It’s a hot mess and nothing less. This wall-to-wall week marks the start of festival season — freebie season, too.
Starting tonight, the ninth annual Mountain Jam at Hunter Mountain presents 40 bands on three stages over four days. Host Gov’t Mule plays Saturday and its leader-guitarist-festival organizer Warren Haynes also plays with Phil Lesh & Friends on Sunday, with Primus headlining today and Widespread Panic on Friday.
Some other highlights: The Avett Brothers, The Lumineers, Big Gigantic, Dispatch, Rubblebucket, Conspirators, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Jackie Greene, Amy Helm, Gary Clark Jr., White Denim, the Lone Bellow and, well, many more.
A jam-band fest by definition, Mountain Jam surveys the many flavors and colors of improvised music. So, as the Grateful Dead sang, “It’s a buck dancer’s choice, my friend” — and that even extends to the eats with 24 food vendors on site.
Tickets (with camping) are $272 for all four days, less naturally for fewer days or noncamping admission. Visit www.mountainjam.com.
Art on Lark Saturday
While the Fabulous Thunderbirds kick off this summer’s typically rich free show schedule tonight at Alive at Five (see Brian McElhiney’s conversation with founding T-bird Kim Wilson on page D3), Art on Lark packs 12 area favorites onto two stages on Lark Street on Saturday — also free.
The stage at Madison and Lark features the Ramblin Jug Stompers, Secondhand Roses, Party Boat, Bridgette Guerrette, MaryLeigh, and The North & South Dakotas, in that order. On the Washington and Lark stage, Holly & Evan, Bear Grass, Hand Habits, Sandy McKnight, Zan Strumfield and Jocelyn & Christian Arndt perform.
And, yes, the Ramblin Jug Stompers are playing a double on Saturday: performing at both Art on Lark and Rhythm on the Ridge.
Phone 434-3861 or visit www.artonlark.com or www.exit977.org.
Rhythm on the Ridge
In addition to Mountain Jam, the other multiday music-with-camping extravaganza hereabouts is the fifth annual Rhythm on the Ridge roots music festival at Maple Ski Ridge in Mariaville. On Saturday, host band Flood Road and 18 other bands play on two stages; while six bands play on Sunday, starting with 2Late hosting an open mic with pancakes at 8 a.m. (Should they change their name to 2Early for this gig? Just asking.)
Top regional and local acts from the Americana end of the musical spectrum play homemade sounds at Rhythm on the Ridge, notably the Red Haired Strangers, Tom Keller, Matt Durfee, the Lazy Suns, Three Quarter North, the Ramblin Jug Stompers, Kevin Wayne, the Keeners, the Hill Hollow Band, and Dan Johnson & the Expert Sidemen. However, Rhythm on the Ridge is not backloaded with hot headliners performing in the late slots: There’s strength at every position on this festival.
Admission is $15 for both days, $5 for Sunday only, fans under 16 are admitted free with paying adults. Camping is an additional $15. Two adult tickets with one night camping is a special $35. Visit http://rotrfest.wix.com/rotrfest.
Some national caliber acts also hit town this week with sounds so rootsy they’d fit at Rhythm on the Ridge.
First up is Mississippi singer-songwriter Charlie Mars on Saturday at WAMC’s The Linda (339 Central Ave., Albany). After opening for Steve Earle, Willie Nelson, the Tedeschi Trucks Band and others all spring, and playing NPR’s “Mountain Stage” with sometime-tour-mate Mike Doughty, Mars plays solo acoustic at The Linda, featuring songs from his new “Blackberry Light” album.
Show time is 8 p.m. Tickets are $18. Phone 465-5233 ext. 4 or visit www.wamcarts.org.
Next up, Son Volt returns on Tuesday to The Egg (Empire State Plaza, Albany), riding raves for their new “Honky Tonk” album of Bakersfield-inspired country-rock songs. Their most highly praised release in decades, “Honky Tonk” has ridden high on the Americana charts for months.
Son Volt changes all the time, at least the supporting band members do. But it’s always Jay Farrar — leader, main writer and guiding spirit — and they always play some rocking kind of country, with pickup-truck torque and truculent twang in smooth balance. We’re talking pedal steel and fiddles here, but also a beat strong enough to tug traffic in off the two-lane into the road house.
Show time for Son Volt is 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday when Colonel Ford (featuring Farrar and other Son Volt-ers) opens. Tickets are $24. Phone 473-1845 or visit www.theegg.org.
On Wednesday, troubadour Fred Eaglesmith brings his Traveling Steam Show to Caffe Lena (47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs). A restless road dog from Canada, Eaglesmith tours almost constantly on both sides of the border, running his two-vehicle caravan on recycled cooking oil and calling his gender-mixed band the Smokin’ Losers, the Flying Squirrels or the Flathead Noodlers. With 19 albums under his big-buckled belt — “6 Volt” is his latest — Eaglesmith packs plenty of story-based country-rock songs spiced with bluegrass, blues and folk accents.
Show time for Fred Eaglesmith and his Traveling Steam Show is 7 p.m. on Wednesday. Admission is $25, members $22; and $12.50 for children under 12. Phone 583-0022 or visit www.caffelena.org.
Let me add my voice to the sad chorus mourning Irv Dean, departed last week from our newsroom and this earth but not from the memory of his colleagues.
For a few years, Irv’s was one of the voices I’d reach late at night, on deadline, sending concert reviews from venues near and far. With the clock ticking too fast toward deadline and my pulse and those in the newsroom moving fast also, Irv was always calm and cool. He questioned what needed questioning and made my stories better by doing so. Like so many others, inside newspapering and out, I’ll remember him.