Sounds Local: Josh Ritter, Michael Franti top early peek at Green River Festival lineup

For The Recorder
Published: 2/8/2018 9:00:02 AM

Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow last week, which according to groundhog lore means we have six weeks of winter ahead. But forget about predictions made by an oversized rodent and start thinking about the warm weather months ahead, particularly July. We have some good news to share that is guaranteed to get you in a summer frame of mind. Signature Sounds of Northampton, which presents the Green River Festival each year, have decided to give us a sneak peak into the 2018 lineup. The full lineup for the festival will be unveiled in early March but they have let us know that we can look forward to seeing

Josh Ritter and the Royal City Band, Michael Franti and Spearhead, Dr. Dog, and Old Crow Medicine Show when the festival takes place on the grounds of Greenfield Community College on the weekend of July 13 to 15.

If those four acts alone don’t make you want to run out and grab tickets, I don’t know what will.

Singer-songwriter Josh Ritter and his Royal City Band will be on hand to kick the festival off on Friday night. Ritter, an Idaho native, launched his career on Signature Sounds record label and over the years, has been a frequent performer here in western Massachusetts, including multiple appearances at the Green River Festival. He is currently touring in support of his latest album, “Gathering,” an album that finds Ritter moving his sound forward and proving that he is one of the finest lyricists working today. Ritter’s shows are always memorable, in part, due to his excellent band and the positive energy that he always brings to the stage.

But if we want to talk about bringing positive energy to the stage there’s no one that fits that description better than Michael Franti and Spearhead. Franti, whose music is hip-hop/reggae/pop mix, blew the crowd away when he played the festival in 2009. At the time of his appearance, Franti was riding high with his first mainstream hit, “Say Hey, (I Love You).”

His success helped make that Saturday the first sellout in Green River Festival history. Franti delivered a electrifying, high-energy show that won over audience members of all ages. If you caught his set that year, you will be thrilled to hear that he is returning and if you have never seen Franti in concert don’t miss this chance.

Dr. Dog, an indie rock band from Philadelphia will also be on hand on Saturday. The band has weathered changes in its lineup and sound over the 14 years they have been together. They have been laying low for the past couple of years, but will release a new album called “Critical Equation” in April that finds them ready for the next chapter of their career. The band will continue to build on their sound that borrows heavily from ’60s pop and ’70s rock while emerging with a new, fresh sound.

And that the brings us to the Old Crow Medicine Show who will perform on Sunday, a band that you know even if you think you don’t. Why do I say that? “Wagon Wheel” that’s why. That song which band member Ketch Secor shares songwriting credit with Bob Dylan (that’s a story in itself) has become a classic that has sold over a million copies. But the Grammy winning group that was discovered by Doc Watson is more than that one song, they are one of the leading string bands working today and are an amazing live act. The band has a new album, “Volunteer” coming out in the spring, so expect to hear plenty of new music from them when they hit the festival stage.

So get your tickets now! Weekend passes on sale now and can be purchased at

Mardi Gras Madness at Hawks and Reed

While there was plenty of merry making going on last weekend with a series of Mardi Gras shows happening here in the valley, it’s not over yet. If you are still looking for some Mardi Gras fun, head to Hawks and Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield on Saturday night for an evening of Mardi Gras Madness beginning at 7:30 p.m.

The party will feature music from local Cajun and Zydeco bands, Zydeco Connection and Bayou X, a band whose members hail from New Hampshire and southern Vermont and who play original Cajun and Creole dance music.

If you like your music on the spicy side, then you are likely familiar with Zydeco Connection, the band from Franklin County has performed at clubs and festivals throughout the valley since forming in 2004. The music they play is a mix of zydeco, waltzes, two-step blues, and Boogie-woogie. They will be going all out for this show, considering the occasion.

“We will be playing a popular New Orleans song by Joe Avery called “Second Line,” which is played for Mardi Gras festivities,” said Lil’ Cyn, the band’s accordion player. And we’ll play “Mardi Gras in the Country” by Terrance Simien, an eighth-generation Creole from one of the earliest Creole families documented to have settled in the Mallet are of St. Landry Parish.

Bayou X is a band led by New Orleans native, Pete Simoneaux, and his wife and musical partner, Linda Simoneaux. The couple have been performing the sounds of Louisiana since the late 1980s. They play an elaborate mix of music that draws from old-time Cajun duos & trios, ’50s and ’60s dance hall music, swamp pop and New Orleans R&B, and Creole (French and English) music from Louisiana and other parts of the world.

Having these bands together in one show will set the dance floor on fire and will be as close to an authentic New Orleans Mardi Gras party as you’ll find in New England. Costumes are encouraged! And in keeping with the festive mood, Hawks and Reed will be serving up special menu of New Orleans-style food and drink.

Doors open at 7 p.m. Advance tickets are $12 and are available at $16 at the door.

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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