More Hot Music at the Green River Festival
I woke up on the last day of the Green River Festival eager for more music – the previous day was so terrific that I needed more! Unfortunately it was a scorcher of a day and that caused me to not want to walk around more than necessary; all that meant was that I missed acts I wanted to see but still saw amazing acts.
I started out the day at the main stage for Lonesome Brothers, local favorites who I was seeing for the first time. Ray Mason, Jim Armenti, and Keith Levreault are not brothers (at least I presume they are not) and I’ll bet they are not lonesome.
Their roots rock music is accessible and I would like to see them do a full set in a temperature-controlled environment!
Next for me was Joe Pug on the second stage. I saw him perform a solo set last year opening for, I believe, Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers, and thoroughly enjoyed him even though the audience was talking over his music. This day he had a band backing him and I felt that his music had more depth.
Pug’s style is indie country/folk, and the set consisted of many new songs. I liked the band configuration of Joe on acoustic guitar alongside an upright bass and electric guitar.
Back up the hill I went to hear Sean Rowe and was extremely impressed with him. He has quite a deep voice that penetrated me in a way that made me truly feel the music. His voice is distinctive and memorable.
Rowe’s style of alt-folk music is worth a listen, and I hope to see him do a full set next time he plays in Boston.
Valerie June was next to play the main stage. I saw her perform last year and enjoyed her, both visually and musically. She calls her music organic moonshine roots music; the moonshine influence comes from her Tennessee roots and it is an apt description.
Admittedly, I enjoy some of June’s songs more than others, but the ones I like I really like. She joked about her instruments, anthropomorphizing them. She told some stories about her grandmother as well.
June obviously has a deeply spiritual nature which comes through her music. Elements of gospel, blues, soul, folk and bluegrass can be found in her songs.
Following June on the main stage was Preservation Hall Jazz Band, an act I have seen a number of times and never fail to love their sets.
Composed this day of Ben Jaffe, Creative Director and tuba; Mark Braud, Band Leader and trumpet; Joe Lastie Jr., drums and percussion; Rickie Monie, piano; new member Ronell Johnson, tuba and trombone; and Clint Maedgen, saxophone, they had the audience dancing and clapping despite the intense heat. Missing from this show was Charlie Gabriel on clarinet; I was concerned that he might have been sick, but was assured that he is fine and was spending his 83rd birthday with his wife. Happy birthday, Charlie!
They began with their version of the traditional song, ‘I’ll Fly Away’. I have heard many bands perform this, and theirs is one of my favorites. The set list was filled with upbeat songs (I do not recall them doing ‘St. James Infirmary Blues’ which can be nearly a dirge in tempo, but is a fabulous number). Don’t ask me to name them, even though I was clapping and singing right along with everyone else!
After Preservation Hall, Punch Brothers took the stage to deliver their brand of progressive bluegrass and what a lively set it was! Chris Thile on mandolin, Noam Pikelny on banjo, Chris Eldridge on guitar, Paul Kowert on bass, and Gabe Witcher on fiddle comprise the band.
I had not seen Punch Brothers perform for a couple of years, nor had I heard anything from their new album, The Phosphorescent Blues. I loved what I heard from it. The set included music from their entire discography, and they played a number of my favorites (‘You Are’ was one).
All five members of the band are extremely talented musicians; I have seen all except Witcher in various side projects as well and those projects are also worth seeing. Put them together and you get some extraordinary music.
The headliner for the day, Steve Earle & the Dukes, were last to the main stage. I love Steve Earle, no matter what he is playing or who is supporting him.
Earle’s current release, Terraplane, is a little more country than some of his previous albums and I adored what I heard.
The Dukes include The Mastersons, Chris Masterson on guitars and Eleanor Whitmore on fiddle. They and the rest of the Dukes provide excellent support to Earle.
I was not in the least bit surprised to see Earle sporting a ‘Sanders for President’ button on his guitar strap! Earle’s politics are well-known and an integral part of his music. That’s part of the reason I love his music as much as I do.
What an amazing weekend! The music was incredible, as expected. I had a couple of beers from Berkshire Brewing Company (Steel Rail and Busker Czech-style Pilsner) that I loved. I had the opportunity to chat with Booker T. Jones and the members of his band… and Chris Thile… and Clint and Ronell from Preservation Hall… and Valerie June… and some of the fabulous volunteers who make this all happen. I have deep gratitude for all – for what you do and who you are.
Until next year, which is the 30th anniversary of the Festival! Be there – it’s going to rock your world!