Saturday, July 19, 2008

Take me back down to Green River

The weather in Greenfield Mass, and at the second day of the Green River Festival, was spectacular in a way that doesn't mean "pleasant" but "dramatic."

The evening show opened on the main stage with Lafayette's Red Stick Rambler bringing a touch of Texas swing, and Louisiana dance hall to the New England stage. But before their set was finished, dark thunderheads gathered over the mountain behind the stage. The skies opened with a quick, but drenching downpour which sent many of the large crowd to the dance tent, a new feature at the festival, which was about to be christened with music, dancing, and a summer thunderstorm.

As Boston's Miss Tess and the Bon Temp Parade took the stage, the storm went from spritzing to soaking, and this newcomer to the festival found herself with an audience driven in by the rain, but convinced to stay by Miss Tess's beautiful, and powerful voice, and her mix of old jazz, blues and vintage dance music. The tent remained packed and swinging until the end of her set.

On the main stage, Eilen Jewell and her band hit the boards, but the crowd was quickly distracted by a second storm, which skirted the festival, a double rainbow and an unusual cloud formation called white mammatus (mammatocumulus), and lighting which streaked across the sky horizontally in the distance. The thunder, however, did not steal the thunder from Jewell's impressive set.

Back at the dance tent, Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys moved the dancing into high gear with a set that had the assembled shouting and strutting. Outside the tent, the intrepid balloonists gathered for the annual illumination, and Jimmy Vaughn, with the help of Lou Ann Barton blasted blues into the night. The evening ended with a reprise of the Red Stick Ramblers in the dance tent, abetted by musical friends, until the music finished just past 10:30.

Today, the festival producers are expecting the largest crowd ever for the event, and it's not surprising with headliners Mavis Staples and Lucinda Williams.

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