Life is good Festival, Blue Hills – Canton MA, September 12
Sunday, Day Two at Life is Good, brought a nice mix of great home-bred talent in Guster, the best of the New Orleans’ funk & jam scenes with Trombone Shorty and Galactic, the world-renowned international sounds of Sierra Leone Refugee All-Stars and Toubab Krewe and pop superstars OK Go!, Brett Dennen, Corinne Bailey Rae and Jason Mraz.
[Life is Good founders sit down for an interview on Sunday]
Despite an early morning shower prior to any of the acts hitting the stage, and slightly cooler temperatures, it was another near perfect day in Canton, MA. Just like Saturday, the schedule of the Main Stage and the Good Vibes stage was thoughtfully planned. Bands never overlapped giving festival goers an opportunity to catch entire acts and little to zero downtime without music filling the air. The Kids Stage proved an even bigger draw on Sunday. The tent was jam packed to overflow capacity for all the bands throughout the day. The only balloons to be found in either the parking lots or the festival grounds were those of the smiling children.
Besides the same type of music, like They Might Be Giants that the Kids’ Stage hosted on Saturday, there was one major change on Sunday. Due to some flight difficulties and logistical issues, Trombone Shorty had to be re-scheduled to the Kids’ Stage. Frankly, it may have been a toss-up on what was better for them: opening the Main Stage with the early slot when people were still arriving or not even there yet, or closing out the Tent in a late afternoon slot. In one of the only hiccups in the execution for this rookie festival, the organizers did a poor job in alerting the attendees of the new time-slot and location. Despite the lack of communication, a relatively decent sized crowd made their way to the tent and saw a remarkable set of music. With the energy absolutely pulsing from the stage, it was tough not to imagine the kids that had been in the tent earlier in the day literally being blown through the big-top if they had still been inside.
- Life is good Festival: Day One
READ ON for more from Parker on Day Two of Life is good…
[The Only Balloons Here]
Hailing from the Treme section of New Orleans and having played the trombone in brass parades since childhood, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews sure knows how to work his trombone. He and his band, Orleans Avenue, cooked up the setlist just like a N’Awlins Gumbo: mixing it up with varied flavors and tastes but always a kick of heat. Haven’t seen Trombone Shorty yet? Put it on your concert bucket list.
Just like Saturday, the Good Vibes stage was mostly filled with easy-going, fun and enjoyable bands. Emily Elbert, the 21-year-old, up and coming singer/songwriter from Boston performed songs from her debut album Bright Side as well as a new album Proof. Most songs were cheerful, upbeat and love filled, but at the same time her soft voice with a tinge of Southern flavor had a soulful quality that was tough to ignore.
Toubab Krewe was next up and jammed out to an exotic mix of African & Southern rock percussive sounds. Harp-lutes, fiddles, bass & electric guitars and all sorts of African percussion mixed together to make an intoxicating and hypnotizing groove & beat that was nearly impossible not to dance or tap your foot to.
It is easy to forget that OK Go! is really a local band too. All of the band members with the exception of the drummer are from New England. Starting their set with White Knuckles, the crowd was instantly focused and paying rapt attention. Their is something special about their stage presence, the way they move on stage, the way they dress, and most importantly Damian Kulash’s vocals & command of the spotlight. I Want You So Bad I Can’t Breathe, A Million Ways, Here it Goes Again and Skyscrapers all transfixed the huge crowd. After taking pictures of the crowd “for my Facebook page”, Kulash asked the audience to “please tag yourselves in the picture, and if you are a hot chick, leave your number too”.
[Kulash Photographs The Audience]
What to Do was a good song choice for Sunday. “What day is it? What instrument did God himself invent? Kulash asked the crowd. “The bells! The bells! It’s church time” and with that, their iconic table of church bells was brought on stage and the white gloved band members, softly and angelically worked through the song. As soon as that was done, Kulash stated he felt like having a “hippie get together” and crawled into the crowd and sang Last Leaf with many of the audience singing along.
Perhaps no better reflection on the musical lineup that the organizers tried to put together was Brett Dennen. All his songs espouse inclusion, love, peacefulness and getting along. His movements on-stage never seemed to stop as he glided, danced and stood Ian Anderson-like as his unassuming voice commanded attention. Despite his uber-geeky appearance and quirky movements, he totally owned the stage and had throngs of the crowd begging for more when the set ended.
Corinne Bailey Rae closed out the Good Vibes stage with a set filled with the pop sensibilities that have made her a pop-radio superstar. Playing both hits from her #1 selling debut album and her recently released The Sea, it is clear why she has been a favorite of both critics and fans.
[Corinne Bailey Rae]
With Trombone Shorty’s rescheduling, the main stage was left vacant until 2PM, when the Sierra Leone Refugee All-Stars marched onto stage in a percussive, drum line firing up the stage before they even began. Hailing from Sierra Leone, and displaced from refugee camp to refugee camp in Guinea during the civil wars, it’s almost impossible to listen to their music without feeling the stories and experiences they have been through. In an incredible way, they easily mix the heartache and strife with uplifting tunes of hope.
[Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars]
If Saturday’s Ozomatli’s performance left attendees with the appetite whetted for another cocktail of swamp rock, jam jazz, rock, blues and soul, the Galactic set certainly delivered. Pulsing to the rhythmic sounds of Stanton Moore’s drums, Cyril Neville lent his distinctive vocals as he guested for the entire set. Likewise, later in the set, Ben Ellman’s sax was perfectly complemented by Trombone Shorty who sat in for a handful of songs on Trumpet. (Trumpet Shorty? Doesn’t have the same ring).
The penultimate performance on main stage, was Boston’s own, Guster who had previously in the day debuted a song from their new album during a private performance in the Chase Freedom Reward Tent.
Guster’s setlist played through many favorites of their cult-like following. The vocal harmonies were quite enjoyable and definitely an appeal of the band. Perfectly fitting in with the vibe of the weekend, Guster closed the set with Happier. They also performed Guster staples Manifest Destiny, The Captain, Do You Love Me and This Could All Be Yours Someday.
Closing out the successful festival, was sensation Jason Mraz. Frankly, I have to admit it was a pretty good set. For the Mraz fans in attendance, and there were scores of them, perhaps it was stellar. Running though plenty of well known songs with a few brand new songs thrown in for good measure (Freedom – in honor of Katrina survivors, Mother’s Out There – penned with Brett Dennen and appropriately, Life is Good) Mraz thrilled the crowd & put the lid on Life is Good with the Beatles’ All You Need is Love. As far as my daughter was concerned, the show could have ended with the prior song and anthem for Mraz fans, I’m Yours. She would have gone home with a smile on her face and a memory of a lifetime, the same way that many festival attendees did with all the great performances over the last two days. With the great execution, beautiful scenery & convenient location, many people will have their fingers crossed for a return of Life is Good in 2011.