10 Good Things About Life is good Festival 2011
6. Cover Songs – The festival environment seems to make bands more inclined to toss a cover or two into their set list – or maybe it’s the fact that seeing a dozen or more bands over a weekend exposes you to a lot of set lists. Either way, there were some great covers performed over the two days and nights of Life is good: Martin Sexton, just off the plane from Europe, scatting “The Star-Spangled Banner” (cover of an old Francis Scott Key tune) to open his set, and closing with a beautiful rendition of “Amazing Grace”; The Avett Brothers covering Dylan’s “Just Like A Woman” in their encore; Brandi Carlile and her underrated band burning, I mean burning, through a version of the Johnny Cash classic “Folsom Prison Blues”; Robert Randolph & The Family Band reinterpreting “Purple Haze”; The Levon Helm Band covering the Dead’s “Attics of My Life”; Ray LaMontagne covering Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried,” and later, The Byrd’s “Blue Canadian Rockies.”
7. Ray LaMontagne with The Levon Helm Band – Ray LaMontagne joined The Levon Helm Band for it’s final two songs: “Tears of Rage” and “The Weight.” I sometimes find live performances of uber-classics like “The Weight” to be somehow less than – the performance can never live up to one’s memory of the song. But this was not one of those times. Walking through the crowd while this song was being performed – with Ray LaMontagne’s aching, weary voice a perfect meld for the lyrics penned some 40 odd years ago – was close to transcendent; everyone was singing along – not in an arm-waving, festival kind of sing-along, but just whatever they were doing, sitting on a blanket, buying a beer, throwing a Frisbee, they were all singing the same tune. Dad, was this what the 60’s were like?
8. The Boston Pops – Musicians from the legendary orchestra joined Brandi Carlile and The Levon Helm Band for several songs in each of their sets. Under guest conductor Daniel Bernard Roumain, who was clad in jeans and a casual shirt, the group backed Carlile (who professed to being intimidated at sharing the stage with them) on her piano ballad “Before It Breaks” and, later, on “The Story.” They came back to join Helm and company on “Love Played,” “Tears of Rage” and “The Weight.”
9. Ray LaMontagne – Ray LaMontagne’s set to close the festival on Sunday night was a gem. The soft-spoken and intensely shy LaMontagne even managed to crack a half-smile as he was tuning up when an overly boisterous fan shattered the church-like silence by shouting, “We love you, Ray! We don’t deserve you!” Um, yeah, thanks pal – Ray LaMontagne is exactly the right artist to shout at when he’s getting ready to play. Maybe shine a bright light in his eyes too, so he knows we really love him. But the good karma of the festival carried LaMontagne past such distractions. Highlights of his 15-song set included “Beg Steal or Borrow,” “Hold You In My Arms,” “Trouble,” “Jolene,” and the aforementioned “Blue Canadian Rockies.” LaMontagne introduced the last of these by noting that, “There was a record that came out in 1968 that had a profound effect on me when I heard it for the first time. It was a record by The Byrds, called Sweetheart of the Rodeo. ” Most impressive of all were the numbers that let LaMontagne and his excellent backing band, the Pariah Dogs, open the throttle a little bit – as on “Repo Man,” off of last year’s God Willin’ & the Creek Don’t Rise, and a lesser-known track, “Henry Nearly Killed Me (It’s a Shame),” off the 2008 album Gossip in the Grain. The latter of these closed the set (pre-encore), and was a barn-burner.
10. The Festival Organizers – Hats off to the Life is good team, for this was a very well-organized, well-run festival. I did not attend the inaugural event last year, so do not know how much accumulated wisdom they gained from last year to this. But the organizers went to great lengths to make the festival a fan-friendly – and family-friendly – environment, and the good vibes were contagious. They even succeeded in altering the weather, which as close as 12 hours before the gates were to open was forecast to be 48 hours of steady rain, but in reality turned into a sunny, balmy Indian-summer weekend.
Dame shares a song from her new EP Preventions of Heartbreak.
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.
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