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Yankee Doodle Days! August 2, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Politics and Society, Uncategorized.
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4 comments

Our little town has one stand-out summer event: Yankee Doodle Days, a Friday-through-Sunday extravaganza.

Now, “extravaganza” might conjure certain images for some people, and other images for, um, other people.

Those other people?  Yeah, that’s us!  🙂

This celebration of rural life takes place at the Charlemont Fairgrounds, which has for the past decade been the scene of Herculean efforts by a small, dedicated group of local folks.  After generations of neglect and decay, the fairgrounds is seeing a resurgence, with a functioning Exhibition Hall (which less discerning eyes might assume was an old barn,) a roofed pavilion with a stage and lots of picnic tables and a covered ox/horse draw pit with bleacher seating.  There aren’t adequate words to thank the folks who put so much of their time and effort into this improbable but unstoppable resurrection.

Likewise, the planning and execution of this three days of fun takes a year of work, pulling participants together, raising money for contest prizes and expenses such as insurance…

You get the picture.  I’m going to show you a good time which looks totally low-key and country, but it doesn’t just happen because a bunch of hicks show up.  It happens because a lot of people work really hard to make it happen.

So, here we go!

Friday night’s Main Event is the fireworks display, which is saved for last.  But setting it up starts a good bit earlier:

These folks have nerves of steel and a a gallows humor befitting self-proclaimed “pyros.”

But the fruits of their labors would be harvested after dark.  Meanwhile, there were classic cars to judge, including hot rods:

…and less jazzed up models, like this old Studebaker:

The owner wasn’t around when I was, so I didn’t get the year, but I liked that blue job!

The evening’s events included the first rounds of the Ox-Draw:

…which I had never seen before.  Call me a City-Boy, but I found it to be in some instances unjustifiably brutal; all of the drivers used thick nylon canes to “encourage” their team to pull, but some treated their teams with such viciousness, I found it hard to abide.  I expect to try to get to a few more ox-draws before I draw my final conclusions, but I have a suspicion that there’s some serious abuse going on here in the name of “sport.”

The folks in the bleachers must have been veterans, as they seemed unphased by the sight, as did the little kids in the adjacent “daycare:”

In fact, they didn’t seem to be paying attention to the on-goings, but rather to be running their own little dairy farm.  😉

There was activity on the main stage as well, including a DJ, a magician and, for the little children and their Daddies, hula-hooping:

That’s Shenandoah again.  The girl gets around!

And of course, what would a country fair be without a pie-eating contest?

The adults were slow to line up, ’cause we’re all so proper out here you know.  I tried to instigate a grudge match between the Fire Department ( a lot of big dudes) and the Police Department (a lot of other  big dudes,) but the police seemed to be of the opinion that it was Conduct Unbecoming.  We eventually got some takers:

The kids were a good deal more enthusiastic, with the younger teenagers diving right in, to the amazement of the littler kids:

This lad came in second, but had the First Place Face I wanted for the photo.  😆

Eventually night fell, and as the clouds moved in to obscure the nearly full moon, a big American flag waved from the ladder of a fire truck:

…and the crowd gathered for the Big Show – Fireworks!

The valley rolled with the BOOMs of the big ones and the sizzles of the fancy ones:

The folks gathered gave up “Ooohs” and “Aaaahs” as the show went on, filling the sky with smoke and light and color:

I’ve got to figure out how to capture fireworks in the box; these shots are OK, but I was hoping for something a little more distinctive.  Help me out if you know any cool tricks not involving a hat (yeah, I was using that one.)

With the fading of the Grand Finale, the audience bolted for the gate, and I was right there with them – I had two more days of this revelry to document!

(To Be Continued – it’s going on midnight, and I have a big day tomorrow.)

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Green River Festival 2012, Part 2. July 24, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in music.
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4 comments

The music at the GRF just kept going, with three stages crankin’ it out the whole time.  I ran like a mad fool to cover it all, but largely settled on the main stage performers to put these posts together.

After Lake Street Drive had mopped the lawn with us, JD McPherson had the unenviable job of getting us all back down to earth, then launching us back into the stratosphere.

Which he did, with passion and conviction, and we loved it:

He was accompanied by a wild bassist who slapped the piss out of his tool and really made the act special:

Cool to the Nth Degree:

Nice stuff.  If you see the name at a local venue, GO.  That is all.

Up stage, Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires changed the pace,  lending a Funkin’ Soul vibe which sat precipitously near the edge of the pseudo-eclectic palettes of the hill-towners who made up the bulk of the audience:

He totally nailed what he was here to hammer, and if the post of Hardest Working Man In Show Business is open (and it currently is,) Mr Bradley has my vote.  Dance moves, mic-tricks and a deeply passionate delivery bowled me and a lot of other folks over:

It was obvious that he’d had a big bowl of James Brown for breakfast, and we appreciated that, but it was a big stretch from the banjo and mandolin meat and potatoes which have traditionally adorned our Green River table.  Perhaps a gig at The Calvin would deliver an audience which had come for just that, and they wouldn’t have to switch gears to be on his page.

Charles Bradley deserves that, and I’m going to lobby for it.

A bit later, The Sweetback Sisters wowed the crowd with a more locally bred mix of electric and acoustic guitar and fiddle:

They kicked butt, with a set of blazing instrumentals and knee-weakening vocal harmonies:

I caught a number of excellent acts on the camera which I’m going to gloss over; sorry, folks, you were all excellent, but time is money (or, in my case, sleep) and you’ll have to come back to get your 15 minutes.

Far above the level of neglectable, however, was the Rebirth Brass Band, a NOLA  outfit with creds that would choke this post.  Suffice it to say that they’re widely recognized as being at the top of the Brass Band parade, and did themselves proud in our humble venue:

Outside the tent, the festival undulated onward, with a beautiful woman flowing her hoop in a heart-stopping, slow-motion vision:

Really, this was mesmerizing, like watching water flow.

And on the little slope above the lower stage, a chubby puppy rolled down through the crisping grass with glee:

It was a warm and fuzzy afternoon, but the evening was about to get hotter…

Los Lobos took the main stage, and blew the doors off the half-their-age acts which had wowed us up to this point:

The band was cooking, and put a big check-mark in the Dust-Farters’ column.  Kids, DON’T try this ’till you hit 50, or you might hurt yourselves!

Guitar player Cesar Rosas owned the day, nonchalantly laying down riffs which would have given a younger man a hernia:

Sax and keyboard player Steve Berlin played the field of his many talents:

…and leading the way, frontman/guitarist and vocalist extraordinaire David Hidalgo schooled the world in How It’s Done when you’ve done it for decades.  Here he cranks out Kiko and the Lavender Moon,  perhaps the most magically soulful song to reach the broader masses in decades:

The rest of the band was spectacular in their contributions, and I’m passing them by at my moral peril.  Every one of them was excellent beyond measure.

But I’m NOT moving on without offering kudos to their drummer, who closed the set with one of the most amazing drum solos I’ve seen in four decades of paying attention:

I was knocked down on my knees.  Thank you, gentlemen.

The night ended with a Guthrie Family Reunion, on the precise 100th anniversary of Woody Guthrie’s birth.

It’s hard to quantify what Woody Guthrie means to America.  His take on the world was so clear-eyed, his words so incisive, that he might never be equaled as an observer of What America Is.

And his son Arlo gets that.  He’s the living incarnation of hid Dad’s legacy, as well as being an artist in his own right, who deserves to be viewed not in the shadow of his father, but in the light of his own creative muses.

Arlo Guthrie, closing the show on Saturday night:

I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t stay for all of Arlo’s set; I needed to get out of the traffic and into bed in order to be back at this venue before 5am.

But that’s another post.