Camp Kee Wanee – Greenfield, MA
May 27 – 29, 2016
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I’m relatively new to Strangecreek Campout (compared to the veterans I go with that is), but I kept hearing from others what I kept thinking- this was the best weekend at Camp Keewanee in a long time! The weather was beautiful (well, to be honest, it was damn hot, but gorgeous!) and the fans were happily celebrating the plethora of amazing music the weekend had to offer. The river was brimming with festival goers cooling off, the woods full of happy hippies chilling out or listening to music at one of the two smaller stages, and I was running around trying to see as many bands as possible. As I write this after getting home, I just have to say, I’m exhausted! But it’s a content exhaustion, one born of a glorious weekend with friends (old and new) sharing our love for live music.
I saw quite a few bands this weekend, many of whom I’ve seen before, many of whom were new to me or I’d only heard mention of, but hadn’t had a chance to experience yet. Here are some of my highlights from the weekend:
I started Thursday night at the first Cabin Set with Analog Heart, or rather Liz Bills of Analog Heart solo acoustic. It was very early Thursday evening, before most of the crowds even arrive, so the poor girl didn’t have much of a crowd, but I’ve got to say that this girl had a beautiful tone and passion in her voice. She played acoustic guitar while keeping time with a foot tambourine. I really enjoyed what I saw. (You can check out some of her performance from our Facebook page HERE)
I went from that Cabin Set to that of Erin Harpe and the Delta Swingers. Erin was dressed in her usually sultry red skirt, fishnets and red flower in her hair. They call their sound “Charles River Delta Blues” and you could really hear it in this set. I particularly enjoyed “Virtual Booty Shake,” an upbeat, fun tune. It was followed by “Lovewhip Blues,” which is named after their other band, Lovewhip. It’s a cheeky song, starting with a burlesque kind of beat and diving into some good ‘ol blues riffs, complimented by Matt “Charles” Prozialeck’s harp playing. Whenever I see these guys they always look like they’re having such a great time on stage- it’s contagious. (HERE is a bit of their set from Facebook Live.)
On Friday I started my day at the noon set for Rice- an American Band. Before that, though, on the main stage was a real cool band called In Daze. They hail from New York and participated in the Battle of the Bands contest to get on the festival, at the Stone Church in Newmarket NH. The band is a great mixture of reggae and rock and reminded me a bit of an early Roots of Creation.
After In Daze was the winner of the Battles of the Bands, Shokazoba. They hail from Northampton and are a mixture of reggae, hip hop, afrobeat and rock, everything under the sun really. They had a great time playing and you could really tell. The temperature on the field was starting to climb, both due to the intensity of the sun and the heat of the jams coming off the stage.
This was the best set by rice – An American Band that I’ve yet to see them play. Let me take a moment to comment on what emerged as the center force of the set- Courtney Parker. The band’s new song “I Will Be Fine” perfectly highlights not only her beautiful voice, but her powerful stage presence as well. Co-written by guitarist Brian DiMartino and Courtney, this song has fast become a central point to their set. I highly recommend checking it out.
I spent a lot of the day on Friday hiding behind the Old 78 Booth listening to the Main Stage, from where I caught parts of the William Thompson Funk Experiment and Gang of Thieves. Then, at 5:30, I headed into the woods to experience the Bella’s Bartok set. Their drummer, Crisco, had been ill that day, but you could barely tell with all the energy he and the rest of the band were giving off to their packed Riverworm set. You wouldn’t have guessed it was over 90 degrees outside, given the sheer exhuberance with which they played. I’ve never seen a Bella’s set where people could actually sit down, and this was no different.
While this was happening the main stage continued with sets throughout the afternoon including Beau Sasser’s Escape Plan making their debut on the main stage of Strangecreek, Ryan Montbleau followed, and then the premier of the John Kadlecik Band at Strangecreek. Kadlecik commented that this was his first time with the Wormtown crew, as he had never before played with his prior bands Dark Star Orchestra or Furthur. (Set List: Sugaree, Golden Wings, Seen Love, Mama Tried> Hard Highway, Rubin & Cherise> Any Road> YMMV> Like a Road> Shakedown Street> Alan Watts Blues)
Full set audio for John Kadlecik Band here.
Check out the Ryan Montbleau Band’s full set:
Check out the review of the Beau Sasser’s Escape Plan show including audio of the full set
Zach Deputy and the Hashtags took the main stage to end off Friday night and unfolded a finale set that was over two hours long. Joining Zach was Bill Carbone (of Max Creek, Z3, Beau Sasser’s Escape Plan) on drums and Jay Stanley (Rhythm Inc and Max Creek) on percussion. Matt Zeiner joined on keyboards with Zach handling the vocals and guitar work. This quartet lineup provides a little flexibility to Zach as an artist and lets his fans experience the show in a more fleshed out orchestration answering the question, “What if Zach were in a band!” Late in the set he was joined by Ryan Montbleau who came up to join the mayhem.
I started Saturday with MA-based southern jam rock group Way Up South. Having seen them before, albeit with a slightly different line-up, I really noticed how they were tighter than I’ve ever seen them before. They call their sound “Big Sky,” a thread of which can be heard in all of their well-crafted songs. If you’re any kind of southern rock fan, this is a northern band not to miss. Their sound is complete on many levels, seamlessly featuring each musician in their own right, electric and acoustic guitars complimenting each other perfectly and lead singer Charley Carrozo’s clear voice ringing through. I especially enjoyed keyboard and organ player Dave Osoff’s solos. It was a fun set. (You can see a bit of their set from Facebook Live HERE.)
Full audio of the first half of the show:
While Way Up South was playing out in the woods, the Marks Brothers were on the main stage. This is a band lead by Mark Mercier of Max Creek on keyboards as well as Mark Paradis (Dead Show) on guitar, Brian Konopka on drums, and David Stoltz on bass. The band spilled out some great tunes including The Band’s The Weight, the Grateful Dead’s Ramble on Rose, Hard to Handle, and more. It was a perfect Saturday afternoon in the sun type of set.
Later, I wandered over to TerraFunk at the Riverworm stage. Honestly, it wasn’t in my plan. But I was blown away by Nicole Henley’s vocals and sheer presence. At the beginning of their set they did a medley of “Why Did You Do It” into “Naïve Melody” into “Domino” into “I heard it Through the Grapevine” which really showed off their soulful energy, the purple/bluish lights perfectly showcasing the set’s mood. The comparably small stage was extremely crowded with musicians, especially given Nicole’s emotive dancing, but it all worked out and thoroughly engaged the crowd.
While Terrafunk was at Riverworm, Depth Quartet was on the main stage after the Marks Brothers. The band is: Scott Murawski on guitar and vox (Max Creek / Mike Gordon) Greg Vasso drum and vox (Jiggle / Max Creek) Jullee Avallone Sozanski on sax and flute and vox (Dr Juice) and Justin Kolack on bass and vocals (Boogieman). The band plays very rarely after a long hiatus but Strangecreek is the type of place that these things happen! SETLIST: • MFA Head • 1021 • Concoction > Been Caught Stealin’ • Wake • Fly > Whole Thing > Tattooed Love Boys • Step Over • MFA > Boof > Come Back > MFA TAG // Come Back TAG • Mas Y Mas
I’ve only caught bits and pieces of the Western MA-based reggae/rock band Rebel Alliance before, so I was not prepared for what lay in store for this set. They hit us with a sound that was more blues and funk leaning than I had anticipated. The band blessed fans with a surprise acoustic set on Sunday at the Old 78 Booth, which really showed another side of the band. (You should totally check out this sneak peek into their acoustic set HERE.)
Saturday afternoon the Alchemystics took the main stage. It had been a year since the passing of their band leader and drummer Demse Zullo and this was a full circle look. How would the band do after this tragedy and all of its highs and lows? The answer, quite well. They came in with all of the clarity and resonance, memory and progressive thought that I’ve come to expect from them. They feted their fallen mate with the new song Brother and also were missing another one of their brothers, Ras Jahn. They led the crowd in a We Miss You Ras Jahn chant, and put out an amazing show. It looks like some of it was filmed with three camera shoot for Brother, so we hope to see that sometime in the future.
Next up on the main stage was Marco Benevento. He came in as a trio with piano / keys, drums and bass. He was dressed rather nattily with a wink and a nod to carnival side show late 1800s vintage clothing it seemed. His set was vocal, mixing his penchant for exploratory and funky rhythms. The tunes leaned toward indie rock and shoe gazey material that I didn’t particular connect with myself. He feels strongly influenced by late era David Bowie with contemplative material that is slightly dissonant in vocal melodies, but I recognize the sound as a popular one among a different crowd. I’m not sure that I totally get it myself, but I appreciate that he is doing it well. And I like that his set was different sounding than any other played that weekend. Variety is the spice of life.
Late Saturday afternoon Zach Deputy followed up his set from the night before with the Hastags with a more traditional full on Zach solo set. His soul really shines through on the Strangecreek stage, for sure.
Sunday’s highlight for me was the Hayley Jane and the Primates set on the Main Stage. This theatrically-laden show incorporated lyrical dancers, with lead singer Hayley Jane both singing and joining in on the dance performance. They call their sound Folkadelic Jamericana; I’d call their sound moving. But it was more than the combination of strings and voices- it was a true performance. Hayley Jane and Nicole Henley have that in common- they both impressed me with their passionate performances that both spoke to the song and the music, while also personally connecting with the audience on what felt like an intimate level. I’m looking forward to seeing these guys again soon.
The weekend wrapped-up a little cooler than it started and as I headed home I couldn’t help but be a little sad- How many weeks until Wormtown?