Sit-Ins, Covers and Heavy Improv Highlight Adirondack Independence Music Festival

It doesn’t seem like the easiest feat to get a small music festival up, running and successful, but that’s just what the organizers of the Adirondack Independence Music Festival did this past weekend, September 2-3.

In its second year and hosted in Lake George at the Charles R. Wood Commons, the two-day festival brought a stacked lineup to eager fans, and may have solidified itself moving forward as an Upstate New York gem. Ticket prices were beyond reasonable, the atmosphere was relaxed and omnipotent and every person who graced the stage brought something unique and memorable.

As vendors lined the outskirts of the setting, views of Lake George and Million Dollar Beach were just over the horizon. The Steal Your Peach Band — a mashup of the Allman Brothers Band and the Grateful Dead — opened the festival just after 1 p.m.  Berkshire County’s Rev. Tor Krautter and Jeremy Walz traded inspired guitar licks back and forth all day, as the group performed three sets. Highlights included a very technical “Southbound,” a timely “U.S. Blues” and the crowd pleasing “Scarlet Begonias.”

Around 2 p.m. on Saturday, Annie in the Water jumped into an hour-long set that featured many originals and a few covers, setting the tone for the rest of the night. Ryan Montbleau displayed his penchant for writing diverse songs in a set spanning 75 minutes, before Syracuse-based hip-hop trio Sophistafunk captivated the crowd with its positive messages, thrilling beats and all-around insane energy.

Funk-rock band Kung Fu wasted no time, leaping into a slightly extended “Bopcorn,” before a quick pause and a burst into “Scorpion.” Later highlights of the set included guitarist Tim Palmieri and drummer Adrian Tramantano linking up for some silky improvisation on “Chop Suey,” “Bottleneck” and “Samurai.”

After another Steal Your Peach Band interlude, headliners Pink Talking Fish took the stage, and the first noticeable thing was the band’s improved light show, featuring laser lights, twirling beams and dancing rays. “Into the Flesh”>”Psycho Killer”>”Golden Age” began a free-flowing set that displayed the band’s penchant for perfection, as the group didn’t miss a note. The full “Shine on you Crazy Diamond” suite brought a psychedelic feel, before guitarist Dave Brunyak brought a blazing guitar solo on “Chalk Dust Torture.” A “Harpua” that featured Jimmy in the middle of Lake George bookended “Run Like Hell,” “Theme From the Bottom” and “Heaven.”

Capital Zen and Mister F were the late night bands at King Neptune’s, just down the street from the festival grounds. An eager crowd spilled into the bar for a night which featured opposite band sit-ins and shenanigans all around.

I was unable to make it back to the festival on Sunday until a little after 4 p.m., which made me miss sets from Gratefully Yours, West End Blend and Barika. At 5 p.m., Hayley Jane and the Primates brought the stage into orbit, welcoming Mike Gordon percussionist Craig Myers for “Mama” and “Man Acrylic.”  moe. drummer Vinnie Amico and Twiddle guitarist Mihali Sauvolidis performed on “I Can Do It,” before Tommy Weeks, saxophone player for Funky Dawgs Brass Band, sat in for “Make It Alright.”

Twiddle, the Sunday headliner, came on as the crowd swelled a bit. “Subconscious Prelude,” featuring Lowell Wurster of Lucid, and “Indigo Trigger” gave way to “The Caterpillar,” which bled into a rousing rendition of Sublime’s “What I Got,” a tune that saw Hayley Jane come out and expel the lyrics in a gritty, but passionate way. Weeks came back out for “Every Soul” later in the set, before Twiddle finished the last 40 minutes with just the core members on stage. While the band sounded very tight and composed, the set didn’t feature any earth shattering jams, maybe giving a nod to the bevy of guests.

Strange Machines and Formula 5 were the perfect combination to close out the weekend back at King Neptune’s. Strange Machines played for an hour, with their unique blend of guitar-led, fast paced jams setting the stage for Formula 5, who are in the midst of a fall tour. Prior to the show, keyboardist Matt Richards told me that the recent show they played in Syracuse was the most put together the band has sounded since he joined the band, which was a bit of foreshadowing.

Kicking off with a tribute to Steely Dan guitarist Walter Becker, who passed away earlier Sunday, the group lit into “Kid Charlemagne.” “Booher’s Pass” and “Blue,” for which Wurster made another appearance, were up next. The ensuing jam, led by guitarist Joe Davis, then gave way to Richards’ “Trout Waters Pt. 1 and 2,” and the crowd began to really dig the groove Formula 5 laid down. “Pedro” and “Come Along” closed out the weekend at around 2:40 a.m., sending everyone home happy and ready to get back to work.

With the improvements and tweaks made to the Adirondack Independence Music Festival this year, it appears Lake George will host this again next year, and with much fanfare. There was a lot of discussion among artists and fans about how the weekend went off without many hiccups, and that really bodes well for a small festival. Dave Ehmann and Jarrett Hartstone and their crew deserve a lot of credit for putting on a very memorable weekend concert that we hope will return for years to come.

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