October 1 2016
Photos by Jane Beauchamp and Eric Simon
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The seventh edition of the Old 78 Farm Fall festival defied the weather report and lasted all day in the ‘Right to Farm’ community of Warwick MA at the start of autumn with two stages of continuous music all day. Trees surround both stages and hundreds of New Englanders gathered to enjoy a feast of music and home grown food.
The lineup included a few returning bands and a variety of newcomers to the event. The uphill ‘Warwick’ stage started with Shiprock and Anchordog, a duo including Evan Curran and Courtney Parker who performed both covers of pop songs and originals geared toward the youthfulness that we all still have. Tight vocals harmonies were on hand and the duo took to the crowd by doing a song off stage.
The Mary Janes Jones were the first on the downhill stage making their Old 78 premier. The band is large and
included horns and was fronted by songstress Mandy Pachios. Her voice is full of power, a smoky delivery applied to songs that range from jazz to blues, but always with a raucous attitude that draws from rock and punk while keeping the song styles pure. Their set culminated with the classic song from which the band derives their name, The Mary Janes Jones.
Full Audio of the Mary Jane Jones
Up next on the Warwick stage was Secret Sage from central MA- a great bluegrass band playing both covers and originals. The progress of the music from noon to early afternoon through acoustic pop to jazz and blues to bluegrass was a perfect way to settle in. Secret Sage had vocal harmonies and their covers included some Rusted Root and other recognizable selections. At times they were reminiscent of Rusted Root, while other times veering toward a more feminine sound with an Indigo Girls feel.
rice – An American Band took the downhill stage for a ninety minute set that opened with Not Fade Away and gave way to an original, Free Karma. The band included rhythm and lead guitar, drums, bass, pedal steel and three upfront vocalists including Courtney from Shiprock and Anchordog. Their set included covers by Bob Marley with their take on Cornerstone and the Flaming Lips’ Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. Patty Tuite captured the crowd with her version of the John Prine classic Angel from Montgomery in the middle of the set. These covers were intermingled with originals that draw from rock, jam and americana. The band hopes that within a single set that the audience should be able to come away with a decent understanding of each band members personality and abilities. There was quite a bit of jumping up and down as the band laid it all out there. The band is lead by the host of the festival who at one point stated “Am I the kind of guy who might form a festival seven years ago with the hope that five years later I might form a band? Perhaps I am.”
Full audio of rice – An American Band.
Secret Sage then took the stage for another short set uphill before Rebel Alliance hit the downhill stage. Rebel Alliance is a band hailing from the northwest corner of MA who mix elements of rock and reggae in their own unique way. Like rice before them, they were joined by artist at large, Lee Ross on saxophone for a song or two. Selections included the perfectly appropriate My Fam which declares “My fam- they got big ol hands, they pick me up…” and wound their way through a great set that concluded with the lengthy original Smile Pimp. It’s impossible not to like these guys- drummer Mike Wood is rock steady along with bass player Al Taylor, lead singer Mike Wood also on rhythm guitar is a bright light full of laughter and merriment. Recently their original lead guitarist Wesley came back to the band and you can tell he feels back at home. This cat named Joshua has joined the band recently on what could best be described as backing vocals and vibes- he is another ray of sunshine on stage. It seemed like once, if not a few times Rebel Alliance called up Steve Benson on pedal steel and mandolin (from rice – An American Band, Daemon Chili, Chad Hollister Band).
Full audio of Rebel Alliance
Taking the Warwick stage was another first timer to the farm, Good Lord the Liftin. They completely filled the stage with two drummers (Rory Walsh and Bart Hafner), keys, two guitars, bass (Christopher Noyes) and lead singer Brian O’Connor. Between their two sets they did some originals and lots of covers, generally in the vein of blues rock from British (Traffic) to American (Buffalo Springfield.) They carried the crowd and as the afternoon sun started to dip and the bonfire really started to blaze, Good Lord the Liftin were rockin. People were soaking in the tunes as a huge amount of BBQ, chili and soup were coming out of the food booth.
Craft vendors formed a ring around the field. Kids were entertained by Pixie Belle the Clown who was making crazy balloon creations along with her assistant, Mr Balloon Hands. Ash Street Puppetworks placed giant puppets around the field and they were occasionally paraded about on people’s shoulders.
Bella’s Bartok took the downhill stage and had a full audience in front of them. This was their second year at the festival and you could tell that they had the crowd. While the weather report had kept some of the less courageous from attending, Bella’s Bartok had possibly the biggest crowd in front of them not only of the day but perhaps ever at this particular festival. Hundreds of people gathered round the stage and the band fired on all cylinders. Their exuberance was overflowing and the stage, constructed of recycled barn wood and other recycled materials, barely was able to keep up with the band’s jumping around from one side of the stage to the next. The band, lead by brothers Jesse and Asher Putnam with guitarist and vocalist Chris Kerrigan, is anchored by the rhythm section of Crisco on drums and Dan Niederhauser on bass. They were joined by new trumpeter Gershon. Resident saxophonist Lee Ross joined them as he had most of the other bands that day and in combination with trombonist and core member Amory they made for a formidable horn section.
Full audio of Bella’s Bartok
The biggest production improvement in Old 78 this year seemed to be increased lighting on both stages. While there has always been tiki torches and twinkly lights there are now additional LED boxes and other lights run by a center position between the two stages. Still more of a barnyard hootenany than a club show Old 78 seems to be slowly accumulating more and more production equipment as the years go by. Sound this year was even better than ever, complimenting the natural setting and bowl shape that provides sound all over the property without ever being particularly loud. A fun mural with a farm setting and holes so you could get in for pictures was added reinforcing the down home feel. And anticipating rain that never materialized there was ample coverage between a huge tarp that stretched from the stage throughout the field to lots of easy ups that were supplied both by the festival and attendees who brought their own. It continued to be more and more amazing that the anticipated rain never fell, despite reports of rain from nearly every neighboring town.
Good Lord the Liftin took to the Warwick stage again for another short set. At one point Patty Tuitte from rice – An American Band joined for a spirited version of Love the One You’re With. You could really tell that the band was having a great time, both just being at the festival and gelling together as a unit on stage.
The final band of the night took the downhill stage, the Pioneer Valley’s hard rockers, Outer Stylie. Two of the band members- lead singer and guitarist Nate Martel and drummer Monte Arnstam had been to the festival a few years earlier in another band, Orange Television- but this was the first appearance of this band. They were joined by John Duffy on guitar and Tom Schack on bass, with some guest appearances by both Lee Ross on sax and Gershon on trumpet. They are a hard rocking outfit reminiscent of Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. Pounding drums and searing guitar work ushered us into the darker part of the night. Originals like Big Time were complimented by the Sabbath tune Sweet Leaf which had been introduced by Martel as at the request of the hosts who had said that nobody yet had played any Sabbath! One of their originals segued into Frank Zappa’s Muffin Man and they concluded their highly energetic set with the original Addicted which really brought the band and the audience together in the best of ways. Nearly twelve hours of continuous music concluded and the party continued around the bonfire.
Full audio of Outer Stylie
Festival sponsors included the Orange Innovation Center, Crocker Communication, Two Sisters Carpet and Floor Care, Montague Webworks, and cultural council grants from the towns of Orange, Athol, Petersham, Winchendon, New Salem and Warwick. Strangers Helping Strangers conducted a food drive that gathered nearly a dozen bags of groceries and hygiene products to be distributed to the local food bank.