Summer Music Festival Preview
Your guide to the region's best fests
Anyone who assumes the good old days of crowds gathering to celebrate real peace, real love, and real music are gone the way of Woodstock's hippies is just crazy. Or uninformed. Or crazy uninformed.
The truth: Now (more than ever before, really) there is an insanely large, always-growing number of kick-ass summer music festivals – from Deadhead-friendly get-downs and roots-grass ragers to mind-melting rock/jam/electro freakouts and horrorcore hip-hop hoedowns – found not too far from Lake Erie. And for those who dig a good road trip, there's even more freak flag-flyin' fun to be had throughout the rest of the state, and in New York, Ohio, and West Virginia.
With summer right around the bend, we've once again set about compiling a list that highlights just some of the most notable and worth-checking-out of the summer's music festivals. It's the tip of that sonic iceberg, mind you – there are a lot of music fests beyond those mentioned here – but it should serve as a handy-dandy reference for you, dear Reader reader.
Ready to go? Here's a month-by-month breakdown from now through August:
Downtown Edinboro Art and Music Festival
May 19 - 22 // Edinboro
Deep-steeped and well-simmered in illustrious Appalachian roots traditions, and celebrating over a decade of ushering in the summer festival season right in Erie's backyard, the Downtown Edinboro Art and Music Festival returns on multiple stages and venues, both indoor and out, in the beautiful 'Boro.
Free and open to all, the festival features great performers and arts galore – from gallery shows to live exhibits to workshops and more – throughout each day at this very laid-back, family-friendly shindig.
This year's lineup has set performances by a slew of returning local, regional, and national acts including Donna the Buffalo, Tiger Maple String Band, Eric Brewer & Friends, Claire Stuczynski, Stewed Mulligan, Jakob's Ferry Stragglers, and Ron Yarosz and the Vehicle, just to name a handful.
For performance locations and more information: edinboroartandmusic.com
And check out eriereader.com for a soon-to-come in-depth preview of the 2016 Downtown Edinboro Art and Music Festival.
Spring Hookaville 2016
May 19 - 22 // Nelson Ledges Quarry Park (Garrettsville, Ohio)
The fine folks at stunningly beautiful Nelson Ledges Quarry Park – not too far away – were very pleased to recently announce the park's hosting its first Spring Hookahville, a well-loved tradition (and what's been a moveable feast) in the region's summer jam scene for years. Hookahville weekend at the Quarry (home to a heaping handful of standout festivals throughout the season) features performances by festival originators eKoostik Hookah (duh), the John Kadlecik Band, Carlos Jones, Dixons Violin, Flying Jays, and others.
It's just one of the many cool things happening at the Ledges this summer. Keep reading. You'll see.
For more information: facebook.com/Nelson.Ledges/events
Dark Star Jubilee
May 27 - 29 // Legend Valley (Thornville, Ohio)
For fans of some of the biggest and best names in modern jam, bluegrass, folk, and all things in between, the Dark Star Jubilee is always, most definitely, where it's at.
Large enough to be completely awesome, but small enough to be low hassle, the high-spirited Jubilee – hosted by celebrated Grateful Dead re-imagineers Dark Star Orchestra – soars all weekend on the rolling hillsides of historic Legend Valley (home to a few of the Dead's most celebrated shows) in Thornville, Ohio.
This year's lineup includes three nights of sure-to-be-stellar Dead sets by DSO, along with long days and late nights filled with performances by festie favorites like Rumpke Mountain Boys, Matt Reynolds, Steve Kimock & Friends, Leftover Salmon, Yonder Mountain String Band, Hot Tuna, and many more.
For more information: DarkStarJubilee.com
Like we've said, there is a whole lot of summer festival goodness to be had at Nelson Ledges Quarry Park (NLQP), a legendary backwoods venue affectionately referred to as "Heaven on Earth" by many – make that most – who frequent its grounds and its sounds.
Here's what's happening there just in the month of June:
Spring Badfish 2016
June 3 - 5 // NLQP (Garrettsville, Ohio)
An annual season kickoff and a hard-party favorite for many, Spring Badfish is once again being presented by Sublime tribute band Badfish, who headline for two nights and will be joined by other groove-makers including Tropidelic, SHRUB, Drunken Funk, and Figurehead.
For more information: facebook.com/Spring Badfish 2016
June 10 - 12 // NLQP (Garrettsville, Ohio)
Another long-standing NLQP tradition and one of the venue's most popular events of the year, ClassicFest 2016 is shaping up to be quite the show – er, shows. This one is all about the art of the classic rock tribute, by respected musicians who have the chops to really pull off such hallowed material. This year's lineup features sets by Pink Floyd tribute band Several Species, Led Zeppelin tribute band Kashmir, Rolling Stones tribute band Satisfaction, and Rush tribute band Limelight, with more bands to be announced soon.
For more information: facebook.com/Classic Fest 2016
Claypool Lennon Delirium/ Dean Ween Group/ more TBA
June 17 - 19 // NLQP (Garrettsville, Ohio)
This little festival – one hell of a little festival it will undoubtedly be – doesn't even need a hip name.
And it's kind of a big deal.
It's Les Claypool (a master most notorious for his Primus fame) and Sean Lennon (yes, the son of John Lennon, and, yes, a wildly talented musician himself) presenting the newly-unhinged Claypool Lennon Delirium, a freakout for the ages.
And this just in, too: The Dean Ween Group.
Need we say more?
Fans of Claypool, Lennon, and Ween's caliber of stylings would say not at all. And for those wondering what the hell the big deal is … well, just go see for yourself.
For more information: nlqp.com
Mad Tea Party Jam
June 17 - 19 // Four Quarters Farm (Artemas, Pa.)
One of a few truly unique, and – for a lot of festival-goers – truly transformational art and music festivals to have blossomed in the region recently, the Mad Tea Party Jam has been aptly described by organizers and hosts as "an intimate rager where we all come together to love one another and transform our energies into a single creative collective."
This year's musical lineup, as always, is packed to the gills on multiple stages, with headlining performances by mind-meltingly masterful sonic stew-makers like Papadosio, Twiddle, TAUK (all doing two nights' shows); Consider the Source (performing a Radiohead set!); and others the likes of Big Something (three nights), Erie favorites Aqueous (three nights!), The Primate Fiasco, ELM, Broccoli Samurai, and a whole lot more.
And, with its dazzling array of visual artists actively creating works and installations, tons of worthwhile workshops, and a whole lot of other out-there fun to be had, the Mad Tea Party Jam, like I've said before, truly is the kind of place where art isn't just life – it's living.
For more information: themadteapartyjam.com
Grateful Fest 2016 with Willie Nelson and Kris Kristoferson/ Keller Williams
July 1 - 4 // NLQP (Garrettsville, Ohio)
Nelson at Nelson!
Another spectacular treat for fans of country music legends Willie Nelson and Kris Kristoferson – as well as loop-jam legend Keller Williams – Grateful Fest, a perennial Ledges favorite, is sure to be one goodly get-down.
Even more so, in fact, with a slew of special guests including Melvin Seals & Jerry Garcia Band, Rusted Root, Terrapin Flyer, Tino Navarra, Diesel Dog, Into the Blue, Drunken Sunday, and more bands to be added.
For more information: nlqp.com
The 25th Annual Great Blue Heron Music Festival
July 1 - 3 // Heron Festival Grounds (Sherman, NY)
One of local fest-lovers' longest-standing, and most deservedly favorite festivals of every year, the Great Blue Heron Music Festival – celebrating its 25th year – has always been one where, in my experience, everyone really feels like both family and friends.
It's held at the beautiful Heron festival grounds in nearby Sherman, New York, and everyone, from longtime Heron-goers (there are a lot of them) to newbies (future longtime Heron-goers), is welcome to join the family for the weekend.
This year's Heron lineup includes performances by Donna the Buffalo, The Campbell Brothers, Lake Street Dive, Kevin Kinsella with Mosaic Foundation, Big Leg Emma, Jake Orvis & the Broken Band, Driftwood, Jim Donovan and the Sun King Warriors, Smackdab, and dozens more.
For more info: greatblueheron.com
The 17th annual Gathering of the Juggalos
July 20 - 24 Legend Valley (Thornville, Ohio)
This is a festival annually hosted by Insane Clown Posse, and it's apparently every bit as far-out-freaky as we may expect. I know it's another one kinda far off the radar, but it is a hugely popular event for an entire sub-genre/culture, and, I believe, worth mentioning.
For more info: juggalogathering.com
The 36th annual Gathering at Chaffee's
July 22 - 24 // Girard
The intimate and groovy Gathering at Chaffee's is a two-day fest that tons of folks from around here anticipate all year, and with good reason.
Keeping it small-ish, but spreading out a little to include more and bigger regional and national acts, the 2016 Gathering lineup (like always) is a veritable who's-who of both well-established favorites and up-and-coming jam, funk, rock – and jam-funk-rock – outfits from throughout the Northeast scene.
Chaffee's is one where you can get good and comfortable right off the bat, and, after that, get set for plenty of awesome tunes and positive vibes.
For more info: thegatheringatchaffees.com
Aug. 13 // Jim N I Music Park (West Springfield)
It's its own kind of festival, alright: a little country, a little punk-rock, a little psychobilly, and a little bluegrassy, too.
That's the now-annual event known as Gallabaloo, and its third go-round is coming up Saturday, Aug. 13 at Jim N I Music Park in nearby West Springfield.
Last year, the one-day festival featured quite a tasty mix of a lineup: Jayke Orvis, Whiskey Daredevils, Sean Patrick & the Newgrass Revolution, The DredNeks, The Coffin Bangers, Lunch Munny and several other genre-spanning bands and performers from throughout the region and country.
"It gives everyone an opportunity to see a vast array of very high-caliber bands and be exposed to different styles of music that they might not know that they like," festival organizer Dan Biscoff told the Reader before the first Gallabaloo.
Sounds like plenty of good reason to go.
And, oh yeah, there'll be belly dancers and bangin' barbeque, too.
For more info: gallabaloo.com
Night Lights Music Festival
Aug. 25 - 27 // Heron Festival Grounds (Sherman, NY)
Headliners of this new-ish, forward-thinking (and very-awesome) festival last year included Marco Benevento, The Werks, Aqueous, RJD2 (!) and tons of other very worthwhile acts. This year's expected to be bigger and better than ever.
For more info: nightlightsfest.com
Do YOU know of a summer music festival (you know, the kind where people set up, camp out, and get down for days on end) that we should have on our radar? Just drop Ryan Smith a line at email@example.com, and let him know all about it! And you can follow him on Twitter @ryanmsmithplens.