Warwick music fest started as backyard dreaming
Old 78 Farm’s annual event returns Sept. 28
WARWICK — The hills of Warwick will be alive with the sights and sounds of the Old 78 Farm Fall Festival on Sept. 28.
Don’t let the name fool you: the event is only in its fourth year. Although the farmhouse is about 150 years old, the small hobby farm is still a work in progress.
The festival is the result of the farm’s owner, Philip Simon, cracking wise to his wife, Angella. They’ve owned the farmhouse since 2008, and have been slowly working to improve the property.
“One day, four years ago, my wife and I were doing some outside cleanup, when I said ‘Look, hon, we could do a festival here. We could put the entrance here, the stage over there and vendors there.’” he said.
It was something she’d heard countless times before. Her husband often envisions imaginary gigs on their travels, pipe-dreaming as they pass fields, farms or anything Simon feels would be a perfect place for a festival.
That day in their backyard, she called his bluff.
“She said ‘What’s the date?’”
He tried to backpedal, but his wife held him to it.
“I said ‘no, no,’ but she said ‘We’re doing it,’” he recalled.
She knew he could produce. Simon has been booking musicians and putting on events for about 25 years, and owns Simon Says Booking in Orange.
So, he got the necessary permits from the town, and combed through his contacts to put together the lineup.
Though his six-acre property was a bit different from the clubs and concert halls Simon’s accustomed to, he’s been able to turn his field into an outdoor venue for four years running.
“We can take duct tape, bailing twine and sticks, and put on a really professional event in the middle of nowhere,” he said with pride and a bit of hyperbole.
His words aren’t that much of an exaggeration. The staging, vendor booths and other fixtures are made from recycled and re-purposed materials, cutting down on costs and removing items from the waste stream.
Headlining the show will be Roots of Creation, whose mix of reggae, dubstep and jam band styles earned them the Cider Music Awards’ title of best jam band, and best band in New Hampshire from the 2012-2013 New England Music Awards.
The lineup also includes one act that may only last the night.
The “all-star” group Alchemisfits will be composed of members of popular area reggae band The Alchemystics, parts of the hip-hop group the Problemaddicts, and other area musicians. Simon said some of the day’s other musicians may also join the Alchemisfits on stage.
Other groups include the Americana act Girls Guns and Glory, Talking Heads tribute band Start Making Sense, Hot Day at the Zoo and their “zoo-grass” sound, and Adam Ezra, who’s played the Old 78 since its 2010 inception.
A second stage will host more local acts, all of which have roots in the blues, soul and Franklin County. Wildcat O’Halloran, Melanie and the Blue Shots, and Mr. Noizy and the Sparkplugs will perform on the Warwick stage.
The festival is a family affair, with the Simons putting it on, and Phil’s brother, a member of award-winning barbecue team “I’m a Hog for Q,” serving the crowd, including chicken chili from the Simons’ own flock.
Families are welcome, too, with kids under 12 getting in for free. For everyone else, it’s $10. There will be face painting, clowns, pony rides, balloon animals and more.
Though there’s plenty lined up during the daytime, the real spectacle starts at sundown, said Simon.
“When the sun goes down, the bonfire starts, LEDs start flashing, people are throwing fire, and the bands transition from Americana to reggae and dubstep,” said Simon. “It’s quite the transformation.
Though the festival is small (Simon said he’d like to hit 500 attendees), people come from far and wide. Walking around the parking area, Simon said he’s seen license plates from New Jersey, Rhode Island, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Connecticut.
“That’s a pretty interesting mix when you’re talking about a crowd of just a few hundred,” said Simon.
Simon wishes there was a local store, inn or other businesses that could benefit from the crowd drawn to the festival. It does, however, help put Warwick on the map, he said.
That would certainly help those few who have set out for the Old 78 Festival and wound up in Warwick, R.I.
Then there are those who find themselves in Warwick, Mass., and stumble upon the festival.
“During the very first festival, someone showed up from California, who was just randomly on his way through town,” Simon said. “He had his mind blown; he used to sleep in the farmhouse attic.”
That man embodied one facet of the old home’s past. In the ’60s and ’70s, said Simon, the property was home to the area commune The Brotherhood of the Spirit.
Gates will open at 11 a.m., with music starting at noon and going until 11 p.m. Sept. 28, at 823 Orange Road (Route 78), Warwick.
To find out more about the festival, visit www.old78farm.com.
The Simons are still looking for volunteers and vendors. Volunteers can sign up for a 90-minute shift, then enjoy the rest of the fest for free. Vendors can rent a booth for $30, which includes two paid admissions.
If you’d like to sign up as a volunteer or vendor, call Simon Says at 978-544-5110, or email email@example.com.