Life is Good Festival 2011: It All Adds Up to Fun
Review by Holley Dey; Photographs by Louise Uznanski and Richard Uznanski
It’s the new math. Take two days plus three music stages; multiply that number by thousands of smiles and raise the result to the power of optimism. What do you get? You get a late summer weekend of exuberant music and outdoor play shared by the very young and not so young. You get singing, dancing, hula hoops, and seed spitting. Dogs that jump hurdles, children that jump in sacks, musicians that jump to the beat, you get it all. You also get more than one million dollars raised for children in need. This was the Life is Good Festival, held September 24-25 in Canton, MA on a sultry summer weekend when families came to play and the good vibes kept the rain at bay.
While the event boasted a full roster of national recording artists and musicians, at its heart the Festival was a fundraiser. Dollars raised will be used to help children recover from life threatening challenges through the power of joyful play. That same joy permeated the Festival grounds last weekend as families played together and musicians played cheerfully from the stage.
On Day 1, Festival goers were invited to pick up a brush and get creative. Hundreds of painted tiles would later be arranged to produce a work of art representing the weekend’s themes. The mural below was the creation of the 2010 attendees.
Throughout the festival grounds, artwork emphasized the value of life’s simple pleasures and the importance of play.
On day 1, more than $900,000 had been raised through direct donations and sales of tickets and merchandise; that number would exceed the $1,000,000 goal by Festival’s end.
Good vibrations were everywhere. So were frisbees, footballs, and hula hoops.
Musical performances alternated between the Main stage and the smaller Good Vibes stage throughout the day. A full schedule of children’s entertainment ran concurrently on a third platform.
Vibrant music filled the air all day long with clapping hands and dancing feet set in motion. All of the artists were enthusiastically received by the crowd. A few unique performances stood out.
When Martin Sexton took the Main stage, he was alone, accompanied only by his guitar. His opening song was the national anthem, offered as a clear, clarion call that stopped idle chatter and turned all eyes to the stage. In parts hummed, and in others nearly yodeled, words were added to only the final verse. It was a spellbinding rendition of the anthem that covered an impressive vocal range.
Among other songs, Sexton also performed Happy from his 2007 album “Seeds”, leaving the crowd pretty happy as well.
When Michael Franti and Spearhead took the stage, up went the volume and so did the level of excitement. Soon everyone was singing along to hits including Everyone Deserves Music, The Sound of Sunshine, and Hey, Hey, Hey. Franti thrilled the crowd by leaving the stage and walking among the audience while continuing to sing and play guitar. Beach balls bounced happily overhead while the crowd bounced and waved in unison. For the final song of the set, children and seniors were invited onto the stage to join Franti in a performance of Say Hey. Seems like everywhere I go, the more I see, the less I know. But I know one thing, that I love you, baby girl. I love you, I love you, I love you.
The Avett Brothers were the highly anticipated headlining act on Saturday. The crowd was large and tightly packed around the stage as the set began; many wore T shirts confirming their allegiance to the band. Strings, banjo, and guitar were played with gusto, producing a sound that was part rock, part country, and a little bit bluegrass. It was an energetic, intense performance that electrified listeners from the start to the finish, ending with a rendition of Dylan’s Just Like a Woman.
When the day was done, nearly 10,000 had enjoyed the music, the games,and the camaraderie of the Festival. Life was good, and promised to get even better on Sunday when a slate of popular artists including Robert Randolph, Levon Helm, Raphael Saadiq, and Ray LaMontagne was scheduled to appear.
Coming next: Day 2 of the Life is good Festival in words and photographs