Just in time to close out the summer, Adirondack Independence Music Festival snuck in a final taste of carefree living and beaming sunshine with a two-day jam in Lake George. Tucked away in upstate New York, the cozy site with two alternating stages backdropped the Labor Day Weekend everybody needed with familiar faces and top-notch talent across the early September lineup.
Ready to launch festival goers into two straight days of live music, The Melting Nomads took the stage as the opening act. Featuring members from Annie In the Water’s last lineup, the fresh-on-the-scene artists played about an hour set. Next up was Jen Durkin & the Business on the Improv Stage. Steal your Peach band entertained in classic fashion with covers of The Grateful Dead and The Allman Brothers over two sets. Upstate NY’s Formula 5, who will be playing at The Hollow later this month, offers a new-age jam scene that attracts a younger generation. Keller Williams brought a real blue grass, jazz vibe to the entire grounds while Twiddle’s Mihali brought out his guitar to jam alongside Keller. Following Keller Williams was the renowned Sublime cover band Badfish. Twiddle closed out the night for the second year in a row, with an outstanding performance that had everyone on their feet. The band brought out special guests such as Joshua West of The Melting Nomads and Lowell Wurster. Attendance was nearly double of what the festival brought in the year prior, reaching nearly 3,5000 attendees.
Ready to follow the kinetic atmosphere of day one with high energy, Let’s Be Leonard jump started Sunday funday and got the crowd moving in the early afternoon. Their laid back personalities and welcoming sound are the first to reel you in but their individual talents bring an extra flair to their live performance as a whole. The quintet played a few tunes from their sophomore release, Static, among the zany crowd favorite, “Brad Paisley.”
Back to School Special followed punctually on the adjoining stage of the 25-acre Charles R. Wood Park. The first-time super group crafted by Turkuaz drummer Mikey Carubba, laid down the funk as they offered up impressively tight playing and fun splashes of covers throughout the hour set. With a highly skilled lineup consisting of Carubba, Beau Sasser (Kung Fu keys), Craig Brodhead (Turkuaz guitarist) and Sam Kininger (former Lettuce Sax), the experienced quartet instantly blended together to create quality tunes and a professional sound you’d think they’ve been crafting for years.
The first double set at AIM Fest was taken on by Lucid, who draws a familiar and devoted crowd from Plattsburgh NY. Bringing Woods Rock to the forefront of the ADK stage, the North country musicians tapped into an eclectic selection of genres including harmonica solos throughout their two-hour gig. Previously introduced to Lucid or brand new to their sound, their catalogue and live performance is equipped with something for everyone. Right in the middle of a Lucid sandwich, Swift Technique came as a fresh pop of flavor delivering Philly funk with charisma, booming voices and a horns section demanding to be heard. Stellar crowd engagement from all band members and light-hearted messages to take care of one other truly reaffirmed what the upstate festival setting was all about. The entertaining outfit ended their set with Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” and passed the mic back to Lucid for their final set, which found a performance of “Backwoods,” featuring Lowell Wurster’s father and Scott Hannay (Mister F, Wild Adriatic).
Stepping on stage as if they were walking in the front door of their childhood homes, Pink Talking Fish comfortably let loose and connected with the vibrance of their musical predecessors. Momentum kept rolling through a seemingly sped up version of Phish’s “Cities,” giving phans who missed out on Curveball a reason to groove and shake about. A dive into Pink Floyd’s “Breathe” surely found bodies swaying in unison, with the song’s lyrics acting as a reminder to cherish the final moments of festival season. The Allman Brother’s Band “Whipping Post” made a surprise set-list appearance, acting as a bookend to a drum heavy “What’s the Use?” with Pigeons Playing Ping Pong drummer Alex Petropulos dropping by for a tasty breakdown.
Lespecial hit the stage at dusk, taking the setting sun as an opportunity to bring the hard hitting funk metal and entrancing beats. The multi-talented trio has a way of mesmerizing festival goers with their gritty, unique sound. They loop their live performances and indulge in genres from electronica and house to progressive rock and dark metal. Known for their musical parallels and tendency to cover Primus, Lespecial took on “Jerry Was A Racecar Driver” to begin closing out their set in style with drummer Rory Dolan nailing the Les Claypool vocals.
If there was any comfortable space around you, it was instantly absorbed by the time 8 o’clock rolled around. Bodies quickly assembled and flocked towards the front of the stage as Saturday night headliners Pigeons Playing Ping Pong closed out the fest with high spirits and optimal animation. With two sets of straight funk, the unstoppable touring machines pulled out all the stops, including a “Funk E. Zekiel” opener, a number of hits from their latest album, Pizazz, and two sit-ins from the Swift Technique horns on “F.U.N.K.” and Pink Talking Fish keyboardist Richard James on “Cliffs”> “Once In A Lifetime”> “Cliffs.” Always at the top of their craft with wacky facial expressions, in sync jamming and polished dance moves, the quartet have perfected their stage presence. With a tune self explanatory of the entire weekend, PPPP appropriately shut down AIM Fest with fan-favorite, “Fun in Funk.”
Mirroring a similar feel that the tight-knit Disc Jam community gives off and what has been missing since Catskill Chill shut down, AIM Fest continues to emerge on the scene at the right place and time. It’s fourth year in operation proved to be the best yet and a fitting, colorful sunset to a noteworthy summer of live music.