10 Good Things About Life is good Festival 2011
Craig Finn, The Hold Steady
Life is good, the socially-conscious New England-based apparel company, staged their second annual “Life Is good Festival” on the grounds of the Prowse Farm in Canton, Massachusetts over the weekend of Sept. 24th and 25th. The festival raised more than $1 million for the company’s charitable arm, dedicated to helping kids facing life-threatening challenges. Here, in no particular order, are 10 Good Things about the 2011 Life is good Festival:
1. Barefoot Truth – This young indie band out of Connecticut was the last act to sign up for the festival, thereby snagging the coveted 12 noon opening slot on Saturday, a time when most respectable rock acts are still in bed, and half the festival crowd had yet to arrive. The band’s lead singer and drummer Will Evans noted the fact that noon was way early for these guys to be out and about. But never mind, nothing a pair of dark shades couldn’t solve. Unfurling a distinctive roots-rock sound they’ve made their own – akin to Dispatch, but not quite – BFT showed why they are quietly building a devoted following playing small clubs, bars and colleges throughout the Northeast and beyond. The acts to follow would show this quintet they still have a couple of levels to go before they hit the big time. But they’re fun to watch, they’re paying their dues.
2. Dwight & Nicole – One of the benefits of festivals is they expose you to bands you might not come across on your own. The first of these, for me, was Dwight & Nicole, the genre-bending five-piece band fronted by Dwight Ritcher and Nicole Nelson. Take R&B, soul, blues and jazz, mix in razor-sharp rock guitar (Dwight), a soulful, joyful, foot-stomping, happy-to-be-alive stage energy (Nicole), heat to boiling, and watch your face melt. That’s Dwight & Nicole. Catch them in a dark, smoky club where the sweat’s dripping off the ceiling. Or at an outdoor festival, for that matter. They’ll captivate you either way.
3. The Hold Steady – Another band with electrifying, in-your-face stage presence, in the form of tightly-wound front man Craig Finn. The Hold Steady reportedly was born eight years or so ago after Finn and guitarist Tad Kubler watched The Last Waltz (this film may be to the indie rock movement what All The President’s Men was to journalism 20 or 30 years ago). The Hold Steady, it should be noted, have little in common with The Band, which is fine. Finn’s stage act calls to mind something a little closer to original issue Elvis Costello or other neo-punk artists like Jim Carroll. He might sing a verse, then push the microphone away and mouth the verse again to himself, like some paranoid schizophrenic who can’t believe the singer just said what he said. The effect is great and fits their songs, which are mostly dense stories. On stage, the band comes right at you, threatening to break through the invisible plane between performer and audience, grab you by the lapels (should you be wearing any), and shake you and slap you, something, anything to get you to understand the full weight of the human condition.
4. Michael Franti and Spearhead – This band was a perfect match for this festival, not only because Franti and Spearhead are a great live act, but because Franti’s social consciousness fits right in with the prevailing vibe of Life is good. Franti was like a pied piper of funk on Saturday afternoon, high-stepping barefoot back and forth across the stage, until the stage was no longer enough to contain him and he plunged into the crowd. Franti has not worn shoes since the year 2000 – not sure you can get more Life is good than that. And guitarist sidekick Jay Bowman had his best Joe Strummer look going.
5. The Avett Brothers – Saturday night headliners The Avett Brothers blew me away. I had heard the buzz about their live shows, but partly because their most recent album – 2009’s I And Love And You – was more of a mid-tempo affair, I wasn’t expecting the high-energy blast with which they took the stage as the final act of the festival’s first night. Critics have struggled to nail the band’s sound, and I probably won’t do much better, but what came to mind watching their 18-song set was some amalgam of The Band, The Beatles and a punk group of your choosing. Not ingredients that typically get stirred in the same pot, but that’s the beauty of what they’ve created – it’s not like anything else. From opener “Go To Sleep” (hint: it’s not a lullaby) to closer “I And Love And You,” the band burned through an incendiary set where even the ballads sounded as if they might want to pick a fight with you.
Golden Bloom stopped by Relix to perform a tune from their latest EP No Day Like Today.
The Chapin Sisters share an tune from their new album A Date With the Everly Brothers.
Minneapolis-based Night Moves share a song from their record, Colored Emotions, live at Relix.
Cloud Cult share a song from their latest album live at Relix.
The Giving Tree Band enjoy a spring day on the Relix rooftop, while performing a classic Grateful Dead tune.
Canadian singer-songwriter Hayden performs a duet with his sister-in-law Lou Canon. The song appears on Us Alone his first record on Broken Social Scene’s Arts & Crafts Productions.
The Milk Carton Kids share the first song from their new album, The Ash & Clay.
Here is the new video from Serbian guitar ace Ana Popovic. “Object Of Obsession” appears on her latest album Can You Stand The Heat.
Ron Sexsmith visits the Relix office to perform a tune from his latest record Forever Endeavor.
Crystal Bowersox stops by Relix to perform a song from her new album, All That For This.
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