Strangecreek Campout May 24 2019 Camp Keewanee Greenfield, MA
Spring bloomed in full force at the Strangecreek Campout in Greenfield MA on May 24th and festival season was in full swing. The Memorial Day weekend festival for me always summons up the spirit of summer and marks the end of what seems to be an interminable winter sometimes in New England.
The main stage fired up with the PA checker as it always does with Stevie Wonder’s Superstition and we were on our way. Having had a brief round of sleep between the Thursday night late night activities and Friday’s start I was refreshed but you can only get so much sleep at a fest, right?
A new band for me, and for the festival, How’s About Charlie? took the main stage first. It was a band mainly focused on the three female singers up front who had great harmonies and a folk-inspired American sound. There was also guitar and percussion, and I enjoyed the version of Elle King’s Xs and Os that I heard. I caught some of the songs, ran off to another stage, and came back and caught a little bit more.
Four songs from their set can be heard below, use the arrows to toggle between songs. And yes, there is definitely some speaking by the sound crew during their set which I didn’t figure out until later, sadly.
I ran over to the Vernville stage which I had yet to be that weekend, to see Reverend Dan and the Dirty Catechism. I had seen them twice during the Strangecreek battle of the bands at the Stone Church in Brattleboro and since they won that regional showcase, they earned their way onto this stage. They are a fascinating band- drums, bass, guitar /vocals, and keys and every single band member looks so different (ages, ethnicities, style) but they come together in an amazing way. They have a dirty sound, song writing plus some punkiness and an excellent rhythm section all combining into a style and sound that are unique to them. I was reminded of the singing and song writing of Randy Newman but you really have to ear squint to make that connection. Early Bruce Springsteen but dirtier? NY Dolls? David Johanson? I’m not really sure, but I do like it. I stayed long enough to catch my favorite song of theirs Our Love is a Circus Fire and then jogged back to the main stage.
I got back in time to see the end of the set by How’s About Charlie? and saw as Zillawatt was taking the stage. There was some misadventure with someone running in to load onto the stage at the last minute, but they pulled it off and all was fine. This is another band that I saw at the Brattleboro battle of the bands and they are fun. They consist of drums, bass, guitar and keys and that player also doubles on sax and ewi (electric wind instrument.) They are definitely jam driven, but also have elements of jazz, smooth, and prog and it combines into a delicious combination. They were well placed at this hour of the day (getting to be 1P at their start) as ears are already warmed up and the mind is ready for some of the exploratory jams that they produced. They’re fun and I expect to see them in the scene a bit more in the coming years.
Full set audio for Zillawatt, use the arrows to toggle between songs.
rice – an American Band took the main stage at 2 P for their second show already at the festival (they were in the cabin the night prior.) The show featured a more traditional set of theirs where the show the night prior featured more new material. The six piece band included Kyle Heon on drums, Brian DiMartino on guitar, Phil Simon on guitar and vocals, Lauryn Winiarski on bass and vocals, Emily Jones on vocals and Steve Benson on mandolin, pedal steel, harmonica and vocals.
Full set audio for rice – an American Band, use the arrows to toggle between songs.
Next up on the main stage was The Big Takeover from the Hudson Valley area of New York. This is a great band that made their debut at Strangecreek this year, so far as I know. The band is an amazing amalgam or reggae, ska, and a bit of a Motown sound. It is an old school Jamaican sound, not modern Cali reggae, more Desmond Dekker / Skatalites era reggae and ska with a modernized take on it. NeeNee is an amazing singer and the band is super tight with horns and an on point rhythm section. I’ve seen them once or twice before and I really like their sound.
Full show audio, use the arrows to toggle between songs:
Southern Connecticut multi generational bluegrass jammers Creamery Station took the main stage next. Their sound falls more into a New Riders of the Purple Sage vibe, with loose Americana tones. They have built up from being a band that perhaps won a battle or played an early slot on another stage to after a few years finding their way to a late afternoon main stage slot. Their enthusiastic crowd that they draw is likely a big reason for it and the joy and elation that the band felt at the moment was evident for anyone to see.
Full set audio for the Creamery Station set is below, use the arrows to toggle between songs.
One of the great challenges of an extensive festival like this is that there are multiple stages and great bands everywhere. So while I did not catch them, I know that at this time Mundo’s Crazy Circus was taking the stage at Vernville. I didn’t make it, but I did catch up with Keith Doyle from the band, and he shared this video clip with me:
Ryan Montbleau was next on the main stage and he brought everything that Worms expect of him for a Strangecreek set that ushers us from afternoon to evening. He is one of the Worm vets, and like Zach Deputy or Max Creek it kinda wouldn’t be a Strangcreek without him. He had a full extensive band on stage, including his bandmate from another band, Yes Darling- Hayley Jane joined the vocal section of the Ryan Montbleau band for the set. This time around RMB had a more Americana sound with some nice pedal steel added to the band.Full show audio below, use the arrows to toggle between songs.
Set List (provided by Henry Parsons): 01) Growing Light, 02) Moving To Fast, 03) Chariots ( I Know ), 04) Hot Coffee In a Paper Cup, 05) Head Above Water, 06) Honeymoon Eyes, 07) I Was Just Leaving, 08) Abigail (great version)
09) Lay Down Sally, 10) I’ll be your Baby Tonight (Bob Dylan) 11) Glad
12) Songbird, 13) Pacing Like Prince
Next up was Pink Talking Fish– the mashup specialists who have become a more recent staple of Worm events and festivals everywhere. This show boasted a newer lineup for the band with Cal Kehoe assuming the role of guitar player. This was my first time hearing him and he took to his role quite well and is holding his own for sure. The rest of the band was filled out with Eric Gould on bass and vocals, Zack Burwick on drums, and a more healthy-looking Richard James on keys and vocals. I was able to catch up with Richard later on that night and we talked about healthy lifestyle stuff, and his new management project with Lyle Brewer. Another great thing about festivals, you get to catch up with folks who you only see a few times a year, it may be brief and it may be chaotic, but you get to find out what is up in people’s lives and I truly value that. This is one of the secrets of Worm events, and an element that keeps the community together and coming out to these events.
Full show audio for PTF, use them arrows should you want to switch songs:
Speaking of fish, up next were the incredibly popular Sublime tribute band Badfish. They deliver the exact show you would like them to deliver, fun, action packed and an all out tribute to Sublime. The crowd was in full throated appreciation of their efforts as over the next seventeen songs they carefully outlined the entire career of the band Sublime.Whole show audio:
While we all understand and expect the influence of Jerry Garcia and the Dead on this festival scene, it has been fascinating to watch and discover how other bands also have lasting reach. The easy lineage of Dead to Phish is predictable, what was not was the lasting effect of Sublime on the scene, with now countless bands being influenced by their Cali-reggae sound from Worm bands like Roots of Creation to nationals like Slightly Stoopid and developing bands from TreeHouse! and Oogee Wawa to a zillion others. So having Badfish clearly illustrate the roots of this movement was a great treat for the Worms.
And the final band on the main stage for this Friday night was Colorado’s funk jam masters The Motet. There was great energy as you could tell that the band was really connecting with the feel of what it is to be Home at Wormtown and Strangecreek. The set was vibe filled and the mastery of the band is on display with every song.
This is a band that combines the precision and mastery of master musicians with the desire to drive the funk and dance energy of a crowd. Not content with noodling or arpeggios but rather seeking out the groove as a method to display their prowess, the Motet anchored the night with the ease of a band that has spent their entire career grooming their sound and presence to be on this stage at this time. Not necessarily in New England but in the spotlight. They took great joy in bringing up
“This is a community y’all.. We can’t do this without each other. We love you. We are very compatible in this endeavor.” This banter with the crowd illustrates how well the Motet grooves with the Worm vibe. Lyle Divinisky, the band’s singer, brought up his father Phil Divinsky to sing a tune midway through their set. “You never know what’s going to happen at Strangecreek, baby,” he said while the band fired into Delbert McClinton’s Standing on Shaky Ground and the senior Divinsky showed where the talent comes from- adeptly handling the vocals and throwing down mad energy, to boot.
Phil Divinsky came back up a couple of songs later with a song that Lyle Divinsky claimed had a 90s / Aaliyah vibe to it: the song Too Close by the band NEXT which must be the first time that band or song was played at a Worm event!
Full set audio:
Again illustrating the high quality of the diverse lineup, my wife got to go check out Outer Stylie who were headlining that night at the Riverworm stage to a packed audience. I held down the fort at the Old 78 Clothing booth while she got to go and rage to the hard rocking sounds of Stylie, who have become accustomed to that slot as they have been holding it down for years now. Nate Martel’s driving vocals and guitar match up perfectly with his band mates from John Duffy on guitar to Monte Arnstam on drums and Tom Schack on bass. The combinations are perfect and the diversity between their hard rocking sound and the funky goodness of the Motet shows that there is something for everyone at a great festival like this.
The night did continue long after the main stage shut down, but I did not! The cabins were packed with great music to check including another set by Pink Talking Fish, followed by The Lox and Keyes Theory in the Wormtown Cabin. Jeremiah Hazed and Jabbawaukee were the two bands in the Kee-Wanee Cabine. Alas the energy required to rage both Thursday late night and the full action packed Friday schedule had me passing out in a chair and putting myself to bed! For a festival as jam-packed as this one, you must pace yourself as you don’t want to drain your reserves on Friday, there is a full Saturday and Sunday yet to come!