2001 Meriden Daffodil Festival
Its been a while since Ive attended a festival where the
music was the showcase. This past weekend I attended such a festival, and while the music
did not start out as the central theme, the music coordinator did such an amazing job that
one could not overlook the fact that the music had indeed become the festival.
The Meriden Daffodil Festival, held in Meriden, CT has a rich 23-year
history and all the County Fair trapping to go along with it; A 135 unit
parade, Arts & Crafts, Carnival rides, a 5K road race, the Little Miss Daffodil
contest, a food tent (with over 100 kinds of food!), clowns, magicians, ice carvers, pony
rides, fireworks, and over 599,999 Daffodils in bloom over the gorgeous, lush landscape of
historic Hubbard Park. But it was the music that drew me to it this year; the 1st
time Ive ever attended this Festival, an annual event that began when I was a
Rob DeRosa gets kudos and the highest of praise for his efforts as
music coordinator. Through his vision of support for local musicians, who in turn, help to
support the Festival, Rob was able to expand this years production to 26 bands on 3 stages
over 3 days. If the Daffodil Festival had an identity problem before, it doesnt have
to worry anymore, Rob DeRosa has given the Meriden Daffodil Festival the credibility to
bring people back for more. I think in time, local CT music fans and artists alike will
come to view the Meriden Daffodil Festival as the Official beginning to the
summer music scene in CT, and both will make the effort to attend.
As for me, I was able to make 2/3 of this years Fest (prior
commitments forced me to miss Sundays line up) and while that limited the amount of bands
I saw, it still gave me enough time to drink in my share of musical bliss. An overview:
Friday night was a special show to promote alcohol and drug free
events for youths. Hosted by the Meriden police chapter of DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance
Education) it opened with the band Swyft from Winston-Salem, NC bringing their clean-cut
image (all members sport crew cuts and white t-shirts) and Hardcore sounds to the youths
who had gathered early. From my vantage point the muddled mix effected my appreciation of
the band; who was laying down some solid grooves of bombast sound. Their lead singer used
his voice in ways that would torture my vocal chords, carrying the songs with melodic
flair he would then break into the much-fashionable death metal scream that would rip ones
throat to pieces. While celebrating such causes as womens rights (an anti-rape song)
and alternate ways, other than violence, of dealing with teen angst, Swyft had the
ever-growing crowd moshing even though we couldve used a much cleaner sound.
Following Swyft was New Havens Mollycoddle. For those who
looked up and snickered Whats this, a chick band? well, little did they
know that Heather Orser (bass) & Ralna Ramse (Guitar) are not a chick band. These Rock
Goddesses pummeled the crowd with a sonic assault of ROCK that had even the most skeptic
of teenage boys head banging. Splitting their set between songs off their CD Lucky and
newer material, they had me in awe of their ability to command the stage with just the
pounding lead of Heathers bass, and the furious shredding of Ralnas guitar.
Highlighting this fully charged set was the debut of a new song; Walters
Pants which receives 5 stars from this listener.
Ironic moment #1: In-between sets, after Mollycoddle and
before Gargantua Soul the sound man was pumping some NRBQ over the system while the stage
was being set up. NRBQ was the following (Saturday) nights headliner. Im not sure if
it was a tape or CD, but the song Wacky Tobaccy came on. It took a minute or
so before it was realized and yanked (remember this was an anti-drug & alcohol event).
I believe most of the youth there were too young to be familiar with the song (a NRBQ
staple from the 70s) and it literally flew over their heads. As I overheard the soundman
trying to explain that hes so accustom to the song that the meaning had been lost on
him, and that he didnt even realize it, I had to smile.
Gargantua Soul took the stage to a packed crowd of teens (and
parents) who totally ate up the amazing sound coming from the New Haven Crew. Kris Keyes
in full body paint was in prime vocal form as he carried the music and the message over
the top of the body surfing and moshing crowd. Combining most of The First The Last The
Tribe CD with several new songs, GSoul delivered a tight musical set that demonstrated
Hardcore/Rapcore and Heavy Metal should not be the only tags placed on them. This set was
some of the best Hard Rock Ive heard in ages, eliminating the grating edge of
Hardcore that can work against it, and using Marc Amendola and Jason Bozzis guitars
to produce purer musical sounds then those associated with Heavy Metal GSoul ROCKED with
abandon. Feeling the rhythm and feeding off the vibe, both crowd and band came together as
one, a Tribe as the band is fond of calling their legion of fans. A Tribe that listened as
Kris Keyes, the Shaman of Gargantua Soul, sent out the message of unconditional love, of
the fight against evil, of corporate driven negative politics and commercial television
(the unreleased Calling My America A real anthem of youth with such a
positive message that I wouldnt be surprised if Corporate Rock-n-Radio would be
afraid to play it), of ones belief in ones self, and ones duty of love and respect
not only to ourselves, but to our fellow man. Yes, the GSoul was alive and kicking
Ironic moment #2: Keyes descended into the pit & gathered
the tribe in a circle, as he told how he has been clean for 15 years, I couldnt help
but to notice the smell of pot in the air. The rebellion of youth is alive, and that can
be a good thing, if that rebellion is directed in the right way.
It was another mild moment of irony which had a place in this amazing
evening of ROCK, punctuated by the positive messages of the Meriden police Dept.s
DARE division and Gargantua Soul; who should be given the chance to deliver their beliefs
to every person in not only America, but the World. It was obvious that here is a band on
a mission, and they are carrying it in a medium that should reach the greatest number of
impressionable youths, its a shame that most adults and those Corporate executives
who control 90% of the airwaves (both TV & Radio and if we dont watch
out, to some extent the Internet) cant see past the Hardcore/Rapcore/Heavy Metal
labels and really listen to the band, a band that is trying to create more than just great
music, a band that is trying to create a better world.
As Kris emerged from the pit, being body surfed by the Tribe back to
his rightful place at centered stage GSoul launched into their most powerful anthem
against evil, Drive. Listen to it. Let it make you a better person, and then
you can help to make a better world.
Walking out of the park under a blanket of stars it felt good to be
alive, I couldnt wait for what the next days events had in store.
12:00 Noon Saturday found me (now in accompany of my family) once
again in front of the Bandshell stage sitting on the grass of beautiful Hubbard Park. On
stage, the first act of the day, New Havens legendary band The Mocking Birds.
Playing a tight set of Roots Rock-n-Roll the Mox mixed in the 3 songs from their latest
EP, Ten Thousand Nights with older original material and a healthy slice of songs from
Lead man James Velvets solo CD Bones n Clones. What a way to begin a gorgeous
day! About the only thing disappointing about this solid set of infectious, melodic,
jamming Rock-n-Roll was the sparse crowd of early arrivals that were able to enjoy.
It was now 1:00PM and time to hit the food tent. The longest line was
found at the fried dough booth and was well worth the wait, not to mention the vast array
of other assorted delicacies. Sitting down we ate and relaxed as The Gonkus Brothers
entertained the crowd from the Food Tent stage. Afterwards a leisurely stroll through the
many Arts & Crafts booths caused us to loose track of time
By the time we managed to sit in the bleachers in front of the
Welcome Stage, Renowned CT native Mark Mulcahy was half way through his set. No matter,
from his original cover of Tommy James & The Shondells Crimson & Clover, to
his signature 4 Feet Away (the theme song from Nickelodeons The
Adventures of Pete & Pete forgive me if I have the wrong title) and his
improvising based on various passers-by (one being the parking lady who gave him a hard
time), along with a wealth of material from his various CDs, we again were treated to an
amazing talent of home grown music.
The kids needed to get on some rides and this worked great (or so I
thought) the Carnival rides were set up on the massive lawn outstretching from the
Bandshell stage. I could watch them ride and listen to The Manchurians at the same time.
Wrong. After 40 minutes in the Ferris Wheel line & another 10 at the Tilt-A-Whirl, and
another 10 at the Swings the what seemed like wonderful sounds of The
Manchurians were lost in the shrieks and freaks of adolescences having the time of their
lives without a care for who was on stage. As we finally made our way back over to the
stage, the set was over.
Graham Parker was due on next so we found a close spot, set up on the
lawn and relaxed until he took the stage. Playing solo, he did 18 songs mixing acoustic
and electric guitar, not to mention harmonica for accompaniment Except for
Cupid which was done a cappella. Using a mix of old, new, very old (a 26 year
old demo he forgot about and had just relearned), very new (he debuted 2 brand new songs),
and covers (The Dead, Dylan, Peter Green), he peppered the set with friendly and personal
banter that fit the mood of the day perfectly. His voice was in fine shape and sounded
just as full and lush as always, giving both old and new songs that distinct Graham Parker
air. I decided against waiting in line afterwards as he signed autographs, in favor of
another trip to the food tent for another taste of CT before NRBQ took the stage.
Fully fed we once again trekked across the Hubbard Park grounds back
to the Bandshell stage, but this time, unlike the Mocking Birds set and to some extent the
Graham Parker set, the great lawn was a sea of people. Carving out a small niche to lay
our blanket, we settled for just hearing the raucous groovin sounds emitted forth by
a band that has been a CT staple for over 30 years now. It brought me back to the first
time I had seen NRBQ, it was in 1977 at Toads Place in New Haven. And, while I was quite
shocked by the amount of gray hair I could see on stage (forcing to admit my age as well),
laying on the grass, closing my eyes and listening to the pure sounds rolling over me, I
was back at Toads Place all over again and I realized that it didnt matter how much
time had changed the members of the band because time had not changed the music. As I
danced with my daughters to Get Rhythm, RC Cola and A Moon Pie, I Want You Bad
and a host of other NRBQ classics I was as carefree and happy as I was 30 years ago, and I
felt just as good to be alive as I did the night before.
Later, standing on one of the hills watching one of the most
beautiful fireworks display light the night sky, NRBQ finished up their encore, and my
family and I Ooed and Ahed as we basked in the glow. A glow that not only lit
up the night sky, but lit up our souls as well. As we walked to the car, I silently
regretted not being able to return on Sunday, to once again allow the joy of music to
overtake my soul.
My apologies to all the Artists I did not get a chance to see/hear,
or mention. And once again, many Thanks to Rob DeRosa for his amazing job in coordinating
the music, Hats off to you Rob!