Green River Music Festival
The anticipation is almost over as we are a couple of days away from the 27th annual Green River Festival. The two-day event, which is presented by the Greenfield Chamber of Commerce and held on the grounds of Greenfield Community College, will take place this weekend, Saturday, July 20, and Sunday, July 21. The festival features music on three stages, hot air balloons, local food and vendors and much, much more.
With continuous music on three stages and all of it good, it’s hard to map out a strategy of which performances to attend. Do you sit yourself in front of the main stage or run around and try and take in as much as possible? With 35 acts performing over two days, that amounts to a lot of music and a lot of choices, so I’ve handpicked a short list of the acts I think should be on a must-see list.
If there is one band that you must hear at this year’s festival, it’s the eight-piece outfit known as Gogol Bordello, which will perform on the Main Stage at 8:45 p.m. Saturday. I admit when they were first announced as festival headliners my reaction was “who?” To answer that question, I turned to YouTube and indulged in a Gogol Bordello marathon and was amazed at the relentless energy that this group puts into its performances. The band is led by Eugene Hutz, a native of Ukraine who migrated to the United States, where he formed the gypsy punk band Gogol Bordello in 1999.
The band’s members are from all over the world and they combine their various global influences with gypsy punk to create the group’s self-described “volcano of sound.” But it’s the band’s high-energy live shows, which merge theater and music, that have won them fans all over the globe. The group will release its sixth album, “Pura Vida Conspiracy,” which Hutz says focuses on the idea of human potential and how that can be expressed in music, on July 23. This show is the first date of what will be a massive world tour for the band.
If you are a fan of vintage rock ’n’ roll and classic rhythm and blues, then you will not want to miss JD McPherson, who will perform on the Main Stage on Saturday at 4:05 p.m. The Oklahoma native is brilliant at delivering a retro sound while never wallowing in nostalgia. “I like that juxtaposition of classic and fresh,” wrote McPherson in his biography. “Something old, yet new, that can actually take you somewhere now.” If you saw him perform at the festival kickoff party last year, you know that with songs like “Fire Bug” and “North Side Gal,” McPherson is guaranteed to rock the place.
You’ll have to arrive early to take in the sounds of festival veteran Slaid Cleaves (he played there 10 years ago) as the singer-songwriter opens the Main Stage at 12:50 p.m. on Saturday. Cleaves, however, is worth it. The Austin-based songwriter writes poetic, moving songs about the struggles of working-class people and sings them in a warm, distinct voice. He has a new album out called “Still Fighting the War,” the title track dealing with a serviceman returning home while still fighting the war in his mind. Not only is this one of his strongest songs, the entire album is one of his best. It will be a treat to hear some of these songs performed live.
The Bernie Worrell Orchestra
Hundreds of bands played at the South by South West festival in Austin, Texas, this year, yet critics like Ann Powers came away from the event singing the praise of the Bernie Worrell Orchestra. A Rock & Roll Hall of Famer, keyboardist Worrell is a leader in the world of funk having been a founding member of Parliament/Funkadelic. He later went on to work with Talking Heads and was a member of their “Stop Making Sense” band. In 2011, he formed the eight-piece orchestra, which consists of two guitarists, a drummer, bass, percussion and a three-piece horn section. Unfortunately, they are playing the Yonder tent at 9:25 p.m. on Saturday, which conflicts with Gogol Bordello’s set. But, once that show is over there will still be time to catch the funky orchestra as it performs until 10:55 p.m.
Snider is an honest and funny folk/country singer-songwriter whose work has unfortunately slipped under the radar. The title of his latest album, “Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables,” provides some insight into what Snider is all about. On that disc he writes songs about crooked bankers, the pleasure of recreational drugs and the evils of organized religion. That may sound a little heavy handed, but it’s actually the opposite. The reason you don’t want to miss Snider is that he is a fantastic storyteller, introducing his songs with sometime lengthy, often hilarious stories that make his live shows highly enjoyable. Catch him on the Main Stage on Sunday at 2 p.m.
The Gaslight Tinkers
The Local Hero tent has so many great local bands that I really want to tell you to see them all, but since that probably isn’t going to work out for most festival-goers I suggest you try to see this band as it doesn’t play out a lot. It is also relatively new, having formed in late 2011. It features Garrett Sawyer, formerly of the Alchemystics, on bass, Peter Siegel on guitar and Zoe Darrow on fiddle. The group describes its sound as Afrobeat, Caribbean, breakbeat, funk, and Latin grooves meet traditional Northern fiddle. Sound intriguing? It is. The Gaslight Tinkers will perform on the local hero stage on Sunday at 2:40 p.m.
Philip Price, Heather Maloney and Jeffrey Foucault
This trio of musicians are three of the finest singer-songwriters that this area has to offer. On Saturday, they will join together to perform in the round. Their styles are very different, with Foucault having a country edge to his music. Price is known for an atmospheric, indie pop sound and Maloney’s music is a folk-pop mix. To hear them swapping songs together on the Local Hero stage at 5:55 p.m. on Saturday should prove to be special. Since it is likely that this will be the only time these three will get together, this is a performance not to miss.
Advance tickets for the festival are $65 for single day passes and $90 for the weekend. Advance tickets are only available through Friday, July 19. Tickets can be purchased at www.greenriverfestival.com; World Eye Bookshop, 156 Main St., Greenfield and 1 North Main St., Florence; The Franklin County Chamber of Commerce, 395 Main St., Greenfield; Elmer’s Store, 396 Main St., Ashfield, and Signature Sounds/The Parlor Room, 32 Masonic St., Northampton. Tickets at the gate are $75 per day. Children 12 and under are free.
Parking will be available in the lots at Greenfield Community College at $10 per day. Purchase passes at ticket outlets above or at the gate (cash only). There is free parking at nearby Wedgewood Garden (1 Kimball Drive, Greenfield) with free shuttle service. Gates will open at noon each day.
Sheryl Hunter is a music writer who lives in Easthampton. Her work has appeared in various regional and national magazines. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org