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Green River Festival: The Sunday / Bum’s Rush Edition! July 26, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in music.
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This isn’t going to do the great musicians at Sunday’s event justice, but I’m falling behind in my other obligations, so it will be what it is.

The day started off with a misty 5:30am sunrise:

Eric played the bagpipes, the balloons went up, and then I took a nap in the shade of my car.

Hey, two and a half hours of sleep just hadn’t recharged me from Saturday.

I woke an hour or so later to the sound checks happening at both the upper and lower stages.  This sound crew was good,  and put a lot of time and effort into getting it right:

Thanks, guys!

By noon the line at the gate stretched way away around the parking lots, with people of all ages enduring the heat to get a good spot:

At least there was a breeze!

Promptly at noon (Saturday had been delayed a bit,) the gates opened and the masses streamed in.  They were barely getting seated when the music began with one man and a guitar.  If anyone expected this to be a throw-away opening act, they were soon to be wonderfully disappointed; Martin Simpson played and sang passionately and powerfully, turning his beautiful acoustic guitar into what sounded like a whole band, with luscious bass notes and complex chording underlaying spectacular slide playing:

I’m embarrassed to admit that I wasn’t familiar with his music, but his blend of traditional and original British folk gems blew me away, and I’m certain I wasn’t alone in feeling that way!

OK, next (“Bum’s Rush,” remember?) came Elizabeth Cook, trilling deceptively pretty country songs in a Dolly Parton voice (though without the accessories:)

I say “deceptively pretty” because she wasted no time getting down and dirty, making it clear that an unfaithful man had better not be her  unfaithful man, and standing up for the “fairer sex” with songs like, “Sometimes It Takes Balls To Be a Woman.”  The ladies loved it and sang along, while their hubbies mouthed the words and looked a wee bit nervous…

Anyway, she was great fun, but I missed the end of her act, instead heading  down to the lower stage to catch a bit of local wonders Darlingside,  a Valley quintet including mandolin, fiddle, guitar, electric cello and drums:

I’m glad to have caught them; their interplay was brilliant, creating an uncategorizable blend of folk, rock and classical elements with a great energy:

Nice stuff, and as they’re local, I hope to hear them again soon!

Onward and upward:

At the main stage, local legend Chris Smither was just getting started, playing with his band The Motivators (he’s usually a solo act, doing commendable percussion with his feet!)  Chris’ is an act you shouldn’t miss if he comes your way:

Amazing guitar playing, distinctive vocals and the ability to turn a phrase in a way which is at once unique and shockingly true – no cliches here, just honest answers to questions you didn’t know to ask!

His band was new to me, except for guitar virtuoso David Goodrich, who had impressed me at a previous show:

It was all good, melding bluesey tunes with beautiful vocal harmonies and an impish sense of humor.  Kudos, Mr. Smither!  🙂

The Meat of the Sunday Meal came next…

Richard Thompson!

Holy Cow.

I mean, Holy Cow!

If you never heard one man play three guitar parts while singing his black heart out, you should have been there.   This guy’s been doing what he does for a very long time, and it shows – exquisitely crafted stories of being wrong and losing love and ruining his life, told with burning pathos, powered by this One Man Guitar Army:

If a lifetime of hard living, serious addictions and losing the love of his life have tempered his abilities, I can’t imagine to what heights he might have soared with his full faculties.

But then again, the stories he wrings from his bones and serves up with a twinkle of wry humor might not come out the way they do, and his loss is our great gain:

The crowd ate it up, roaring for more, singing along  and pushing him to a brief encore (my throat still hurts!)  😉

By the time Mr. Thompson had had his way with us, we were all exhausted and hungry; pity the poor Winter Pills, who played next to a sea of people who tried to be enthusiastic, but really needed a breather.  A lot of people took this opportunity to avail themselves of the excellent (and groovy) food vendors:

That shot taken before the gates opened; after Richard Thompson I couldn’t get near it!

Sunday was a fail for me getting to all of the bands, all of the time, so I’ll just apologize to Lee Fields, C. J. Chenier, Gordon Gano, Brown Bird, and all of the fine acts in the Meltdown Tent.  After Saturday’s marathon and the 4am start, I just wanted to kick back a bit and enjoy some of this great music.

The crowd got revved up again for Rubblebucket, a really strong jam/funk outfit from Brooklyn, New York.  Their sound merges the jam-band energy of Phish with a spectacularly fine horn and horn-bop duo who traded their ‘bones for vocal renditions of great horn arrangements; they chased one of the most unique guitar players I’ve ever had the pleasure of heaingr all over the musical map, and provided pumping lyrical counterpoints to the astonishing high-energy vocals of singer Kalmia Traver:

Set this all to challenging and totally atypical rhythms, fill the spaces with effervescent synth and stir, or rather dance yourself into a frenzy.  My face hurt from smiling, they were that good!

…But sadly, they were a nightmare to photograph from out in the audience – between their frenetic movements and the streamers blowing from every mic stand, auto focus was out of the question, and the shallow depth of field on my 400mm lens was far from optimal for the job.  Sorry folks.

The show wrapped up with Ozomatli, an LA band known for powering dance raves through the roof of any room.  They had a head start with this fired-up audience, and even though their urban funk sensibilities aren’t our usual hill-town fare, they totally nailed it, with a line-up of four drummer/percussionists:

(…that one’s for the Ladies 😉 )

…powering another killer horn section and fabulous guitar player to rave speed and beyond.

I did my usual vanishing act when they started to peak, choosing once again to hit the road before it got choked to a standstill by thousands of wired drivers all trying to be the first out of the lot.

So that’s it, folks.  Two days of great music and food, a beautiful balloon ride, and four posts worth of typos which I’ll find long after you do!  I’m not proof-reading anything  tonight – my “bum’s rush” wrap-up has taken me ’till 1:30 am!

Green River Festival 2012, Part 1. July 20, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in music.
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Whoa.  This is going to be a monumental set of posts, with photos culled from nearly a thousand shots taken.

I know, this is a cross I constructed for myself to carry, but the opportunity to try lots of photographic ideas and techniques made me run my ass off for two days, elbowing old ladies out of the way and kneeing little children to get to the money-shots…

…well, almost.

The Green River Festival began as a balloon festival with a little music, and has evolved into one of the Northeast’s premier summer music festivals, with hot air balloons as an aside.

To balloonists, this is a palpable loss.

But if you love live music, this event is still worthy of a spot on your calendar, and I’d like to suggest that you look forward to 2013 – my 2012 “early-bird” tickets cost me $60 for the weekend, compared to the at-the-gate price of $75/day.

Well, this year there was WAY too much music and humanity to document in a single post, so I’ll expect to spread it out over three or four posts.

Saturday kicked off with folks setting up camp down by the stage:

…and the opening act of Sarah Lee Guthrie, totally winning over a crowd who came for the headliners:

This past Saturday was Woodie Guthrie’s 100th birthday anniversary, and his son Arlo would close this day’s events with a Guthrie Family Reunion, including grand-daughter Sarah Lee.

At any rate, Sarah Lee was excellent, and easy on the eyes as well:

She’d later return for the evening’s Main Event with her Dad Arlo:

…but that was much later.

Next up was Pokey Lafarge and the South City Three, a roots music outfit which slipped the novelty noose with virtuosic playing, fun material and a compelling delivery:

…not to mention the best pompadour I’ve seen since they took Pee Wee away in cuffs:

Pokey gave it his all:

…as did his harmonica/washboard player:

They took the crowd back to the ’50s Midwest, which seemed appropriate for the Guthrie theme, and the audience loved it:

Next up was the David Wax Museum, another mix of Americana and modern sass.  David played the pants off of a ukulale and a little acoustic guitar and sang with conviction:

…assisted by a helluva fiddle player:

…who also stroked the jawbone of an ass to spectacular effect.


…and a concertina (I think) player who had it happenin’:

I’m going to apologize right here for not getting the bass player, who hung back in the shadows, and the drummer, who was buried behind his cymbals.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking with it.

At any rate, they rocked the crowd, which was by now stretching off into the distance:

There was a lot going on here – three stages of music, arts and crafts vendors, children’s activities, and great food prepared by a slew of excellent local restaurants.

And Hula Hooping provided by Shenandoah, a local woman who teaches the art:

If you’ve never considered hooping to be an “art,” you should see what she does with that lucky thing.

(‘Scuse me while I open a couple of windows…)

…ok, where was I?

Oh, yeah, at the Green River Festival!  🙂

The next performers on the Main Stage were Lake Street Dive, a quartet with its genesis at the New England Conservatory of Music, where trumpeter Mike “McDuck” Olson assembled the line-up and declared them A Band, then spent the next several years searching for their present sound:

I didn’t make the journey with them, but if this is the destination, I have to believe it was well worth the wait.

Mr. McDuck also played commendable electric guitar, but spent the great majority of the set on trumpet:

…which totally blew me away.  Thanks, Mike.

Drummer Mike Calabrese made magic with a simple kit, never standing out but always standing in, singing and playing with a level of class which denied the band’s simple structure:

Layer onto that the extraordinary upright bass playing and wonderful vocal harmonies of Bridget Kearney:

…and something quite unexpected happened – the nimble bass, sensual trumpet and two harmonizing voices created a richly textured tapestry onto which was laid the powerfully evocative vocals of Ms. Rachael Price:

Oh.  My.  God.

I can’t remember when I was last so blown away by a singer, one who knew just how to fondle a ballad, then send a soul song soaring!  If you’ve never heard the name, join the club, but expect to hear it more in the future.

Plus, she’s got that, how you say, look:

Between the 90 degree heat and the hormones, I was, well…smitten.

People, Hot Tip of the Whole Post: LAKE STREET DIVE.

All of this was happening on the Main Stage, with two other stages honking simultaneously, and I haven’t even got to the Big Names!  Obviously, I’ll need to move it along if you’re ever going to hear the whole tale.

I’ll try.

But it was all so good…


*A photographers’ note:

In the past I’ve liked the stage-side look of photos taken looking up at musicians with a 50mm or shorter lense; they have an immediacy which curls a viewer’s fingers around the lip of the stage.  But they aren’t always flattering to the performers, especially if big hips and a tiny head aren’t what you’re gunning for.

So this time ’round I spent a lot less time lying on the ground amidst stomping dancers (though you’ll probably see a few of those) and a lot more time backed off, with my 400mm Gizmo on a mono-pod, sometimes with a 2X tele-extender.  The results are most apparent in the face-shots, which I’m seeing as both intimate and artsy.

I hope you’ll agree.