Sunday, July 20, 2008

The heat, the humidity and the undying urge to dance

Saturday at the Green River Festival, was, as to be expected, hot and humid as the inside of a soup pot.

The music was also as to be expected rootsy, danceable, exciting and adventurous. Whether it was the arcane Appalachian-based string music of Crooked Still, which features a cello as a serious component of the old-time tradition, or the Sacred Shakers who reshape gospel music into something nearly profane.

(Singers Rani Arbo and Miss Tess sharing secrets at the Festival)

Viewing music on the main stage was torturous without an umbrella or other portable shade. The dance tent provide shelter from the sun, but the infectious invitations to dance usually propelled the below-tarp humidity to near precipative levels. The Primates Fiasco twisted New Orleans style jazz into a funky gazpacho of street parade classics yoked with disco, punk and pop. Their BS dance contest provoked those gathered to similarly twist themselves into human pretzels, then led the entire crowd, and dozens of costumed children and adults in a parade through the festival grounds.

Highlights? Big Sandy singing lead, unmasked with Los Straightjackets. Mavis Staples reviving the sixties and seventies. The Sacred Shakers rocking out on Samson and Delilah. Me learning to use a hula hoop for the first time in my long life.

The spectacular weather display from Friday evening left some incredible damage in river towns South of Greenfield. A reported microburst knocked trees to the ground, toppled power lines, collapsed barns and otherwise wreaked enough havoc to have the governor declare a state of emergency in Sunderland and Hatfield.

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