The two-hour drive to Massachusetts for Day Two of the 27th annual Green River Festival, held at Greenfield Community College, goes by in a blur. Sunday’s crowd appears to be as large as the one the day before, and the temperature feels just as hot, too.
I missed Milton, the duo I had seen open for Chris Smither earlier in the month at Club Helsinki, so I head down to the Yonder Stage to catch a a few songs by the Sun Parade. A five-piece band, they mix acoustic and electric sounds, and it’s safe to assume they probably count Big Star as an influence. “I’m Still Here Till We Can Work It Out” and “Molly” sound decent, but I’m not feeling compelled to stick around – indifference, hunger and thirst are kicking in.
At the Main Stage is Heather Maloney, a singer-songwriter who appears to have some fans in the audience given the reception she and her band get. I try to give her a listen, but her voice has more ticks than a deer in summer. Unimpressed, I take a walk over to a hamburger stand to sate the growling in my gut and rejuvenate in the shade of some trees near the festival entrance.
The music of Louisiana, fortunately, is well represented in the Yonder Stage, so I slug down some water and head on over. Cedric Watson & Bijou Creole have a couple of hundred music lovers two-stepping and waltzing despite the mid-afternoon heat. Watson, age 29 but a seasoned musician, alternates between fiddle and accordion, and his sound draws inspiration from pioneers such as Dennis McGhee, Clifton Chenier, Boozoo Chavis. The band can boogie, too, and the crowd’s energy feeds right back to stage. Lyrics sung in English and Creole French blur together, and the thought of announcing the song titles seems secondary to Watson’s goal of keeping that hypnotic groove going…
Back in 2006, Guster was a star attraction at SPAC, and they brought along Ray LaMontagne as their opening act.
But when Guster returned to town just last month, they weren’t playing the amphitheater, or even a mid-sized theater, but rather a club show at Northern Lights. On the other hand, LaMontagne’s star has continued to rise, propelling him to headlining status at SPAC, where he kicked off the Spa City’s summer concert season earlier this month.
The bearded backwoods Bohemian opened and closed his show with solo numbers – “Rock & Roll and Radio” at the start; “All the Wild Horses” as the final encore – but for the remainder of his 100-minute performance, LaMontagne’s sublimely soulful, sandpapered voice – equal parts honey and moonshine – was matched by the magnificently tasteful musicianship of his band the Pariah Dogs, featuring guitar greats Greg Leisz and Eric Heywood, bassist Jennifer Condos and eccentric but in-the-pocket drummer Jay Bellerose.
In the first announcement of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center’s 2011 pop concert series, burly-voiced folk-rocker Ray LaMontagne and his band, the Pariah Dogs, will take the stage of the Saratoga Springs amphitheater at 7:30pm on Friday, June 3. The group won their first Grammy Award earlier this month in the Best Contemporary Folk Album category for their latest album, “God Willin’ & The Creek Don’t Rise.”
Going to a Brandi Carlile concert you are pretty much assured that she’ll show you a rollicking good time. It doesn’t matter what kind of music you like because she’ll sing her heart out on a Patsy Cline ballad, play the hell out of her acoustic guitar like any of the folk divas out there, and then bang out a piano pop song, ala Elton John.
Opening act Gregory Alan Isakov
Sir John, by the way, is a featured guest on a beautiful ballad “Caroline” from Carlile’s third and latest Columbia Records release, “Give Up The Ghost.” So are Amy Ray from the Indigo Girls, Chad Smith from the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Tom Petty and the Heartbreaker’s Benmont Tench. Add Grammy-winning producer Rick Rubin to the recording, and you can get an idea of the varied musical styles that filled The Egg on Thursday night.
Highlights of the concert included Carlile and her four-piece band starting off the show all gathered around one mic for a bluegrass-tinged, unplugged and stripped-down segment with the full band in swing just “yellin and rockin.” Her long-time musical collaborators – twins Tim and Phil Hanseroth, on guitar and bass, respectively – were bookends at her sides on stage. Meanwhile, barefoot cellist Josh Neumann and tasteful drummer Allison Miller did more than just pull their weight, too. They defined the overall sound, allowing Carlile’s voice to soar in and out of the melody.
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