You may not be aware of it, but this weekend (July 12-14) the best little music festival on the East coast will be rocking on and you should be there. The Green River Music Festival takes place on the beautiful campus of Greenfield Community College in Greenfield, MA. It features three main stages, local food and crafts vendors, lots of activities for kids (including an awesome grassy hill to roll down) and a hot air balloon show. The festival has been growing in popularity from its inaugural year in 1986 and, in this reviewer’s opinion, boasts its best line up this year.
The festival is a great place for: music lovers – with over 40 bands ranging from folk to blues to world music to roots rock; families – kids 10 and under get in free and many roam on their own; and people who just need a relaxing weekend – it is a very low key festival that seems to avoid long lines, jockeying for position and the more stressful aspects of larger festivals. There is even a separate campground equipped with bathrooms, running water and soft places to set up tents. The surroundings are beautiful, with sprawling green fields of grass, and amazing sunsets, but what makes this festival so special are the warm and welcoming people who attend, volunteer and staff the festival.
The music lineup this year is world class. The festival kicks off Friday at 5:10 pm on the Tea Guys main stage with Upstate, a band fronted by three female singers who harmonize beautifully. Next up is Heather Maloney, a Massachusetts based singer-songwriter who can hold down a stage with her story-filled songwriting alone. Later on, Parsonsfield play. They look like a bluegrass band, but the passion that they perform with gives their music another amazing dimension. The main stages closes out with a set by folk rocker Lucinda Williams who plays from 9:15 – 10:45 pm. For those looking for something a little different, there are three world music bands (Mtali Shaka Banda Oneness Project – this sax player is the son of a Milawian refugee father and an African American mother; Ladama – four women from the Americas: Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela and the US; and Lakou Mizik – an 8 piece Haitian musical collective) playing on the Dean’s Beans Stage. But what may be the most special aspect of this festival takes place in the Parlor Room Tent which is re-branded on Friday night as the Next Wave Stage on which four local, high-school aged bands Born IV Blues, Zoki, Dez Roy and Moving Day will perform sets of polished and mostly original music.
Saturday runs from 12:20 to 11 pm and features many bands, but the ones that this reviewer is most excited to hear are: The Suitcase Junket – Matt Lorenz’s one-man band comprised of found objects and instruments that is guaranteed to mesmerize any Junket first-timer; Red Baraat – Sunny Jain’s bhangra funk band that sounds like the love child of a Bollywood soundtrack and a funky New Orleans brass band; Samantha Fish – an up and coming blues star who is filling up venues across the country; Low Cut Connie – a high-energy rock outfit that puts on a great show; and Stone Coyotes – blues rock balladeers with a bit of an edge. Other bands many will be familiar with are The Wood Brothers and Angelique Kidjo.
The day that is most packed with must-see acts is Sunday. The day runs from 12:30 – 8pm and is highlighted by Fantastic Negrito – the Oakland performer who has won a Tiny Desk contest, two Grammys (2017 & 2019 – Best Contemporary Blues Album) and the adoration of countless fans with his incredible live performances; Rhiannon Giddens – who has an amazing voice and has practically cornered the market on mesmerizing folk projects since she left the Carolina Chocolate Drops; The Record Company – a three piece band that plays “in your face” blues-based rock and roll that feels familiar and fresh at the same time; Mipso – a folk quartet from North Carolina that seems poised to break out beyond their folk music audience; The Gaslight Tinkers – a dance band that combines bluegrass with Celtic music in a way that somehow works for people who aren’t fans of either genre; Eilen Jewell – a singer-songwriter familiar to New England audiences; The East Pointers – a band from Prince Edward Island that play traditional music that seems to be accessible to new ears; and the night finishes up with Americana powerhouse The Devil Makes Three – “rooted in troubadour traditions of wandering folk, Delta blues, whiskey-soaked ragtime and reckless rock’n’roll”.