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At The Heath Fair. August 25, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Love and Death, music, Politics and Society.
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Charlemont’s neighbor to the North is Heath, Massachusetts, and in the down-home vein of our Yankee Doodle Days, Heath has its annual fair every August.

This is a traditional New England country fair, with a focus on our agrarian lives and times. As a teenager I dismissed this stuff as “hokey,” but as an older person I view it much differently – it’s like a love letter to a friend who is threatening to disappear from our lives, and we know we’ll all be diminished if that happens.

So I’ve gotten it into my mind that I’ll do my best to find the hearts of these matters and share them with you.

Welcome to the Heath Fair:

There are animals of every description, many being judged for their exemplary breed characteristics, some just on hand to elicit smiles:

If these guys had a dollar for every time they heard “Aflac” this weekend, they could charter a jet to fly them around!

The grounds abounded with the fruits of these folks’ labors, including buildings full of arts and crafts and ribbon-winning vegetables:

And there was a full schedule of events, from the Church Ladies’ Ham and Bean Supper:

…to the Antique Tractor Parade – step aside, folks, they’re coming right down the middle of the fair!

And the music was a constant presence, all of it appropriate for the venue. Rani Arbo and Daisy Mayhem lit up Friday evening with a long and excellent set of alt-country tunes:

Their drummer took it up country with a kit comprised of a suitcase bass drum, cardboard box snare and Dap calking tubes, among other things, which he beat the pants off of to stupendous effect:

They were tremendous fun!

Outside the tent (and a safe ways away,) the fireworks crew were setting up with one eye on the sky:

The sky looked ominous as they hurried to wire the ‘works together and get it covered up before the predicted weather hit.

Still, impending floods be damned, the Tractor Pull went on as scheduled, with kids assuming their rightful place, which is “central” in these parts:

This little girl was dead serious about helping her Daddy win.

‘Round about the time local hero Ray Schwanger roll-started his old Farmall and made short work of pulling a heavy load, the skies opened up for real:

The announcer called a time out as we all scurried for cover. I hit a Sausage Grinder shack to snag my favorite guilty-pleasure fair food, expecting to eat it in the car while the downpour passed.

As I trotted back toward the parking lot, hunkering over my camera and grinder, I happened past the Heath Free Library’s tent, where I was stopped in my tracks by the sight of a young boy escaping the rain by disappearing into an entirely different world. I snagged this quick shot of the moment:

…which turned out to be my favorite photo from the whole weekend.

Thanks, kid. I owe ya.

Before long the rain let up, the tractor pull resumed, and the fireworks went off right on schedule:

I’m pleased with that shot as well, having struggled with the technicalities of shooting fireworks for a couple of years now and finally being happy with a set of techniques which deliver acceptable results.

Saturday was equally fun, though I was otherwise occupied in the morning and missed a few things. I got to Heath in time to catch Last Night’s Fun, a local Irish/Celtic band playing up a storm and laying down a soundtrack for a group of lovely young step dancers:

A walk around the grounds again found me surrounded by animals – baby ducks:

…rabbits, including this double-chinchilla:

…cows:

…bulls:

(…yes, a head shot. You’re welcome.)

I got to see the Adult Goat Show… and no, the Heath version is nothing at all like the one you may have heard rumors of down in the Gritty City:

And, of course, there were horses, the draft kind:

…the lovey-dovey showy kind:

…and the kiddie-kind:

Lots of horses. Enough said.

And speaking of children (I was, wasn’t I?) they were everywhere – crushing in the tug’o’war:

…devouring the competition in the blueberries-and-cream-eating contest:

I think Nathaniel subscribes to the “eat today, chew tomorrow” school of hooverism…

Kids  swarmed the truck-sized sand pile, with this young lady directing the relocation of the pile’s edges to its top:

A sack race bopped by:

…while tiny wobblers watched:

It was all very warming, and a pleasant break from the tribulations of a world on fire and politicians on crack.

Plenty of other stuff happened up at the fair, like the talk by an animal rehabilitator and her assistant:

…but I’m sure I’ve already tested your patience, so I’ll just apologize to those whose efforts I’ve left out. With a full boat of Fall events in the works, I’ll probably catch you later!  🙂

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

Posted by littlebangtheory in music.
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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.