Sounds Local: Festival season is almost here

  • The Mavericks will perform at the Green River Festival this year. FOR THE RECORDER/DAVID MCCLISTER

  • Rhiannon Giddens and Dirk Powell will perform at the Shea Theater in Turners Falls on Thursday, March 2, at 7:30 p.m. Contributed photo

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

There’s no better way to get through winter than by planning for summer. Read on for some exciting summer festival news.

Green River Festival

Signature Sounds, who are the organizers of the Green River Festival, have already announced some of that acts that will be performing at this year’s festival. Green River Festival will be held the weekend of July 14 through 16 on the grounds of Greenfield Community College.

Unlike previous years when they would pick a day to announce the lineup in its entirety, this year they are rolling out the lineup in a much slower fashion. Last month, they announced that the jazzy-pop band Lake Street Dive and Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, a jam band that specializes in covering the Grateful Dead, would be performing.

Earlier this month, they unveiled more additions to the festival lineup including the Tex-Mex country influenced band the Mavericks, led by vocalist Raul Malo. The Mavericks were extremely popular in the mid-1990s, breaking up in 2004. Malo went on to pursue a solo career. The band reunited in 2012 and have been working steadily since.

The Mavericks will release a new album, “Brand New Day,” next month.

Houndmouth, an alternative country band from Indiana who have become festival favorites since forming in 2011, has also been announced. And we can count on the Funky Meters from New Orleans, which still features some of the original members, to bring a touch of the Crescent City to the festival.

Being that the Green River Festival is in its 31st year, there are some returning favorites, including alt-country singer-songwriter Robbie Fulks. How many of you can remember Fulks set in 2000 where he laid on his back playing his guitar and singing as the rain poured down on him? He was a huge hit with the crowd then and is bound to be when he returns this year.

Darlingside, known for their lush harmonies and strong songwriting, shared the stage with Heather Maloney when they played the festival in 2014. The band returns this year with its own set. Retro rocker Pokey LeFarge, who played in 2012, returns as does New Orleans’ Big Sam’s Funky Nation — a band that had the crowd dancing away when they made their festival debut last year. Al Anderson played the first ever Green River Festival, back when he was a member of NRBQ, and will return this year with his new band The Floor Models.

Rounding out the lineup is The Infamous Stringdusters, Amadou & Mariam, San Fermin, Mandolin Orange, Chicano Batman, and John Brown’s Body.

More artists for the festival to be announced soon.

Early bird ticket prices for the weekend are currently $110 but will increase to full price on Feb 24. These can be purchased at www.greenriverfestival.com. Passes for camping at the Franklin County Fairgrounds are also available.

Solid Sound Festival

The Lineup for Wilco’s Solid Sound Festival was released last week. The Solid Sound Festival, which takes place June 23 through 25 at MASS MoCA, is curated by and built around the music of the band Wilco.

The alt-rock group from Chicago will perform two shows at the festival as well as various side projects from different band members including Tweedy, featuring Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy and his son Spencer.

Solid Sound is unlike any other festival primarily because of the unique setting that MASS MoCA provides. Included in the festival ticket price is admission to all of the museum exhibits. The festival offers plenty of non-musical performances including appearances by the Bread and Puppet Theater, food writer and chef Mark Bittman, the Story Pirates, comedian John Hodgman and more. There will also be plenty of activities for children.

But let’s talk about the musical lineup, because it is an excellent one.

Television, the pioneering rock group, will make one of their rare concert appearances at this year’s Solid Sound. The band, which features guitarist Tom Verlaine, were a vital part of the New York rock scene in the 1970s and were regulars at CBGB. Television is considered to be one of the defining bands of that movement and a hugely influential force in the punk and alternative rock world. The band’s 1977 album “Marquee Moon” is considered an all-time rock classic.

Kurt Vile and the Violaters are an indie-rock band led by Vile, who is a former member of the group War on Drugs. In 2016, Vile and his band released the excellent album, “b’lieve I’m goin down.”

The Shaggs, the all-sister band from the 1960s who are considered one of the founders of “outsider” music, are reuniting to play their first show together since 1999. The Shaggs’ 1969 album “Philosophy of the World” is considered groundbreaking in its musicality and has been hailed as a masterpiece from other musicians ranging from Frank Zappa to Kurt Cobain.

Kentucky based singer-songwriter Joan Shelley, whose upcoming album is being produced by Jeff Tweedy, will also be performing.

Green River Festival alumnus scheduled to perform include roots rockers Dave and Phil Alvin with the Guilty Ones as well as former J.Geils Band frontman Peter Wolf and his band The Midnight Travelers. Rounding out the lineup is the Robert Glasper Experiment, Dawn of Midi, Kevin Morby, Deep Sea Diver, Alloy Orchestra, Andy Shauf and many more.

Tickets are available now at www.solidsound.com. Three day passes are $159 and children ages six to 10 are $50. Children under six are admitted free.

Rhiannon Giddens and Dirk Powell at the Shea Theater

Rhiannon Giddens became a familiar face and voice as a member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, the Grammy-winning band that focused attention on the African-American contribution to old time string band music.

In 2013, Giddens appeared at the star-studded Another Place, Another Time concert which was inspired by the Coen brothers’ film “Inside Llewyn Davis,” stealing the show with her amazing voice. Giddens, a talented multi-instrumentalist, received the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass in 2016 — the only woman and person of color to receive the prestigious honor. Also a powerhouse vocalist, Giddens made her solo debut in 2015 with the album “Tomorrow is My Turn” — a collection of songs written exclusively by other women.

On Friday, Feb. 24, Giddens releases a new album called “Freedom Highway,” on which she wrote/co-wrote nine of the album’s 12 tunes.

Giddens will be performing music off the new album when she joins forces with multi-instrumentalist Dirk Powell for a show at the Shea Theater in Turners Falls on Thursday, March 2, at 7:30 p.m.

Giddens has always been committed to bringing the musical past and present together and she does that on this album by exploring the subject of racism at various points in history — from the days of slavery to the civil rights movement to present times. Her message is as powerful as her amazing voice. She establishes her talents as a songwriter on this album, which was recorded at Powell’s Louisiana studio. Powell, who produced the disc, also shares the songwriting credits with Giddens on three of the album’s tracks.

In addition to her talents as a singer and musician, Giddens is a dynamic live performer whose shows are nothing short of jaw-dropping.

Before launching a full band tour in support of “Freedom Highway,” Giddens decided to join forces with Powell for a handful of duo shows. This tour will kick off with the Shea Theater show which should be a memorable night of music.

Tickets start at $33.50 and are available at www.signaturesoundspresents.com. This is an all ages show. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. The Shea Theater is located at 71 Avenue A in Turners Falls.

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