LIVE REVIEW: Life Is Good Festival

Where: Canton, MA

When: September 23-24

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Highlight: Picturesque surroundings and explosive live sets, all for a good cause

The Life Is Good Festival took the idyllic ponds and scenic views of Great Blue Hill at Prowse Farm in Canton, MA and ignited them with music and energy. The company brought an impressive line up of musicians to the small Massachusetts town and delivered a wallop of a festival.

This two-day feel good music session was part of Life Is Good’s efforts to raise money for children; their goal was $1 million and they far surpassed that. With the overarching goal of helping kids, the festival had a heavy family friendly vibe. LIG did an excellent job supplying a well-rounded line up; playing alongside children’s artists like Keller Williams were The Hold Steady, Ingrid Michaelson, The Avett Brothers, and Ray LaMontagne, among others.

Day One kicked off with performances by the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Tristan Prettyman, and Martin Sexton. The Hold Steady took the Good Vibes Stage at 4:15 and sent an invigorating jolt across the farm. The no-holds-barred, in-your-face enthusiasm of Craig Finn gripped the audience. His voice, at times screeching, at times softly serene, echoed across the fields as he passionately shared his emotions with the crowd. There was a sense of urgency – to share as much as possible – as the band spewed forth songs like “Sequestered in Memphis,” “Stay Positive” and “Hurricane J.”

Ingrid Michaelson closed out the Good Vibes Stage with an impressive stage presence; engaging in all sorts of banter with fans including her love for Paula Deen. She jumped into her set, ukulele in hand with “Solider.” The crowed swelled against the barrier fence, reaching out as if to touch the music. “Die Alone” had fans reeling as she spun an uncommon tale of love. Michaelson’s sweet vocals were the perfect follow up to the raw crooning of Finn.

Closing out the day’s festivities were North Carolina natives The Avett Brothers, who once again gave an impeccable performance. From the moment the first chord of “Go To Sleep” was struck, an overwhelming sense of passion washed over the crowd. Their otherworldly energy was intoxicating and fans screamed every lyric to favorites like “Will You Return,” “Talk On Indolence” and “Head Full of Doubt.” They swooned over their newest track, “The Once and Future Carpenter,” and swayed with each gently plucked guitar chord of Seth Avett’s solo performance on “Ballad of Love and Hate.” As the show came to an end with a heartwarming version of “I And Love And You,” the hillside reverberated with the cries of fans for an encore. As always, the band happily obliged. They wrapped up with a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Just Like a Woman” and lovingly met the request of the audience with a beautiful rendition of their own “Laundry Room.”

The second year of the Life Is Good Festival proved to be better than expected. Not only did the company manage to exceed their fundraising goal, but with something for everyone, they supplied fans from all walks of life with a weekend of excellent music, fun, and inspiration. The LIG Festival seems like the music fest New England has been waiting for.

photos by Ryan Howell

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