Photographs by Andrew Francke
“It’s like seeing an old friend again.”
This phrase was repeated a few times during Strangefolk’s Garden of Eden weekend run in Jay, VT. Held only a few miles from Eden, VT, the original site of Garden of Eden festival in 1996, the weekend featured Strangefolk, Percy Hill and Assembly of Dust that brought back memories of Edens of the past, but also looked to the future of Strangefolk in an idyllic setting in Northern Vermont.
This was one of the shows where, even if you could stream it and take part in couch tour, the feeling of seeing faces from throughout the history of Strangefolk, their peers in the 90’s New England jam community, and weather that enveloped the mountains and Stateside Amphitheater in a cloud for much of the weekend, you had to be there. While FOMO is something alleviated by streaming services, there’s the innate ability to be there hearing new Strangefolk songs performed live for the first time that made a 5-hour drive from Albany beyond worth it.
Percy Hill opened each night with soul and funk found deep in the annals of bands that grew from the influence of the 90’s jam scene, bringing a familiar tone that is back for select shows this year, including a performance on Jamcruise 15 next January. “Color in Bloom” had a early SCI/Paul Simon vibe with the crowd getting down as each familiar song made an appearance.
Jason Crosby was on hand all weekend with Strangefolk playing fiddle and keys, as they kicked off the night with “So Well,” which later closed the second set on Saturday, appropriate for the line “20 years gone by,” sung aloud by the crowd and band in unison. Solid versions of “All the Same” and “Furnace” preceded a lengthy “Paperback Book” and a surprise “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” to end the first set.
“Rather Go Fishin'” and “Faces” kicked off a looser, more jam heavy second set. The debut of “California Love,” a new Trafton tune, led to “Walnut” which gave way to two unique sandwiches – “Take it Easy on Me” > “Songbeard” > “Take it Easy on Me” and “Roads” > “Like You Anyway” > “Roads”, the latter featuring an ambient “Mind Left Body” jam. An encore of “Stout Hearted Man” and “Get Down Tonight” brought Percy Hill to the stage. And that was only night 1.
Saturday was a rainy one for much of the Northeast, and Jay Peak didn’t escape a drenching from Mother Nature. A VIP set in the Stateside Lodge featured fan favorites “Sidestep Blues,” “Things That Fly,” “New Glock 2,” and “Whatever.” As the evening arrived, so did a warm wind that blew in from every direction, sometimes bringing rain and other times blowing EZ-ups like tumbleweed.
Strangefolk arrived on stage one by one, first with Luke Smith working into “Strange Ranger” as bandmates joined him, then an intense and well received “Westerly.” “Come on Down” dropped smoothly into “Sometimes,” which led into “Udderly Addled.” “As…” and “So Far Gone” closed the set, which featured incredibly tight segues that were fluid and un-orchestrated.
The second set started out with the fan-favorite jingle “Juicy Fruit,” where a guy in a turtle costume joined the band and proceeded to smash a guitar on stage – hopefully not Reid’s, as he was performing on a Telecaster throughout the Amphitheater sets. A rare “Folka Polka,” a Crosby-led jam in “Pawn,” and the debut of “Sunday Soon” highlighted the middle of the set; the new songs that Strangefolk debuted over the weekend have that pure and familiar Strangefolk sound. A combo of “Diary” and “Lines & Circles” were a high peak of the set, yet the hits and heat kept coming: “Dance” followed by the ending of “So Well” capped of a throwdown set. An encore of the new “Introducing Everything” followed by “Speculator” with Yahuba Garcia from Percy Hill and Ryan Montbleau on vocals closed out a family affair, 20 years gone by.