Wow. The folks over at Life is good have it figured out. I’m not just talking about their unsinkable optimism, or their dedication to raising money for charities like Life is good Playmakers, I’m also talking about their festival. From the incredible music lineup to the unceasing kids’ activities to the happy and efficient staff and volunteers, this weekend at Prowse Farm in Canton, MA, was an experience I’ll never forget.
Everywhere I looked, everyone, from the very young to the only young at heart seemed to be smiling, and with good reason. The tots shook their stuff to the Laurie Berkner Band, and the Imagination Movers – all people who very clearly love their jobs – took in dog agility shows and lawn chair juggling, laughed at roving circus performers, and frolicked about in both games organized by the staff, and play organized only by their young minds. Mom and Dad felt secure thanks to “Tag A Tot,” a brilliantly simple use of armbands and cell phones that probably helped return many wandering kiddos to the correct parent quickly.
We all sampled more than our fair share of free Stoneyfield Farms organic yogurt and Lara Bars, and when that wasn’t enough, there was a vast array of ethnic and organic food, delicious coffee, and craft beers available for a decent price. It’s no surprise that I saw many a happy person napping in the sun.
I feel confident that my three year old daughter can safely brag about her first concert when she gets older, and those things begin to seem important. She stood silent and transfixed as Martin Sexton belted out his soulful songs with that powerful voice, jumped around like a crazy kid as The Hold Steady rocked out, and asked me to dance in the grass with her as Michael Franti and Spearhead worked the crowd into a frenzy with their feel-good groove. My daughter and I shared organic raspberry ice cream in the field while the likeable, lovely Ingrid Michaelson sang her beautiful songs, and interacted with the adoring crowd like a professional who truly loves her fans.
Evening fell around us slowly after a colorful sunset, and one by one, glowing weather balloons began to light the festival. Whimsical and charming, these soft lights were the perfect lighting design solution.
A huge crowd gathered to welcome the Avett Brothers, but first, Life is good founders Bert and John Jacobs strolled onstage to thank us all. As they tossed out branded Frisbees to the fans, the brothers announced that we had all helped raise $900,000. so far for their charity, Life is good Playmakers – an organization that helps children in difficult or life-threatening situations heal through the power of play and optimism! We roared our approval, and The Avett Brothers took the stage.
I doubt that the Avetts have ever given a bad performance – even back when they were playing in their living room for an audience of two. They tore through their set with such sincerity and love that each song felt fresh and perfect – even though I knew all the words, and have listened to the Avett Brothers enough to drive a normal person half crazy. They played every song I hoped they’d play, which was clever of them as much of the audience was only familiar with their hit album “I and Love and You.” Songs like “Go To Sleep,” “Salina” and “Talk on Indolence” might have been unfamiliar to a great deal of the crowd, but these older songs were performed with such charisma that I’m sure a lot of newer fans downloaded them that very night.
Scott and Seth Avett always manage to come off as completely nice guys. They were the only artists I heard pointedly thank the sign language interpreters who were tirelessly present and expressive at each performance of the festival, and again I heard them sincerely thank the crowd for inviting them back out for an encore. The only bad thing in their whole performance was the mysterious bassist. Bob Crawford is a charming man who constantly looks thrilled to be in a real rock band, but he was missing. While the bassist in his place performed just fine, it wasn’t Bob, and I missed him. The Avetts closed the night with a gorgeous cover of Bob Dylan’s “Just Like a Woman,” and the ever-impressive “Laundry Room.”
The crowd reluctantly dispersed, and boarded the plentiful shuttle buses while a thoughtfully placed New Orleans brass band serenaded us. My sleepy daughter leaned her head on my shoulder as we rode back to the parking lot, and said, “Mama? Can we do it again tomorrow?”
photos by Jay Remy