The 10th annual StrangeCreek Festival held over Memorial Day weekend featured some of the biggest and best musical acts New England has to offer. Nestled in the eastern edge of the Berkshires, Camp Kee-wa-nee served as host for one of the hidden gems of the festival circuit and an escape for the long weekend.
Friday night’s music was highlighted by Donna the Buffalo’s main stage performance, which included fan favorites such as “Family Picture” and “Everybody Gets High on Love.” Late night started with a sweaty and packed cabin for Boston’s Dopapod, regulars at StrangeCreek whose fanbase has grown greatly as a result of exposure in recent years at the festival. Even later at night was a 10-piece band from Boston, Big ol’ Dirty Bucket who surprised even the weary in the crowd with a funk-filled set, blaring horns and dual lyrics from Lil’ Shrimp and Big Daddy Disco.
Camping is in the woods and spread throughout the sprawling Camp Kee-wa-nee grounds. Fans took refreshing dips in the nearby creek to escape from the heat of the weekend. A peaceful and calm vibe permeated the crowd every step of the way, with a west coast level of relaxation on tap.
The McLovins got things started on Satuday with their new lineup and paid tribute to Levon Helm with “Up on Cripple Creek,” as many other bands did over the course of the weekend. Out in Vernville, a quaint stage set back in the woods, Spark Plug tore through funk numbers before former McLovin Jeff Howard sat in for the rest of the set and in turn, shredding and trading licks with ease alongside Van Martin (Spiritual Rez). Toubab Krewe gave a stirring rendition of the 19th century song turned Nirvana Unplugged shining performance, ‘My Girl’. Closing the mainstage was the latter half of the festival’s name origin, Max Creek, who in their 41st year gave a passionate version of their seminal love song “You’re the Only One for Me” that was topped only by a cover of The Who’s ‘Eminence Front’ for their encore.
Late night revelry existed not only in the Wormtown and Kee-wa-nee cabins (both built by the profits from the festivals, to benefit the camp’s attendees) but also in the woods where impromptu DJ sets broke out, guitar pickers strolled serendipitously down the trails and the Cheshire cat moon broke through the trees to smile down upon the festival.
A venture out to Vernville is always in order on Sunday for watermelon and an acoustic set by The Tells, featuring Strangefolk performing a wide range of songs including crowd pleasing cover “Ripple” and their original “In Deep.” With Ryan Montbleau Band wooing the crowd and warming the stage for Strangefolk, his band’s setup stayed on stage for a rumored surprise appearance by Zach Deputy, in between Strangefolk’s closing sets that night. Strangefolk crowd favorite’s “Anchor,” “Entitled” and “Sweet New England” were highlights, as well as the encore “Carry On” by Crosby Stills and Nash.
A return visit to StrangeCreek is continually in order, simply because you cant see it all in one weekend and there is always something new or some new music to discover each year.