The Green River Festival is a Year-Long Labor of Love: Jim Olsen’s Musical Highlights

Dustbowl Revival joins the fun at the Green River Festival, playing twice, Saturday and Sunday July 9-10.
Dustbowl Revival joins the fun at the Green River Festival, playing twice, Saturday and Sunday July 9-10.

“It pretty much never ends,” said Jim Olsen, in an interview in his office at Signature Sounds last week, when I asked about the planning and details for this year’s Green River Festival, the 30th since 1986.

This will be the third time it’s all being handled by Signature Sounds, who took over this beloved summer event from the Franklin County Chamber.  I asked Jim about this year’s line-up, and he mentioned the headliner, Tedeschi Trucks Band, who they have been talking with for 4-5 years. This is the year that it came together, and Susan Tedeschi will join her husband Derek Trucks and front a 12-piece band which Jim describes as a soul review, little like Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen.  He said this year’s line up will again be diverse and a big musical mix.

Last year’s Preservation Hall Jazz Band was a act that Jim said he had been chasing for five years, they’re a very famous festival act. They were a great addition to the line-up, and for me, like much of the music, it was exciting and new. But I’m probably more of the typical Green River Festival goer, happy with whatever bands are selected .

“We want to keep it contemporary, we need to reach a younger audience.  We are always bringing in new names, that’s what makes it interesting,”  Jim said.  He added that he always wants to book musicians for the fest who bring a certain amount of energy, not as much the singer/songwriters of years past. “We want them to have the festival energy, to keep mixing it up.”  He likes the juxtaposition of different bands, different types of musical flavors.

Jim Olsen, owner of Signature Sounds and the man behind the Green River Festival.
Jim Olsen, owner of Signature Sounds and the man behind the Green River Festival.

This year the camping at Franklin County Fairgrounds has already sold out, almost 400 festival goers will spend the night in tents up on Wisdom Way. Buses will provide transportation from the campsites to the fest, and they will again offer  quick trips to the Green River Swimming area, for a $5 cool-off. A few hundred people enjoyed a swim during the 2015 fest, it’s one of the things that makes the GRF unique.

Their ticket agency tracks where people come from, Jim said, and last year, people came from 17 states to enjoy the festival.

This year they are changing the vending area to the left of the stage so it will include a second row of vendors, and give everyone more room. There will also be more shady areas this year, and a second beer tent to cool off the audience.

With a line-up that’s covers three stages over three days, there are many acts to consider, and many that I have never heard of. So who should we be looking out for, who are the bands that Jim is most looking forward to introducing to the Green River audience?

SInger Margo Price is one of the acts that Festival boss Jim Olsen says he highly recommends hearing. She'll be playing on Friday July 8.
SInger Margo Price is one of the acts that Festival boss Jim Olsen says he highly recommends hearing. She’ll be playing on Friday July 8.

Margo Price was the first name he mentioned. She’s playing on Friday at 3:35 pm. “She’s a country singer who’s been compared to Loretta Lynne, and Tammy Wynette, but she’s also got this young hipster thing too. She’s been on Saturday Night Live, and other big TV shows.

The Suffers, playing Saturday at 6:15, are from Houston Texas, also got a nod from Jim.

The Suffers, out of Houston, Texas, are another stand-out. Catch them on Saturday July 9 at the Green River Festival.
The Suffers, out of Houston, Texas, are another stand-out. Catch them on Saturday July 9 at the Green River Festival.

“They are a 10-piece soul band, akin to Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, and they’re fantastic.”  He heard about The Suffers from local favorites Lake Street Dive, a former Signature Sounds recording act.  Jim’s third suggestion– Dust Bowl Revival, are a group of younger guys from LA, they mix the classic jazz with a bluegrass sound. They are an eight-piece act, they’re playing twice, Friday at 3:15  and Saturday at 6:15.

In addition to this year’s exciting music line-up, another interesting project is a new book being written by former WRSI DJ John Reilly and edited by former Advocate music editor David Sokol. The book will chronicle the Green River Festival’s 30 great years, entitled, “Lifting Off, the History of the Green River Festival.” The book will be available for sale at the festival, and for any regular patron, the multiple interviews that Johnny did with many of the musicians as well as the tales from the early days make great reading under your umbrellas at the festival!

Get tickets!  Green River Festival, Greenfield Community College Friday-Sunday July 8-10, 2016

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