Monday, July 25, 2016

Green River Festival, Sunday: And Still the Rain

Welcome back! It's been quite a while, hasn't it? This past week has been personally busy... blah blah blah, like y'all really care. You're here for the Green River Fest wrap-up, right?

Good. The right place, this is.

We're going to start at the campsite for Sunday. This conjunto was quite a pleasant morning surprise (photos (C) Matthew Keefer):

There's too many of them! Upstate Rubdown giving folks the low-down.
Upstate Rubdown outta New York State gave the campers a good wakey-wakey on Sunday. There were eight of them, and if you count real carefully, you'll notice we missed their acoustic guitarist (who would be way off to photo-left). This group had lovely harmonies that woke us up from our too-short sleep stupor, and was certainly a pleasant surprise. How sweet of them to serenade us!

The official start of the festival came at the folksy hands of Sonya Kitchell. We enjoyed her strong voice on the second stage, and more than appreciated the fact that her band sported a female bassist. Le sigh!

Sonya Kitchell plus bassist.
Speaking of lady-bassists, we've gotta cut through another act to get to someone we wanted to talk about. So, Kitchell: folksy lady. Winterpills: alt rock with a trumpet (not pictured).

Philip Price of Winterpills...
... and Winterpills' Flora Reed.
We're rushing through, we know. Apologies, regrets and profuse... apologies... that we don't have a whole lot to say about this little Northampton indie group, who've been around a bit more than a decade. We have important ground to cover. Very important. Vital, in fact, to our apparent obsession with talented female bassists, such as...

Kearney and Davis. Note: Kearney, avec no bass.
Bridget Kearney, bassist and songwriter of Lake Street Dive fame, came upon the Green River Fest with her fellow New England Conservatory alum Benjamin Lazar Davis. Their duo, which, if you're familiar with Lake Street Dive's new album (or previous album) might make you extremely excited, left us in a different place. Here's what we were thinking.
The duo of Kearney and Davis tended toward more cryptic songwriting. They were very low-key, quiet, and certainly a total change from the funk-disco-infused songs of Side Pony. It's not for everyone. We suspect it's not going to appeal to many people, quite frankly. But what we liked and appreciated about it was the vast depth and songwriting flexibility that both musicians displayed. This project, we're not going to shout and applaud from the rooftops (yet) but the musicians, we're expecting something deep and truly grand from them in the future. A total shift of gears that betokens deep curiosity about music. Here's a stream of their EP.
And speaking of curiosity, apparently Davis holds his cash in his guitar pickup rather than a wallet. A fifty, no less. Seriously, check our photo. It gave the guitar part of their otherworldly (or third-worldly, perhaps) twang.

We just have a couple more stops to the end. An exciting end we want to get to. We've got a quick stop at these massive shredders, first:

Danielle Nicole plus gent Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars.


We enjoyed the Allstars live, and though we're not too familiar with their studio discography (not familiar at all, to be quite frank) we had a blast watching Luther and Nicole shred the bejesus out of their instruments. She's also on a bass... sigh... just noticed that now. Could do a quick stop, a Trucks stop even, but we've got to be wrapping this up right soon. So let's just do that quick stop, though really, this never seems to stop the music...

Let it rain, let it rain...
Rain made an on-again, off-again, wait-on-again appearance throughout the day. It drenched us and made our under-prepared arse grumpy and disgruntled enough to call it an early day yesterday. But with rain, add a bit of funk (Big Sam's brand (TM)) and now you have a recipe for something truly great.

One soakin' good time, c.o. Big Sam.

We stopped by the second stage... actually, we were invited over by a fellow photographer, Andrzej Pilarczyk. Being of fair cheer and nearing the end of the festival, we came down (almost half-dragged) to Big Sam's Funky Nation and... well... the rest is history. More like memory - memorable. Big Sam knows his crowds, and knows that soaking wet, cold crowds need some hot funk in their bellies to warm them up. And we'll admit, the extended cover of "Uptown Funk" hit the spot, yes it did. But it wasn't one song, it wasn't a whole set even, it was just... the right moment for us. It was perhaps the one moment we're going to take away from this festival.

And likely these people will take it away, too:

Drenched and lovin' it.
That was the magic moment for us. The right music, the right ambiance (rain, that is) = the right moment. One of those moments that you'll take with you. Big Sam's Funky Nation... that one goes up on the wall.

Our takeaway of this festival? It'd be wrong to say we were disappointed with it, and yet, there were some disappointing things about it. One - Saturday went on scheduled until 11pm. If you want to catch anything at that hour, we strongly suggest either camping out overnight (get a camping pass!) or just living very, very nearby. Add to the lateness the rain factor, and we were certainly exhausted and grumpykins.

Two - we felt there was a good balance of acts, between new and established groups, but that they could've been spread through the schedule a bit more. Example? Everyone we came in contact with who liked music - and a few who couldn't give a care about music - we suggested they catch the Saturday of the Festival. With Dawes and Shakey Graves alone, these two hot, new acts were certainly a draw of that day among others (The Suffers, Shovels and Rope). It was a stacked, great day, even if we didn't stay for Dawes (who came on at 10 pm!) - but given our tastes, we felt it was a pretty hefty day, relative to the other two.

Those are our main criticisms. But look at this: the three stages are close enough together to foot to them, but far enough that none of the stages overwhelm the others. Good positioning. Also, compared to Newport (which we'll cover next week, we swear!) this is a small festival. It's got a great, more personal feel to it, and even from the audience you could get close enough to see the stage regardless of the act. We loved that closer, tight-knit feel of the Green River Festival. And don't forget, it was a fantastic price - a bargain for three days of music at $120 - half the price of Newport and not sold out within a few hours. So, if you're looking for a great, intimate and still outdoor festival, we advise you keep your eyes on Green River in '17. Happy Thirtieth, GRF! And many more returns. Catch you next year,
Sincerely,
-Mgmt.

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