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2018 Summer Arts Preview: Music Festivals & Venues

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Val-Inc performs at Stone Mountain Sound on June 23.
  • Val-Inc performs at Stone Mountain Sound on June 23.
The hills are alive with the sound of music—literally. From Bethel Woods in Sullivan County to Tanglewood in Massachusetts to Grey Fox in Greene County the region is brimming with music venues and, come summer, music festivals. We've rounded up some of this summer's musical highlights. (Read our preview of 2018 Bard SummerScape/Summer Music Festival >>)

Your Summer Soundtrack: 2018 Upstate Music Festivals

Bethel Woods (Through December)

Since Bethel Woods is set on the site of the original 1969 Woodstock Music Festival, it’s no accident that much of its programming is aimed squarely at the classic-rock demographic. June jumps off with Roger Daltrey performing the Who’s Tommy with members of the Hudson Valley Philharmonic (June 8). Also appearing: Lucinda Williams/Steve Earle/Dwight Yoakam (June 15); Poison/Cheap Trick/Pop Evil (June 22); Steve Miller Band/Peter Frampton (June 29); Steely Dan/Doobie Brothers (July 14); Lynyrd Skynyrd (July 21); Dierks Bentley (August 3); Beach Boys/Righteous Brothers (August 5); Trombone Shorty (August 11); Deep Purple/Judas Priest (September 2); and more. 

Aston Magna (June 14-July 21)

Now in its 46th year, Aston Magna
Todd Williams performs at Aston Magna July 12, 13 & 14.
  • Todd Williams performs at Aston Magna July 12, 13 & 14.
is America’s oldest annual summer music festival devoted to music played on authentic period instruments and is sure to satisfy fans of early and chamber music. The festival, which takes at various venues in Western Massachusetts and the Hudson Valley, hosted the first American performances of the complete Bach Brandenburg Concertos and the first American performances of Mozart symphonies on original instruments. This summer’s roster promises a newly commissioned offering by up-and-coming composer Alex Burtzos, as well as works by Brahms, Bach, LeClair, Couperin, Beethoven, Mozart, Caldara, and others, along with preconcert talks.

Tanglewood (June 15-September 2)

Tanglewood, in Lenox, Massachusetts, has been the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra since 1937. And while classical still fills the bill, it’s pop and NPR fare that’s kept Tanglewood in the black. Roger Daltrey plays Tommy with the Boston Pops (June 15); David Crosby (June 16); Stephen Stills and Judy Collins (June 17); Allison Krauss (June 19); “Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” (June 21); Andy Grammer (June 22); Harry Connick Jr. (June 23); Bela Fleck (June 29); “Live from Here” with Chris Thile and Lake Street Dive (June 30); Ry Cooder and Emmylou Harris (July 1); festival fave James Taylor (July 3-4); and more.

Caramoor Summer Music Festival (June 16-July 29)

The Spanish Courtyard at Caramor will host musicians all summer long.
  • The Spanish Courtyard at Caramor will host musicians all summer long.
Founded in 1945, Caramoor is held on the grounds of the lavish Mediterranean-style villa (now a museum) in the Westchester County town of Katonah. Classical music remains predominant in the programming, but pop, folk, jazz, and world music are peppered throughout the calendar. Audra McDonald opens the season (June 16), which also includes the Verona Quartet (June 21); So Percussion (June 22); Aimee Mann/Valerie June (June 23); Apollo’s Fire (June 24); Isabel Leonard/Sharon Isbin (June 28); Kronos Quartet (June 29); Handel’s Atalanta (July 22); Joey Alexander (July 27); Dominque Kidjo (July 28); and more. Caramoor.org

Bang on a Can Summer Festival (July 12-28)

Bang on a Can perform within Nick Cave’s installation Until at MASS MoCA in 2017.
  • Bang on a Can perform within Nick Cave’s installation Until at MASS MoCA in 2017.
Since 2002, the New York-born contemporary classical organization Bang on a Can has made its summer home at magical Mass MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts, where it holds its yearly Summer Institute of Music, a program for young composers and performers. The festival features daily performances in the art museum’s galleries (free with museum admission), a concert by the Bang on a Can All-Stars (BOAC cofounder Julia Wolfe’s “Anthracite Fields”), and finishes, as always, with a six-hour Marathon Concert by the festival ensembles and special guests—this year’s Marathon features works by guest composer Steve Reich. 

Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival (July 19-22)

The mother of all upstate bluegrass festivals, Grey Fox began in 1984 and has been blossoming in its second home, the Walsh Farm in Oak Hill, since 2008—it’s even the subject of a documentary, 2003’s Bluegrass Journey, and was one of 10 musical events around the world featured in BBC World’s television series “Destination Music.” Alongside yearly host band Dry Branch Fire Squad, the 2018 lineup stars Del McCoury, Sam Bush, Hot Rize (40th anniversary celebration), Jerry Douglas, the Wood Brothers, Della Mae, Peter Rowan, Daily and Vincent, Red Knuckles & the Trailblazers, Sierra Hull, and many more. On-site camping is available.

Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice (August 2-5)

Showcasing the power and artful beauty of the human voice, this four-day event in the tiny-but-hip outpost of Phoenicia is one of the most anticipated music festivals in the region. PIFV grew out of “Opera Under the Stars,” a 2009 benefit concert and opera is still its constant thread, but this genre-spanning weekend has spanned to include jazz, musical theater, world music, and other styles. This year has “Sirens of Gospel” (August 30); Rossini’s “La Cambiale di Matrimonio” (August 4); Bizet’s “Carmen” (August 4); and the festival finale, “Beauties of Broadway” (August 5).

Falcon Ridge Folk Festival (August 3-5)
A Hudson Valley classic, Falcon Ridge lands at Dodds Farm in Hillsdale every August, bringing authentic folk dancing and some of the brightest and most beloved names in roots-related music. Across its four stages, organizers this year present the Adam Ezra Group, Dar Williams, Annie Wentz, Buddy System, Bunkhouse Boys, Clayfoot Strutters, Dan Navarro, the End of America, Gaslight Tinkers, Great Bear, Greg Greenway, Heather Aubrey Lord, Jason Spooner Band, John Gorka, the Kennedys, Kim and Reggie Harris, Magpie, Slambovian Circus of Dreams, Sloan Wainwright, Tom Paxton and the Don Juans, and more. Food and camping are available.

Huichica East (August 24-26)

Late August will see the third installment of Huichica East, a music/farm-fresh food/wine fest set on the beatific acreage of Chaseholm Farm (camping available). Originally started in Sonoma Valley, the East Coast arm of this festival continues the tradition of brining people together through good food and music. This year's line up combines a hand-picked selection of psychedelic surf rock, indie and folk acts, ranging from Bettye Lavette to Mercury Rev and Robin Hitchcock. Organized by Jeff Bundschu of Sonoma's Gundlach Bundschu Winery and (((folkYEAH!))), the three-day festival brings together people of all ages for a fun, laid back weekend in the sun.


Past Festivals

Mountain Jam | June 14-17

i                        With this year's lineup, the always-anticipated jam/folk rock festival has raised some tie-dyed eyebrows among long-time attendees by leaving out the usual headliners (sorry, no Michael Franti or Gov't Mule) and shifting its focus away from Woodstock Festival-legacy acts and onto mostly younger artists. Twenty-eighteen's Mountain Jam bill toppers are Jack Johnson, Sturgill Simpson, and Alt-J; filling out the rest of the four-day fest are the War on Drugs, Portugal. The Man, Father John Misty, the Decemberists, Kurt Vile, Jenny Lewis, George Clinton, Rag 'n' Bone Man, Turkuaz, the Record Company, Steve Gunn, Sean Rowe, Woods, Larkin Poe, Jane Lee Hooker, local faves the Felice Brothers, and more. 

Stone Mountain:Sound:Motion (June 23)

Brand new to our Hudson Valley summer music festival landscape is Rosendale’s Stone Mountain:Sound:Motion, an all-day event that centers on live improvisation. And if the inaugural schedule is anything to go by, it looks like a promising addition, indeed: the Jessica Jones Quartet (featuring Kenny Wolleson, Stomu Takeishi, and Tony Jones), the Tani Tabbal Trio, Fula flute masters Bailo Bah and Sylvain Leroux, Val-Inc., Cumulus featuring Pete Coates (koto) and Eric Archer (bansuri flute), 5th Wall Studio dance group, Timothy Hill, Mitochondrial featuring Chris Lané and Joakim Lartey, Visionary Youth Orchestra, and the Biophony Project. 

Green River Festival (July 13-14)

Year by year, Greenfield, Massachusetts’s Green River Festival broadens its original folk-roots MO to take in acts that are, some might say, musically farther afield. This time around, the 32-years-and-running jamboree presents Michael Franti & Spearhead, Old Crow Medicine Show, Dr. Dog, Josh Ritter, I’m with Her, Deer Tick, Robert Earl Keen, Femi Kuti, Chuck Prophet, Lucy Dacus, Birds of Chicago, Amy Helm, the Ballroom Thieves, the James Hunter Six, Marco Benevento, the Mammals, Molly Tuttle, Magna Carda, Bella’s Bartok, Yes Darling, the Revelers, Twisted Pine, Big Mean Sound Machine, and others. On-site camping available. 

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