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Solar Vortex: 2014 Summer Music Festivals


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Rainbow Stage at Clearwater Festival - ECONOSMITH
  • Econosmith
  • Rainbow Stage at Clearwater Festival

"Chewing out a rhythm on my bubble gum / The sun is out and I want some." —The Ramones, 1977

After the winter of 2014, it's safe to say that most of us in the Northeast will shed no tears if we never hear the term "polar vortex" again. In fact, after such a brutal season we pretty much deserve a summer annex—say, an extra 80-degree stretch through September, October, and November. Is that too much to ask? Come on now, Great Weather Spirit, fair is fair. While that's being pondered, Chronogram would like to once again welcome you to our yearly curated survey of the Hudson Valley region's most happening summer music festivals. So check the list below, pack a cooler, roll up a lawn blanket, put some gas (or biofuel) in the tank, and hit the road to take in some of our outdoor-leaning menu's varied and delightful musical events. The sun is finally out, and so are the sounds. Go get some.

Clearwater's Great Hudson River Revival (June 21-22)

With the passing of its cofounder Pete Seeger since last year's music festival spread, it seems only fitting to open with the 48th edition of his beloved Clearwater Festival at Croton Point Park in Croton-on-Hudson. Alongside the recurring bonhomie, family fun, and social and environmental consciousness-raising, this one certainly does Pete proud with its lineup: Lucinda Williams, Rufus Wainwright, Puss N Boots (featuring Norah Jones), Richard Thompson, moe.acoustic, the Mavericks, Tom Paxton, Jake Shimabukuro, David Bromberg, Dar Williams, Bettye Lavette, Lake Street Dive, and more.

Bard Music Festival/Bard SummerScape (June 27-August 17)

Further up river is this revered classical/arts celebration at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson. For its 25th year the theme is "Schubert and His World," which examines the life and music of Franz Schubert (1797-1828) and his Austro-German Romantic milieu with concerts, discussions, and more. Highlights: the Trisha Brown Dance Company's "Proscenium Works: 1979–2011" (June 27-28), the first US revival in 100 years of Carl Maria von Weber's opera "Euryanthe" (July 25, 27, 30 and August 1 and 3), Schubert's rarely performed opera "Fierrebras" (August 17), the world premiere theater production of "Love in the Wars," based on Heinrich von Kleist's Penthesilea (July 10 and 20), and a film series. The Spiegeltent has music, cabaret, and dining.

Belleayre Music Festival (July 5-August 30)

Back on top at the Belleayre Mountain ski resort in Highmount is the return of the Belleayre Music Festival. With a truly stunning outdoor setting (lawn and pavilion seating are available), this season's series is short but fully packed. It kicks off with the Belleayre Festival Orchestra performing "The Music of Queen: A Rock Symphony" (July 5) and continues with Buddy Guy (July 11), Gaetano Donizetti's opera "Lucia de Lammermoor" (July 26), the Django Reinhardt Festival All-Stars (August 1), jazz greats the Cookers (August 2), music of Mexico from Alberto Solis and Gil Gutierrez featuring Bob Stern (August 7), Brazilian and Cuban sounds by Romero Lubambo's Quintet (August 9), the Hold Steady (August 30), and more.

Festival of the Arts at Mohonk Mountain House (July 6-August 22)

Like the Bard festival, this lovingly programmed New Paltz series turns 25 this summer. Held at the 145-year-old Mohonk Mountain House, it offers "dozens of music, drama, and dance performances from classical to contemporary, including annual favorites to innovative newcomers." Festival events take place in the historic resort's large 1899 Victorian parlor, and in addition to many others include Grammy-nominated folk rock duo Trout Fishing in America (July 18), Syncopated City Dance Company (July 27), the Vanaver Caravan celebrating Pete Seeger (August 7), Dick Cavett and John Cunningham (August 11), cabaret performer Lauren Fox (August 17), and Natalie Merchant (August 22).

Hudson Project (July 11-13)

Here's to the new blood—and what sweet blood it is. This three-day, camper-friendly convergence makes its debut next month at Winston Farm in Saugerties (the site of the Woodstock '94 festival), bringing four stages plus a fifth live performance space, interactive art installations, carnival rides, a game center, and food and drinks. And check out this lineup: the Flaming Lips, Modest Mouse, Kendrick Lamar, Bassnectar, Moby, Dr. Dog, Big Gigantic, Nightmares on Wax, Cults, ST69, Flying Lotus, Marco Benevento Trio, Atmosphere, Matt & Kim, !!!, Excision, Holy Ghost, and too many more. Additionally, there will be special art installations and an arts and crafts bazaar.

Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival (July 17-20)

Rightly touted as "a Who's Who of bluegrass in the Catskill Mountains," this long-running and always reliable hoedown relocated to Oak Hill a few years back and hasn't missed a beat, firmly retaining its mantle as one of the most popular roots music events in the Northeast. This year's bill boasts the reunited Nickel Creek, the Del McCoury Band, the Carolina Chocolate Drops, the Gibson Brothers, Tim O'Brien and Darrell Scott, Aoife O'Donovan, Claire Lynch, Della Mae, Balsam Range, Keller Williams with the Travelin' McCourys, and lots more to be announced. Camping, multiple stages, "jamming tents," raffles, and the Bluegrass Academy for Kids further make Grey Fox an absolute must.

Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival (July 26-August 2)

The storied and boldly adventurous festival dedicated to forward-looking contemporary music returns once again to the experimental environs of Mass MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts. The revelatory artist program spans three weeks that include daily gallery recitals and focuses its last eight days in residence to present three major concerts with special guests that include composer Steve Reich, Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche, and Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond, culminating finally with the six-hour, 50-plus-musician Bang on a Can Marathon performance. This year's marathon segment includes chamber music by Kotche and a new work by Reich that remixes Radiohead songs.

Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice (July 30-August 3)

You've got to love this imagery from the mission statement of this young (four years) but rapidly growing festival: "Visitors stroll from venue to venue enjoying the lovely stores and restaurants on [Phoenicia's] Main Street while breathing the pure mountain air, and listen to vocal music in its highest form in the heart of the Catskills." Styles stretch from opera to gospel, Baroque, sacred, choral, world music, Broadway, and new music; lectures and storytelling are also on the roster. This year has opera stars Brian Asawa, Aaron Blake, Kelli Butler, Maria Helena De Oliveira, Darik Knutsen, Toby Newman, Bradley Smoak, and Christopher Sokolowski, plus the Cambridge Chamber Singers performing music of the Spanish Renaissance and more.

Falcon Ridge Folk Festival (August 1-3)

Founded in 1988, Falcon Ridge is the seasonal bookend to its likewise venerable and folk roots-oriented cousin, Grey Fox (see above). At Dodds Farm in Hillsdale, the multiple-stage gala offers camping and dozens of vendors, and has drawn upward of 15,000 during its traditional early August run. The main stage features headline acts and an all-star song-swap session, plus a yearly showcase series of 20 to 30 new or up-and-coming artists on the opening afternoon. 2014 performers include Tom Paxton, John Gorka, the Horse Flies, Aoife O'Donovan, the Boxcar Lilies, Christine Lavin and Don White, the Clayfoot Strutters, Cheryl Wheeler, the Grand Slambovians, Spuyten Dyvil, and others.

Reggae 'Ting (August 2)

Another new entry to the festival fray is this intriguing all-day reggae round-up at Dairy Field in the rural Delaware County hamlet of Bloomville. Promoters promise a rundown of stylistic variants encompassing roots reggae, ska, rocksteady, mento, and lovers rock. Acts slated to appear include Sammy Dread, Ed Robinson, Junie Ranks, Michael Palmer, and Bombmob Electrodub, plus others to be announced. DJs Queen Tubby and Sir Walford will spin the rub-a-dub between live sets, and authentic Jamaican food—jerk meats, roasted yams and corn, coconut water, rum punch—will be on hand as well. As none other than Mr. Bob Marley himself was known to say, "Stir it up!"

Of Note Nearby

Mountain Jam (June 5-8)

Allman Brothers Band, Bob Weir and Rat Dog, Umphrey's McGee, Avett Brothers, Government Mule, Jeff Tweedy, and more at Hunter Mountain.

Spring for Sound (June 7)

Nice Ones, Take One Car, Lespecial, Light Bright, Kyles, Joint Chiefs, Wooden Nickel, and more in Millerton.

Maverick Concerts (June 21-September 7)

Shanghai Quartet, Calder Quartet, Harlem String Quartet, Zuill Bailey, Fred Hersch, Trio Solisti, Happy Traum, and more in Woodstock.

Freihofer's Jazz Festival (June 28-29)

Earth, Wind & Fire, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Terence Blanchard, Trombone Shorty, Eddie Palmieri, Patti Austin, Dave Holland, and more in Saratoga.

Tanglewood Music Festival (June 28-August 30)

Boston Symphony Orchestra, James Taylor, Yo-Yo Ma, Renee Fleming, Jason Alexander, Joshua Bell, Garrison Keillor, NPR's "Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!," and more in Lenox, Massachusetts.

Green River Festival (July 12-13)

Dirty Dozen Brass Band, James Hunter, Trampled by Turtles, Lucius, Josh Ritter, Hurray for the Riff Raff, Dave and Phil Alvin, and more in Greenfield, Massachusetts.


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