Sterling Stage’s Ameribeat Festival of Arts has again proved itself to be a small-time fest with lots of character that is prefect place for the whole family. The Ameribeat Festival was held at the Sterling Stage Kampitheater just outside of Sterling, New York during the weekend of June 26-29. The four days of roots, jam, and hip-hop music was the perfect accompaniment to the numerous other forms of art on display. The Sterling Kampitheater has two stages and over 22 performing groups for Ameribeat.
The music kicked off Thursday night with George Wesley’s I-tations, in the small wooded area and stage known as the Sinatra Lounge. The I-tations are a smooth Reggae trio that’s packed with extremely talented musicians and a surprisingly big sound. After a three-hour jam set with many covers by famous dub artists like Bob Marley and filled with keyboard and guitar solos by George Wesley himself, the crowd gave the band a standing ovation. Closing out the night was a Sterling favorite and one of the house bands, Tim Herron Corporation’s THC Duo & Friends. Herron played his well-known original acoustic blues that never fails in making festival-goers dance.
As dawn broke on Friday, the Sterling Stage Kampitheater began to fill in with more local vendors and live music lovers alike. One of the aspects of Sterling Stage that sets it apart from many of the bigger music festivals is the intimate atmosphere and wide variety of hand-made goods available for sale. With over a dozen vendors on site, one could purchase any item imaginable, from beaded jewelry to beer koozies customized with your favorite band logo. Local artists specializing in all mediums filled the Artists Village with live pottery making and a black-light painting gallery for those wandering at night. This special spot is a gala highlighting local talents of all sorts. Just outside the Artists Village is the Imagination Station, a children’s area filled with arts, crafts, and a homemade cardboard castle. This gives parents a chance to relax to and enjoy the festival while knowing their children are safe, which is just another reason Sterling Stage is a prefect place for music lovers of all ages.
The music resumed Friday afternoon at 2 with Paul Leclair, a local singer/songwriter. The day was filled with acts from all over New York State, focusing in the genres of funk/jazz and hip-hop. The up-and-coming band, Lap Giraffe, played several tracks off their recent debut album, Electric Vegetables. Some of the group’s unique funk can also be heard in Subsoil, who shares Adrien D’Angelo as their bass guitarist. Subsoil, also from the Rochester area, performed two sets of their hip-hop/funk fusion in the Sinatra Lounge. One of their closing tracks and a crowd favorite, “Market” tells of the ill effects of consumerism and capitalism on society and the world. Sandwiching Subsoil’s sets was Turkuaz, a Brooklyn based funk band that is quick becoming a veteran of the festival circuit. Their incomparable energy, soulful horn section, and beautiful backup singers made it one of the hottest acts of the weekend.
Saturday was the big day, with nine bands performing a wide array of music styles. The morning started with yoga, led by Sterling regular, Brother Jon. As the day heated up to over 90 degrees, festival-goers made a haven for themselves under giant umbrellas and the Kampitheater’s beautiful trees in an attempt to find shade. Roots/Reggae was in abundance, with music from The Greener Grass Band, Echo System, Root Shock, and Spiritual Rez. All are Upstate bands besides Spiritual Rez, who are one of the two Massachusetts-based groups, along with The Primate Fiasco. Two MC’s, who recited very progressive rhymes encouraging love and respect, accompanied Echo System’s dub. Mooney Faugh, better know as “Moon Rock” of Subsoil, joined the group for a verse as well. The highlight of the day was undoubtedly Ameribeat Orchestra. The Orchestra was made up of 3 members of Tim Herron Corporation, all three members of Sophistafunk, 2 members of Our Friend’s Band, and 1 member of the Upstate favorite, Lucid. The ensemble played a mixture of covers, improvisational pieces, and songs written by some of the musicians, including Tim Herron’s “Tree” and “This Must Be The Place” by The Talking Heads.
With much of the day left, the extravagant party in the woods continued. The Primate Fiasco’s first appearance of the evening took the form of a parade that made a full circle around the festival grounds. The quintet jammed their one-of-kind psychedelic Dixieland as well over a hundred people danced behind them, many dressed in their best festival outfits. Shortly before 10, the main field began to fill in anticipation of Ameribeat’s headliner, Nahko and Medicine for the People. Nahko has turned into a growing phenomenon across the country, spreading their good vibes and positive message through acoustic trip-hop music. It was clear the crowd loved the performance as the applause continued for what seemed like forever. The night ended with a campfire jam session with The Primate Fiasco that stretched into the wee hours of the morning.
Festival-goers were slow to awake Sunday morning after a night of intense partying and only a few were up for morning yoga. As people began to pack up, the last round of bands began to play. The music was more relaxed with several sets of acoustic and jam music by all upstate artists. Those still there milled around the beautiful Kampitheater, many trying some of the deep-fried delights that has become a staple of Sterling Stage. Sterling’s non-for-profit raffle winner was announced, raising money for the Dollars for Scholars fund, supporting two local schools. To wrap up another amazing Ameribeat Festival of Arts was Our Friend’s Band, playing a song that some at the fest may relate to, “Can’t Find My Shoe”.
Sterling Stage truly is one of the better small festivals in upstate New York and this year’s Ameribeat Festival of Arts was no exception. One of the best parts is the shortage of overcrowded campgrounds and long lines, which usually results in over-marketing. Sterling Stage is devoid of both these things. Being so affordable and family friendly, there is no reason for upstate residents not to check out this unique and beautiful venue.