Saturday at the Green River Festival
Now I understand what all the buzz is about. The Green River Festival has been heralded as one of “the” summer festivals to attend by major media sources like Rolling Stone and USA Today. I haven’t had the opportunity to attend until this year and, at that, I was only able to attend one day … but I packed as much as I could into that one day.
In addition to this being my first time at the Green River Festival, it was my first time in Greenfield, Massachusetts. I found it to be an utterly charming little town with enough of a downtown to make it not feel too rural but within spitting distance of some gorgeous hills and rivers. Greater Bostonians like myself often forget what the western part of the state is like. The pace of life seems pretty laid back and who doesn’t appreciate that?
Upon arriving at the festival, which is located on the grounds of Greenfield Community College, I couldn’t help but smile from ear to ear to see so many happy people. The air was electric with anticipation. I had no set agenda but knew that I would be wandering from stage to stage all day long. I purposefully did not bring a chair because I didn’t want it to beckon to me to just “sit” at one stage and not move. There was way too much to see, hear, and experience.
I was able to catch a bit of music by both Suitcase Junket on the main stage and Charlie Parr on the second stage. I am already familiar with Suitcase Junket so my visit with him was shortened so I could dash off to hear ab bit by Charlie Parr who I have been hearing great things about. Wise choice. His music whet my musical appetite and I knew that I’d go back and see him later in the day in a song round. I ambled over to the Parlor Room stage (Third Stage) to catch the set by Ryan Hommel’s Optical Shop. I’ve watched Ryan blossom as a musician and songwriter over the past several years so it was thrilling to see him command the stage so masterfully. Meanwhile, out of the corner of my eye…what did I see but some circus entertainers doing their thing? I’m a sucker for crazy adventurous stunts and was captivated by these students from the New England Center for Circus Arts. There was an adoring crowd of children and parents for these aerial acts all day long. What a terrific idea to have at a festival!
After Ryan’s set, I hung around to catch Hayley Reardon, another young musician who I’ve known for many years. Ryan Hommel accompanied Hayley for the entire set. Hayley’s music sensibilities continue to grow and mature. She’s able to capture what it’s like to be a teenager today and she is able to say it in a way that is attractive to both young and old. That’s talent. Arc Iris followed on that stage. The simplicity of Hayley’s set was replaced by a totally different vibe which is one of the great things about music festivals. There’s something for everyone and if there isn’t, you’re not listening or looking hard enough. We knew we were in a for something totally new and unique when the band members arrived and started dressing the stage with vines that wrapped all over the instruments and equipment and a big silver disc that hung off to the side. The band is led by Jocie Adams and it’s hard to take your eyes off of her in her spandex top and flowing cape. The music? It’s s eclectic and incorporates a jazz vibe with contemporary folk-rock and invites you to take a musical magical ride along with them. Much fun!
It was then time to amble over to the second stage to catch some of The Milk Carton Kids who are total fun and most engaging. The sun was beating down pretty profoundly at this point and I felt badly for the kids—Kenneth Patengale and Joey Ryan who were decked out in their trademark black suits. Next up was Lydia Loveless who I knew I wanted to catch. She’s as edgy and talented and brilliant as I expected. Her energy reminds me of a young Patti Smith. Her lyrics are full of powerful images and expletive deleted so not kiddie fare for sure. I’m betting that we’ll be hearing a lot more from her in the future.
I bid adieu to that stage and headed back to the Parlor Room stage for more music from Suitcase Junket, Charlie Parr and the incredible songwriter, Kris Delmhorst. A hydration break was needed since I was getting maxxed out by the heat and humidity so I set off toward the main stage area to get a lemonade and was sidetracked by the most amazing led off by Bella’s Bartok and populated by some crazy characters. I managed to make it to the lip of the main stage to catch the beginning of Booker T. Jones’ set. It’s always amazing to catch a living legend still working hard with a top notch band. He switched off from organ to guitar and entertained the audience with some awesome stories. But, the song circle called to me from the down the hill and back I went to hear some more Suitcase, Charlie and Kris. It was stellar. Plain and simple.
The Stray Birds were on the Parlor Stage next and I’m a diehard fan so there was no way I was going to go far. However, as they Stay Birds were playing, I heard the sound of a bagpipe and wandered over to see what was happening and couldn’t help but notice that it was time for them to start inflating the huge hot air balloons. Is it a tradition for a bagpiper to accompany such an event? What a joyous sight to see those big ole balloons taking flight and getting to wave to the lucky folks who flew up, up, and away. The Stray Birds couldn’t keep me away for long so I was able to catch the end of their set.
I dashed back to the main stage and caught up with some friends. We were able to move toward the front and capture the wild energetic music of tUnE-yArDs. The audience was totally enthralled by the raucous sounds and rhythmic beats. I had to mosey back to the second stage to meet friends and ended up staying put in one place for the longest amount of time all day for the Wood Brothers. These guys are tight! Loved their vibe and they seemed to be having one helluva time and I’m glad that I was finally able to see them live. Rubblebucket was on stage as I left.
Exhaustion set in on the drive home but it was a happy exhaustion. There’s no right or wrong way to experience such a jam-packed day of music. Much appreciation to all involved. It’s a magnificent festival and certainly does deserve to be on any “Best of” lists! If you’ve never gone, put it on your calendar for next year.