This past Saturday we spent a wonderful afternoon in the scorching heat of the field in front of GCC. Was it worth the exhaustion and sunburn the day after? Hell yeah. Why? The Green River Festival, of course! This was the first time that Chris and I went to this event, but apparently it’s been going strong for 21 years. We couldn’t have asked for a better day–the weather was hot but absolutely gorgeous, not a raindrop in the sky. We got to meet up with our good friends Leah and Dave later in the day, which made it much more fun. We also ran into a few of Chris’ coworkers, one of whom came with her hubby because he was working in the Turn it Up music tent. She hung out on our blanket for a while and we chatted.
Before I go on about how awesome the music was, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised at how much there
was to do for the whole family. There was an activity tent for kids and a scheduled Mardi Gras parade that all the kids could participate in, there were several booths from local charities and vendors, a huge back field in which folks were flying kites and playing catch, and a balloon watch, which albeit expensive (225 bucks a person to be launched in the air!) was fun to watch.
Now, the music. Ahhh, the music. Suffice it to say that the music of the day could be summed up in just one word: Unbelievable. How lucky were we, the tiny little Pioneer Valley, to have been graciously afforded stellar performances by the likes of James Hunter, Neko Case, and the show-stopping legend Buddy Guy? Pretty damn lucky. Each performer played a generous set and the stage sound was excellent (props to the sound guys!).
First perfomers of the day were the Kennedys and Raini Arbo and Daisy Mayhem, local folk singers who have been performing around the area for years. They were also featured on the second stage in the lower fields, which consisted of mostly local bands playing in the shade.
Erin McKewon was next for the main stage, in all of her 5 foot energetic glory. She has a great knack for rockabilly swing and she got the crowd pumped.
British jazz singer James Hunter followed suit, and his set got everyone dancing. I don’t know how he does it, but this white Brit has the power to conjure up the ghost of Otis Retting and make you forget he’s white or British. He was very entertaining with funny quips in between songs; overall his set was a ton of fun!
The next performance was by Southern Culture on the Skids. Think the White Trash, down home southern version of the B-52’s. They were a riot to see live; the lead singer was wearing some kind of Thomas-Dolby inspired green visor hat, and the backup girl sported a red-hot beehive wig. With songs like “There’s too much Pork for Just one Fork”, “Corn Liquor”, and “Doublewide”, how can you go wrong? They ended their set with a piece called “8-piece bucket”, which involved inviting audience members on stage to throw wings of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Nice!
Neko Case began her set by commenting on how it’s been a while since she’s performed on a stage covered in kentucky fried chicken :). Neko, oh Neko, how can this petite red-head conjure up such an enormous, soulful sound? She and her backup singer Kelly Hogan did an utterly stunning, gracious set. She got very silly with the audience and her bandmates in between songs, but when the time came to sing (except for one part in which she had to sneeze!), she was ever serious. She played a fantastic set with goodies from Blacklisted and Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, and a couple from Furnace Room Lullaby (her first solo (post New Pornographers) album in which she called her band “Neko Case and Her Boyfriends”). Her music is the kind that you can climb inside and experience the largeness of a feeling you can’t otherwise put in words. We love you Neko!
The final perfomer I am still in shock over seeing. I can’t believe Buddy Guy played at our humble little festival, and I don’t know how they got him to do it, but he did. It was OH so magical. Buddy Guy is an undisputed legend, and it was hard to believe he was up there in age (71!) when he took to the stage and played his heart out. If you heard blues played on the radio before and weren’t a big fan of it, you MUST see it live. You have to see it live in order to truly feel it, and boy did we feel it that night. Buddy kept saying what a great time he was having, he was gonna play all night (and he nearly did-a good 45 minutes over his alloted set time!). The energy was palpable and magnetic. He played his heart out, and man I swore we saw smoke emanating from that guitar! It was sheer magic. He then dumfounded us all by jumping into the crowd and playing in the audience, inviting others to sing with him including one lucky little child whom he let strum on his guitar. It made the event all the more intimate and unforgettable. Wow, Buddy Guy, in the presence of us mere mortals! He appeared reluctant when he finally ended his set (with a great performance of imitating other guitar legends), but he generously flung out a dozen or so guitar picks into the squealing audience. SO worth it. We’re still reeling from the magic!
All in all it was a fantastic day and we look forward to next year’s festival-woo hoo!
Chris wanted to add his story of a particularly adorable event at the show (my ovaries are hurting):
While watching Neko Case I had made a new friend named Stella. I was watching her perform and caught out of the corner of my eye something. I turned and there was this very cute little girl who was just bopping around. I did a little wave to her and she then made a direct bee line for the blanket I was sitting on. Ok, I am a total sucker for cute little kids but she was adorable and just seemed like a truly happy giggly little girl. Maybe she knew I had the sucker quality in me and that if she could talk and ask for a new car I would have bought her one 🙂
So we spent the next part of a little while playing the “sharing the grass clippings” game and the showing me her shoes while giggling. She then played the game of figuring out my ear rings and of course the ever popular picking of the clover flowers. Definitely made me want a clone of her. Eventually, her moms left since it was getting late and we waved goodbye. Of course hearing her tiny little goodbye made me all googly. Sigggh….