Big names, small names and good vibes

  • The Stone Coyotes. Contributed photo

  • Red Baraat. Contributed photo

  • Heather Maloney. Contributed photo

  • Samantha Fish. Contributed photo

Published: 7/11/2019 8:35:11 AM

As you gear up for the Green River Festival and plot out what acts you plan to see, chances are that you are focused on catching what is known in the festival world as the “large font” bands — acts whose names boldly stand out on festival posters.

In the case of the Green River Festival 2019, we are talking about Lucinda Williams, Angelique Kidjo, The Wood Brothers, Rhiannon Giddens, The Devil Makes Three and a few others.  

And while you certainly don’t want to miss those artists, the beauty of a festival like this is that you have the opportunity to discover new bands and solo artists that you may fall in love with. So don’t just settle down in front of the main stage — take some risks and go check out those acts that you’ve never heard of. There are a lot of new names this year, and in case you are overwhelmed by the maze of music that is the Green River Festival, I’ve assembled a list of some of the performers that are not to be missed. 

Samantha Fish: Even though she’s been making music since 2009 and won slews of blues awards, I have to confess that I had never heard of Samantha Fish until very recently. It was only after a friend of mine raved about Fish’s performance at JazzFest in New Orleans this past year that my interest was piqued. To stand out among the hundreds of acts that play at Jazzfest, one has to be pretty good. So I checked out some of Fish’s music on YouTube and now I can’t wait to see her at Green River Festival. She’s a blues singer with a powerful voice who also happens to be a great guitar player. Fish has drawn the obvious comparisons to Susan Tedeschi, but think Tedeschi with a bit more sass. Fish will play the main stage on Saturday at 2:55 p.m.

Red Baraat: How can you resist a band that’s been described as the ultimate party band? This eight-piece ensemble from Brooklyn definitely knows how to roll out a good time which combines Bhangra music (and upbeat popular music from Northern India) with New Orleans-styled horns and a  hip-hop attitude. The band is led by Dhol player (a double-sided drum) Sunny Jain, who is a force of nature to watch. I first discovered Red Baraat when its members played Green River in 2015 and have made it a point to catch them every time they have played the area since. You should not miss this set. Red Baraat plays the Dean’s Bean stage on Saturday at 5:55 p.m.

Tyler Childers: I remember when Margo Price played the festival in 2016. There was this buzz swirling about her appearance as it was widely believed that she was an important artist on the rise. The hype proved true. Now, country singer Tyler Childers seems to be at a similar place in his career as Price was back then. The career of the Kentucky native is starting to take off and he has received widespread critical acclaim with the release of his 2017 debut “Purgatory” and there is even more anticipation for his major label release “Country Squire,” which is due in early August. Both albums were co-produced by Sturgill Simpson. All I can say is catch Childers at a festival of this size while you can. Tyler Childers will play the main stage on Saturday at 4:30 p.m.

Next Wave Stage: You owe it to yourself to spend some time at the Next Wave Stage which is a showcase for rising young local talent that Signature Sounds has been hosting for the past few years. I am not going to single out a specific group here that you should see, as they are all deserving of attention. The four groups playing the stage are indie rockers Moving Day, pop-folk trio ZoKi, country artist Dez Roy, and Born IV Blues, a blues group out of the Berkshires.

I should also mention that admission into the festival is free on Friday night for ages 19 and under, so be sure to make a stop at this tent. Music on the Next Wave Stage begins at 5:30 with Born IV Blues, ZoKi at 6:30 p.m, Dez Roy at 7:30 p.m. and Moving Day at 8:30 p.m.

The Stone Coyotes: Chances are you are familiar with this Greenfield-based family of rockers as the band has been making music on the local scene for well over 20 years. But there are a couple of reasons that you need to make a point to see the band’s set. For starters, it’s not often that you get to hear hard driving, straight ahead guitar-heavy rock played at the Green River Fest, and that is what the Coyotes are all about (although the band does have a country side to their sound as well.) And being that half of the band lives on the West Coast, it makes playing shows rather difficult — so you have to catch them when you can and this is one of those rare chances. The Stone Coyotes will play the Dean’s Bean’s Stage on Saturday at 9:15 p.m.

The East Pointers: This rootsy trio from Prince Edward Island is likely unknown to most festival goers. But oncee people hear its melodic music, which is kind of a Celtic/roots music blend, the group will have plenty of new fans. Armed with a fiddle, banjo and a guitar, these three know how to put on a great show that is chocked full of their infectious, unique sound. The East Pointers play the Main Stage on Sunday at 12:35 p.m. and the Parlor Room Stage on Sunday at 6:15 p.m.

LowDown Brass Band: What is a festival without a brass band? The Green River Festival has hosted a variety of brass bands over the years, and this year it welcomes The LowDown Brass Band from Chicago, a group that merges the funky, gritty sounds of its hometown with the brass-heavy second line sound we’ve come to associate with New Orleans. In addition, the band tosses in some hip-hop and reggae to add to the dance-ability of its sound. The Lowdown Brass Band will play the Dean’s Beans Stage on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

Heather Maloney: The Green River Festival always has a strong lineup of local talent, but especially so this year. One that you really shouldn’t miss is singer-songwriter Heather Maloney as she’ll be playing songs of her recently released and excellent album, “Soil in the Sky.”  Maloney, who is from Northampton, has released a collection of honest songs dealing with love and loss that defy easy labeling. The album was produced by local musician Ryan Hommel. Maloney will play the Main Stage on Friday night at 6:35 p.m. and the Parlor Room Stage on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.

Cedric  Burnside: If you are a fan of blues music, you will not want to miss Cedric Burnside. He’s the grandson of Mississippi bluesman R.L. Burnside and the son of blues drummer Calvin Jackson. Burnside’s been playing drums and guitar since he was a young kid and now he’s making a name for himself with his own raw, hypnotic brand of electric blues. Burnside will play the Parlor Room Stage on Sunday at 1:30 p.m.

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

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