Monday, July 26, 2010

Northampton Sidewalk Concerts and Flaming Lips

On Friday July 23, 2010, School for the Dead, The Fawns, and The Salvation Alley String Band were scheduled to play a free outdoor concert in the center of Northampton, MA. The annual Northampton sidewalk sales were going on so the streets ordinarily should have been lined with tents and balloons and people wandering around. Unfortunately, on that Friday the streets were instead lined with rushing impromptu streams of freshly fallen rain. Dark gray clouds hung overhead and torrential bouts of rain bombarded the cement.

We rescheduled the show for Saturday. Unfortunately, that meant that Salvation Alley would not be able to play.

On Saturday, when we arrived to set up for the show, there was no rain. It was about a million degrees outside, but there was no rain and the stage area was luckily nicely shaded by the enormous looming church behind it.

We set up our equipment as the Primate Fiasco played a concert on the sidewalk. The atmosphere was festive and circus like and they filled the town with a nice energy. It made setting up the stage fun.

The Fawns played first for an hour and then SFTD played for an hour. These outdoor festival-like concerts are some of my favorite on-stage experiences. As people are constantly strolling by, you have a new audience every five seconds. Certainly, many folks stopped and sat down on the lawn or leaned on a lamp post to watch, but the constant flow of pedestrians made for a great people watching experience. We weren’t just playing to people on our side of the street. There were cars constantly cruising by with their windows open. All the way across the wide Main Street on the opposite sidewalk, I saw smiling faces stop and watch.

I loved hearing my voice and Brian’s snare drum echo back at us from the old brick buildings across the street. I wish I could play a show like that every week.
The super hero of the day was Ryan Quinn from The Salvation Alley String Band. Even though his band wasn’t able to play, he came out and volunteered to man our merchandise table. That meant he not only sold albums, gave out change, and kept track of everything, he also had to navigate through a number of confusing conversations with some of Northampton’s most confusing citizens. He also took these pictures. Three cheers for Ryan.

When we were finished with our shows, we were drenched from the heat and we had to break down quickly because many of us had tickets to the Flaming Lips concert that was starting shortly.

A quick ride home, a super fast shower and change of clothes, and a fast ride out to Mountain Park brought us into the venue just in time for the Flaming Lips. I’ve been wanting to see them for years now and Lesa and I had even considered scheduling a trip or two around their touring schedule, as it turns out, we didn’t have to. They came to us.

Mountain Park was beautiful under the almost full moon. The grass was full of people, many of them friends of mine. The next couple of hours consisted of standing in a crowd and being assaulted by sound and site.

I mean this in a good way...watching the Flaming Lips was like staring into the sun.

What a perfect day, first I get to play two concerts with my favorite people and then I get to see a concert by a favorite band, and all of it outside beneath the summer skies.

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