Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Festive Living 2007 Year in Review

I started this blog in July, in the middle of Festival Season.... now it's time to catch up with a look back at all of the festivals we attended in 2007:


Joe Val Bluegrass Festival, Framingham, MA - This year, we had booked the room/ tickets for Joe Val months ahead of time, without realizing it was the same weekend as the RI Mardi Gras Ball. What a dilemma! I considered leaving the Joe Val fest Saturday to hit the MG Ball, but you know, the bluegrass fest is a fun time too and we were already there, as were many of our friends. So we stayed and had a great time, "camped out" in the hotel with our brother & sister-in-law - thanks to her, we already have our reservations for Joe Val 2008, which is set for Feb 15-18 . I didn't bring my accordion this year since much of the picking at this festival leans more toward the traditional bluegrass style. But it is hard for me to resist joining in,once things get going, and luckily my friend Paul happened to have his accordion with him, which he let me use. Thankfully next year, JV is NOT the same weekend as the Mardi Gras Ball, so I hope to be able to catch both events in 2008.


New Orleans Jazz & Heritage festival (1st weekend + daze between)

The premier event of the season, my favorite "far-away" festival in my favorite city with some of my favorite people. This year, we were in town from the Thursday before first weekend until Wednesday after, and stayed at the Holiday Inn Chateau LeMoyne in the French Quarter. Musical highlights of the fest were Tab Benoit, Lucky Peterson, Bonnie Raitt, Bonsoir Caitin, New Orleans Social Club, and more. Somewhere I have the daily grids with all the bands circled...a visit to Rock'n'Bowl to see Kermit Ruffins, The Wild Magnolias and Bonerama made a full day/night on Saturday. The best part of the whole week was the 3rd annual Threadhead Party that takes place on the Tuesday between weekends at a private home in the Marigny. Five bands provided entertainment - John Boutte & Paul Sanchez, Gumbohead, The Underdawgs led by Shamarr Allen, Papa Mali, and the Radiators - it was like a mini festival, complete with a surprise appearance from the Hot8 Brass Band. Besides being a fun-filled gathering of friends, food and music, the event is also a fundraiser for the New Orleans Musicians clinic. This year over $17,000 was raised for the cause through ticket sales and an online raffle.

Some of our pictures from this year's Jazzfest
and some video from the patry on youtube.


Crawfish Fest- Augusta NJ (Sat-Sun)

After hearing about it for years, we finally made it to this New Orleans style festival in rural New Jersey. Read more about it here.

Strawberry Park - Blast from the Bayou - This is a great place to camp, but we were only able to attend on Sunday this year, so we drove down for the day. We got to see Travis Matte and the Zydeco Kingpins in his first Northeast appearance. He was surprised we knew some of his material, but that's the magic of the internet - We listen to KBON all the time and they play him on there alot. We grooved to Donna the Buffalo in the shady grove, and ended up the day dancing to Chris Ardoin.

Moodus Zydeco & Cajun fest at Sunrise Resort. Another great place to camp - more relaxing and free-spirited than Strawberry Park - but again we were only able to attend on Sunday this year. We visited with friends, and got to see Brian Jack, who rarely comes up this way, Keith Frank, and the Basin Brothers. They ended the day with a big jam, maybe 7-8 fiddles up there all sawing away... but as it often happens in these big jams, one lone accordion (played by Jesse Lege) was able to stand up to all of em! ( That's why squeezebox kicks a**!)


New Bedford Summerfest was like old home week - we caught up with friends and family at this annual summer festival that takes place on the streets of historic New Bedford, by the waterfront. Beppe Gambetta, a guitar player from Italy, was a highlight this year, and Benoit Bourque, the perennial favorite from Canada delighted the crowds with his foot-stomping accordion playing music "from the kitchen" as they say.

GreyFox Bluegrass Festival - Maybe it was the nearly perfect weather, or the fact that I got there one day earlier than usual, on Tuesday, and had more time to settle in and soak up the vibe, or the stellar musical lineup... Whatever, this festival was magical for me this year, and is the one that inspired me to start this FestiveLiving blog, as a way to gather and share all my memories in one place. Here's the original post from the blog archives. I have heard that the Greyfox festival may be moving to a new location in 2008, so I am glad to have documented it more than usual this year.

The rest of these are also in the blog archives:


Newport Folk Festival (Saturday only)

Fall River Celebrates America (Sat & Sun)

Providence Summer fest (Saturday only)


Rhythm & Roots (all 3 days)

Pawtucket Arts Festival

Narrows Festival of the Arts


Festival Acadiens, Lafayette, LA

Other Live Music Events

In between festivals, we go to as many live music events as possible. Since I started this blog halfway through the year I haven't included everything, but here's a recap of some of the musical performances we enjoyed this year apart from the festivals.

The place we visit most is the Narrows Center for the Arts, since it is close, intimate, inexpensive, and has so many diverse, excellent shows all year long. With its wooden pews, it's like a joyous church, a place to catch up and socialize with friends before and after the spiritual uplift of the music. In 2007 we caught 15 shows at the Narrows, not counting the outdoor festivals they produced.

January: Remnants & Back Eddy, two local bluegrass/ folk bands; Dave Alvin & James McMurtry February: Kettle Joe's Psychedelic Swamp Revue - featuring Donna Jean Godcheaux from the Grateful Dead - pretty vocals, 3-4 part harmony. Their version of "Ripple" had me close to tears. March: John Cowan Band - (Bluegrass/ Newgrass); Mark Hummel's Blues Harp Blowout w/ Kim Wilson, Charlie Musselwhite + more), Ruthie Foster w/ Pat Boyack; Elana James and the Continental 2 April: the Waybacks , David Lindley June: Walter Wolfman Washington October:Beausoleil avec Michael Doucet November: Crooked Still, Tony Trishka Double Banjo Spectacular; Savoy Brown
December: Alison Brown Quartet , Drunk Stuntmen

If I had to pick a few favorites, they would be (in chronological order)
1) Dave Alvin & James Mc Murty -not only were they both good performances, but I was quite surprised to hear JM tell a story from the stage about the bouncer / hot dog vendor at the Continental Club in Austin who turned out to be a relative I had not seen or heard from in quite some time! Not having seen Jeff at Rhythm and Roots in a few years, I had wondered what happened to him....come to find out he was selling wieners in the land of hot tamales. This prompted me to get in touch with other family members who know him. Aside from that, I really enjoyed both James McMurty's song writing (more about him in the Rhythm and Roots recap) and Dave Alvin's rockin' tunes, some of it reminiscent of his days with the Blasters, but also some more country sounding material.

2) The Waybacks - Bluegrass/ newgrass/ Grateful Dead/ Jams- I love this band! Many of their shows, including this one from the Narrows, are available for streaming/ download on the internet Archive .

3) Walter Wolfman Washington - I always love to see some New Orleans style funk close to home, especially after Jazzfest. Relatively unknown around here, Wolfman is all over New Orleans, at clubs, in-stores and fest. He has a funky horn section and keeps people moving - it is one of those shows where it's hard to sit still in the pews, you just have to get up and shake that thang! After Katrina, he was one of the first musicians to bring live music back to the city playing at the Maple leaf with a generator in Sept of 2005.

4) Crooked Still - one of the last shows featuring the wild and eccentric Rashad Eggleston on cello, this was one of the group's most energetic shows that I have seen, especially the second half.

The other shows were all good too - it's never a bad night at the Narrows- where else can you bring your own refreshments, and sit or stand relatively close to the performers, overlooking a beautiful historic scene of the Battleship Massachusetts on the Taunton river under the Braga Bridge (love those sunset shows in the spring!) - not to mention the ever changing visual art displays.

Elsewhere, a favorite discovery this year was Fred Eaglesmith, at the Common Fence Point in January. He was very entertaining and funny, almost like Cheryl Wheeler with his storytelling. A sort of Canadian redneck, he had the whole audience in stitches most of the time, except for the few who took offense at some of his not so politcally correct remarks and left.

Another place to see great live music and DANCE between festivals is the German Club, courtesy of Sal's productions, which I've written about elsewhere in this blog. Just the other night we enjoyed a sumptuous Christmas feast with music by Magnolia, then Dexter Ardoin, a Creole accordion player, backed up by members of Magnolia. We've also enjoyed Candye Kane, Duke Robillard, Bryan Lee, Leroy Thomas, and other zydeco bands there this year.

Tab Benoit, one of our favorite New Orleans blues guitarists, paid a few visits to Chan's , the Chinese restaurant where he always plays when he comes to RI. We went to see him on a Thursday night in August. He arrived in a big ol' tourbus, no more pickup truck - and the guys from Leroux were with him. What a fun show, almost like a comedy act. He jokes around alot when he plays there, gets a little silly - or maybe that's the cognac talking. Tab even took a turn on drums. Anyway the sellout crowd of under 200 people loves him there. The only drawback is it's tough to get up and dance or move around because of all the tables - you just might knock over a waitress carrying pu-pu platters and scorpion bowls! But I did manage to break out of my table/chair prison after a while and find a spot towards the back to boogie a bit.

Once in a while we'll head to Boston for a club show. We are somewhat spoiled by the early start and end times of shows at the Narrows and these other venues, so it's really got to be someone we want to see, like a New Orleans band - Rebirth Brass Band at Harper's Ferry on my birthday, then just a few weeks ago, we saw Big Sam's Funky Nation at a place called Copperfields.

With all these great smaller, local venues around, who needs big impersonal concerts, that cost about the same as 5-6 shows at a place like the Narrows or Sal's? Well, we do make exceptions when its someone who just will never play in a small intimate venue, like Elton John, who we went to see in March at the Providence Civic Center . That same week we also saw Willie Nelson with Ray Price and Asleep at the Wheel at Mohegan Sun. More on those shows here.

We're planning on Boston for first night this year, where Nathan & the Zydeco Cha-cha's will be playing three sets indoors, followed by the Revolutionary Snake Ensemble, a NOLA-esque costumed band, outdoors, leading up to the midnight fireworks. There are also dozens of other acts scheduled to perform at various venues around town, so we'll end 2007 and welcome in 2008 with one last fest. Happy Holidays and live festively all year long!

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