LIVE: Clearwater’s Great Hudson River Revival @ Croton Point Park, 6/21/15 (Day Two)
Review and photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
For those who thought that the rain during the first day of Clearwater’s Great Hudson Revival was enough, well… Sunday started off nicely, but just before Guster was to hit the Rainbow Stage at 6pm, the sky erupted into a torrential downpour. Hundreds of fans lined up to catch the buses back to the parking lots and still more ran for cover anywhere and anyplace they could. The merch tent never saw so many people until the cloudburst, however, few were buying anything.
Earlier in the day, the sun was ascending into the sky with confidence and pageantry. People were shuffling happily between the seven stages to hear the likes of the Blind Boys of Alabama, Todd Snider, Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn and Matuto.
When the amazing Bettye LaVette took the Hudson Stage, her power and intensity brought in hordes of onlookers to hear this marvelous performer. Though she is a direct contemporary of Aretha Franklin, who came up the ranks at the same time in the same city, LaVette sadly fell into hard times and obscurity for decades. But she’s back now, and when she sings she leaves it all on the stage because she’s got nothing to lose. And the audience has everything to gain! She is a true soul diva.
Following LaVette on the same stage was the powerhouse Toshi Reagon & Big Lovely. A big woman with a big heart and big opinions, she can bring down the rafters. The Lone Bellow was playing the Rainbow Stage, but the Hudson Stage was filled to the max with people listening to he performance – part revival meeting oozing with soul, but also folk with a blues tinge and everything in-between. For some, this was the zenith of the festival, LaVette and Reagon back-to-back, locking up the Hudson Stage with as many people enjoying their performances as those that stayed behind to listen to the main stage performers.
However, the day was not done, Ani DiFranco – casual with past-the-shoulder-length hair this time out – and her band brought the audience out from everywhere to see the self-proclaimed “little folksinger.” DiFranco never followed the major-label route of such contemporaries as Shawn Colvin, Tracy Chapman and others. She remained firmly in the folk world and even toured extensively and recorded an album with the the late, legendary Bruce “Utah” Phillips. And because she’s remained staunchly independent and never forsaken her folk-world leanings, she’s picked up tens of thousands of fans in the process. She is a true icon of her generation and a brilliant performer in her own right.
Unfortunately, when DiFranco took the stage, a noticeable absence of people at all the other six stages was readily apparent. Matt Andersen, an up-and-coming singer-songwriter who deserves wider-recognition, had a sparse audience for a very fine set heart-felt songs. His fans who held fast in front of the stage were treated to a wonderful experience. But sadly, there were so few.
The clouds came in from the West and covered Croton Point Park. That’s when the rain came. The Pine Hills Project, the Kennedys and the Dustbowl Revival were able to complete their sets on different stages, but then everything came to a stop-action halt. People looked skyward, and they were afraid that the storm would go on forever with performances by Guster, the Mavericks, the Felice Brothers and C.J. Chenier all hanging in the balance. But as the gods willed it, they all did eventually perform, just a little later than expected.
The Clearwater’s Great Hudson Revival came to a close, and as they headed home, everybody that stayed to the end was talking about who might be playing at the fest next year…