StrangeCreek Music Festival: Wet, Weird and Wonderful

After seeing the StrangeCreek lineup, I knew that this was a weekend that I couldn’t miss. Many of my favorite bands were making appearances and the word of mouth that surrounded this festival was outstanding. The weather forecast was cold and rainy all weekend, however that did not stop the loyal attendees from flooding the town of Greenfield, Massachusetts. Heeding the advice of seasoned StrangeCreekers, we arrived on Thursday night and for a small fee ($30) we were able to get into the venue a day early and pick out a choice camping spot. While not entirely necessary, I would highly recommend this option as camping space became scarce quickly. Upon entering the festival, the staff was extremely helpful and we were quickly greeted with a hearty “Welcome home,” and hugs, a great first impression.

Camp Kee-Wanee, a location normally used as a summer camp for underprivileged children, was fully equipped with the traditional camp amenities; cabins, a nature trail and even a huge bonfire. With rain constantly teeming down, the paths turned muddy quickly, however unlike many other festivals, the paths were deftly attended. Bucket loaders with plenty of sand were brought in to prevent any major mishaps and fill in the ruts. The “facilities” were also remarkably clean for a festival weekend.

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As Friday rolled, around the rain continued but we were ready to see some music. With three stages running simultaneously, there was music at every turn, including the campground paths which were host to pop up jams throughout the weekend.
Our first stop was the Vernville Stage to check out the “Family Jam” which seemed to be a yearly tradition welcoming any and all interested musicians to the stage to jam, again echoing the family feel. Listen to a recording from Archive.org

Photo by Bill Bick
Photo by Bill Bick
photo by Aimee Plasse
photo by Aimee Plasse

Moving down the trail hoping to get our bearings and a feel for the layout of the venue, we walked by a host of campsites each appearing to have a well thought out themes and signage. We quickly ran into the main stage where the McLovins were closing their set with The Doors, “Break On Through,” the first of many nods that weekend to the late Ray Manzarek, a founding member of the Doors who had passed the week prior. Listen to the McLovins set on Archive.org

Having put on the festival for 11 years, the Wormtown folks have it down to a science. The primary stage was equipped with two sections of stage, so there was never a gap in music. In several hours it was easy to see a handful of bands on the main stage, including Relative Souls and Upstate NY’s own East Bound Jesus and Conehead Buddha, among other highlights.

As in years prior, there was a wedding held at the creek with the entire camp invited to witness. Two campers, Brittnie Giblin and Adam Hallam were married at sunset with friends and strangers showing their love for the happy couple.

Our campground neighbors suggested that we check out Seed, a funky and psychedelic quartet based out of Connecticut. Having played many smaller festivals in the Northeast, they cultivated a following and it was a great recommendation. Check out their set on Archive.org!

Zach Deputy, the night’s headliner, played two sets, bookending Jimkata, a personal favorite. Zach thanked the crowd for braving the rain and broke into a funky song dedicated and about Wormtown. His high energy kept the crowd moving despite the rain.

Jimkata was starting up as we made the quick walk to the main stage. It was a busy weekend for the band as they were on the lineup for Summer Camp Music Festival, out in Illinois on Sunday. With the drop of the bass into “Sweet Glory,” they hooked the crowd with their grooves. Seemingly unfazed by the rain, they provided a high energy set to those willing to brave the weather.

The campfire was raging and there were several options for late night music in the cabins; reggae sounds of The Alchemystics, some Grateful Dead with Shake Down, The William Thompson Funk Experiment and Moses and the Electric Company all were poised and ready to keep the party going.

After braving a wet night, we awoke on Saturday ready to do some exploring. The Vernville Stage provided our entertainment early in the afternoon, featuring Daddie Long Legs out of Rhode Island, and The Garcia Project, a fabulous Dead tribute band.

photo by Bill Bick
photo by Bill Bick

The sounds of funk brought us out to the main stage once again for The Bernie Worrell Orchestra. Bernie, a founding member of Parliament Funkadelic, drew a huge crowd with his experimental grooves. Busting into a long and funkified “Take me to the River” jam that closed his set, he provided a perfect lead-in for Massachusetts native Ryan Montbleau and his band. Listen to Bernie Worrell Orchestra’s set on Archive.org

Ryan, a regular at StrangeCreek, brought his soulful singing and catchy lyrics to the rainy afternoon. He was lacking his signature hat, but was full of smiles and good humor as the band played for the bundled and raincoated masses.

The crowd swelled as Max Creek took the stage. As co-founders of the weekend festival, the seasoned jam band seemed to be the glue of the festival bringing many performers up to the stage to jam with them, including Ryan Montbleau and Lyle Brewer, all the while providing an atmosphere of encouragement and improvisation to the night. Max Creek gave the still wet and cold crowd plenty of originals as well as a few obscure covers: Donovan’s “Season of the Witch” and The Champs “Tequila”. The Fire Wormz dancers added to the scene as they contorted and twirled their flaming props. As Max Creek thanked the crowd and started into The Bands classic “I Shall Be Released” we headed over to the Wormtown cabin for some late night grooves. Enjoy Max Creek’s stellar set on Archive.org

Turkauz, a hard touring band out of Brooklyn had campers lined up outside of the cabin,in anticipation of their raucous and funky show, leading to the small room being packed. Those that were wet and cold quickly turned to hot and sweaty as the dance party raged into the night.

Sunday morning and the promise of warmer weather brought both old and young out to enjoy the sunshine. We began to breakdown camp and upon another recommendation of a long time campe,r caught Our Own World. They got the RiverWorm Stage jumping, providing smoking and soulful covers of classic songs including “Whipping Post”, “Mr. Charlie”, and “Ophelia that filled the campsites.” Here’s Our Own World’s set on Archive.org

Walking back to the campsite, Lucid, another Upstate NY band was gracing the Vernville stage. With their new album Home is Where I Wanna Grow to be released later this month, and their own festival Backwoods Pondfest on deck for August, they were firing on all cylinders. With their fusion of bluegrass, rock and funk, this popular band had the audience captivated. We made a final pack of the car and were ready to see some music before hitting the road. We easily caught Ryan Montbleau’s second set of the weekend, followed by Upstate NY’s own Donna the Buffalo and closed out the weekend with a killer performance from Dumstaphunk, who had just flown in from Summer Camp Music Festival, crossing paths with Jimkata on the way. Here’s there set on Archive.org

Photo by Ashley Notch
Photo by Ashley Notch

StrangeCreek was a dynamic adventure; each day was filled with so much music and there was never a dull moment musically or otherwise. Even walking through the campgrounds provided endless hours of entertainment.  Despite the unwelcoming weather, the scene was welcoming in every way. The weekend was truly remarkable and I recommend this festival to anyone looking to spend their Memorial Day holiday with like-minded folks, all ready to have a fantastic time.