Photos by Vinny Natale unless otherwise indicated.
Words by Live Music News and Review.com staff writer
It’s a marathon, not a sprint. When it comes to events like this, you have to be prepared for a whole weekend, and incredibly long days. Thankfully we’ve been to Wormtown music festival for years and we were prepared!
Aside from the early worm entrance that is Thursday night, Friday morning starts the festival for ordinary folks. First up on the stage was Zillawatt. I was already super familiar with them as I was the judge up at the Brattleboro Strangecreek Battle of the Bands and saw them twice during that contest in March. I then caught them at Strangecreek in May and was delighted to see them back for Wormtown.
The band is a four piece with exceptionally tight and skilled musicians: Blake Ford – Guitar, Connor Oyster – Bass Guitar/Vocals, Matt Camp – keyboards, sax and ewe (electric wind instrument) and Nate Lawson – Drums. They can loosely be classified as a jazzy jamband, with elements of 70s and 80s fusion. They appear to be on the rise with positive things happening for the band coming out of Hartford CT- and it feels like they are getting comfortable on the Worm stage!
Full set audio, use the arrows to toggle between songs:
Making what is bound to be their fourth appearance with the Worms was Worcester’s August First. Each time I see them the band has continued to evolve. They are equally adept at this lazy afternoon mellow main stage set as they are at a raucous late night cabin set. Singer Nicole D’Amico’s voice is always on point and the band continues to evolve as a unit and as a group of pickers. Rick Schiffman – Guitar/Backup Vocals, Brian Young – Mandolin/Harp/Backup Vocals, Kevin Keene – Bass round out the ensemble usually but on this day Jay added his talent on banjo. Having started as a bluegrass Dead tribute band they have evolved into a full fledged originals band, and are unafraid to tackle some non Dead artists, also. It’s easy to love them and today was no exception:
On this day they included material from the Talking Heads (Naive Melody), the Beatles (Rocky Raccoon), Bob Dylan (You Ain’t Going Nowhere), Phish / traditional (Ginseng Sullivan) and plenty of originals and Dead songs (Mr Charlie was great!)
Full show audio, use the arrows to toggle between songs:
Up next was rice an American Band. Unlike past visits this time the band was a slimmer five piece unit with Kyle Heon on drums, Lauryn Winiarski on bass and vocals, Brian DiMartino on guitar, Phil Simon on guitar and vocals, and Steve Benson on mandolin, pedal steel, vocals and harmonica. The band announced midway through the set that the whole show would be nothing but originals and emphasize material that was more recently written for the band by Benson and Simon who took most of the lead vocal responsibility with Lauryn Winiarski taking her turn at the microphone with the band’s original Only a Dream (written by Stefan McConnell). The audience seemed to appreciate that effort and the day was blooming bright and warm but without the stifling heat of summer.
Full show audio, use the arrows to toggle between songs:
Here is where things get a bit complicated: with three stages operating simultaneously during the day, you sometimes have to make decisions. So we departed the main stage which was to have the New Motif firing up for the next set. They have caught a great buzz in the northeast jam scene, and continues what was a bit of a trend for this year’s Wormtown- a bit of a jazz jam infused set. Like Zillawatt before them, and several bands throughout the weekend the New Motif exhibited significant chops in their playing and are not going for any standard maneuvers, rather are stretching the limits of their abilities and challenging their audience to feed on their creative musical ideas instead of spoon feeding them standard jams. I like it!
Full show audio for the New Motif, use the arrows to toggle between songs:
But this is my reaction from the recording as I was actually at Vernville, one of the stages off in the woods. The production there is great, with a full stage and great sound. Like with many things in the world of Worm, it has its own culture. There is a pretty consistent crew taking care of the bands and crowd, and certain traditions that happen there. It has its own fan base a bit, and we were happy to be visiting for our first time seeing Boston band The Quins.
This four piece outfit is a rock band for sure, with crunching guitars, driving rhythm section and sweet vocal harmonies. While they aren’t jammy, they paid a nice homage to the jam scene by incorporating a quick Franklin’s Tower in the middle of one of their songs. The band is comprised of James “Quincy” Medaglia- Guitar / Vocals, Robbie “Krobs” Sturtevant – Guitar/ Vocals, Donny Hayes – Bass / Vocals, and Dave Petti – Drums. We caught about a half hour of their set and really enjoyed it. It’s nice after a whole day of meandering jams and loose rhythms to hear a band that is concentrating on straight ahead rock and roll. The band is fixing to release a new album shortly and their set was very purposeful. I’m stoked to see them again soon (Old 78 Farm Fall festival on OCT 5th.) Sadly though since my audio recorder was at the Main Stage I did not catch the audio, so you’ll just have to go see the band to hear for yourself.
Up next on the main stage were Vermont’s world jammers Barika (continuing the jazzy feel of this year’s Wormtown.) I have now seen them three times this summer, they are making the rounds of the festivals for sure. And it’s easy to see why. The band is great and bringing something different to the stage. They are heavily influenced by west African and world music, and what I thought was a kora was actually a different stringed instrument played by the band leader. N’goni is the instrument name, and in addition to performing with it Craig Myers also maybe makes them and had one on display at the merchandise booth. The band fired through an hour of music and transported the audience to another place, it’s easy to envision to busy streets of some West African city, or to daydream that you are on safari. At the same time, the ensemble from Burlington VT is rooted in the New England jam scene too, so elements that are closely affiliated between these disparate musical styles are on display throughout their set.
As in the other times that I had seen them this summer, Barika reached out musically to the audience by doing a referential treatment of the Grateful Dead’s “Dark Star” which was appreciated by the crowd. The band is: Craig Myers (N’goni & Percussion), Rob Compa (Guitar), Caleb Bronz (Drums), Giovanni “Johnny” Rovetto (Bass), Chris Hawthorn (Trumpet, Synth), and Matt Davide (Sax).
The undisputed mayor of Wormtown, a single person that seems to personify the history and spirit of Wormtown in all of its unique wackiness is undoubtedly Zach Deputy. I’m not sure, but I can’t remember any Wormtown or Strangecreek I have attended that didn’t feature some appearances by this grizzly bear of a musician man. So for over ninety minutes on this afternoon he unfurled his stream of consciousness funky jams replete with heart, vocals, guitar picking, looping and the mayhem that has become his calling card. The worms are his, and he is theirs.
Full set audio, use the arrows to toggle between songs.
After a break for dinner back at the Old 78 Clothing booth we were ready to rock again.
I’ve been catching TAUK since they were first touring it feels like. Several years ago I heard them at Rock and Roll resort. They seem to have progressed with the what must be hundreds of shows they’ve put under their belts in the few years since then. Their set was tight, intricate and exploratory. And from the exuberant exclamations of their band leader you could really tell that they were having a grand time playing this evening.
Full show audio, use the arrows to toggle between songs:
Everyone has a formative band, a formative album. For many folks slightly older than me the question is Exile on Main Street versus Sgt Pepper’s. For me, without a doubt, it is Pink Floyd’s the Wall. I was nine when my older brother brought it home and I must have listened to it thousands of times over the course of my lifetime. I have been lucky enough to see David Gilmour in 1984, and his version of Pink Floyd in 1987, 88 and 1994. I took my son to see Roger Waters in I think it was 2017 maybe. And together we have seen the Machine several times. So I know I was excited, and so was the Worm crowd.
The show opened with Shine On You Crazy Diamond and proceeded to unfold- fifteen songs from all over the Pink Floyd catalog. I got to spend some quality time by myself with different members of my family- time with my wife enjoying the start of the show, time with my daughter taking pictures, time with my son rocking out- these are the special moments of a festival. Really making memories and enjoying the music and atmosphere.
I have now seen the Machine roughly six times over the last ten years. I’m a big fan and the experience is wholly different than seeing a Dead tribute band. They stick much closer to the original material. But somehow they find a way to make it their own with subtleties throughout the show. On that night the Machine felt like it was an exploration of the relationship between keyboardist Scott Chasolen and guitarist vocalist Joe Pascarell. Throughout the show they were mugging it up for each other, daring each other into more theatrical and dramatic riffs and flourishes. It was joyful to watch their joy.
Full show audio:
Chasolen was in fine form this night. He really has grown into this band and is an amazing musician to watch. He really illustrates what made Rick Wright special in this band and is able to fine nuances in the music. I was really struck on this night how he could find a little part of Wright’s music and turn it briefly into a groove. Tiny portions of Shine On or other songs where he zeroes in on a keyboard part and highlights it, and shows the dance in it, the groove, the funk in music in a light that we may never have seen before. It is both reverential and exploratory. I’ve been watching Chasolen play for nearly two decades, mostly in this band and the super fun band he was in in the 2000s, the touring juggernaut ulu. His ability to find fun and funkiness in the music is unique in tribute band players. He turns moments of the music from a tribute to an original interpretation.
SET LIST: Intro into Shine on You Crazy Diamond, Breathe, Sheep, Learning to Fly, Hey You, Echoes, Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun, Young Lust, Wish You Were Here, Fearless, Arnold Layne, Shine on You Crazy Diamond (parts 6-9 excerpt), Brain Damage into Eclipse, Run Like Hell, Comfortably Numb
On to late night!!! Truthfully, I was running out of gas but the fumes were keeping me running. First up in the intimate Keewanee late night cabin: Jeremiah Hazed. This band out of Salem CT is composed of Jeremy Urbanik Guitar/Vocals, Steven Provost Keyboard/Vocals, Rick D’Elia Drums, Christopher Leary Bass, Andrew Mark Prue Percussionist and is filled with jammy goodness and a great positive vibe. The cabin was packed for their set which started very shortly after the Machine finished their main stage set.
In the somewhat more spacious Wormtown cabin Asheville North Carolina’s Jon Stickley trio was on full display. The band is comprised of Jon Stickley, Lyndsay Pruett, and Hunter Deacon and is a fusion of bluegrass and precision jazz- as if throwing a bluegrass trio into a prog blender to come up with a riff filled music lesson for advanced technique and theory. The somewhat unlikely combination of drums, guitar and violin allows for unusual sonic pairings and infinite melodic journeys. The grooves are firmly established and lay a solid foundation for the violin and guitar to explore these melodies and take them to all sorts of tangential places while remaining true to the original melodies. Technique geeks will be very pleased with this band, and the unique lineup allows for differences not present in other ensembles.
While this wasn’t the total end of the evening for the Wormtown Music festival it was for me, having approached two in the morning. South Carolina’s Treehouse brought their progressive reggae to the Wormtown cabin with special guest Joe Sambo and I could hear it quite clearly where I lay my head. Their polished sound illustrated why they are touring nationwide and getting the attention that they deserve. My sleepiness prevents me from saying much more than that- and that’s why I’ll take this all the way back to where I started this article: It’s a marathon, not a spring. And tomorrow is another day.