American Music Festival for The Lake made a splash on September 20 and 21

One of the best ways to end the summer festival season was spent at the inaugural America Music Festival at Lake George on September 20th and 21st. The two day family event was a fundraiser to keep Lake George clean and free of invasive species while enjoying local vendors, amusement rides and fantastic music. The event took place at the new Charles R. Wood festival space, a cozy 2.5 acre venue which is the first of many projects for the area that will include a skate park, a playground, interactive environmental trails and more. A humble stage stood front and center with a small sectioned off VIP area with rows of fold up seats while most people enjoyed being spread out on their blankets.

Saturday

The festival weekend started at noon with local one man band, Rich Ortiz. His rustic vocals sang out original songs from his album, Face of a Lion, with a pedal bass at his feet that looped rhythm and melodies. Ortiz is a relaxed version of Keller Williams, as he sat on stage, casually serenading the crowd with an appreciative heart. His covers of John Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery” and Led Zeppelin’s “Thank You” were sincere and clean cut. The North & South Dakotas, a 5-piece northern rock band from Saratoga Springs, kicked up the afternoon a notch with their barnyard bluegrass. “Troubles of Me” a rebellious anthem with a pounding rhythm and growing chorus.

The classic American rock group, NRBQ (New Rhythm and Blues Quartet) was greeted with loud cheers as they started their set with fresh songs off their latest album Brass Tacks. NRBQ has been performing together for over 50 years and have stayed true to their fusion of rock, pop and blues. As fans shouted out requests, keyboardist Terry Adams reassuringly said, “Keep requesting them. We’re gonna play them all!” The entire set was upbeat with a variety of doo wop grooves especially for “Driving in my Car” and “Fighting Back”.

Paranoid Social Club made the trek down from Portland, Maine to give Upstate NY a taste of upbeat garage rock. With their band motto being, “At the Paranoid Social Club, we all fit in” most young adults can relate to their lyrics filled with angst, partying and finding the right girl, with swears blocked out for the family event. Their top international hit “Two Girls” was dedicated to all the swingers in the crowd with a catchy hard pop melody. Their set ended with ultimate party song “Wasted” with teases of Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” for a high energy rock throw down.

Local rock stars Wild Adriatic made their set just in time after performing at the annual Lark Fest in Albany only a few hours earlier. With energy to spare, the boys came out blaring vocals and in your face rock that shook the crowd. Bassist Rich Derbyshire was his usual animated self as he roamed the stage and even ran through the audience without missing a beat. One of the highlights of the set was their rendition of Bill Withers “Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone”, with an intense buildup and even bigger break down.

The crowd had greatly doubled for the headlining act of Robert Randolph and the Family Band with many folks upgrading to VIP for a closer standing view. Led by pedal steel guitarist Robert Randolph, the soulful rock music filled the air with an abundance of love and happiness. Going off their latest album, Lickety Split, “Amped Up” did exactly that, amped up the crowd with fast paced funk and plenty of pedal steel riffs from Randolph. Bassist Danyel Morgan and cousin to Randolph, took the lead for Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “The Sky is Crying” with R&B vocals and bluesy bass line. As the music started to pick up pace again, vocalist and littler sister, Lenesha Randolph joined in to testify and sing out strong ballads while Robert Randolph beat his slide guitar with a tambourine and shaker. One of the most surprising moments of the act was RR inviting fans on the stage to play guitar with him, the first being too cold, the second was a hot shredder and the third was Terry Scoville from Upstate’s own Capital Zen to win over the crowd. RR was feeling it as he stomped his feet, nodding his head in approval at the flowing groove. As the jam ended, “Shake Your Hips Baby” started up and brought dozens of girls of all ages on to the stage for a blowout dance party. With the evening coming to an end, fireworks shot up overhead and the band played a tear jerking rendition of “America, The Beautiful.” Saturday had gone by flawlessly despite the overcast skies with folks eager to return for more music and fun the next day.

Sunday

A complete 360′ change for weather brought plenty of sunshine, blue skies with a perfect breeze that welcome back folks to the 2nd day at the American Music Festival at Lake George. Sunday’s theme was “Country Music” with another lineup full of talented musicians from all over the USA. The day started with Stony Creek Band, a stable of Upstate NY music that has been around for over 40 years. Joking that the festival never said which country, the band performed an upbeat paradise inspired from Zimbabwe. After their long run together, it’s no wonder they explore even create their own musical genres such as Celtic disco and cosmic cowboy. A slight change in the schedule brought Rich Ortiz back to the stage for a few acoustic numbers with a stand out cover of Phish’s “Possum”.

Travelling all the way from Mississippi, the 6-piece folk band known as Rosco Bandana performed a set of captivating indie psychedelic blues. Jackson Weldon picks apart the electric mandolin like a gentle storm as Emily Sholes strikes the keyboards and is captivating with finger cymbals. The gypsy music instills a sense of southern pride with the foot stomping and haunting harmonies. Up next was, Girls Guns and Glory who are not as intimidating as their name may lead on but still no one to mess with. The four piece Boston bluegrass group are a mix of 50s rock with new age country as their songs are about truck driving and mishaps with the world of eBay. Lead vocalist and guitarist Ward Hayden has a unique range of vocals, including a crowd pleasing yodel.

Claire Lynch felt right at home in Upstate NY where she was originally from Poughkeepsie in what she calls “Yankee land”.  A petite southern belle with an voice that has earned her the title of “Female Vocalist of the Year” to the International Bluegrass Music Association. Joined by Nickel Creek’s stand up bassist Mark Schatz, mandolinist Matt Wingate and fiddler Bryan McDowell, they created a set of old fashioned acoustic country music. Lynch’s voice floated lightly above the crowd with songs like “Humming Bird” and the old mountain tune of “Paul and Peter Walk” but trembled for the heartbreaking solider tribute of “Dear Sister”.

Last but certainly not least, headliners New Riders of the Purple Sage closed out the festival with their vintage and timeless jams. NRPS were a spin off of The Grateful Dead with original members Mickey Hart, Phil Lesh and Jerry Garcia who soon fully committed to The Dead with NRPS gaining their own identity and sound. The group now includes original members David Helson and Buddy Cage with Michael Falzarano, Ronnie Penque and Johnny Markowski. The group performed a song collection from over their decades and decades touring together. Poking fun at yesteryear’s technology, they introduced “I Don’t Know You” as taken from their first album. The set was full of their classic tunes like the southern sweetness of “Louisiana Lady”, “Rocky Road” and a wild “Panama Red”. They still have a timeless sound as their harmonies are gentle with sturdy guitar riffs and sharp rhythm.  The night concluded with a Grateful Dead “Ripple”, a familiar favorite among the crowd who had no problem singing along.

The American Music Festival was a solid way to close out the summer season. One of the key factors of the festival was the impressive sound quality and top notch lighting that highlighted the talented national and regional acts on stage. There is nothing more American than enjoying the scenic Upstate NY area with live music and local vendors while supporting a good cause. Here’s hoping that Lake George continues to host this family friendly and music loving festival next year!

american music festivalClaire Lynch Bandguns girls and gloryNew Riders of the Purple Sagenorth and south dakotasnrpqParanoid Social Clubrich ortizRobert Randolph & The Family Bandrosco bandanaWild Adriatic