Sunday, July 15, 2012

Green River Festival, Saturday 7/14

The 2012 Green River Festival again featured just a fantastic lineup.  We got early-earlybird tickets and showed up there at about 11:15 for the noon gates and there was already a long line.  We all waited like good folk fans (though two(!) non-authorized lines formed and a bunch of people forced their way in before us polite ones).  We still were able to grab a nice piece of lawn about 50 feet in front of the soundboard, put on sunscreen, and settled in for:

Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion - We'd seen them about 18 months before this and were kind of unimpressed with them, but they did a great show at the GRF.  They played with a bassist and that may have been the glue that was needed to fit their sounds together.  They did mostly originals but mixed in a few songs by Sarah's grandfather (this summer we're celebrating Woody Guthrie's 100th birthday birthday).

Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three - I'd been wanting to see Pokey for a while and he didn't disappoint.  Besides singing the heck out of a bunch of great original and traditional songs, he has a great guitar player (Adam Hoskins) and a fantastic harmonica/washboard player (Ryan Koenig), and a very tight sound.  This was one of the sets of the festival and I went up and talked with his band afterwards, though Pokey himself was mobbed ... bunch of nice mid-westerners.

David Wax Museum - Another band I'd been dying to see and David Wax was fantastic, energetic, and dynamic.  But the jaw-dropping(!) thing about their act is when Suz Slezak gets out her donkey jawbone and gets more sounds from it (while dancing around like a firecracker) than you can believe.  Great, eclectic, neo-traditionalist (but what tradition?) band.

Lake Street Dive - I'd seen Rachael Price at the GRF in 2011 and had heard her band but never seen them either.  And once they started playing you could not take your eyes and/or ears away from them.  Bridget Kearney is an amazingly talented and melodic double-bass player, Mike Olsen is excellent switching back and forth between electric guitar and trumpet ((!) I say again), and Mike Calabrese is a solid drummer.  These guys are just a rocking unit and when the gorgeous Rachael gets her pipes going, you realize they're playing pop-blues from another dimension (which might be called Brooklyn).

The Sweetback Sisters - After Lake Street I dashed down to the Yonder tent (renamed from The Dance Tent) and caught most of the Sweetback Sisters set.  They play a funky cowboy-swing-bluegrass-blues thing with some aggressive vocals and a dancing beat.  In other words, they're right up my alley.  Mager saw me sneak in up front and commented, "You were watching them hard!"  I was.

Chuck Prophet and the Mission Express - Back up to the main stage and saw a few songs from Chuck Prophet, who is a bit overrated IMO.  He's got some good songs and a very good sound, but hams it up a bit too much for me.  Still enjoyable!  This was a good chance to get some great vegetable/chicken wraps for me and Sarah.

Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three - Back down to the Yonder Stage and saw the end of Pokey's act, then...

JD McPherson - A lot of people were looking forward to JD McPherson's set in the Yonder tent and he and band did a yeoman's job, though it was extremely hot in there and they seemed pretty tired.  As pointed out, they'd come from Dublin (Ireland) two days before and played a gig the night before then drove there all day.  Even so, they had a lot of energy and JD burned the tent down with his solos.  Also some great vocals from his bass player, which was the unexpected treat of his set.  Pokey's band stuck around to watch them and I had another nice talk with Ryan Koenig while we walked back up to the main stage.

Los Lobos - Los Lobos is one of the great bands of the last 25(?) years and I was sorry to miss any of their set, though I had an excuse.  Hidalgo and Perez are real cool guys and perhaps could have used a few more pyrotechnics, but expecting a great band to put on a show is missing the point: they played some of their fantastic songs (also covered a Grateful Dead song) and went back and forth with some soul-searching solos.  This was quality music!

Arlo Guthrie - As mentioned, it was Woody's birthday celebration, and Arlo played just a delightful set featuring as many family members as possible.  He had 3 daughters (or nieces), one son-in-law (Johnny Irion), one son, one nephew, and a multitude of grandchildren on stage at various times.  He kept up a steady stream of stories in his measured, incredibly well-paced way, and did a bunch of his hits (Coming In To Los Angeles, City of New Orleans (Steve Goodman song, don't forget it!)), as well as some beautiful covers of his Dad's songs, including one of the best Pretty Boy Floyd's I've heard and a sing-along, bring-out-the-whole-band, not a dry eye in the house, end the show right, version of This Land Is Your Land.

Jeez, that was fun!  We considered going back down to the Yonder stage after putting our stuff in the car, but the band there was just ending.  We hung around to see if Tristan would show up (didn't know if we were supposed to be giving him a ride) and wait out the jam of traffic leaving the concert.  We didn't have far to go ourselves and pulled into the Quality Inn parking lot after a while, where we checked in, helped a woman in the parking lot with a dead car (and husband) and then went to bed pretty soon after that.

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