Sounds Local: Jeff Fest moves to Greenfield

  • Singer-songwriter Kris Delmhorst, of Shelburne Falls, will play the season’s final Sundays in the Park concert at Energy Park in Greenfield on Sunday. Contributed photo

  • Area musician Jeff Martell, who lost his life in a 2016 car accident, was instrumental in bringing music to Greenfield’s Energy Park. The park will host Jeff Fest, a concert held in his memory, Saturday. Contributed photo

For the Recorder
Published: 8/8/2018 1:23:53 PM

When singer-songwriter Jeff Martell lost his life in a car accident in January of 2016, he left a huge void — not only in the lives of the people who loved him, but in our local music scene as well.

Martell was involved in local music on a variety of levels. He was an established solo musician who described himself as a “new age psychedelic folk singer,” and over the years, he had also played with a variety of western Massachusetts-based bands. At the time of his death, he was heavily involved in a style of devotional yoga known as kirtan, which involves call-and-response chanting.

In addition to being a musician, Martell also worked behind the scenes at the Green River Festival, serving as the festival’s head of grounds and operations for many years.

Each year since his death, Martell’s partner, Jessica Lapinski, has organized a yearly concert called Jeff Fest that honors Martell’s life, music and spirit. The concerts also serve to raise money for the Jeff Martell Scholarship Fund at Greenfield Community College, where Martell was once a student.

The past two Jeff Fests have been held at Look Park in Florence, but this year’s Jeff Fest is moving to the Greenfield Energy Park at 50 Miles St., and will take place on Saturday from 4 to 8 p.m. The festival will feature a lineup of talented local musicians who all knew Martell and are coming together to pay tribute to him. The lineup features The Gaslight Tinkers, Dead Collective, Heart Centered Kirtan with Libby Volckening, as well as Star Drooker, and Gundy and Magic Carpet Band.

Lapinski said she felt it was important to move the location of the festival for a variety of reasons, but the main one was that Martell had a deep connection to Greenfield. He was raised in Pittsfield but spent more than 25 years of his life living in the Greenfield area. At the time of his death, the 50-year-old musician was living in Northampton, where he had resided for the last eight years.

“Jeff was a big part of the Greenfield community for a number of years,” Lapinski said. “It felt fitting to bring Jeff Fest to Greenfield as he had worked for the Chamber of Commerce for a long time. He was one of the key organizers of the Green River Festival for over 17 years. At one point he was the person that booked the musical acts for the Franklin County Fair and he was one of the original members of the Franklin County Musicians Cooperative, helping to bring music to Energy Park.”

Energy Park made sense for practical reasons as well.

“Logistically, Energy Park felt like it might be a little more accessible for people — there is no $7 parking fee like there is at Look Park,” Lapinski said. “The stage is covered in case it rains, so we won’t have to worry as much above covering things as we had to before. And Energy Park is a smaller venue, a little more intimate. It felt like a good choice when I decided I would organize another Jeff Fest for this year.”

And while the previous two Jeff Fests were held in the evening, this one is starting in the late afternoon and will end early. Lapinski said she hopes that this time change will make the festival more accessible to families and also to people who wish to get home before dark.

Those who want to stay out later always have the option of taking in shows at the nearby Root Cellar or Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center, both of which are a short walking distance from Energy Park.

In addition to all the music, there will be face painting, tarot card readers, food trucks and more. This is a rain-or-shine event and admission is by suggested donation of $10 to $20 (cash or check preferred). Children ages 12 and under are admitted for free. Be sure to bring a blanket or lawn chair to sit on.

Kris Delmhorst headlines final Sunday in the Park

The Sundays in the Park concert series that is held at Greenfield Energy Park will wrap up the 2018 season this Sunday at 6 p.m., with a show featuring singer-songwriter Kris Delmhorst of Shelburne Falls.

Delmhorst, who has enjoyed a lengthy, impressive career, has recorded six albums and two EPs for the Northampton-based Signature Sounds label. She has performed at theaters and festivals all over the world and has worked on a variety of side projects, most notably with Redbird, a group that also includes her husband, singer-songwriter Jeffrey Foucault.

Known for her beautiful, evocative voice and for writing lyrics that resonate deeply with listeners, Delmhorst is a longtime local favorite who, while originally from Brooklyn, N.Y., has called Franklin County home for many years now. Her recorded work has ranged from a collection of songs inspired by poetry (2006’s “Strange Conversation”) to a collection of covers by the rock band The Cars.

Delmhorst’s most recent album is “The Wild,” which she released last September. On this album, she teamed up with Foucault, who served as the disc’s co-producer and provided vocals and guitar work. Prior to this project, the couple essentially kept their work lives separate, but this collaboration proved to be a fruitful one. “The Wild” is a deeply personal album that, according to Delmhorst, “deals with the tide of clarity in life, the way it goes in and out of focus, and the way you lose your path through the wilderness and have to find it again.”

Kris Delmhorst doesn’t play a lot of local shows, so this one is a rare treat even more so when we consider that we get to experience her music outside at Energy Park. Of course, this series has been plagued by rain this year, so let’s keep our fingers crossed in hopes that the sun will shine for this final show.

Bring your lawn chairs and picnics! Admission is a suggested donation of $15 and, in the event of rain, the concert will be held at the Guiding Star Grange at 401 Chapman St. in Greenfield.

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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