By The Beard
Northern New England used to have lots of summer festivals. Phish, like the Grateful Dead before them, held massive campout festivals in the North Kingdom. Vermont hosted the first reggae festival in the country and the area is also home to the renowned Bread and Puppet Theater
So, where have all the good times gone? Up North to Hiram, Maine and the beautiful Ossipee Valley Fairgrounds; home of the Up North Music and Art Festival.
The lineup was a blast, boasting headliners The Wailers, Umphrey’s McGee and Bob Weir & RatDog Friday through Sunday August 8-10 respectively. Many bands at Up North deserve special mention, as there was no shortage of musicianship at the festival. Ryan Montbleau Band, Everyone Orchestra (featuring Jason Cohen, Jon Fishman, Mr. Rourke and Mike Rivard – all local musicians I’ve been fortunate to have enjoyed for years) and Lettuce (with quasi-new vocalist Nigel Hall) were all amazing. I peaked (2CB) as Lettuce killed the early morning/late night set on the second stage.
One of the surprises of the festival was the band Incus, from Jamaica Plain, MA. I’m thankful for their self-labeled World Tribal Medicine Rock description because what they do is so unique and powerful a lesser designation would do them a disservice. Incus takes you on a ride and puts on quite a show.
The vibe at Up North was beautiful. People were respectful and giving. A real sense of family and community was prevalent throughout the weekend. Our friends at Beet Roots served up locally grown organic food. Blessed sacramental smoke perfumed the air. Some of my favorite northeast varieties such as Sour Diesel, Strawberry Cough and Chemdog, as well as some new ones, were prevalent. We were also blessed with visits from our fungal friends. Looking upon the faces of my brothers and sisters I was able to detect I was not journeying alone.
For me Up North was really about community. Yeah, there were some young kids and drunkards, but we helped them stager to their tents. Many of my friends brought their children who all expressed having a great time. The good vibes were also prevalent backstage, a hotbed for good smoke and great conversation. On more then one occasion topics of environmental and political corruption were brought up. It’s good to know that some entertainers actually care about the bigger picture.
It was also nice not to have our eyes plastered with banner ads. Billboards are illegal in Maine and Up North did a fairly good job of keeping the corporate monsters out of our head space.
I give thanks and hope that Up North continues the great northeast tradition of amazing music, dance, community and consciousness. To everyone who attended and made the Up North Music and Art Festival possible, thanks for the good times and see you next year.
Check out some sounds from the festival here