Wormtown Music Festival Camp Kee Wanee Greenfield, MA Friday September 15 2017 Many of the photos are from Grateful Owl Photography
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So I partied pretty hard on Thursday night. Start Making Sense has a way of inspiring me. So I didn’t bed down til after 4 AM. My wife shook me awake at 9 A and almost got the sleep punch to the face! “You’re on stage in a couple of hours, you may wanna get up.” My band, rice – an American Band, was to open the main stage this Friday morning, which has somewhat become our spot. I like it, plenty of time for load in, a nice sound check and to get totally set for the performance. People are also ready for music by then. We’ve watched our Friday morning crowd grow from a few stragglers to a couple hundred people over the years and we’re so appreciative to look out and see so many of our friends and family and fans coming to celebrate the de-facto non early bird opening of music for Wormtown.
That day we were a pretty big band with Dave Noonan on drums, Steve Benson on bass, Brian DiMartino on guitar, Erika Nininger on keyboards, Courtney Parker and Emily Jones on vocals, and I was holding down vocals and guitar. It was super fun and we got a full seventy five minutes, fifteen more than usual to open the show. We stretched out, I got to take more guitar leads than I am accustomed to taking normally, and we even were able to swing and sway a bit. We were feeling very comfortable with each other and were able to modify the songs, if even a little bit, to suit our mood and the crowd. We changed the set list mid show, and my timing skills were put to the test as we tried to use every single second we were allowed, but not go even one second over our time allotment. When we started our last song of the set, Comfortably Numb, I was nervous that at six minutes we wouldn’t have enough time- I felt maybe we ought to speed the pace up a bit. Just then Dave Noonan took the pace down a click and I thought to myself, O Shit, we’re not going to make it.. But in fact we were able to bring forth the full epic nature of the song and end directly on time. It was a very satisfying experience and we felt that we warmed the crowd in what was to be an ever hotter weekend.
Full set audio:
Up next on the adjacent stage was EzotmY who describe themselves as “A melding of many influences for the musical tastebuds, ultimately leading to the destruction of the labels and genres ..” and that is truthful. I finally just figured out the band’s moniker is a play on Easy on the Mayo which perhaps was a former band name for this outfit from Norwich, CT. Elements of rock, funk, hip hop and prog swirl and combine into a totally new sound. Comprised of Kyle Guertin – Drums Nick Delia – Bass Eric Buzon – Guitar/Keys Stephanie Benoit – Vocals Chris Croce – Guitar/Vocals and ZACK – Brass/Percussion it will be fun to see where this band goes over the coming years. Their Rage Against the Machine Bulls on Parade cover toward the end of the set was both fun and somehow not a surprise.
Up next on the main stage was Washington DC’s Black Masala. This is their second Wormstyle appearance having been to Strangecreek to play a cabin and Riverworm, plus the night prior in a cabin for the early birds. This was their first appearance on the main stage and they wasted not a moment of it. The band blends elements of funk with nearly every ethnic style of music from Eastern Europe to S American to Bangra and the Middle East. The dual guitar attack of Duff Davis and Chris Lee is particularly potent, and they even had dueling saxophones, too. The show opened with a Bourbon street number and over the course of their set the band showcased all that they can bring. They smoked and it was a great mid afternoon show and may have been the first time some of the Worms saw them. They’ve now covered nearly every stage and just have Vernville to conquer. It’s almost a certainty that will happen in 2018 I should think.
Friday continued at a mind blurring pace. Up next on the main stage was Backup Planet who hail from Nashville TN but don’t expect the Nashville sound. Do expect tight song writing and radio ready vocals. They perform music that is composed well and succinctly and they call it experimental funk-rock. But that does not really tell the tale as their rock is much more well thought out than the experimental label would imply.
The conjoined main stage set up allowed for quick change overs all day with frequently only about a minute between bands, with just the introduction by Wormtown Mike book ending the bands. So it was just a quick shake for Trae Pierce and the T-Stones to begin their set. This is much more of a funk and soul outfit, of course held down by Grammy award winner Trae Pierce. He seems to grab up some all star friends and take to any stage, with a bass centric show that will remind folks of Sly and the Family Stone or other fun loving artists. He still plays with Sugarfoot’s Ohio Players and the Blind Boys of Alabama but on this day he showcased his own vision and execution.
The Alchemystics took their accustomed position in the late afternoon on the main stage. As always the band showcased their amazing blend of soul, rock, reggae and hip hop. The band is a Wormtown home town favorite featuring the triple front of Ian-I on guitar and vocals, Ilana on vocals, and Force as emcee. They are backed by an amazing band with Freddy on the drums with El Rey Matteo on percussion, Jon on keys and a revolving cast of bass players on this day Chris Ball. They dedicated their set to their fallen warrior, Ras Jahn Bullock- who succumbed to illness earlier this year.
Shortly after their dedication a full on rainbow appeared in the clouds above the main concert field- like popped out of a cloud and back into it, shining down on the Worms. This was fully noted by the attendees and went toward illustrating the band’s cosmic and spiritual connection with their world, with the Worms, and the music and vision that they are emitting. Having survived one tragedy after another, they are a living illustration of what it means to be a family and community, Worm spirit through and through.
Force was far from done with the Alchemystics set though, he appeared just about everywhere with every band throughout the course of the weekend. More on that later.
Hayley Jane & the Primates took the main stage next and continued their assault on the festival scene. They continue to get better and better musically, their sound and songs are maturing. The addition of the dancers is a great vibe, and something that I have always wanted for our festival scene, more performance. This band gives it, and I think we will be seeing a lot more of them. It seems to me as if the last two years have been about refining their sound and stage show. I think really we’re all expecting the next step, the next album to be their definitive sound now that they have their legs under them. I challenge Hayley Jane and the band to really bring it for their next batch of songs; they’ve captured the attention of the scene, now they have to demand it. Go for it.
From the video channel of Charlie Jenkins
Main stage headliners Twiddle were a late and an interesting addition to this year’s lineup. The last time they were at Wormtown was something like 2011 and they were a small stage band back then. Since then they have become the fastest rising band in the national jam scene, selling out theaters that can fit thousands of people. I have never seen them before and was looking forward to seeing what the hype was all about. They played two sets and they were good. It’s really easy to compare them to their Vermont counterparts, Phish. They play lengthier compositions that emphasis jam segments. Like their elders, the songs are more about departures than they are about catchy verse chorus combinations.
The tone and mood tend to be a bit more on the happier side, much like early Phish I suppose. The band is deft and mobile, dexterous and are getting used to their command of the stage, audience and the jam. They seem to be a band that has the musical world spreading before them, and are deciding exactly what they want to do with it. More than some other bands that seemed in line to be getting the keys to the kingdom, I can see why with Twiddle. Their sound is not so definitively in one direction or another as to alienate the casual fan. But it also has depth and substance so that bigger fans can delve into something. They have a middle of the road approach, which does not feel put on, but rather an authentic love of this particular sound. They are non controversial musically and lyrically from what I could tell just by listening to their sets on the wind from the vending booth (Old 78 Clothing, near the bonfire.) The crowd responses were timely and enthusiastic. They were good- and could be great in my opinion one day. Whether you like them or not is just a matter of taste, as they have earned their place on that stage with the work they’ve done both in the woodshed and practice room, and on the road developing what is clearly a mighty fan base.
Sample it, see for yourself:
The late night cabins fired up after Twiddle and the party raged into the night. Lespecial in one cabin and John Stickely trio in the other to start the night. I had such aspirations, I wanted to rage with Bella’s Bartok, who are rapidly becoming not only the belles of the Wormtown ball, but of the whole east coast touring scene. But refer back to the start of this article and my raging deep into Thursday night. Around midnight I couldn’t stand awake any longer and took to my bed.
But I woke up every so often to hear the strains of Bella’s Bartok in the cabin. Reports are that the fire marshall was controlling the number of people flowing in and out of the larger cabin. I would wake and hear the unique vocal stylings of the band, smile, and roll over back to sleep. Were they a dream, masquerading as a late night serenade? Yes and No, as is always the case with them. (If you went to the Bella’s show, or any other set that is not covered in this article and you want to contribute to this review, just hit us at [email protected] and we’ll get your thoughts in here. Spread the Worm.)
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