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MASS MoCA Music Festival Review

August 18, 2009

The MASS MoCA Music Festival, held August 15, was my first ever music festival.

Before this, my idea of a festival was people laying around in the sun, taking their chances of getting heat stroke, most likely getting high, watching bands play 30 minute sets while being pushed around by the huge crowd that has amassed.
This festival wasn’t like that. Although it was hot and some people were laying around (and a couple were getting high), it wasn’t uncomfortable, claustrophobic, or disappointing. The line-up was Josh Ritter (the reason why I went), Ben Kweller, Kaki King, Elvis Perkins in Dearland, and Samantha Crain.

Samantha Crain, the opening act, kept telling the audience how nervous she was because she was playing without her band. It was annoying and pathetic. However, she has a voice that reminded me of Feist, whom I really like. She should just stick with singing and not talk to the audience.

Then came Elvis Perkins in Dearland. I had heard some really good things, but had never really given them a chance. Perkins himself sounds a bit like Buddy Holly mixed with the lead singer from Fleet Foxes, and his band, consisting of a stand up bass player, a drummer, and a guy who played the organ, trombone, and flute during the set, was a lot of fun to watch. During “Doomsday” they got the audience to form a circle and run around. (They thought it was appropriate since they were performing at a contemporary art museum…apparently people running is art.)

Next up was Kaki King. I’m not really sure what else to say. She was splendid. I Wikipedia-ed her and found out that she played all of the guitar parts in August Rush. Not gonna lie, I’m slightly disappointed that the little kid didn’t actually play….

Having seen Ben Kweller before (2006 at the University of Arkansas) I wasn’t super excited to see him, and to be honest, I haven’t really kept up with his career. Thusly, I was very confused when a steel guitar player came out. I really like his new “country and western” sound. It’s fun and fresh, actually. He’s cute little Ben Kweller with a quirky voice, lyrics, and personality, and he infuses that with an old-school country sound. It worked for me.

And then (cue drum roll) there’s Josh Ritter.

I’m a big, big fan of Mr. Ritter. I was crazy excited to see him perform live, since he normally doesn’t come anywhere near Arkansas. (That’s a big plus of moving to Syracuse–lots of bands tour near me) He definitely didn’t disappoint.

Never have I seen a performer who gets as much joy out of their craft as Ritter does. (Super easy to believe him when he sang “I’m singing for the love of it” in “Snow is Gone”.) He beamed the entire show, even when performing serious songs like “Girl in the War.” It was really cool to witness his enthusiasm and passion for his music in person. It was definitely contagious because the audience, who had been really low-key until Ritter’s set, stood his entire set, and started dancing and jumping and really getting into the show.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed myself, the line-up of artists, and my day at the MASS MoCA.

Side note…did anyone else know that people from Idaho sound Southern when they speak?

One Comment leave one →
  1. August 18, 2009 2:18 PM

    Sounds like a great show and great way to be introduced to festival. Josh Ritter was as energetic and charming when we played Ithaca this past spring.Jon

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