Words by Kim Deshaies | Photos by Anthony Abu Hanna
The Life is Good music festival, organized to raise money for underprivileged children, was held this weekend at Prowse Farm in Canton, MA. Attendees enjoyed two days of fun in the sun while over thirty different bands and entertainers performed in the name of optimism and kindness. Artists that blurred the lines between indie rock, country, and folk dominated the majority of stage time, but jazz, rap and hip hop made memorable appearances as well. Games, dog shows, magicians, and yoga classes provided amusement for the younger audiences while both well-known and up-and-coming artists alternated between the Life is Good Main Stage and the Positive Purpose Stage.
The excitement was evident on the face of every child in attendance as Yo Gabba Gabba!, a colorful music performance group based on an educational television program for children, opened each day and got the kids laughing and dancing. Riding the good vibes, appreciative music fans gathered to support local alternative rock band, Gentleman Hall and then 14-year-old guitar whiz, Quinn Sullivan. Alternative folk-rockers Thao & the Get Down Stay Down and the energetic bluegrass band Trampled by Turtles both brought unique sounds to the festival with a variety of uncommon instrument solos.
Those who had not had the pleasure of listening to the jazzy pop band Lake Street Dive before their set on Saturday were in for a treat as they took the stage. Coming from different areas of the country, the members of Lake Street Dive met at the New England Conservatory, less than half an hour from Prowse Farm. Vocalist Rachael Price commanded the attention of every individual within earshot as she showed off her soulful vocals and classy sass complemented by the warm jazz grooves of her bandmates. The rich intonation of Price’s voice blending with the easy melodies passed from trumpet to bass and back again made for a simple, yet mesmerizing musical experience.
Despite a last minute change in line-up due to the Roots catching a late flight to Boston, indie folk rock band Dawes proved they were ready to jam together and the Roots drew a huge crowd to the Positive Purpose Stage. As the sun went down, they got the audience fired up and represented alternative hip hop and jazz rap at Life is Good.
Saturday’s headliners, Daryl Hall and John Oates, wrapped up the first day by playing a number of their well-known tunes including “Sara Smile”, “Kiss on My List” and “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do).” Despite their popularity being greatest in the late 70s and 80s, Hall & Oates was still able to connect with audience members of all ages as the crowd danced and sung together with a sense of camaraderie and contentment.
Bright and early Sunday morning the Life is Good Playmakers and volunteers were back with their green capes and giant chickpeas for round 2. After Yo Gabba Gabba! finished their performance, Josh Panda & the Hot Damned took to the Positive Purpose stage. The folk/soul group played for a small audience of early birds who enjoyed their songs, and realized this band meant business when lead singer Josh put down his guitar, held nothing back, and poured his heart and soul into the love song “I’m Going to Miss You.” Boston native and R&B singer Jess Dee and his band followed on the Main Stage to play for an audience that included some of their extra-appreciative children and family members.
Up next was Bahamas, a folk group led by Canadian musician and vocalist Afie Jurvanen who got the crowd laughing as the band waited patiently on stage for a few technical difficulties to be sorted out. Despite continuing sound quality issues throughout the set, the audience fell in love with Bahamas as they entertained with original songs as well as covers like “Hey Ya” by OutKast, and “Wonderful Tonight” by Eric Clapton.
Preservation Hall Jazz Band, a traditional New Orleans Jazz Band that has been playing with different members for over 50 years, came on stage looking smooth in their suits and ties as they brought a taste of Louisiana to Massachusetts.
Exhibiting their wide range, country rockers Delta Rae contrasted their heartfelt ballads such as “Forgive the Children We Once Were” with the passion of their darker songs when all six members of the band joined the percussion section for an intense rendition of their single “Bottom of the River.” Across the field, Amos Lee played for a crowd scrambling to get closer to the stage. Despite forgetting the lyrics to his song “Careless,” the soulful singer and guitar player managed to pull through as the weekend’s only solo musician to perform on one of the main stages. Indie folk band Good Old War was the last band of the day to perform on the Positive Purpose Stage.
Before singer-songwriter Jack Johnson took the stage to close out the festival on Sunday night, co-founders of the Life is Good festival, brothers Bert and John Jacobs, came on stage to announce that the 2013 festival again raised over one million dollars for the Life is Good Kids Foundation that supports children coping with poverty, violence and illness. They spoke of teamwork and optimism, which suited Johnson’s two hour set well, as he cheerfully played for his doting fans and collaborated with both Bahamas and Amos Lee on a number of his songs. Johnson and his band played songs off of both old albums and new, and, being near Boston, covered Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” to an enthusiastic response from the crowd.
TheWaster.com | Life is Good