Here’s the thing about falling in love with a city: it’s all about the complexity. The richness of a place lets the relationship linger and grow over time — people are myriad and varied, the food varieties are endless, the music is always bumpin’.
Sunday was the second of two days of co-sponsored events brought about by Dan Smalls Presents and funded by Ithaca Beer Co. While Brew Fest is widely lauded — if upstate New York constitutes “widely” — Positive Jam is an event that has yet to grow to full maturity. Although it’s less attended and less publicized, I felt on Sunday that I was at the beginning of something big whose potential had not yet been realized.
Some of you may remember my column last Friday when I waxed eloquent about the myriad of musical big-wigs who are en route to our humble town. You may also recall that included in that extra-ordinary line-up were two bands known respectively as The Hold Steady and Deer Tick, and that I gave a shout out to man-of-the-hour Dan Smalls, founder of Dan Smalls Presents, Inc. Well, this weekend, Dan Small Presents … the Positive Jam. Drawing a blank? Please, allow me to explain.
NEWPORT FOLK FESTIVAL This article was originally published online on July 8 in a different format.
The Newport Folk Festival — having endured Dylan’s controversial ’65 burst of electricity, financial turmoil and an addiction to corporate sponsorship — has come a long way from its folksy, populist incarnation of 1959. But at this 50-year benchmark, Newport’s architects have struck gold in grafting the Festival’s roots to anachronisitc, serene Fleet Foxes and progressive-folk-rock showmen The Decemberists. Seeger’s even leading a sing-along at age 90, for Pete’s sake.
Flying high over Tupelo, Mississippi, with America’s hottest band … and we’re all about to die.
No, that isn’t how it happened, but, like ESPN columnist Bill Simmons, I’ve always wanted to start an article that way.
The part about being in a plane was true. And the thunderstorm visible from my window seat was eerily reminiscent of Almost Famous, blasts of electricity continuously ripping through the sky outside, off past the starboard flank of the aircraft. I wasn’t, however, touring the country with a bunch of up-and-coming rock stars, though I had been in the midst of some just a few hours earlier.
This article was originally published online on Jul. 8.
NEWPORT, R.I. – The Newport Folk Festival – having endured Dylan’s controversial ’65 burst of electricity, financial turmoil and an addiction to corporate sponsorship – has come a long way from its folksy, populist incarnation of 1959. But at this 50-year benchmark, Newport’s architects have struck gold in grafting the Festival’s roots to anachronistic, serene Fleet Foxes and progressive-folk-rock showmen The Decemberists. Seeger’s even leading a sing-along at age 90, for Pete’s sake.
About ten minutes into their set, guitarist Tom DeLonge shouted into his mike, “We are fucking awesome. We rock!” and oh, how absolutely true that is. Blink 182’s reunion tour stop at the amphitheater at Jones Beach on Aug 9 verifiably rocked. So much so that I’m convinced that the power of Mark, Tom and Travis playing on the same stage pushed the muggy, downpour of weather that was expected away until precisely after everyone from the venue had cleared out into their cars. So instead of a monsoon, we got clear skies, two full hours of the Blink classics and a glorious evening of feeling like we were in middle school again, minus the whole being awkward part.
As the semester rolls to a close with bands booking their last shows at The Nines, a capella groups begging you to come to their spring performances and Slope Day just a week away from filling the East Hill with one final musical celebration, I’ve already started to switch the gears on my music agenda to focus on summer.
About a year and a half ago, Lesley Greene was sitting with her husband, playing ukuleles on her porch. Her neighbor, Gretchen Hildreth, walked by and, according to Lesley, “Somehow the idea came to us of a festival where musicians play music on their front porches.” This past Sunday afternoon in Fall Creek, that idea became a reality for the second time in Porchfest II.
Nearly 40 bands and musicians gathered on assorted Fall Creek porches and front lawns to fill the autumn air with a multitude of tunes. Co-founder Lesley Greene said that she was “happy to include everyone who wanted to be included.” And inclusion was key, as the acts ranged from an elderly recorder ensemble to the world’s first synthesizer band, to an all-girl high school pop band.
As my friend and I pulled up to the Bonnaroo security checkpoint, I heard a whistle and was confronted by a guy in a neon concert shirt apologetically telling me that my “number had come up.” Evidently, I had won a chance to have my car searched, not by concert security, but by Tennessee’s finest. By entering the festival grounds, I had consented to the agenda of sunburned cops with nothing better to do than to harass music enthusiasts. I didn’t receive one of the 124 citations the police handed out throughout the weekend; I just got manhandled a little bit before I went to see Stephen Marley.