Camp Kee Wa Nee Greenfield MA
May 22 – 25 2015
Let’s just start by saying I had the best time, ever. Amazing. The weather was perfect, and while there were dust storms, that weeds out the weak from the more experienced festivarians that’s for sure.
We had an ambitious plan for the weekend that included a performance by my own band, a full on vending booth the whole four days, time with the kids for a good 24 hours, and the normal festival chicanery. My wife arrived on THU morning to set up the booth, and I arrived Saturday around noon with my band in tow for a mid afternoon set.
While patience was required, we had little trouble getting the festival pickup truck to pick up our gear and bring it to the Riverworm stage where we set up and got ready for a 3 PM show. My wife closed up the booth and helped to bring down a crowd of faithful supporters, as it was early and most folks were still hanging in their campgrounds and getting their weekend set up. We did get a lot of response, some from far away in the woods where people were listening, and some more direct from right in front of us.
Coming off of my first personal performance at a Worm event with a band (I had sat in with a few bands and participated in the Last Waltz a few years ago) and I was totally spent emotionally and physically after the set, happily so. So my energy plummeted but I had to bolster myself as I knew a whole weekend of music was approaching. I caught a bit of Banooba on the main stage and they were great. I had expected them to be a reggae band because of the name and the look, but they turned out to be more of a hard soul band. That vibe was continued with a great set by Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds. I have been hearing great things, but I have yet to see a full set and I thought that they sounded great.
The energy level took a turn toward the slower with a set by Shakedown who were playing throughout the weekend and I felt a little like they were holding back. Zach Deputy played the main stage headliner spot on FRI night and was better than any recent time I had seen him perform. I’m not a huge Zach fan- though I don’t dislike him either. I felt that he did a good job this night of varying his vocal and guitar styles to be different during different parts of the show. There was some flamenco guitar, and some out there vocal stylings that were varied from other times I had seen him, and I enjoyed the set more than ever. There were a ton of other sets I wanted to see that night including Ghosts of Jupiter, Secret Sage and Jahman Brahman, but you can only get so much, right?
The late night cabin had Flux Capacitor for their first appearance at Strangecreek though they had been at Wormtown in September. To say that they melted faces was an understatement for sure. They packed their set chock full of amazing jams. I was standing next to my drummer Rory, and every 90 seconds or so we’d stop and suddenly look at each other like, Did you just see that? They absolutely crushed for a good two hours. Their set included almost nothing but originals including an epic Happy’s Vaporizer Song. They did a great cover of Bob Marley’s Soul Shakedown Party that was beyond epic, and they ended their set at like 3:30 AM with the Doors LA Woman which also crushed. The Romano Project followed Flux Capacitor in the cabin but I was asleep by then!!
I got up super early on SAT morning, and got the booth opened and started really hanging with people. The flux dudes came over and we caught up with each other. That’s one of the great things about this festival, like many of them, it’s a chance to really hang out with people that you know and love, from both near and far, and to party up, and also get some real and true face time. Put the phones down, they won’t do you much good here, check out the tunes, and just really hang with the family and the community.
I caught mostly what was on the main stage that day, the tunes floating my way down to the booth. I caught nice bets and pieces of The Kind Buds and Domino Theory. DT was channeling some crazy Hendrix vibes- do they always do a lot of Hendrix? Gang of Thieves were killing it too. Cornmeal brought their mellow midwestern bluegrass to the fore, but it was a bit mellower than I had hoped. I’ve seen them play twice at festivals now, and once at a club, and they are a laid back band, and I guess I always just wish for them to kick down more than they do.
The highlight of the day and the weekend for sure was the Alchemystics set on the main stage at 6 PM. They released their brand new album, For the Future. Additionally, this set acted as a public memorial for everyone in the Alchemystics and Worm families as they dealt with the loss of our good friends Demse Zullo and Buddzy Geronimo Dobbs who were tragically lost in a van wreck almost a month ago. I will likely put up a whole review or thoughts on that in a separate piece, just know that it was one of the most emotional, touching, amazing, and musical festival experiences of my life bar none.
Due to recent events the band has morphed quite a bit. The regulars included Force on the mic, Ian-I on guitar and vocals, Ilana and Ras Jahn on vocals, Chris Ball on bass, El Rey Mateo on percussion, John Corda on keys, and paying homage to Demse was Dave Noonan on drums. Add to that a parade of special guests, several of whom I didn’t necessarily know but in no particular order: Ed Mann on percussion, Bill Carbone on drums, Jahian Cooper-Monize, Ian’s son on drums for a tune, Demse’s daughter Ocea came up and danced, Eamon Anderson did a guest spot on guitar, Force’s brother Catalyst came up to spit some rhymes, and someone else I didn’t recognize came up and threw down beat box, and I know I’m missing more folks…
Bill Carbone’s reaction to the most difficult and honorable of circumstances, “Sitting in Demse’s empty seat with The Alchemystics surrounded by his friends and family provided a sad but still positive prospective. Each moment is the moment. Every note of music, ray of sunlight on your skin, each conversation with new and old friends is the best one there is right then, not because it could be the last but because there is nothing better than that moment, why wish for another?”
I ran into my buddy Bobby right after the set and he said, “Did that just happen?” Yes it did.
To contribute to the fund that is assisting Demse’s family including his 13 year old daughter, please done here. Tens of thousands of dollars have been raised so far, between various sources including this campaign, but the needs are never ending, so please give.
In a surprise move, in the middle of the day Max Creek played a set at Vernville, quite possibly their first appearance on that stage. I ran into Jon Ryder the next day and he told me that they convened in a cabin and did some quick rehearsing for this special set, and featured only material from the year that the band was premiered, 1971. It sounds like it was mostly cover tunes and that they relished the opportunity to do something special in that setting and with the whole concept of revisiting the past.
After the Alchemystics set, Max Creek took the stage for their standard two set Saturday night headline extravaganza. Ed Mann, percussionist extraordinaire and artist at large for the festival, sat in for their show, joining his buddy Bill Carbone with whom he performs frequently in different projects including the Zappa inspired Z3. The night’s set list became a blur for me but I remember hearing In Harmony to open the show, Jon Ryder’s Blood Red Roses, and I feel like I heard Scott Murawski’s The Field. The full Max Creek set list from that night is located here.
After Max Creek the cabins fired up again, with Shakedown taking over in one cabin and Jeremiah Hazed in another. Shakedown brought their Dead tribute, and Jeremiah Hazed brought in their new thoughts on jam music, both were good though I spent most of the time hanging booth-side at that time. I had an animated conversation with Jon Cumming about guitar players in the Grateful Dead scene, and watched as Hot Day at the Zoo set up in the super late night slot in one of the cabins. I caught the first few songs of their set as the crowd started to filter in and the cabin got packed for Hot Day’s particular brand of bluegrass and mayhem.
For years I have been hearing about Llama Lasagne and their epic shows, themed according to their surroundings. The band is made up of musicians from the Pioneer Valley primarily, and whomever else is around to join in on the fun. From what Jason Metcalf tells me, the set lists are kept secret and each singer or musician is only asked to perform whichever song that has been chosen for them, to avoid folks trying to pick and choose their own favorites. There are musicians coming on and off stage at a mile a minute, and this show’s theme was the river- being housed on the Riverworm stage the theme made sense. I saw a variety of tunes that made sense including Up on Cripple Creek and an epic Waterfalls which was fronted by Frank Viele and Irene I-Shea Shakily as well as Ilana Morris and other fabulous focalists. The TLC classic was spun on its head of course, and the versions of songs ran from truthful recreations to interpretative journeys. Frank Viele came up for Creedence Clearwater Revial’s Green River and as I was leaving the band started into Whiskey River.
I caught up with I-Shea to ask her about what it was like to perform with Llama Lasagne and about her whole Strangecreek experience. “Building and performing with a multitude of professional artists coming from different musical genres and experiences in one culminating show was PHENOMENAL! A nice treat! The festival is always a wonderful experience meeting up with old friends and meeting new ones! And it’s only been my second year experiencing Strangecreek..it already feels like one big musical family!”
Llama Lasagne Strangecreek Campout May 24 2015 perform Waterfall
Outer Stylie was up at 9 PM at the Vernville stage and had a huge crowd. I was not able to make it, but our roving reporter Sue Paquet saw it and shot this video. The band contains two former members of Orange Television, Nate Martel and Monte Arnstam on guitar/vocals and drums respectively. Tom Shack on bass guitar, John Duffy on guitar, and on saxophone Steve Yarbro- they have fleshed out the band with a psychedelic hard rock flair that is uniquely their own.
Outer Stylie always takes their crowd to the moon and back. They skillfully incorporate elements of classic and hard rock with psychedelic jams. A local band to the Pioneer Valley, they have rapidly built a strong following at the Worm events. Nate Martel’s vocals are strong and reminiscent of Robert Plant or Ozzy Osborne, or both at once. The band’s ability to flow through their set from one song to another without hesitation keeps everything moving, they rock it out then hit you with a groove. Thanks again, Stylie, for always laying it down, and for keeping hair bands alive and well at Strangecreek.
There is more Strangecreek review coming, stay tuned!