Cheshire County Fairgrounds June 15-16 2023 Swanzey, NH
Northlands is the newest festival on the New England calendar, and in its second year could not be much closer to my house than it is, just a smooth 40 minutes from my northern MA locale up to this fairgrounds on the outskirts of Keene, NH. The lineup for this, its second year- was outstanding and I was stoked to check it out for the first time.
I pulled in Thursday night, without any difficulty and managed to find m’lady and toss my stuff into our bus which was ensonced pretty much in the middle of everything (she was working in the operations crew, which had its perks for me!) We got acclimated and wandered over to where the only music was that night, on the campground stage. I was able to see how the main area was being set, but there was still a lot of work to be done there, so we settled in for some fun in the campground area. There is a vending area over in that part of the festival in addition to the big vending area that is over by the main stage, and a stage area that was decent enough to house ‘real’ bands but wasn’t a big festival stage by any stretch. I arrived on time to hear the last bits of the set by Vermont’s Dead Set. The band is the vehicle of Zach Nugent who is the former lead guitar player with Melvin Seals and JGB and has been farming the Jerry / Grateful vibes in New England for a good decade or so.
The sound there was good, and the band included my buddy Matt Dolliver from Swimmer on keys and sax, cool! Unfortunately I guess I was late to the party as I only caught the end: Terrapin Station into Playin in the Band. I quickly whipped out my trusty recorder (Tascam DR40) and caught twenty minutes as they concluded.
Friday morning dawned, and we got up from a great night’s sleep in the bus. I have to say, not sleeping on the ground, having a big metal box with a door that closes, and some amenities has really transformed my festival experience. It’s a neverending conversation piece, and helps me to achieve the best night’s sleep. I know not everyone can do it, and I am very blessed and privileged. The consensus name so far has been Bruc (as in Banner, the Hulk). We still have a ton of work to do on it, but we’ve upgraded the canopy since this picture, and done floors, and some mechanical stuff. For those who are mechanically inclined it’s a 1988 GM Detroit Diesel truck that was created in partnership with Marmon-Herrington. It has an 8.2 l diesel engine, an Allison transmission, a military drive train and suspension, duelies in back, four wheel drive, a 2.5 ton winch, plumbed for propane and water, and we’re hoping to convert it fully in the coming years.
So m’lady went off to do her work, and she was busy 18+ hours each day of the festival. Normally I’m busy with a variety of tasks, but this morning I found myself without much to do. I volunteered my services to my other friends on the ops crew, and spent the morning putting up the privacy screening that blocked the view of the backstage from the audience. This took a couple of hours and helped to keep me grounded while assisting the team, so that was cool. And, we got a private listen to the soundcheck by the Mike Gordon band, which was also cool.
There was a lot of doom and gloom about the weather forecast, but so far as Friday’s music program’s commencement, it was beautiful out. Hot and sunny, with a breeze, perfect festival weather. Karina Rykman took the stage with her band and rocked the house. Rykman has a sunny disposition and is still at that stage of her career and her band’s development that she seems genuinely shocked and thrilled at the atttention her band is receiving and just tripping on the good vibes of her current ascension. They played an hour of rocking original tunes, and the band is obviously anchored by Rykman on the bass. Their sound combines elements of indie rock and jam, and is a rollicking good time. It’s hard to put a descriptor on it, and I think honestly the band and Rykman’s writing and vocal style are still developing and forming. Most importantly, the band and the audience were having a great time and it was a great kickoff to the fest.
Up next was Daniel Donato’s Cosmic Country. The band has a grateful jam vibe, focusing on the California psychedelic country rock with hints of the New Riders, Poco, and the cowboy era of the Dead (Mexicali Blues, El Paso, etc.) Donato was replete in a tie dye overall set, and had a full band including bass drums and keys as I recall. I was especially impressed with the keyboard player who also added vocals. The set was a good time, a perfect easy afternoon set. Donato is another name that is rising steadily and catching the notice of folks in the jam scene. I enjoyed it, but have yet to get the full experience that must be enticing everyone.
Luck of the Draw
(>) Sugar Leg Rag
Dance in the Desert
14 Karat Mind
(>) Weather Vane
Doom Flamingo hit the stage next, with their brand of festi-funk. It was a jump up in terms of energy. The band describes themselves, “Doom Flamingo is a six-headed synthwave beast with a Jekyll and Hyde element to the songwriting.” The band includes Sean Bing on drums, Mike Quinn on saxophone, Thomas Kenney on guitar, Ross Bogan on keyboards, Ryan Stasik on bass, and singer Kanika Moore. Moore stood out with super neon hair (blue? purple? I’m not entirely sure, honestly). Moore’s voice is outstanding and the main focus of the band. They have a funky sound that ranges between funk and synth pop rock. I got a nice sampling but not enough for me to really know what is going on with this band, but enough for me to be willing to check them out again sometime.
Next up was a band that seems to have been created specfically for this festival, Super Sonic Shorties.
Jennifer Hartswick – vocals & trumpet (Trey Anastasio Band)
Nikki Glaspie – drums (The Nth Power)
Tonya Sweets – bass (Lizzo)
Amy Bellamy – keys (G. Love)
Kanika Moore – vocals (Doom Flamingo)
Marcie Chapa – percussion (Beyonce)
Ella Feingold – guitar (Silk Sonic)
I didn’t necessarily notice that this was an all female lineup, it was just a band playing great funk, r&b and jams. The vocals were very strong and they seemed to be mining elements of 70s funk and r&b and bringing them into this setting. The rhythm section was as solid as they come and hard-hitting. This is an all-star lineup of some of the most sought-after touring players and it was cool to see what might interest them when they weren’t bending to the whims of other band leaders. It was like an army of talent deciding what to do themselves, and it was fun to see and hear.
Candyman (Mary Jane Girls)
Paradise – (Change)
What Are You Waiting For (Evelyn “Champagne” King)
Don’t Stop The Music (Yarbrough & Peoples)
Flowers (The Emotions)
I Love You More (Rene & Angela)
Early In The Morning (The Gap Band)
Get It Right (Aretha Franklin)
Special thanks for information I picked up from the archive page by Mike D (VT)
I’ve been hearing about Kitchen Dwellers for a few years now, I think it was Ben Wright from Henhouse Prowlers that first told me about them. They hail from Montana and are a bluegrass instrumented jam band. They tend to reside more in the jamband form than the bluegrass form, and the instrumentation keeps everything earthy and rootsy.
The band contains talented pickers and I can see the appeal. They seemed genuinely thrilled, as all of the bands did, to be in New England, to be at Northlands, and to be sharing in the good times with new fans. The producers of Northlands did a great job of bringing in bands that were not staples of the New England scene, and really served up a full lineup of interesting bands that have appeal here, but hail from other parts of the country. Kudos!
Drowning (… Again)
The Living Dread
Stand At Ease
Whitewater (Béla Fleck cover)
The King of Northlands, Mihali from Twiddle, sat in with Kitchen Dwellers to begin what was an entire weekend of sit ins, sets, and spotlight.
Andy Frasco and the UN took the stage with his signature energy and enthusiasm. I’ve been hearing about Frasco for years as he’s been rising up out of the Midwest music scene. My brother had seen them at Peach last year and gave me a reference that I’ve found difficult to shake. The band is raucous, and so full of energy it is over flowing. The set contains originals that are well crafted, well sung, positive energy material from Frasco intermingled with jump up and down, sometimes tongue in cheek covers.
The show is filled with sit ins, call outs, jokes, energy games, and Frasco’s overall revival tent positivity. At times, the show is overshadowed by Frasco’s silliness. But he’s having such a good time, and he’s enticing such a good time, that all is forgiveable and forgiven. At one point everyone in the band switched instruments. At one point Frasco led the audience to swirl around in different directions with Hava Nagila pumping out from the band. Everybody from Hartswick to Rob Compa to Mihali to anyone that Frasco could conscript into his wacky world hit the stage. At times it feels like a trust exercise at cheer leading camp. People who are of the mind for serious musical exploration will not find what they seek within Frasco’s set necessarily. People seeking out a good time, an escape, and a good laugh will be beyond thrilled. Many of my friends were enamored with Frasco’s set, and for good reason. It’s a huge giant dose of positivity.
Into the Blue
You Do You
Who’s Makin Love
Walk a Little Taller
Pay to See You Smile
Talk About It
Break Stuff (Limp Bizkit)
Change of Pace
What More Can I Say
Teenagers (My Chemical Romance)
Dancin’ Round My Graves
The clouds were rolling in, and the rain that had held off all day so far was starting to threaten more. Mike Gordon took the stage for one of the headliner slots of the day. I’ve only see this band once before (at the Sinclair in Cambridge MA in 2019, review is here) so I was excited for this set.
I’ve seen lead guitarist Scott Murawski over one hundred times with Max Creek, so it is incredibly interesting to see him in this band playing from a completely different place. Gordon’s band is not very similar to Phish in terms of how they sound. The songs and band sound are crafted off of Gordon’s particular point of view, which at times can be quirky and is definitely a POV that is strictly his. The songs are purposeful, and the jams are bass centric but still encourage his other band members to be more than involved, everyone steers the ship under Gordon’s direction.
The band debuted a Rachel Eckroth song called “Get U Ready” and utilized Jennifer Hartswick (singer and trumpet player from Gordon’s Phish band mate Trey Anastasio’s solo band). Eckroth is on keys on this tour as Robert Walters is off touring with Roger Waters. Murawski took lead vocals several times including the Talking Heads classic “Cities” and the Max Creek song “Jones.” The set was super solid, and fans were stoked to have Gordon helping to helm year two of Northlands They ended their set with a nod to New England glam rockers Aerosmith with their take on the anthemic “Sweet Emotion.”
Cities (Talking Heads cover)
Get U Ready (Rachel Eckroth cover) (with Jennifer Hartswick) (Mike Gordon debut)
Back in the Bubble
Got To Be More Careful
Ooh I Like Your Loving (Rufus & Chaka Khan cover)
Tiny Little World
Sweet Emotion (Aerosmith cover)
Well, the rain held off for as long as anyone could have hoped for a forecast that called for rain all weekend. I have to say, the spirit of all of those assembled was hardly dampened by the steady rain that fell from this point and on throughout the rest of the weekend. People knew it was going to happen, were prepared, and it was still pretty warm. So, rain be damned, we will survive, and let’s get on with the festivities! This was indicative of the generally positive attitude of customers and staff alike at Northlands. We’re here to have a good time, and yes- it’s raining. What’re ya gonna do?
Twiddle took the stage for two headliner sets and really showed why. The band jammed deep and hard, and all the while with smiles plastered on the faces of the band and the audience both. I am no expert on Twiddle, and I am aware that they are on a finale tour prior to what may prove to be an extended hiatus. In the past they seemed like a very derivative of Phish jam band. Their Burlington roots showed when I saw them a few years ago. But they seem to be more ‘of their own’ at this show. It may have just been in an earlier part of the show, but they seem to be dipping their toes into the Cali-Reggae vibe, rolling in some easy going vibes. They did jam however, and many songs went on long journeys that explored the themes and took us to new places.
The call of the bus is like a siren’s song, particularly when it’s raining and you can hear the music. So I opted to go to and from the main stage a couple of times. Unfortunately that mean that my recording of Twiddle was only through most of set one. Luckily, I’m not the only one who was there taping. Taper Chris was there and caught the whole set, and the set list! And so thanks to Taper Chris, for this great info and recording.
Set 1: FRENDS Theme, Apples>Every Soul>Brown Chicken Brown Cow>Apples Reprise, Doinkenbonk!!!, Lost In The Cold
Set 2: Beautiful, Ricky Snickle, Jamflow Man, Beethoven and Greene, The Box
I retired to Bruce, and unwound from a long and very fruitfui day one of Northlands. Despite the rainy ending, it was a great day and I had a great time. I was able to chill a bit more than I can ordinarily at festivals with fewer responsibilities. M’lady worked late into the night, and then rose incredibly early to get it all started again. Keep your eyes and ears here for day two from Northlands when I’m done mixing the recordings. Soon come.
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