Personalities aside, September 17th could not have been a more upbeat and inclusive closing to Grand Point North 2017. As with the prior day’s festivities, the immediate environs of the city, its bordering lake and the atmospheric conditions made for a rarefied experience.
The temperature was warmer than Saturday and with less breeze off the water, many concertgoers—the number of which well exceeded that of the 16th, much earlier than the prior day— sought shelter in the shade. No doubt some of the torpor was the result of after-parties the night before, but the lethargy was offset with an undertow of excitement within the slow, steady influx of fans arriving in anticipation of the Trey Anastasio Band’s headlining appearance. Paradoxically, the weather worked in favor of the civics, environmental and community-minded booths lining the path to food vendors and other amenities, including those sources of generosity in the form of Ben and Jerry’s truck and the inflatable tent occupied by representatives of the makers of Cliff Bars.
Meanwhile, the early acts of the lineup weathered the heat and humidity or at least tried to. Some, like the Welterweights, did better than others: the second act of the day played with a marked insouciance and a twangy but hard driving insistence, presenting themselves as something of a rock and roll companion piece to Eastern Mountain Time: the openers sounded as if they had stepped right out from the dazed air conjured by the songs of Neil Young’s On the Beach.
Valiant as he was, Henry Jamison only seem to wilt in the direct sunlight as he offering a set of quietly intense, introspective baroque folk; once a local favorite now beyond that courtesy of “Real Peach,” he could rouse only a smattering of response from those attendees brave enough to gather front and center, from one stage to another, as the sun beat down through the still, humid air. Son Little and his band did little better than that, but he and his band had to work for a response, their pop-infused blues finally throwing off some sparks that caught fire as they finished.
Low Cut Connie took the stage as if embracing the audience, many of whom were so delighted to see them, the affection came back two-fold. The raucous back and forth for the duration of the set raucous gave the distinct impression that, not only would Low Cut Connie carry on with its inimitable showmanship, their fans would respond (probably in no small part due to the group’s Rolling Stones derived rock.
The ‘sister act’ Joseph couldn’t have provided a more stark contrast. The purity of their sound was striking in its uplifting honesty and not just on their ethereal rendition of Jagger/Richards’ “Moonlight Mile.” Their consecration of the crowd in their final song, like their entire set, was a welcome respite from the prior extremes of the day, so it’s little wonder the audience accepted Joseph’s benediction in the spirit in which it was offered: testament to the surprise and pleasure they found in this somewhat unsung billing.
In immediately calling attention to the picture perfect scene of the setting sun, Grace Potter might’ve been trying to convince herself she was glad NOT to be headlining this second night of her own festival. And that ambivalence might account too for her somewhat schizophrenic presentation during which she spent scant time as the Hammond organ placed so prominently at center stage. On one end of the spectrum the quiet acoustics of John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery” played and on the other, an excessively loud sound to which the GPN namesake and her band rose (or descended depending on perspective).
Notwithstanding the rambling nature of Potter and company’s set, there was no mistaking the largely female acclamation received regardless (and not just at the introduction of her infant niece). But there’s not much overlap between Potter’s followers and those of Phish, though which is why, after an hour or so of the TAB set, the lawn population had diminished dramatically from a point where, at some angles early on, it looked like those in attendance extended beyond the shores of Lake Champlain.
The significance of Anastasio’s first bonafide appearance in the Burlington area since 2011 might’ve eclipsed the performance of his band had the octet not performed in such a superlative manner. Interweaving some extended instrumental segments (though not overly long ones) with more structured material, there were more than a few near-majestic moments that recalled the monumental show at the now-defunct Memorial Auditorium during Burlington Discover Jazz Festival 2003. The tropical air of a few select early numbers grew into to steadily percolating (and sometimes pulsating) rhythmic undercurrent, ll of which came through this balmy night at a reasonable volume with the greatest clarity of any mix throughout the weekend at Waterfront Park.
The notion of a homecoming of sorts for the (still) titular leader of Phish rose to the fore roughly an hour-plus into his somewhat truncated time-slot. The frontman’s fond reminiscence of his first visit to Burlington, combined with sit-ins from bandmates Page McConnell and Mike Gordon (as well as another long-time collaborator, saxophonist Dave “The Truth” Grippo) all lent intimacy and informality (not to mention finality) to the encore. Grace Potter’s vocal contribution to an acoustic “Water In The Sky,” wasn’t so much of a surprise for how softly she sang, but how her appearance represented a gesture of mutual generosity..
If GPN goes on hiatus (even if just temporarily) for the sake of this woman growing a family, it will have ended on the brightest, not mention warmest, of notes.
Photos by Ross Mickel