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Life is good Fest 2011 recap

The Hold Steady's Craig Finn on stage at Life Is Good Fest in Canton, MA

Words // Todd Harrington
Photos // Todd Harrington

The weather may have been a little threatening most of the first day of the Life is good Festival but it held out. The festival made its return to Prowse Farm in the shadows of Blue Hills in Canton, MA for a second year and the fans came out in droves.

The festival grounds are spread out well enough were the two larger stages almost face one another, but the music would be on pace so once one set ended you could turn, walk a few hundred yards and check out the next band.

Not interested in the band at the time, take a walk and see the dozens of local vendors, learn about organic farming, kick a soccer ball with a New England Revolution Player, or hang out in “Chillville”, a section with a “mellow vibe”.

Music began before noon on the “Good Kids Stage” with Ben Rudnick and Friends performing for the families that had arrived early. The kids stage was under a large shed and huge bean bag chairs were tossed about for families to be comfortable in. The band announced from the stage it was their 17th time performing at the Festival. The kids stage would have the same line up both days with Keller Williams second, The Laurie Berkner Band and finally “Imagination Movers”. Williams performed acoustic and told the audience about how his gear could record something, and then with him pressing a foot pedal he could “loop” the effect. Keller was engaging and was later seen hula hooping with kids during the festival. Laurie Berkner had the stage full for happy sing alongs and audience participation. Parents were singing and dancing along with their kids. Imagination Movers had the area swelling with the masses. The band who wear colorful one piece suits went right to the audience, walking down and hi-fiving the dancing masses. The kids were going wild, and the parents seemed happy that the band made the efforts to include the kids whenever possible. The kids stage, as expected, was a fun and safe area. Positivity and being happy were keys, and you'd be hard pressed to find anyone not leaving without a smile.

The main stages over the two days were diverse with super fans of a band embracing new fans. When a person stands on the rail in front of the stage in the hot sun for over an hour you know they mean business. While waiting for The Hold Steady to perform on the Good Vibe Stage in the late afternoon I overheard people talking, asking what the Hold Steady was like. After a little back and forth one asked the other “Who are you here to see?” to which the response was “Ingrid Michaleson”. As the story goes these two fans drove ten hours from Toronto to catch Ingrids set. They were on the rail well over two hours before she'd play. Before the Hold Steady set was Dwight and Nicole a group that blended the blues and rock followed by Tristan Prettyman who led her band through a mix of acoustic rock that hand a little folk and a little soul. Prettyman has professed her adoration for singer Ani DiFranco and her style was similar. The Hold Steady rolled out and announced “We are the first rock band you've seen today” and they tore through their set. Rumbling through tracks like “Southtown Girls” and “Chips Ahoy” very few fans were seen leaving the area. The Good Vibes stage wrapped up with Michaleson who switched instruments after each song and would offer some fun stories about their time on the road. Michaelson has had songs on Grey s Anatomy, Gossip Girl and One Tree Hill. She played a funny few lines and said “don't worry that will end up on next weeks Grey's Anatomy”. She noted they had not played live in some time as they had been working on a new album. The band was hardly rusty and I am sure the two ladies who drove ten hours were thrilled with her set.

The Main Stage on Saturday kicked off right at noon with Barefoot Truth. The group of guys got the earlier arrivals bobbing their heads and up out of their chairs. The band thanked the audience for their support as their recent album had found its way on to the iTunes chart. The roots rock band did much to impress. The Dirty Dozen Brass Band provided that New Orleans deep groove that really got everyone moving. Martin Sexton, who had just arrived from Europe, arrived on stage with just his guitar and sang a hybrid version of the Star Spangled Banner before his hour long set. Sexton has a powerful voice and he most certainly had folks paying attention. Former founding member of the band Disposable Heroes of Hypocrisy was Michael Franti + Spearhead who seemed to have the days first really ravenous fan participation and reaction. Franti worked the stage front to back, side to side inviting the audience to sing along, be happy and be nice. Franti blends funk, reggae hip hop and rock for a frantic set. A Led Zeppelin tease late in the set was greeted with a thunderous roar. The day concluded with the Avett Brothers. Taking the stage at dusk the full festival was in their hands. The band hardly stood motionless giving every ounce to the audience that had waited all day for them.

Sunday I arrived a little later and caught most of the Maceo Parker set on the main stage.. Parker was the saxophone player for the James Brown band for many years had little trouble in getting the audience to dance along. Brandi Carlile's set opened with a pounding drum solo before she and the rest of the band arrived on stage. She'd play a strong set with highlights being a rowdy cover of the Johnny Cash tune “Folsom Prison”. Carlile was backed with members of the Boston Pops string section. The Levon Helm Band followed. As anticipated by most in attendance their set concluded with “The Weight” which featured the Boston Pops as well as Ray LaMontagne.

On the Good Vibes Stage Ryan Montbleau preformed a solid set that mixed soul and blues. Montbleau was later seen near the merchandise table singing cds and meeting fans, something this reviewer noticed him still doing for well over one hour. Robert Randolph and the Family Band was a highlight. Randolph is a virtuoso on the lap steel guitar. The set was, for lack of a better term, electric. He owns his instrument and the band is extremely tight. Their set turned many a head. The Good Vibes stage concluded with a rocking soul set by Raphael Saadiq. Saadiq who started out in the 80's pop band Tony! Toni! Tone! has come a long way. Dark suit and horn rimmed glasses Saadiq and his band ran through a fun intro before launching in to “Heart Attack”, the lead off track from his new album “Stone Rollin”. He quickly got the audience to sing along and the band just brought it. Male and female backing vocals added to the power and Saadiq,who later had Randolph sit during his set, ended the Vibes stage perfectly.

Over the course of two days twenty two bands played for the young and old for a very good cause. The organization raised over 1 Million dollars. The music was diverse and thus the fan base was equallyas diverse. Attendees were respectful of one another and the grounds of the event. Life is Good was a very well run festival, one that this reviewer would strongly suggest to others, as a “can't miss” event.

More photos from Life is good Fest 2011

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Reader Comments (3)

More pictures are coming..thanks for reading!

September 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTodd

Sounds like a good time. Wish there were more festivals in my area.

September 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTravis Erwin


September 30, 2011 | Unregistered Commenter:)

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