Reviews and photographs by Stanley Johnson
The day started with the simple plan of going to the River Street Festival in Troy, one of Nippertown’s best annual urban street festivals.
But first I had to stop at the Farmer’s Market at the Riverfront Park for breakfast, where I discovered that last year’s major construction project had been completed. (I don’t get to Troy real often). The park was beautiful. The new, not-exactly-an-amphitheater, was huge. What a great place for the festival’s main entertainment. Except that it wasn’t…
Just as well. I’m not going to speculate on the reasons for separating the Farmer’s Market from the River Street Festival. It probably has something to do with the politics and economics of each event’s sponsors. Whatever…
The thing that mattered on a beautiful Saturday afternoon (sorry, I slept late) was that I was sitting by the water, eating great food and watching a great band, in this case the Nellies. Playing a wonderful set of folk-country-mountain-roots music, which I hesitate to also call Americana because they did a perfect-for-a-sunny-day version of “Rain” by the Beatles, the band played to a small but ever-changing group of spectators. Everybody stopped to eat and watch and move on to the next logical area, the River Street Festival.
I got wrapped up for a while checking out the sidewalk art contest. There were about 50 sidewalk squares sporting chalk drawings: First place in the adult category went to “Happy Birthday Lucy Hale” by Teresa Joy Richards, with a close second by Adam Parsley for “Ashley and Aidan.”
I was drawn to the main stage by the sound of Emerald City playing “Keep On Growing” by Derek & the Dominoes, followed by Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home” and Leon Russell’s “Delta Lady.” I like a band that targets music from the best period in the History of Rock.
But I still had to get to the other end of the fest, where, after checking out many tents and tables full of handmade arts, crafts and stuff, I found Maurizio playing a solo set of great songs like “The Weight,” “Feelin’ Alright” and more.
I had already missed half the festival, with sets by Rich Ortiz, Jocamo, Holly & Evan, Mike Thomas and Molly Durnin. So I stuck around and caught a solo acoustic set by Erin Harkes, who has a powerful sound even without her band.
But the main event, Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes, were already rockin’ with great crowd-pleasers like “Walk Away Renee,” “Cadillac Jack,” “Talk to Me,” “Havin’ a Party” (featuring “Bolero” during the intro), an excellent Tom Waits cover (“Tango Till They’re Sore”), a Bobby Womack cover (“Lookin’ For a Love”) and, of course, “I Don’t Want To Go Home.”
Well, I didn’t want to go home, either, so instead I went a couple of miles to North Troy, where the Sanctuary for Independent Media was hosting the inaugural Freedom Festival, as the dedication of the new Freedom Square stage. The stage was a riot of colored glass and images, and art was still being created on the rear of the stage walls.
The multi-cultural music there was very danceable, with strong world music grooves from Taina Asili Y Band Rebelde and M.A.K.U. Sound System.
By the time I headed home, I realized I had traveled far beyond the confines of the sprawling River Street Fest and heard great music all over the City of Troy. I’ve got to get there more often…