Green River Festival Was An Amazing Anniversary Celebration!
The Green River Festival celebrated its 30th anniversary in July with a spectacular lineup! Sure, it rained during much of the Festival, but that did not dampen my spirits in the least! It wasn’t quite Woodstock – there was little to no mud – but it was fabulous.
I will start with my top three sets/experiences from the Festival, in no particular order.
The first set I want to highlight is Tedeschi Trucks Band. They are currently touring with Los Lobos and North Mississippi All-Stars as the Wheels of Soul Tour, and all three bands made a stop to close out the Festival on Sunday.
I have seen all three bands multiple times but never at a Festival and never together. Each band has an amazing guitarist: TTB has two, Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks; Los Lobos has David Hidalgo; and NMA has Luther Dickinson. One of the things that caused the TTB set to be so terrific was that Luther and David each played at least one number with them and the atmosphere was electric!
Imagine my surprise when I saw my friend Danielle Nicole is playing bass with NMA, at least on this tour!
Los Lobos was as incredible as always. If you have not seen them live, do yourself a favor and get to a show of theirs. They tour relentlessly, so you should have an opportunity. This was the second of three times I have seen them this year – so far!!!
Another set that amazed me was Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds. I saw them open for Trombone Shorty at one of his shows and was extremely impressed. That was almost three years ago, however, and the band has matured dramatically in that time. Unfortunately for you, I took no photos of their set; it was raining fairly hard and my camera got wet enough for one day…
Even though the band hails from Brooklyn, the sound is New Orleans funk. Sister Sparrow (a/k/a Arleigh Kincheloe) has an incredible voice and knows how to get an audience moving. It was late and wet, and the crowd did not care. We danced until the stage was darkened for the night.
The last highlight was Amy Helm and the Handsome Strangers. I have seen this band multiple times, but they keep getting better. Amy is an engaging performer as is the rest of the band (especially Daniel Littleton, who is a master of whichever stringed instrument he is playing).
These roots rockers are worth seeking out because their live shows never disappoint. This was the largest ‘show’ of theirs I have seen (I did not see their set at Newport Folk Festival two weeks after this) and they proved they can easily handle the size.
This is my third year attending the Festival, but the first time I have attended the Friday evening sets. The atmosphere was even more relaxed than usual, and this is a very chill festival.
Kicking off the Festival was Charles Neville with his ‘Massachusetts Neville Family’, as he referred to his band. At 77 years old, Charles shows no signs of slowing down.
The band, especially the fiddle player, backed him quite well. They did not play long enough for my taste, but I thoroughly enjoyed the set.
Following them was Dustbowl Revival, a band I had not seen until this night. Described as an American roots orchestra, they are a large group composed mostly of stringed instruments.
I loved their energetic set and their talent, and would love to see them perform a headlining show in the near future.
After that, another band I had never seen – NRBQ – took the stage. NRBQ, the New Rhythm and Blues Quartet, has been around for fifty years! Where have I been??? Their music blends elements of many types of roots music.
Terry Adams, the keyboardist and lead singer, is animated and much fun to watch. Judging by this set, I imagine that their live performances are what they are best known for; they are spontaneous, funny, and colorful.
Closing out the night was Peter Wolf and the Midnight Travelers. This is one of the best blues bands touring these days, and I was excited to see them at a festival where the energy is frequently greater than at a ‘regular’ show.
Peter is a fabulous singer and harmonica player who surrounds himself with some of the best players. Duke Levine on guitar and mandolin, Kevin Barry on guitar, Marty Ballou on bass, and Tom Arey on drums comprise the incredible band. They need to be seen to be fully appreciated.
Saturday started with one of my favorite up-and-coming bands, Lula Wiles, on the main stage. Isa Burke on fiddle and guitar, Ellie Buckland on guitar and fiddle, and Mali Obomsawin on bass (with all contributing lead and harmonizing vocals) are the three extremely talented young women behind this band.
Their style is rootsy leaning toward bluegrass; you should get out to see them live and buy their début self-titled album.
Anthony D’Amato was the next artist I saw. I saw him perform solo over the winter but this time he was with a band. I preferred this show because his sound was fuller and richer. He is a good songwriter and performer.
Oh Pep! is an interesting folk/pop band from Australia. Their sound is a bit more pop than I prefer, but their entertainment style is fabulous and a lot of fun to watch.
Down the hill I went to catch Leland Sundries on one of the smaller stages. This band recently released its début album, music for outcasts, to critical acclaim. This was my second time seeing them in several days, and for some reason (possibly the fact that I was not sweltering in a venue whose air conditioning broke on the hottest day of the year) enjoyed this show more. Their indie-garage-Americana sound might not be to everyone’s liking, but I really like them; they are fine musicians who love what they do.
I caught a bit of Peter Mulvey’s in-the-round set with Anthony D’Amato, Rachel Sumner and Sam Moss (the latter two played as a duo). Each musician performed their own songs, at least during the part of the set I saw.
I caught about half of the set by Greyhounds and absolutely loved them! This is a trio that performs their own brand of soul music. Keyboardist Anthony Farrell has a fantastic voice as well as being a terrific keys player. Go see them live and then buy their albums!
One of my favorite bands – both for their music and for their wonderful personalities – was the next band I saw on the main stage. The Suffers exploded on the scene a little more than a year ago and have not slowed since then.
This large band is fronted by Kam Franklin who can take your breath away after the first notes. The rest of the band can as well. Their music, Gulf Coast soul from Houston, is lively and the beat infectious. If you have yet to see them, you must go.
I was quite interested to see Shakey Graves; I saw one song of his Newport Folk Festival set in 2015 and was not in the right frame of mind to see him after an emotional afternoon, and wanted to give him another chance.
I am glad I did because I thoroughly enjoyed his set. I think I preferred when he played solo, but I liked the entire set. His style is bluesy, folksy, rock and roll, and he thrilled the audience.
Last up at the main stage was Dawes, a band I first saw at Newport Folk in 2012 and have seen several times since then. They have a new keyboardist with them as well as Duane Betts on guitar; the new members play the band’s classic songs as if they were on the original recordings.
Sunday dawned a bit cloudier than Saturday, but I was excited for more music. The started a bit later than the previous day (or at least it felt that way). I began down the hill with Sonya Kitchell, who is known as a storyteller. I liked her style!
I looked forward to seeing Winterpills, a band I recently became aware of despite the fact that they have been around for more than a decade. They are based in western Massachusetts, but they have a national presence.
Their genre is also indie folk rock, but I heard some jazzy notes as well. I want to see them again under somewhat drier circumstances!
Mal Devisa, a local (to Northampton, MA) radio personality, delivered a soulful solo set on the bass! It is not often you see a solo bass performance, but her style of country-pop was well received by the crowd.
The day ended with the Wheels of Soul tour bands I mentioned at the beginning of this article. It was a fabulous ending to a great festival!
I heard complaints about the rain. That is all part of enjoying a festival – if you cannot put up with the elements, whatever they are, do not go to an outdoor festival. We were all wet and most of us not only survived but loved it! It is all about the music and the fellowship with other music lovers.
And the Green River Festival does it right.
Thanks to the Green River Festival for the ticket; all opinions are my own.
Posted on August 14, 2016, in festival photos, festival review, music, Uncategorized and tagged Amy Helm and the Handsome Srtangers, Anthony D'Amato, Charles Neville, Dawes, Dustbowl Revival, festival photos, festival review, Green River Festival, Greyhounds, Leland Sundries, Los Lobos, Lula Wiles, Mal Devisa, music, North Mississippi All-Stars, NRBQ, Oh Pep!, Peter Mulvey, Peter Wolf and the Midnight Travelers, Shakey Graves, Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds, Sonya Kitchell, Tedeschi Trucks Band, The Suffers, Winterpills. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.