I am a firm believer that when it comes to community, the Boston roots music scene is the pinnacle for exemplifying what a music scene can and should be. Case in point, the New England Americana Festival. Throughout the year, everyone in this scene shares gigs, checks out each other’s shows, and sits around tables to pick out traditional tunes together and throw back a few adult beverages. BUT, one weekend a year this all culminates in one, gigantic Americana cluster-f*ck…ok, maybe that’s not the right term, “organized roots music chaos” perhaps? This year, that weekend occurs on September 27-29 in Harvard Square with performances throughout the day and evenings, inside of venues and out on the streets, with a substantial variety of music in the “umbrella genre”, ranging from blues to bluegrass, pure rock to pop folk, and everything in between. Anyway, here’s my breakdown of where you might see me during the event (though, if I had a choice I would clone myself 3 times over to check it all out!) Schedule is up on the NEA site at http://newenglandamericana.com/2013-festival-schedule/
(DISCLAIMER: If I could, I would see every single one of these sets, there truly is not one musical act on this festival bill that you would be let down in seeing…its really THAT good)
The Festival officially starts off Friday evening (though word is there is a special pre-party kick off at the Lizard Lounge on Thursday the 26th) with a wrist-banded, 3 venue take over of the square (same applies for Saturday evening). It’s going to be tough to split up your time between Passim, Tommy Doyle’s and the Tasty Burger bar...but I am likely going to be checking the tasty bluegrass stylings of Sam Reid & The Riot Act at TD’s to begin the evening and then run fast to Tasty Burger to further my bluegrass fun with The Whiskey Boys. After that set, I will likely have to flip a coin (or see if I can even get into Passim) to check out either Chasing Blue (at Passim, and keeping with the bluegrass theme) or get back to TDs to see Maine’s The Mallett Brothers…decisions, decisions! Luckily, you really can’t go wrong. Then, running back to Tasty Burger bar check out Mark Kilianski and the Moonshine Ramblers…man, it’s a bluegrass kind of night for this writer! Finally…I have no idea which closer I am going to see, maybe a little of each by sticking around for The Field Effect’s first couple tunes, running to Passim to catch Jimmy Ryan and Hayride, and then get blues-rocked to tap my night with Coyote Kolb at Tommy Doyles. Phew, and this is just the first night!
The daytime on Saturday holds a slew of incredible, more stripped down performances outside at Winthrop Park and Brattle Square (plus an indoor stage at Goorin Brothers hat shop). Nate Leavitt kicks things off at 1:10, so be sure to get it going at Brattle Square then either stick around for Jenee Halstead’s excellent mix of country twang and songwriter soul, or go check out the incredible (and tiny) Fiddlin’ Quinn and his big folks band across the street. Back to back to back, I personally, will be checking out the Bean Picker’s Union, North of Nashville, and a few tunes from Casey Abrams at Winthrop Park, and hopefully making it over to Goorin Brothers out check out Sonny Jim Clifford and Evan Gavry play a few tunes. Back to Brattle for the soul/bluegrass blend of Cold Chocolate (these guys play some HOT bluegrass…don’ let the name fool you!), and cap it all off by seeing the amazing folk songs and dancing of Dan Blakeslee.
Saturday night = damn. While, I will for “certain reasons” likely be at Passim for most of the night…I will put up some other suggestions should you want to be on the move. Kick it off with Eva Walsh at Passim for sure! The place will be packed early on, so try and get a good seat. If you aren’t sticking around for the remaining line up, make sure you catch the end of Kieran Ridge Bands set and stick around for Tad Overbaugh and the Late Arrivals…grab a shot of whiskey and toast Jeff Byrd & Dirty Finch as they alt-country your face off for a tune or two. Then head to Tommy’s to catch Comanchero, Old Jack, and Tallahassee…or hit up Passim for Patrick Coman & the Lo-Fi Angels and John Colvert & the Great Brighton Fire back to back (man, this shit is getting hard!). Ok, stick it out at Passim (or head there if you aren’t already) and catch Sam Otis Hill’s set, seriously, Sam and the boys are an excellent band…then rush to TDs and catch Rick Berlin & the Nickel and Dime band. Last year they had the crowd “ringing around the rosie” at end the night. They are sure to be one to see this year as well!
While you are nursing your hangover, grab some greasy brunch then hit the square again for some outdoor sets. And again, be hit hard with really tough decisions. Michelle Lewis kicks off the Brattle stage at 1:10, followed by the always excellent Danielle Miraglia and then the Mark Whitaker band (Mark is probably one of my favorite musicians to watch and make music with, I urge you to check him out!). Then I will likely be heading for Ian Fitzgerald (one of my favorite songwriters) at Winthrop park. Boston’s favorite country rockers Girls Guns and Glory will be rockin’ the Brattle Plaza stage at 5:10 so hit that up too and bring your dancin’ boots and two-step partner…then close your night out with Brendan Hogan’s acoustic bluesy sound back at Winthrop.
Then, you are free to hibernate for the next week…because you will need the rest after this whirlwind of Americana music. Local music lovers and those that have no idea what the local music scene has to offer should both, at the very least, check out this event for a day set or two. You will see so many different, insanely talented musicians, songwriters, and artists over the course of these three days that it should be a mortal sin to miss out.
See you in Harvard Square. Who do you guys really want to check out this year???
P.S. Be on the lookout, I will be doing a feature on different performing artists throughout September until the festival dates...be sure to check back often for those!