I arrived at the Liberate Music and Yoga festival (August 18-21, 2011) early on Thursday evening, eager to soak up some good music and nature away from the bustle of Boston. I spent some time hanging out in one of the hammocks strategically placed in a somewhat hidden location in the woods. It was close enough to hear the music from the main stage though. In fact, pretty much everywhere in this festival was within ears reach of the stage. That gives you a sense of the scale. This festival was small, no doubt about that. But that was fine with me, I’ve done enough half mile treks to the stage at other festivals this summer…
That night, boston natives: Insigniya took the stage and rocked the small crowd which was there in time to kick off the festival. After a short break, Lucid came out and played some dancey, upbeat, percussion heavy jam music which I thoroughly enjoyed. Then it was time for Vermont natives, Twiddle. Their headlining, two set show was the perfect way to kick off the night. I had heard a lot of good things about Twiddle and they did not disappoint, despite some electrical issues. Their second set featured some long spacey yet intricate jams as well as a guest appearance by Lucid’s burly percussionist, Lowell Wurster, on vest mounted washboard which was the highlight of the night for me.
Friday morning I sat in on the tail end one of the many yoga workshops that were taking place and found myself blissfully surprised by the effects of barely 20 minutes of yoga. It’s a great feeling. This yoga session was titled Janeyoga and was led by one of the festival organizers, Jane Lanza. Later that day I found myself chanting along to a Kirtan session with Dave Russel. For those who don’t know, Kirtan is a kind of meditative chanting. I never thought I’d be willingly chanting Hare Krishna for almost an hour but there I was, embracing the moment, clearing my mind and repeating repeating repeating. Then it was a short walk over to the “campfire stage” for two intimate and acoustic performances by The Move It Move It and Primate Fiasco. Both bands performed fun and playful sets while the sun was setting. Then the Dead Sessions came on, a killer Grateful Dead cover band from Vermont. Everyone really enjoyed this set and I’d say it was the best dead cover band show I’ve seen in a while. They really nailed the vocals in particular. Later was the supergroup: Kung Fu featuring members of The Breakfast, RAQ and others. Their funky and jazzy jams never disappoint. Finally, the Marco Benevento trio took the stage and led the crowd into a frenzy with their frenetic blend of drums, bass and of course keys. Due to an ongoing illness, Ott was forced to cancel his appearance that night and so Benevento got to have an extended set which he utilized fully and kept the energy very high throughout.
Before I knew it, it was Saturday, the last full day of this festival. The sun was shining with not a cloud in the beautiful Vermont sky. The many children in attendance could be seen running around, full of energy and smiles, and more excited than most of the adults. I spent most of the morning relaxing under the shaded dome in the middle of the festival grounds, the sounds of gongs reverberating around me. There were about 8 gongs of varying sizes suspended on a metal rig surrounding a tapestry where curious festival goers could sit, close their eyes, and experience “molecular vibrational massage” as the kind folks of Gong the Planet described. The theory is that vibrating gongs massage you on a cellular level. Who knows if this is the case, but I do know that it was a very unique and enjoyable experience to get “gonged”. They travel around the country attending a staggering number of festivals in order to share this experience with as many people as possible. You’re bound to see them at your next festival. Next to the gong area were a few massage therapists offering their much needed services as well as a beautiful girl performing “Energy Healing”, a fitting addition to this festival which was so full of spirituality, mindfulness, and higher plains of existence. I’m not one for such energy mumbo jumbo but as I watched her perform this ritual, first lighting sage, then meditating, then slowly working her way around the person lying in front of her, touching the body here and there and pausing, motioning, I began to fall under a spell of enchantment. It was a lovely sight to see.
Later that day, the Everyone Orchestra took the stage, featuring members of Rubblebucket, Conspirator, Michael Kang, and of course conductor Matt Butler. The few cheese heads in attendance made their presence known with large jellyfish umbrellas and shiny sequin everythings. The band played an enjoyable sunset show, full of audience participation and unexpected musical twists and turns. Clearly the musicians were enjoying it as much as the audience because they were all smiling quite a bit. I got to sit down with Michael Kang and Matt Butler soon after and those interviews will be posted later this week. After some more yoga, Rubblebucket took the stage. Their eclectic sound led the crowd into a dance frenzy. Full of horns and day glo neon stage decorations, their fourth appearance at the Liberate festival was not a appointment. I even ran into Kang in the audience enjoying the show with everyone.
Later that night, the supergroup Conspirator took the stage. This band is comprised of bassist and keyboardist for the Disco Biscuits, Marc Brownstein and Aron Magner as well as guitarist Chris Michetti of RAQ and for this performance, Mike Greenfield of Lotus on drums. I’m not a huge fan of the Disco Biscuits but this band is a whole different animal. No singing means no distractions from the heavy vibrations that were emanating from the stage for those epic two hours. I was distracted however by the talented fire spinners performing near the back of the audience. There were fire poi spinners, fire eaters, fire hoopers – Siena Moon, and even fire swords. I personally thought this was the best Conspirator show I’ve seen and will likely catch them again when they tour this fall. Their sound ranged from the occasional dubstep womp to heavy metal sounding riffs to drum n’ bass break beats led by Greenfield and back to tribal bass heavy rhythms courtesy of Brownie that moved my mind and body into a state of trance like dancing. Clearly the vibe of this festival had rubbed off on these musicians and the crowd loved every second of it. The show ended with Brownie and Michetti joking around with eachother and boasting huge smiles. They came back for an encore and Brownie declared that this was the greatest crowd they have ever had. Clearly the band felt good about there performance. The night concluded with the deep dub sounds of Future Simple Project followed by some late night liquid drum n’ bass, spun by DJ HyFi.
Sunday morning I awoke to rain pattering on my tent, the first rain all weekend. It was as if the yoga and meditation had kept the skies clear all weekend (which had thunderstorms in the forecast) and only now that it was ending could the skies pour down. I caught the final act of the weekend, Joshua Panda Band…a folky feel good ensemble and then with a heavy heart, not wanting this magical weekend to end, packed up my camp and headed home.
The Liberate festival was everything I had hoped it would be. Full of friendly and inspiring, respectful people; no lines; no mile treks to the stage; perfect weather; new experiences; and quality music. It was a relaxing vacation and a spiritual awakening and I would definitely return next year.
Words by Jeremy Lach
Photos by Mark Smith Photography and Jeremy Lach