Photo by Vinny Natale

Strangecreek Campout Camp Kee Wanee, Greenfield MA May 26 2018

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Saturday dawned hot and sunny and was already the third day that I was on site for the 16th Strangecreek in Greenfield, MA.   I spent a lot of my day inside the Old 78 Clothing booth, networking with friends and bringing people amazing fashion for sale, but luckily my trusty recorder was parked at main stage and caught nearly ten hours of music! The day started with August and Alden, a brother sister combo who combined with a drummer were seemingly making their Worm debuts.  August I think was the young lady who played bass quite well, Alden played guitar and they harmonized with all of the beauty that you would imagine from a brother sister combo.  They did some originals and some covers (Tom Petty comes to mind) and were a good mellow started to the day. Up next was Legion of Jerry and they were decent, covering material from the Jerry Garcia Band.  They run the risk of being lost in the cornucopia of bands of this type from JGB to every Dead tribute on the planet, but they are proficient and were a fun time.

The first recording I got to on that day was Big Mean Sound Machine from Ithaca NY.  I have seen them a time or two before and this was not their first Worm appearance.  They played a lot of material from a forthcoming album.  The band is Afrobeat for sure, full of horns and rhythm performing mostly instrumental music.  I’m not sure whether or not it was a ‘early afternoon’ vibe for them, but it was on the mellower side for sure.  I’ve seen more than my fair share of Afrobeat over the years (Chicago Afrobeat Project many times, Aphrodesia, aLBINO!, even local reggae Afro crossover Shakazoba) and I am well versed in the style.  I was not fully gripped by their performance but appreciate the education and skill that goes into achieving that sound.  If you’re into Afrobeat, BMSM is likely the most authentic and advanced band of that type in the northeast: Full Show audio, use the arrows to toggle between songs:

Up next on the main stage was Hayley Jane and the Primates.  She took the stage with her full band and the Interstellar Dancers and continue the slow and steady march that they have been conducting on the festival season the last year or two. At one point she declared “Festival Season is Here!” and you could see that she shared the exuberance of the whole crowd.  She is a bright and shiny presence and her music and artistry are continuously developing. They played originals and were very well received.  Hayley’s voice is boisterous and evocative, and a tad unusual.  The band is doing a great job supporting her, and the resultant show is an artistic piece, you can tell she’s trying to do more than just throw down a set.  The interaction between Hayley and the audience is palpable. I, for one,  am interested to see how her artistry and song writing develop, the performances she has down pat, and I think the more critical of us in the crowd anticipate that she will grow significantly as an artist and songwriter and we look forward to what she can produce. In the meantime, it’s a great show and well worth your attention and concert ticket money!

Full Show Audio:

Up next was the band Passafire from Virginia.  I have been hearing about them for a long time and this was the first time I heard them live.  The band consists of Ted Bowne – Guitar/Lead Vox, Will Kubley – Bass/Vox, Mike DeGuzman – Keys/Guitar, Nick Kubley – Drums and have a reputation for being in the progressive reggae scene that contains many bands in the scene right now.  I was expecting a very reggae show but I have to say that they were more oriented toward vocals, songs and delivery than I expected.  Sure there was plenty of reggae but it wasn’t over the top and it would be easy to see how fans could dig them and not be into other reggae but into Passafire.

Full show audio:

Up next was jamtronic pioneers Particle.  The band has been along for around as long as Strangecreek, predating the majority of their jamtronic brethren.

The band unfurled instrumental music for the next ninety minutes or so with pieces that ranged from three minute rockers to twenty minute exploratory jams.  Elements of video game music, beeps and bongs, raging drum rhythms and trippy journeys sprinkled throughout the jams.  I have not seen them since an appearance at the Jammy awards sometime in the early 2000s and it was cool to hear how their progressive music has, well..  progressed!  They played a bunch of material off of a new album that should be released here soon.

Full show audio:

I was able to wander away from the booth a few times during this sunny Saturday.  We took a stroll around this time, late afternoon and caught Washington DC’s ethnofunk crusaders Black Masala at the Vernville stage.  My recorder didn’t make the trip with me but I’ll post something here if and when I find it. The band is great, and they were featuring material off of a new album that is to be released this Fall.  The band consisted of drums, bass, horns, vocals and lead guitar.  I’d like to take this moment to talk about their lead guitar player, Chris Lee.  This dude is seriously awesome.  With the right recognition and stage and crowds, he will be able to stand toe to toe with the greats in the scene, from Derek Trucks to Trey or Kimock.  His solos were patient, sweet, and driven.  During I think it was the Not Fade Away that they were playing, which was a departure from their ethnic sound and was NOLA level funky, he morphed from a progressive Garcia solo, straight into a Mountain Jam Allman Brothers reference, out into outer space, and back again for a NOLA take on Garcia.  I was blown away and this cat needs to be seen to be believed.


Thursday 5/24 Rice, August First, Steal Your Peach Band

Friday 5/25 Medicinal Purpose, rice, Keepers, Outer Stylie, Melvin JGB, Backup Planet, Alchemystics, Zach

Sunday 5/27 BornIVBlues, Kwame, Rev Tor, Black Masala, Taj Weekes, Toubab, Jocelyn&Chris Arndt, Donna the Buffalo, Ryan Montbleau, the Machine,

From there we ventured through the woods to catch Flux Capacitor on the Riverworm stage.  I saw a bunch of my Old 78 Farm Fall Festival peeps there, who have caught Flux out in Warwick and Greenfield when they’ve played there and the trio of brothers delivered as always.  It’s been a few years since they’ve been visiting their Worm family, and it was good to see them.

Taper John D caught their set:

Back to the main stage Pink Talking Fish took over.  They mashed up Talking Heads, Phish, and Pink Floyd and through a few choice weird teases including a crazy Midnight Rider during Phish’s Free.  The crowd loves them and it’s easy to see why.  They are fun and a bit free wheelin, and who doesn’t love those three bands?

The band consists of Dave Brunyak on guitar, Richard James on keys, Eric Gould on bass and Zack Burwick on drums.  One thing I always enjoy about running into them is chatting with Eric Gould as he and I are both fathers, and we talk about parenting, the festival scene and just have a real good time talking.  We run in the same circles, know tons of the same people and he’s a good dude.  This is one of the great things about the Worm scene, and the greater festival scene, the ability to share experiences and to connect with friends who you may never see outside of Camp Kee Wanee.

While Creek was playing the main stage on SAT night Bella’s Bartok came back for their first show in about a month after many of their shows have been canceled due to band illness.

They played at Vernville and Kelly Drew captured this video:

Back at the main stage Max Creek performed two full sets.  This was a Strangecreek Max Creek show that was defined by lengthy exploratory jams, with several songs stretching past the ten minute mark without looking back.  The show also included a special guest or two.

While reviewing the recording I wondered why the drums section was so lengthy, and it was because master drummer Kenwood Dennard  joined Bill Carbone and Jamemurrell for an extended percussion feature.  Dennard’s credits range from Miles Davis to Mahattan Transfer, Quincy Jones, Pat Martino, Dizzy Gillespie and Maceo Parker, to name just a few of the dozens of bands with whom he has performed.  Carbone said that he loved to have Dennard up for drums, “because it’s fun, and he really shines in that situation.”

The guests didn’t stop there though, for the ending of the second set that included an extended If You Ask Me that saw Eamon Cronin (Riders on the Storm) took the stage.  He lent his vocals to the Allman Brothers Band classic One Way Out.  That gave way to a double encore of Werewolves of London that transitioned into the Murawski song Pissed Off.

For some reason this was a Strangecreek that had me ranging all over the place and for some reason I didn’t catch almost any of the Max Creek set, and that was clearly a bungle judging by the quality of the show.  I was in the back of our booth, which ended up being a gathering place for musicians from many of the bands that weekend.  At one point I looked up and saw a dozen musicians gathered, drinking and smoking and having a great time and I thought- Man, this would be an amazing band.  There were members of rice An American Band, Llama Lasagne, Rebel Alliance, Swift Technique, Flux Capacitor and Black Masala all gathered, having a good time, laughing and joking together.  This is another feature of a festival like this that you can’t get anywhere else, the intermingling of musicians, opportunities to exchange ideas and music, and the various guest appearances by band members with other bands who are on the same stage.  This is a wonderful feature of festivals, and I was basking in on it on that Saturday night.

Full show audio:

StrangeCreek Campout 2018 *Official* Greenfield, MA Saturday, 5/26/2018 Set 1: Louisiana Sun > Columbus Stockade Blues Darlin’ Cocaine Lady > Fire & Brimstone > Sweet Wanomi > I Will Always See Your Face > Truck Drivin’ Blues

Set 2: Orange Sunshine > The Weight Blood Red Roses > Jam > Drums % Katie Mae > If You Ask Me One Way Out # Encore: Werewolves of London > Pissed Off % Kenwood Dennard drums # Eamon Cronin vocals [Setlist thanks to John Spignesi] From Gerry J The first band in the Wormtown cabin was family band Creamery Station from Connecticut.  They’ve been climbing the ranks of the New England jam scene and I’ve seen them a few times including with Max Creek and at Rock and Roll Resort and elsewhere.  Sadly my recorder was stationed at the back of the room and the resulting recording is a bit muddy, but I capture four songs for you to enjoy:

In the Kee Wanee cabin Strangecreek Battle of the Bands Northampton champs Long Arm Rex took the stage.  I saw various band members at the festival all weekend and they have the look of starry eyed children on their first Disney visit.  They were clearly soaking up all there is to celebrate at Strangecreek.  When I wandered into the cabin I noticed two guests on stage with them, one of whom was percussionist Tobey LaRoche from Shockazoba.  The smiles continued on stage for them as they showcased their progressive reggae and for this show they punctuated their sound with some jamminess in light of the setting. They captured the crowd easily with a cover of Gorillaz Clint Eastwood and the cabin all sang along with them.  It was cool to see the progress of the band from having seen them many times as a part of the Battle and now raging the cabin.  It’s funny how sometimes you see a band for the first time and the next thing you know you’ve seen them five times! No one seemed more surprised seemingly than the band themselves as they got a couple of songs in encore.  They came back and ended the show with Salt n Pepa’s Shoop to the delight of the crowd.

Coming after Creamery in the Wormtown cabin was Philadelphia’s funk battalion Swift Technique.  A large band replete with horns, vocalist Chelsea Viacava and keys, bass and guitar and of course drums Swift Technique stormed the stage and captured the crowd instantly.  They were a perfect late night band, full of energy and the crowd bumped and jumped.  I noticed several band members of other bands had gathered to see what was happening and shared the joy and respect that was dawning on the faces of everyone. I’m tempted to say that the band is an uncomplicated funk band, inspiring you to just dance, baby..  But that would discount the amazing musicianship involved.  Every band member is well versed in both the primary funky mission of sweat and movement, but also are all amazing musicians, some bordering on virtuoso.  Jake Leschinsky on bass is a bit of the center piece to the band and capable of extended textural solos and explorations. Viacava is a sight and sound to behold, captivating and a joy as the singer front person.  She shares the spotlight though including with Greg Rosen, trumpeter who also acts as backing and sometimes lead vocalist.  Andy Bree on the guitar is a funny one, playing a support role for long periods of time, and then suddenly melting your face with a blues or funk or gospel inspired solo (or all three at once) and shaking the foundation of the band and the cabin, only to return to his support role without so much as a nod or a wink. They showcased their original material which is accessible, but also a few covers including Prince and Morris Day and Sheila E material, a hint at their personal tastes.  They even broke from expectation with the Talking Heads Psycho Killer.

Full show audio:

I was pretty wiped out at that point as it was past 3AM I think but I went and checked out a few tunes by the Christopher Michael Jacques trio.  It was fun as he and I had an extended non sober argument about performance versus composition earlier in the evening, and it was a chance to see how that might have come out on stage.  The band is great, super tight, and heavy.  It’s best described as prog rage.  The band was packed for them with the late night revelers and the band is worthy of their attention, with innovative ideas and execution.  I look forward to our next heavy debate!


Thursday 5/24 Rice, August First, Steal Your Peach Band

Friday 5/25 Medicinal Purpose, rice, Keepers, Outer Stylie, Melvin JGB, Backup Planet, Alchemystics, Zach

Sunday 5/27 BornIVBlues, Kwame, Rev Tor, Black Masala, Taj Weekes, Toubab, Jocelyn&Chris Arndt, Donna the Buffalo, Ryan Montbleau, the Machine

To submit a review for consideration hit us at [email protected] Check out the Live Music News and Facebook page for updates and announcements.