Freshgrass has a tendency to pull me in many directions. I want to see what is happening on the big stage in the field. I want to catch pop ups at some undisclosed location inside the museum (or, just take in some of the beautiful installations). I want to see the acts on the small stage. The Freshgrass award competition. The pickers in the outside courtyard. I mean, its sensory overload in the best possible way and you truly can’t lose, but you also can’t see it all and thats just something you have to come to grips with.
This year I saw a lot of great stuff. I caught up with some really good friends I haven’t seen in a while that were both there to perform and there to watch as audience members. Here’s just a few of my favorite Freshgrass moments (in monochrome…duh) from Saturday.
Crooked Still reunion. I am not sure it can be said enough how much this band has meant and done for the roots music community in Boston, and quite frankly the roots community as a whole. Blending tradition with a fresh, contemporary twist their shows are heartfelt and exciting. It was as if no time had passed and the quintet picked the ball right back up and gave a completely packed courtyard exactly what they came their for. The interplay between band members was a beautiful thing to see and as smiles and smirks passed over their faces as special moment after special moment piled up at their feet, tears of joy and gasps of excitement lit up the audience.
Darol Anger’s Republic of Strings. It truly was like a small country called “Talentville” was on stage during Darol’s ensemble set. The fiddle section alone consisted of some of the most talented players that we would see that weekend (or in year’s past) and Anger has this brilliant way of allowing other’s to shine in the light that he casts upon the stage and field in front of him. That’s the beauty of a musician like Darol, on his own he is one to marvel at the prowess of, but he someone is able to pull so much from all those that are alongside him. The set felt fluid and loose, while the band was also playing some fairly complicated and interweaving pieces.
The Wood Brothers…just being the Wood Brothers. I have been trying to see these fellas for a while now and timing has just never lined up. I saw a video in a stairway from our friends at Mason Jar Music a while back and was hooked. Boy was I missing out not seeing them live. The energy of the trio is absolutely electric. Despite a little bit of a late start, the three bandmates launched into their set with a feverous passion that ignited the crowd and kept them going strong for the duration. Never again will I miss this band if they are in a 2 hour radius of my house.
Low key hangs with Dom Flemons. Ok, well this one may not be fair because not everyone could do so, I can’t stress enough how much of gift this man is to our roots music community. An encyclopedia and wealth of knowledge about the history of American music. We stowed away to the green room behind the Hunter Center and talked for a bit, Dom pulled out an old dobro and picked a couple songs for me, explaining the story and we filmed a video and made a couple of photographs. I feel blessed to be able to experience this gent’s warmth and openness to talking about his music and even more so for sharing these songs.
Little stage, HUGE sound. At festivals I always tend to gear myself towards smaller stages. That seems to be where the special moments happen…I also enjoy seeing up and comers, the band who hasn’t hit their break yet but is touring relentlessly, funding their records from out of pocket and still has the energy and drive to absolutely destroy an audience’s hearts with their performance. On Saturday that band was Upstate Rubdown. I have never seen so many people piled into that tiny courtyard and the band’s energy matched the ever growing crowd. Simply put: holy sh*t this is good music.
Where its at, I got a suitcase drum and 2 microphones. Matt Lorenz is an act that you will never tire of. His between song banter is charming and engaging in a subtle sort of way, but when he launches into a song the overdriven guitar runs and seemingly impossible percussive acrobatics he performs is anything by subtle. Complete with some new tunes with a bluesy backbone, throat singing, box of bone banging and reverb heavy guitar soundhole effects, he stole the show…as he always tends to do.
Late night surprises. The Ginstrings were a new to me band but one I was told I had to stick around and check out…so I did and boy was I happy that I made that choice. The 5 piece could have wowed me on their own, but the sum of their parts was full of energy and life. As people began to flow back from Joe’s Field either into the Hunter Center or back to their cars and campsites a clog began to form. It grew until there was a giant circle around the small stage. The fellas just manage to engage until you cannot look away. My favorite find of the weekend.