The Apple Jam festival is in its sixth year, though its first at a new venue set on the beautiful grounds of Camp Moses in Russell, MA. The Apple Jam festival was last held two years ago. The organizers took a year hiatus to reorganize and plan for a larger festival. The last event was on a much smaller scale, with many of the artists performing being friends and family of the organizers. This years Apple Jam exploded, with a new, spacious venue and the inclusion of performers who play on a much bigger stage, some nationally known. In other words, Apple Jam just stepped up its game and took the festival to a whole new level.
Apple Jam is family friendly, with many of the events encouraging interaction by all ages. A kids tent was set up, offering arts and crafts, face painting and a scavenger hunt. An art wall was available inviting attendees to paint and show off their creative flair. A paved basketball court was taken advantage of by many attendees, while several others enjoyed playing, and being part of, the human sized foosball game. Later on in the day, the court was turned into a large work of art with chalk drawings splashed over the black top. With so many activities available for festival goers, the fun kept going all weekend.
The weather held out on Friday, with the threat of rain in the air. The festival eased into the music and featured many Massachusetts’ home-grown acts on the bill, such as Dead Collective, California Widows and Opel. Blue grass wound its way onto the bill with the first performance of the festival by Cricket Tell the Weather. Holy Ghost Tent Revival and Spirit Family Reunion brought Friday’s opening night to a close, as crowds continued to stream their way in throughout the evening.
Saturday not only had a beautiful day in store, but a jam-packed schedule full of high-energy performances as well. The morning started off with some feel good bluegrass Americana jams by Livestock. Sugar Blood Jinx followed with their bluesy southern charm of a sound that featured growling vocals commanding your attention and begging you to put on your dancing shoes. Otis Grove, a band that’s been starting to make waves around the New England festival circuit, gave an energy-packed performance and continued to turn up the heat on stage. Groovy jams and feel good vibes were thrown out as The Sun Parade took the stage. Lucid had a Dave Matthews Band meets Rusted Root with horns tone as they cranked out their intense set. With the double stage setup, the audience didn’t have to wait long between bands as the gorgeous day continued to rotate acts without missing a beat.
The Mutherload, another band from the local Massachusetts area, provided a solid rock and roll groove. Gary Phelps, the man behind the entire Apple Jam organization, cranked out a crunchy guitar sound as his band jammed out to the delight of the crowd. A festival and crowd favorite, Primate Fiasco, did not disappoint as they blew everyone away with their funky Dixie sound. Known for cranking out the grooves down in the field area, this time, they took their funkiness on stage where everyone could hear them throughout the venue. The concert field began to get packed as the sun started to go down and the jams turned up the vibes.
Fresh off tour, a throwback vintage band, with a hint of the 10,o00 Maniacs sound, took to the stage as The Blind Spots belted out the tunes with powerful female vocals. The evening wrapped up with Parsonsfield, a get on your feet and dance jam band that filled the air with mandolin and banjos.
The first big headliner of the three-day run took the stage after the sun went down. Amy Helm and the Handsome Strangers wowed the audience. With Helm’s smokey and sultry blues tone, the set was off to a steamy start. Sprinklings of the steel guitar added depth and it was nonstop dancing during their set. Helm, the daughter of the famous Levon Helm, of The Band fame, is currently on tour promoting her debut album. Her set did not disappoint. Apple Jam was also the debut appearance for Ryan Scott, the guitarist with the Handsome Strangers. He was noticeably having a blast during the performance as his excitement shined through. Here’s a clip from their set:
The final performance of the evening was Anders Osborne. Everyone was waiting for him to take the stage. Wow. His energy was addictive. Osborne’s raw performance was no holds barred. The soulful, bluesy guitar work tapped into his New Orleans roots and he did not hold back as they eased into their set. The attendees were thrilled to be able to catch him perform at the newly expanded festival, and felt it a true honor to have him be a part of the bill this year. Osborne performed for a solid two hours as he kept the party going to a concert field full of dancing fans. As the last notes dropped, cheers could be heard throughout the venue, to include campers that were set up in the forest area behind the stage. It was an incredible end to a fantastic day at Apple Jam.
Sunday’s performances were more relaxed and cooled down as bluegrass filled the air at the Stone Temple stage, located near the lake on the edge of the venue. Acoustic Brew, The Rambling Kind, and a second performance by Cricket Tell the Weather closed out the festival. Overall, if you haven’t been to Apple Jam, put this on your must see festival list next year. With beautiful, spacious grounds and plenty of activities for all ages, this is one not to be missed. The music is nonstop and attendees will walk away on Sunday refreshed and recharged with a pair of worn out dancing shoes as a souvenir of the amazing experience.