I walked into the Life is Good festival and noticed that it really is good there. Even on a humid September day in New England, the sprawling Prowse Farm was the perfect venue for music, food and activities galore. And by activities, I mean the fun stuff. Whiffle ball, cornhole, football toss, and watermelon seed spitting, to name a few. I even got a chance to try out a few Martin Guitars in their tent (and listen to the open mic). After a walking tour of the grounds, I settled in to watch Tristan Prettyman. I had seen her in videos and I was certainly impressed by her full-band presence. She didn’t seem like the acoustic songstress that I expected. She was fully comfortable and a bandleader. Prettyman mentioned that she “felt the Life is Good vibe” and it really came through in her performance. When she finished, I heard a soulish croon coming from the main stage. By the time I got there, I was surprised to see that Martin Sexton quite a powerful voice. While it’s not what I expected, it was certainly a pleasant surprise. He is a blue-eyed solo soul songwriter who is playful and comfortable in front of the crowd. He’s the perfect choice for the Life is Good Festival. I got the impression that Martin wouldn’t sound as good in the studio, but in real life he’s certainly worth a look.
Next on the docket was The Hold Steady. The indie darlings seemed like a bit of a strange choice for the festival. And I must say that their music was exactly as I suspected: raucous, harsh and dorky at the same time. “A Positive Jam” began the set and before long they launched into “Crumbled Into Dust.” The lead singer was very animated while playing a little bit of guitar. It was an interesting change of pace for the festival. My wife and I got our meal and went to see Ingrid Michaelson. I had only heard a few of her songs and I was clearly the minority. The crowd lapped up her every joke and savored every song. She broke into an improvised song without much trouble and shared a new tune that’ll be on her next record. Indgrid was peppy and really fed into the crowd’s excitement to see her.
The real attraction of Saturday was The Avett Brothers. While it is certainly a stretch to call them bluegrass, they manage to merge intensity with thoughtful songwriting. Seth emerged with a shorter hairstyle and played “January Wedding”, which is a personal favorite. Scott had an intense hippy look and played his heart out. The Avett’s made the show feel like a true festival; a headlining band where the audience knew the words and sang them right back. Their happy, and at times poppy, flavor played well with the audience.
About the author: Jeff is a teacher in the Boston area. When not buried correcting papers, Jeff can be found plucking various stringed instruments and listening to all types of americana music.