Camp Kee-wanee Greenfield MA SEP 16 2023

Well, I finally sifted through all of my recordings from the Wormtown festival, and with apologies for the lateness of this posting- I submit to you hours of amazing music. Wormtown music festival returned triumphantly to Camp Kee-wanee in Greenfield, MA on September 16th. As always I spent hours, days wandering the comfortable confines, soaking up the best in local, regional and national music.

While I enjoyed the music that opened the main stage that morning, my recorder didn’t make it on time to catch those sets. Morning Yoga, Mama’s Marmalade, and Darby Sabin greeted the early risers with their beautiful music. My first opportunity after a hardy breakfast (it’s a marathon people, gotta fuel up) was Liz Bills and the Change.

Vinny Natale takes great photos and is always generous with sharing his work with us.

Liz Bills and the Change photo gallery #1 Liz Bills and the Change photo gallery #2

Next up on the main stage was King Saison. This central MA outfit is the product of Jeff King, long time Worm musician, spirit elevator guide, and former helmsman at The Kings, along with Nicole Saison who appears to play every instrument while singing beautifully and with power. This new ensemble is energetic and you can tell the musicians are invigorated by the new music that is flowing out of them.

King Saison photo gallery by Vinny Natale

Next up making her debut at Wormtown is scenestress Karina Rykman. This is my third time seeing Rykman, and she appears to be on a rocket ride to success right now. She appears regularly as a part of the house band for Seth Myers late night TV show, had Trey Anastasio appear on her debut record, and 2023 saw her first significant touring. She and her band fired up a great set of music, including a fun cover of Wet Leg’s “Chaise Longue” which is a perfect illustration of Rykman’s fun and spirited musical attitude. But don’t be fooled, she and the band are filled with chops and can jam hard. It’s just that she does it while smiling and constantly admiring the crowd, and appreciating the experience. Well done!

Karina Rykman photo gallery by Vinny Natale.

Up next were jamband upstarts Dogs in a Pile. The band is on national tour and making waves everywhere they go, and rightfully so. They are filled with youthful energy but also reverence for the significant history of jam music that came before them. A highlight of the set for me was their jam take on the theme from Futurama.

Dogs in a Pile photo gallery by Vinny Natale.

Dogs in a Pile setlist:

Rinky Dink Rag
Ugly Song
Blues for Brian
(>) Look Johnny
Theme from Futurama (Christopher Tyng cover)
EDM Song

Wormtown fest favorites Bella’s Bartok took the stage next with their energetic set melding Balkan and Roma melodies and formats with American festival spirit and verve. The band’s lineup changes periodically but revolves around frontman Asher Putnam. The crowd feasts on the band’s vibe and vice verse.

Video by Gerry D

I remember catching the first set by the band lespecial at Wormtown or Strangecreek probably ten years ago, down at the River Worm stage. And here they are, late in the day on Saturday on the main stage. Every worm gets their day. The band laid down their unique mixture of jam and jamtronica and sounds from across the universe and under the sea. Of course the highlight was an ode to Worm crewman Michael Deary in a song where they altered the lyrics to fit his name.

lespecial setlist:

The Vessel (with improv intro)
Machine Elf
First Light
(>) Rays
Snells Fleet
Fruit Wolf Dance
Egg Time
What’s Crappenin’
(>) Donut Ghost House II
Leather On (Mike Dillon cover) (with Shawn Eckels (Guitar) &… more )
They Live

And to top off the day’s music schedule on the main stage was Colorado funk jam specialists The Motet. They’ve now been to Wormtown a couple of times and the band definitely has a growing fan base here in the northeast.

And then, it was time for the cabins. Once the main stage shuts down, a different night life develops in the cabins and in the woods and around the bonfire. Many of the most magical festival memories happen late at night.

Rebel Alliance took the Wormtown cabin and played an absolutely marathon set that went deep into the morning. From the opening notes of the Beatles / Joe Cocker classic “A Little Help from My Friends” to the minutes just before dawn, Rebel Alliance cradled us in their sweet embrace. This is another moment where a band that clawed and scratched their way onto the Wormtown schedules now took their rightful place in a coveted position. While it seems like the cabins are a more intimate affair, with a couple hundred people packed in there, there are also a ton of people just outside catching the vibes and sounds through open doors and windows. Hundreds of people come and go over the hours long set and you could really feel the band realizing a long term goal with their set.

They included some covers that I didn’t expect to hear including “Virtual Insanity” by Jamiroquai Supertramp’s “Take the Long Way Home” and the Motown classic “Land of a Thousand Dances.” Of course there was a smorgasbord of great Rebel Alliance originals from “My Song” to “Last Night I Killed the DJ” and more. Sadly this was the last Wormtown for our beloved Johnny Bongos who passed toward the end of 2023 unexpectedly but will live on forever in our hearts and memories.

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