Green River Festival 2015: Sharing A Tradition with Newbie

Festival girls.

Festival girls.

A newbie at the fest.

Reading and enjoying the music–a fest newbie!

The Straybirds

The Straybirds.

It’s July again in the Valley and the best punctuation mark in this glorious vacation month is the annual Green River Festival at GCC.  The weather yesterday was perfect–not too hot, but still worth bringing an umbrella to sit under, and the legions of old friends and acquaintances who I get to run into and see every year.

One highlight for me this year was that my son Sam came to his first GRF since the 1990s when I brought him along as a young’in.  He joined us in our first-umbrella row site and stuck around until 8:30 pm. That means he liked it!

Rubblebucket, after their roaring, raving introduction by WRSI’s Monte Belmonte, proved as good as he said they were, with their rollicking soulful beats that got everyone dancing and pumping their fists.  Another stand-out was at the far end of the fest at the Four Rivers stage, where Red Baraat, featuring a full horn section and some wild drumming on a two-sided drum, enthralled a whole flock of fans who had never heard of this Brooklyn based band. Kudos to Jim, once again, who knew about these guys who play northern Indian pop? OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Valley Venture Mentors: What Can You Tell Us in Two Minutes?

The pitchers are ready with their two-minute pitches at the VMM meeting in Greenfield last night.

The pitchers are ready with their two-minute pitches at the VMM meeting in Greenfield last night.

jibe VVM

Ahmed Nabih is an inventor who created JIBE, a thermostat similar to the Nest which switches between electric and oil heat. He has already been through the mentor process and has been successful and got a patent.

Jamie Cocco.

Jamie Cocco gave a rousing presentation but it was not clear what his business does…which in two minutes can be a big problem.

What can you tell me about your business in two minutes?

That was the challenge tonight when Valley Venture Mentors met for the first time in Franklin County, bringing 10 entrepreneurs nursing their own small businesses and hoping for attention and funding to the John Olver Transit Center for some good old fashioned networking.

First, Paul Silva set the stage. “We want to know whose ass you’ve kicked!” he said, his enthusiasm evident from the very start. “We have gotten $4 million in investments for start-ups in the Valley since the beginning of 2015!” he added. Clearly there is a great need for opportunities to bring bright young talents together with the connections and possible funding they need.

Tonight the start-ups lined up for a chance to give their 2-minute elevator pitch–a Deerfield chicken and turkey farmer, a martial arts school, a man from Ashfield who has invented a home heating system that runs on restaurant fryer oil, a woodworker, and a guy who pitched something about leadership but I didn’t quite make out what he was doing.  The quality of the pitches ranged from, ‘oh, yeah I get it!’ to ‘hmm, what exactly do you do anyway?’   But all were entertaining as was the chance to meet the enthusiastic idea-hatchers with their diverse plans for a bright future.

I hope that the Valley Venture Mentors return to Greenfield. They got a great reception and who knows? Maybe some of these elevator pitches will turn into connections to help all of these nascent businesses grow and prosper.

Solid Sound 2015: The Spirit was There Despite the Rain

Terry Adams is still the original high energy piano man, and his current crop of musicians carry the spirit of the Q quite nicely.

Terry Adams is still the original high energy piano man, and his current crop of musicians carry the spirit of the Q quite nicely.

You see a whole lot of hats at the Solid Sound Festival.

You see a whole lot of hats at the Solid Sound Festival.

Every two years Wilco gathers the faithful at a fantastic venue for a festival…instead of a mountain slope ski area or a farmer’s alfalfa fields, they choose the run-down small city of North Adams where the biggest museum in the US is improbably located.  Then they turn this former factory complex, now Mass MOCA, into a World of Wilco for three days of music, the arts, and thousands of out of town visitors.

Deadpan comedian John Hodgman can make me laugh very easily, and he was hilarious in the Hunter Auditorium for Solid Sound.

Deadpan comedian John Hodgman can make me laugh very easily, and he was hilarious in the Hunter Auditorium for Solid Sound.

Once again we got to enjoy the festival and the only disappointment was the rain, which we could have taken more preparations for. On Saturday we joined the throngs in the sold out venue to enjoy the high energy shows of NRBQ and Richard Thompson.  Q, as most older fans know, is now made up of just one former band member, Terry Adams. But he’s found some high octane band members who rock with the same exuberance and charisma as the original, I must say, after seeing them a few different occasions.

What I like about Solid Sound is that it’s held every two years, so you always are excited about it coming around. Many more events should adopt this bi-annual schedule, it makes you totally want to go see it. It gives the band the room they need to fit in tours and it’s just a better way to run a fest.

The volunteers are always super friendly, there are no authoritative jerks to bring down the vibe, even when they are checking bags it’s with a spirit of Wilco–relaxed, fun, and let’s all have a good time.  This year the food lines were shorter despite the sell-out, and it was a pleasure not to have to sweat as badly as we did in 2013, when it was about 90 degrees the whole time.

Had we brought umbrellas and full rain gear, (and had we been a few years younger), my pal Bill and I would have stayed for the whole Wilco show. But as the drops became more and more frequent, we packed up our stuff and headed out, we’ll have to enjoy some of the videos I found on Facebook. But till 2017, it was a fantastic show and I hope everyone had as much fun as we did!

Green River Festival 2015: Shopping, Music and Community

You can go shopping, learn about guitars, or even join the Peace Corps at this year's Green River Festival.

You can go shopping, learn about guitars, or even join the Peace Corps at this year’s Green River Festival. Doug Mason photo.

I know a lot of the people in the Valley who are eagerly waiting for a chance to again relax on the green lawns at GCC for the Green River Festival.  And some of the more than 9000 fans who are coming will inevitably end up doing some shopping too. That’s because a feature of the fest again this year is the Maker’s Market, where local and regional craftspeople and vendors offer a huge array of goodies.  You’ll find one-of-a-kind clothing and jewelry and you can also meet and schmooze with a group of three luthiers (stringed instrument makers) who will have booths at this year’s GRF.

Healy Guitars  and Goat Peak  both of Easthampton,  and Homebody Guitars out of Putney Vermont will bring instruments to strum, and best of all, experts you can chat up about your guitar and violin questions.   Not only will the vendors be selling, but you can get information from local organizations like Dial Self, The Food Bank of Western Mass, Northampton Prevention Coalition, and even the Peace Corps!  Who knows  you may end up taking off on the journey of your life if you get signed up for the latter.

Yes indeed, there are many things you can learn about and shop for and listen to at the Fest. But for many of us, especially us old-timers, the best part is setting up our ‘camp’ with our chairs, getting a good spot right in the first row of the umbrella section, and then hunkering down and meeting and greeting.  Mary especially enjoys people watching, and I like to bounce between the stages, throw a frisbee, and some times even take a little nap.

Whatever you want to do, make sure you don’t miss this year’s Green River Festival, July 10-12, at Greenfield Community College.

Taste of Amherst: Watching Speed Eaters Compete

Four contestants vied for the prize of a rock climbing gift certificate by eating five taste dishes as fast as they could.

Four contestants vied for the prize of a rock climbing gift certificate by eating five taste dishes as fast as they could.

The Antonio's Pizza employee who ate the fastest of all.

The Antonio’s Pizza employee who ate the fastest of all.

The Johnny Memphis band sounded great at the 2015 Taste of Amherst on Sunday.

The Johnny Memphis band sounded great at the 2015 Taste of Amherst on Sunday.

I always enjoy going down to the Taste of Amherst, though I usually manage to steer clear when rains threaten.  This year we went over on Sunday and I got a chance to see some of the friends who I always seem to see just at this event.  Tony Maroulis, who is the link between UMass and the town of Amherst, was the MC of the event that pitted four people against eachother to see who could eat a batch of festival foods the fastest.  The honor went to a chap who works at Antonio’s Pizza, who scarfed it all down, as you can see, in record time.

We also got to see my cousin Paul play in the Johnny Memphis band, and his singing and sax on ‘Yeh Yeh” by Georgie Fame was most excellent.  We visited with friends, we ate ice cream from our friends at Maple Valley, and we watched the gorgers gorge. A great way to spend a Sunday afternoon!

 

 

Bourillon-Dorleans: A Cave with a Sense of Humor

Carvings in the limestone cave at Dom. Bouillon-Dorleans.

Carvings in the limestone cave at Dom. Bouillon-Dorleans.

Each of the 34 carvings help tell the story of wine in the Loire Valley over the centuries.

Each of the 34 carvings help tell the story of wine in the Loire Valley over the centuries.

The drive in the summer sunshine from Tours to Rochecorbon provided me with one of those transcendent moments that make my travels so fulfulling. I had a zippy new car, a Volvo hatchback, I had music streaming from my phone to the well-tuned speakers, and I had an exciting destination, meeting a winemaker in his cave.  All in all, it added up to a great way to spend the morning.

I was en route to meet Frederic Bourillon, third-generation owner of Domaine Bourillon-Dorleans. We met the garrulous winemaker in his very deep cave.  Carved out of the limestone, this particular winery boasts one of the longest caves in the Loire.

Frederic had lit candles and Mozart was playing throughout the cave for what he calls the “Gastronomic walk,” and we dug into some smoked salmon and the first tasting of many wines at stations we’d find as we made our way deeper into the cave. Normally he’d be serving us oysters on the half shell but today the salmon was an apt substitute. “Touring this cave takes five senses,” Fred said.

Fred Bouillon samples some very young wine in his cave.

Fred Bourillon samples some very young wine in his cave.

Many famous people have taken this tour, Fred told us. Ambassasors and celebrities, along with people from every country. Last week he had a group from Kazakhstan, and he’s entertained many people here. After our visit, I can see why, since he’s a very entertaining fellow, the wines are tasty, and the snacks and art are first rate.

These were called Rupestrian caves, the name refers to the carved artwork that adorned the soft limestone walls that we observed every time we turned a corner. Each of the 34 carvings helps tell the story of wine, from the Cambrian era 500 million years ago with the ancestors of vertebrae, to St Martin, the patron saint of the Loire, to the effects the wine can have on humans to Jonah inside the whale enjoying a glass of wine.

Fred’s commentary added to the fun, and he had snacks at strategic stops along the way as we went further and further into the cave.

Not only does Domaine Bourillon have the most fun of any wine tasting tour I’ve ever been on, he’s an innovator. Fred showed us a wine label that contains the Vouvray scent on the label after you scratch it!

Domaine Bourillon-Dorleans, 30 bis rue de Vaufoyard, Rochecorbon. 33 (0)2 47 52 83 07