Review | Photos | StrangeCreek Music Festival | Massachusetts

Words by: Chadbyrne Dickens
Images by: Nicholas Irving

StrangeCreek Festival :: 05.24.13-05.26.13 :: Camp Kee-Wanee :: Greenfield, MA

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People are strange when you're at StrangeCreek. Love is around you and you never feel alone. The 11th annual StrangeCreek Festival, took place at Camp Kee-Wanee, in Greenfield, Massachusetts, located just miles south of the New Hampshire/Vermont border, approximately 100 miles from Boston and a mere three hours from New York City. Despite less than tepid temperatures and consistent rains throughout, 8,000 festival-goers lapped up the love from one another and were buoyed by the myriad of musical and entertainment options offered over the Memorial Day Holiday Weekend.

Soggy, drenched, frozen and muddy grounds didn't stop the masses of fans, nicknamed "Worms" living in fictional "Wormtown", from filling the fields adjoining the main stages with folks dancing while clenching umbrellas and shaking off frigidity. Although the main stage music offerings were varied and impressive, arguably the greatest asset of the festival was the meanderings and adventures sought and found in the various acres of woods surrounding the primary event staging area. There was a plethora of intertwining paths and little dirt roads where one could forage into a mysterious magical world. There were multiple stages situated directly in the dense thick brush and this delivered a solitary and unique concert experience. The prohibition of amplified music in the campgrounds supported a tranquil environment. There was also a family camping area complete with a list of structured activities.

With organizers having set up a huge fire pit in the center of the grounds, it's warmth and light never ceased and it served as the unofficial community center. The Fire Wormz and Cosmic Karma Fire companies supplied expert miraculous fire professionals near both the main stage and in a designated area by the fire pit. Vending lined the circumference of the festival grounds with varied food options for all tastes, clothing, music and extraordinary craftsman gifts for sale. There were numerous characters on stilts but the most creative form of expression was the varied head gear seen at the festival which included a King's crown, court jester, bumblebee, little red riding hood, sorcerer, octopus, and mushroom. However, it was the music that kept everyone warm and sharing the groove.

Friday, May 24

The young festival veterans, The McLovins, opened the Festival at 1pm on Friday; Marco Benevento dazzled with his unique keyboard musings; Jimkata earned new fans in an prime time slot between Zach Deputy sets; while Fungus Amungus performed; reggae rhythms were brought by The Alchemystics; Shakedown, played in the Cabin until after 4am. During the musical proceedings, fans Brittnie Giblin and Adam Hallam were married on the premises.

Zach Deputy :: 9:45 PM – 11:00 PM :: Main Stage Right

Although it seems just like yesterday that Zach Deputy was wowing blossoming crowds as he bursted out of Riders Lounge on Hilton Head Island, he has been a consistent fixture in the festival sphere for years now. An affable and jovial big teddy bear, Deputy is driven by his unassuming passion, with an unwritten invitation for all in earshot to join his frenetic grouping of grooves. He delivered a sweet smooth vocal accompanied by his patented lathered guitar style for the second of two sets on the opening night of the festival. He is best known for his proficiency in "looping" where he layers numerous levels of lead and backing vocals with various instrumental musings to create a full sound. I asked him how he first discovered his looping prowess, "It was by accident, when I was playing around with pedals at Mellow Mushroom in Savannah, and then it just all clicked." Fortuitously for music lovers, Zach has since mastered the art. His impression of Mike Tyson during "So I Bit His Ear" left an favorable mark on fans.

The Alchemystics
Saturday, May 25

The band with one of the best names ever, People With Instruments, took the stage; Soulive's Alan Evans led his Trio to a funkified output of tunes; Talking Head's cover band, Byrne's Big Suit played late night in the woods and The Romano Project mixed hip-hop and jam into the wee hours. Consider The Source brought their middle-eastern influenced jam-jazz fusion for a midday face-melting set on the main stage. CTS guitarist, Gabriel Marin, continued to make mortals marvel as he explores new worlds with his double-necked fretless weaponry. When asked about their legendary practice habits, the band stated, "When fans see one of our shows again six months after seeing us play, we want it to be better than the last one." Keyboard legend, Bernie Worrell, (formerly of Talking Heads/Parliament) delivered a funk fest for a burgeoning crowd.

Pigeons Playing Ping Pong :: 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM :: Vernville Stage

Sometimes a festival is judged successful because a lesser-known band steals the show and becomes your highlight. Unfortunately, there are actually people naive enough to skip on catching this exemplary jam act because they don't initially like the name. What some may see as gimmicks are actually creative expressions of superior showmanship. Greg Ormont (Vocals, Rhythm Guitar), Jeremy Schon (Guitar), Ben Carrey (Bass), Dan Schwartz (Drums) provide a sensory overload of deliciously tasty funk-laced jams. Ormont's cropped Afro and uniquely flamboyant facial expressions remind one of The Simpson's Sideshow Bob as he leads an audible borage with an energetic frenzy. Schon is a young gifted guitarist exuding natural shredding ability and he abused his axe while smiling throughout. The grooves and heavy guitar riffs are reminiscent of early Spin Doctors, but with clever lyrics, tightly constructed and complicated melodic structures and relentlessly addictive noodling from Schon. The contagious "FU" with its intricate jazzy licks wedged itself pleasantly in my brain for the remainder of the festival after dancing hard to their set. Their take on "Psycho Killer" further proved their ability to stamp their signature sound on any selection. The up-tempo and infectious "Julia", about a love affair gone wrong blamed on "the braces in our mouth", flows with a building melodic prescience. Nearing the end of their allotted time, Ormont peeked over for a time check before vehemently shaking his head in defiance and taking the music to another level of execution.

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