Grand Point North 2015
Images and Words by: Bryan Lasky
Grand Point North :: 9.12 & 13.15 :: Waterfront Park :: Burlington, VT
Check out Bryan’s review after the gallery.
Small festivals are coming into their own in today’s market. While the big four are always going to have tremendous line ups filled with special sets and acts that others cannot get, the small town festival is all about homegrown acts mixed with a few nationally touring bands. Grand Point North plays with this concept, as the headliner is not only a home grown talent, but a nationally known name as well. Grace Potter threw her third festival in Burlington this past weekend to an enthusiastic crowd, and despite the on-and-off rain it was another grand success.
With many people still entering the festival grounds on Burlington’s beautiful waterfront, the Hardwood Union High School Assembly Band covered many classic rock songs in their brief half hour set, closing with a great rendition of “The Weight.” Smiles were all over people’s faces in the crowd, including Amy Helm, who was seen taping the performance on her phone. Mal Maiz took to the stage immediately after – the festival has two stages right next to one another so there is little to no break in between bands. They brought the Latin funk to the festival for a groovy short set. Maryse Smith came on next with an easy-going singer- songwriter performance accompanied by great group of musicians. It was a nice calming turn before the 80’s spandex wearers Madaila took the stage with a high energy rock set that got the crowd buzzing for the first time all weekend.
Taking the crowd back down a notch next was Odessa, who played a beautiful array of peaceful acoustic music as the rain began to fall. Her gorgeous voice cut through the quietly attentive crowd like a knife. Amy Helm & The Handsome Strangers followed with a strong rockabilly tinged performance. About halfway through the set, without saying anything about her father, she paid tribute to him by playing Bruce Springsteen’s “Atlantic City,” which he was known to cover both solo and with The Band. She did the song proud and was given a huge ovation from the crowd. Mike Gordon followed with a fun and jammed out hour long set with the same five-piece that he has brought on the road earlier this summer. They were tight despite not played together since late June. He noted how happy he was to be performing in a park he usually just runs through. “How Many People Are You?” was an early highlight and a heavily jam oriented “Yarmouth Road” followed soon after. The song moved through a few different phases before wrapping up with the band completely locked in. They took another dive into a long stretched out jam in “Tiny Little World” before wrapping up with “Face.” The band sounded great and hopefully we won’t have to wait long to see what they do next.
Shakey Graves, the last act to play on the first day before Grace, put on a tremendous show. There were some early equipment troubles with his kick drum that made Shakey play the actual drums for part of the set, but he soldiered on with a laugh and a smile. His high energy show had him jumping about the stage and playing his guitars ferociously. Having him on right before Grace was a perfect way to end the undercard as he was the most powerful performer of the day, other than the queen of the festival. Grace took the stage next with enough energy to run a marathon and tore through “Medicine,” “Never Go Back,” and “Ah Mary” before anyone could catch their breath. She sprinkled in a few new songs off her latest record Midnight, but many of the songs were from her Nocturnals days. The new band, which includes some of The Nocturnals, dubbed The Magical Midnight Roadshow is a powerhouse and showed it throughout the performance. As covered on JamBase already, Mike Gordon joined Grace for a Harry Nilsson song and then Kenny Chesney joined in for their song “Wild Child” during the encore before most of the performers came on stage for the closing “Burning Down The House.” The first night’s performance was tremendous and a great way to close out the day.
Day two started off sunny, but all that would change by the time Marco Benevento came out. Barishi had the opening duties and I don’t think anyone was expecting hardcore metal to be the Sunday opener. A very entertaining short set by the local band had the crowd head banging away. The Snaz, a group of local teenagers, came out next and played some fun punk-infused rock. It was a complete turn from the heavy metal before it, but it was good to show the diversity in today’s music scene in the Burlington area. Heavy Plains started off their set slowly, but built toward a great finale and had the slowly growing crowd paying close attention to the music they were delivering.
Soule Monde, the duo of Russ Lawton and Ray Paczkowski, put on an incredible 30 minute set, wasting no time between songs. They were excited to be playing some of the new songs off of their Smashed World EP which is out now. The sky started to cloud up during their performance and even more so during Spirit Family Reunion, which saw the crowd dancing wildly throughout their entire showing. The sextet had a lot of energy and looked as though they could have kept going for hours playing great bluegrass tunes for everyone after their 40 minutes were up, but it was time for Marco to start.
As Marco, Dave Dreiwitz and Andy Borger took the stage, the skies opened up and the rain came down hard during the duration of their entire set. Some festival goers went under trees and tents or put up their umbrellas while others just danced their hearts out and got drenched. Marco even came out from behind his piano during “The Real Morning Party” to get rained on with everyone else and continued to do so throughout the set. Matt Burr guested with the three-piece on “At The Show.” As the closing notes of the keys from David Bowie’s version of “Let’s Spend The Night Together” left Marco’s hands, the rain stopped. His set was the high point of day two as this band continues to deliver every time they are on stage.
Greensky Bluegrass was next, and though they put on a great show to welcome the sun back out with their space infused folk and bluegrass, a majority of the crowd seemed to be looking toward the next act The Flaming Lips. It was unfortunate to see this as Greensky are fantastic and their hour-long set was a perfect breather between Marco and Wayne Coyne and company. A Lips show is a spectacle to be seen, always has been and always will be. The band did not disappoint Burlington and brought out lasers, confetti, costumed monsters and rainbows, the hamster ball and smoke machines. It would have been nicer to have less time between songs as theatrics were staged, but the band was in top form. Wayne seemed to always want a little more energy from the crowd, but being in the middle of it seemed like the crowd was giving it their all. As they closed out with “Do You Realize??” the sun had set and Grace was ready to take the stage one last time.
Opening with “The Lion The Beast The Beat,” Grace and the Magical Midnight Roadshow shot out like a cannon onto the stage and didn’t let up for the 19-song performance. Playing very little repeats from night one showed how much material she has worked up over the years. The band again were amazing, adding many layers to all the songs, and supporting their fearless leader who continuously stood on speaker stacks, reaching out to the audience even after the rain started up again. Closing with “Medicine,” most of the performers came back on stage as Grace played the familiar licks of “Not Fade Away.” A powerful song to end on show that she never forgets where she came from and that she loves her hometown. Another year of Grand Point North is in the books and only looks to be getting bigger for next years.
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