FESTIVAL RECAP: The Life is good Festival 2013

The Roots

I’m not sure what the average weekend during the year is like up at Prowse Farm in Canton, MA, but all I know is that on September 21st and 22nd of this year, the air was filled with so much love, kindness, fun and an overall positive energy. We can certainly chalk up yet another amazing weekend at The Life is Good Festival and call it an absolute success!

Trampled By Turtles
Trampled By Turtles

This particular festival holds a special place in my heart, because it’s one that is truly “family friendly” (in my opinion). So I bring my wife along with me, as well as our six year old son, because this whole shindig is about nothing but family and especially the kids as they are the center of focus at this festival. Saturday and Sunday’s morning main stage act was for the kids as Yo Gabba Gabba did their thing and the kids just couldn’t get enough of it! Plenty of more music for the kiddos as Josh & The Jamtones, Recess Monkey and DJ Lance & Friends filled the Good Kids Stage all day Saturday and Sunday as well. Not only did they have music for the children, but there was the Arts & Crafts booths, Go-Go Squeeze Applesauce had a trading card game for them to be able to win prizes, there was a BMX stunt team showing off their tricks, comedians, magicians, many other activities for the little ones. Again, the main focus for this festival is the kids and most importantly, raising money for the ones in need. This was yet another year that Life is Good was able to raise over a million dollars again for donations, quite an amazing feat if you ask me.

Jesse Dee
Jesse Dee

Now for us older kids that attended, some of these first time acts that really stood out for me consist of folk-rock singer and songwriter Amos Lee and then R&B Soul performer Jesse Dee (who by the way blew the roof off of the stage during his performance). Also at the top of the list was Trampled By Turtles, a very high energy folk & bluegrass band whose performance was nothing short of stellar. There was also 14 year-old blues rocker, Quinn Sullivan, and this kid can hang and hold his own damn well up there. Put it this way, this kid at 8 years old, with complete comfort almost as like he’s done this a thousand times before, got on stage with Buddy Guy and thoroughly impressed this veteran blues man. That performance turned into an invitation to play on Buddy’s newest upcoming album, one that also had tracks on it from Eric Clapton, Robert Randolph as well as Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi, so yes…this kid has some serious skills up there.

Quinn Sullivan
Quinn Sullivan

Other first time performances for me also include Dawes; now I’ve heard lots of their music, but again, haven’t had the chance to see them live. They put on a great show and this was obviously a crowd favorite as it was packed up front with fans who had been waiting out the first half of the day up there anticipating this performance. There was also Thao & The Get Down Stay Down who are starting to make a name for themselves, then Boston based rock band Gentlemen Hall, the Indie-Folk trio Good Old War,  and Alt-Pop-Americana band Delta Rae out of Durham, NC. Also, there was the band Bahamas whose lead singer Afie Jurvanen sat in later in the evening for a song with Jack Johnson. Josh Panda & The Hot Damned belted out some seriously amazing vocals during their set and really captured my attention.

Delta Rae
Delta Rae

There were also the bands I’ve seen in the past and could not wait to see again such as Lake Street Dive whose smooth, sultry and jazz based tunes are like no other. This band is just spot on perfect and unique to say the least, these are true performers who know what they’re doing for a crowd and do it ever so well. Now there was The Roots, they absolutely owned that festival and brought so much energy up to the stage which had the crowd on their feet dancing, singing and just grooving to a damned good time, this performance was nothing short of just fun as I couldn’t even stop smiling. And then of course, who could ever forget about old school New Orleans veterans, Preservation Hall Jazz Band as they definitely brought yet another solid show with them and kicked it from the main stage.

Caravan of Thieves
Caravan of Thieves

This year the festival added a new stage called The Life is Good Coffee House which was hosted by veteran festival musician Ryan Montbleau. This venue which was essentially nothing but a small tent that had maybe 50 seats at the most in there, along with a little bit of standing room hosted acts that were so appropriate for this type of setting. It was the perfect intimate spot for acts such as Dwight & Nicole (Nicole was actually on a season of TV’s The Voice), also folk acoustic acts such as Vance Gilbert, Nathan Moore, Stephane Wrembel, Mick Doughty, Tall Heights, Amber Rubarth w/Dave Eggar, Session Americana and then of course the gypsy rock band, Caravan of Thieves and who could leave out Ryan Montbleau himself who played a couple of sets in there as well as sat in with many others. I was walking around the fest and then received a text message from a friend of mine on production who told me to get my butt up to the Life is Good Coffee House tent as there was going to be a special guest. So I made my way across the festival to see about 1500 people gathered around outside of this tent to get in, so I held up my pass and cameras, squeezed my way through the crowd and into the tent and found myself a spot tucked against the wall. This lead to one epic moment that actually turned out to be the total highlight for me, as Zach Gill who is Jack Johnson’s keyboardist just started his set, and he played his own music on keyboards, sometimes singing through a kid’s megaphone, as well as playing some music on a ukulele as well as an accordion. He was very interactive with the crowd getting them to sing along as well as telling some jokes but then laid down the bombshell and welcomed Jack Johnson up to the stage to set in for a couple of songs. This was just a perfect way to get psyched up even more for his show later in the evening. The crowd went absolutely crazy, the roar out of everyone when he walked onstage sounded like it came from a packed house at Madison Square Garden it was so loud. After Jack left, Zach invited up a bunch of other performers that played in the Coffee House and did a rendition of The Beatles’ All You Need is Love which turned out to be a big sing along with the crowd, a great ending to a fun-filled performance.

Zach Gill
Zach Gill

The big closing acts here were Daryl Hall & John Oates on Saturday night who sang their classics which seemed to really grab the attention of everyone in their late 40s, 50s and up who were having a great time. I do have to say that I was surprised at the amount of younger faces singing along with their songs, but again, these guys were really big in their careers and got a lot of radio play. Also, just as I play music from my generation that my six year old son knows by heart, these kids were also being played their parents’ favorite tunes as they were being raised, so I’m sure it was pressed into their heads as well. Jack Johnson as I said closed out the festival on Sunday night and man, what an act. Everything he played was perfect, the set was in perfect order and he mixed in a few surprise songs from Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Otis Redding and more. He is one of the most relaxed performers I’ve ever witnessed on stage, yet brings a lot to the table. He played some solo acoustic stuff, and he also brought his band out and rocked the place as well. Throughout his set he invited guests on to the stage that played earlier in the day for a song or two. This was an amazing way to end the festival, but I couldn’t have thought of a better way to spend the whole weekend, it could not have been any better of a production.

Jack Johnson
Jack Johnson

So yeah, it was just another awesome year up at The Life is Good Festival. If you are ever looking to bring the family and kids to a festival, but have been hesitant to do so because of the things that you may witness which are not appropriate for young eyes and minds, then you have absolutely nothing to worry about. This is the one to go to and I have to say that the attendees are very conscious of this as they know that the children are a huge part of this party, so you do get the feeling of total respect from your neighbors there, and while they do serve wine and beer, you would have a hard time finding someone passed out on the ground, or a group of obnoxious screaming fans, you won’t find that your blanket that’s been on the ground all day has been trampled upon or even missing a personal belonging. We were absolutely comfortable leaving our backpacks, bags and everything on our blanket all day as we walked around the festival with zero worries at all. Everyone is there for the same reason, and that is to have a fun-loving time with their friends and family, as well as hearing some awesome music. Even after driving the almost three hours back home on Sunday night and getting to bed late, the weekend’s positive effect even made Monday that much easier to confront because well…I guess, Life is Good.