precipitation officially escalated to dumping status.
As droves of cars departed from Legend Valley, the delay dragged on and the rain refused to let up while the dedicated few stuck it out in their cars and under the canopies they had wisely set up ahead of the show. These were the true card-carrying Werkers Union members. At long last, the band returned to the stage as the rain resumed a tolerable pace and the lightning had passed further away, though still visible over the horizon.
Appropriately, The Werks resumed the show with “Cloudhopper”, and every fan joined with Houser in belting out the line, “chase away the rain!” With the show—like all the other Legend Valley drive-in concerts I’ve attended thus far—slated to end at 11:30, it was anybody’s guess as to whether The Werks would just jam this out for 30 minutes to close the show with a three-song set, or try and cram as many tunes in as they could before curtain. At any rate, we basked in the moment as the band had triumphantly returned to the stage, this time with bassist Jake Goldberg taking charge of the jam with wet basslines during the rhythmic breakdown.
As the jam continued on and the clock ticked, the band brought down “Cloudhopper” to its basic rhythm, allowing Houser to then build it back up to a mighty peak. By the end, Shaw came out of the backfield to take the torch from Houser as he took over with full on “Frankenstein” madness on synths. As the spellbinding intro to “Flatiron” came on at about 11:20, myself and my compatriots figured that this would be the closer to an abridged Werks set. In all, we were thankful that the band was even able to return for any amount of music.
Though I consider it to be The Werks’ opus—at least since “Duck Farm”—”Flatiron” doesn’t carry too much in the way of built-in jams or vehicle possibilities, but instead is just a compositional masterpiece. However, it allows plenty of space for Houser to rip the song to shreds with blistering solos. Much to my surprise, the music kept on going past 11:30 as The Werks blasted off with the instrumental “Moonset”. Yet more feelings of normalcy returned as I was able to “woo” across Legend Valley for the song’s built-in breaks. As the band wrung every last drop out of “Moonset”, I thought surely this must be the last song of the show.
But the band played on with the second-ever run through “Hold Your Line”. The song—which debuted at the band’s show in Cincinnati at Riverfront Live last month—was loosely tied to Chafin’s urgent call for the audience to vote. Perhaps coyly the band then went into “Onslaught”, a song that features lightning storm sound effects to signal the start of the tune. Or perhaps they did it because the song is an energized closer that leaves every ounce of energy on the stage. With that—at the stroke of midnight—it appeared that the show was finally over as Chafin bid us all goodnight.
As we piled into my 2003 Subaru Outback to begin the drive home, some astute passenger in my vehicle was able to differentiate the Phish cover being played onstage from the Phish bootleg coming out of my speakers. In the nick of time, I was able to return to my same parking spot to catch The Werks take on “Also Sprach Zarathustra” with a little help from Twiddle’s Ryan Dempsey. After a healthy outing of the classical number, the show was officially over. In yet another embarrassing moment, I assumed that—because of the late hour—they wouldn’t play an encore. I guess The Werks still have plenty to teach me at Legend Valley.
Setlist: Twiddle | Legend Valley | Thornville, OH | 10/23/20
Set: Nicodemus Portulay> Subconscious Prelude> The Box, Enter> Orlando’s> Apples> Every Soul> Orlando’s> My Heart Will Go On (instrumental)  Hatti’s Jam  > When It Rains It Poors 
 Smooth Criminal (Michael Jackson) teases
 With Chris Houser from The Werks
Setlist: The Werks | Legend Valley | Thornville, OH | 10/23/20
Set: O Fortuna (Carmina Burana)> Not Alone, Cloudhopper> Flatiron, Moonset, Hold Your Line, Onslaught
Encore: Also Sprach Zarathustra (2001)
 30 minute lightning/rain delay
 w/ Ryan Dempsey (Twiddle) on keys
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