The third annual Riverlink Jamboree in Amsterdam started on Saturday afternoon during a light drizzle in the park next to the Mohawk River, but it finished in an Irish-American club a few blocks away.
The newly-erected bandshell, purchased with a corporate donation by Hero Foods, managed to keep the bands and their instruments mostly dry at first, but as the day went by, the rain increased, and the dampness took its toll on the instruments as well as the crowd.
Nonetheless, the music was fine all through the day and evening. The Nellies were first up, with mandolinist-vocalist Peggy Lecuyer pulling double duty as she also served as emcee for the fest. She and Karen Gilpin on banjo and guitar and stand-up bassist Gene Lemme were accompanied by guitarist-vocalist Peter Bearup in the lead guitar slot.
The band’s repetoire included original tunes and covers of both traditional and new Americana, including Fred Eaglesmith’s “Thirty Years Of Farming” and Ryan Bingham’s “Tell My Mamma,” which Bearup contributed. Lecuyer and Gilpin’s lovely voices made originals “I Wanna Be Your Man” and “As Is” sound simply timeless. The vocals and instrumental dexterity managed to keep the rain at mere annoyance levels, particularly through “The Man,” “Soar On,” “Bandits” and a luminous “Faith In The Sun.” With a Pete Townshend intro to “Paint This Honkey Tonk Town” and “Amen Allelulia,” the Nellies were riding breakneck around the bend.
Moonshine Holler, the married duo of Bill Dillof and Paula Bradley, was up next and they brought a truckload of instruments, including guitar, banjo, ukulele, fiddle, harmonica, Hawaiian guitar and a clogging board, all of which they put to good use.
The twosome went deep into Carter Family country with songs including “I’m Leaving You,” and “I Believe I’ll Go Back Home” (sometimes called “Prodigal Son”) by Doc Boggs. Paula donned her tap shoes for some flat foot dancing on the clogging board during a song about a parson who went to Florida and had his faith shaken on the beach in Miami. Bill brought the Hawaiian guitar to his lap and played with a steel slide for the Dixon Brothers’ “Sales Tax On The Women,” followed by “The Green Valley Waltz” by the Blue Sky Boys.
Unfortunately, the blue skies were nowhere to be seen, and fest organizer Paul Gavry saw the effect the rain was having on the instruments and the dwindling crowd. Being a member of the Irish-American Club, he arranged to move the remainder of the festival to the hall a few blocks away. It proved to be a good choice because what appeared to be a small crowd of spectators filled the hall… and the full bar came in very handy.
Three Day Threshold – the finale act of the fest – was particularly well-suited to this venue, being a rocking, country-punk outfit out of Boston, another area populated with plenty of Irish-American clubs. The band was fired up, having just returned from a tour of the Middle East to entertain the Armed Forces. “This is a special night,” said guitarist and lead singer Kier Byrnes. “We’re going to drink this place dry.”
Featuring Byrnes, bassist John Stump, drummer P.J. Aspesi, vocalist-percussionist-washboardist Emily Holmen and vocalist-guitarist Evan Gavry, the band played a steaming set in a style not unlike the Drive-By Truckers and Backyard Tire Fire. They showcased covers and original numbers from their four CDs, including “Gator Farm,” “Whiskey River,” “Delia,” “Whiskey You’re The Devil” and “Black River Gold,” which helped dry the damp souls on the dance floor. The band clearly enjoyed playing party music, following a rave up on “What Do You Do With A Drunken Sailor” with “She Left Me For Jesus,” in which Byrnes wailed, “The last time we made love she called out his name.”
Review and photographs by Stanley Johnson