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All Hail Backwoods Pondfest!

by Julie Canepa
Photography by Laura Carbone

It wasn’t quite the Summer of Love, but if ever an outdoor music festival went off without a hitch, Backwoods Pondfest, which took place Sept 9th-11th in Peru, NY, can make that claim. Festival organizer and Lucid band member Lowell Wurster had this to say about this year’s event, “I wasn’t sure if we were gonna be able to top last year.” With a modest increase in ticket sales, the smooth operations of the festival, and a group of campers respectful of the land, Wurster has reason to be pleased.

Now in its fifth year with Lucid as host band, Backwoods Pondfest is a grassroots music festival that is quickly becoming a stop on the fringe outdoor music circuit. For many of the bands in this year’s stellar lineup, Pondfest was a stop over on their late summer tour, including Liberate Music & Arts Festival in Sheldon Springs, VT, Last Daze of Summer in Sterling, NY, and Wormtown in Worcester, MA. Lucid, who call themselves the hardest working band in the North Country, have been touring the Northeast in their spectacular, painted bus. Their brand of “wood rock”, a “V8 blend of genres from jazz to rock, honky-tonk blues to reggae” has helped them pick up fans from New York to Boston who make up the core of the festival’s attendees.

Hoola Hoopers | Backwoods Pondfest

New to Pondfest this year was a second stage, where organizers gave their favorite regional bands an opportunity to play in front of hundreds of music fans not yet familiar with their sound. The format allowed the bands two half-hour sets each, filling in downtime on the main stage when headliners were setting up and breaking down. The end result was a virtually non-stop music flow.

On Friday night, Shameless Strangers of Plattsburgh, NY, was one of those fortunate local bands. Will Scheifley, guitar and vocals for Shameless, said, “Kung Fu (out of New Haven, CT) played one of the best sets of the Festival. As soon as they played their last note, our microphones turned on and a thousand people were about to listen to us. These are moments entertainers live for. The person who made the schedule was gracious and smart to sandwich Shameless in between two amazing experimental jazz/funk/rock bands: Kung-Fu and ULU (NYC).” Twiddle, a Vermont-based quartet and best buds with Lucid, followed with their “complex arrangements that conjure up Coltrane, Ranglin and Zappa.”

Friday night’s headliner Ivan Neville (yes, Aaron Neville’s son) and Dumpstaphunk was a booking coup for the festival, the group being based out of New Orleans. They delivered the funk, and then some. The night took a psychedelic twist when Lucid and Neville shared the stage, and fire spinners danced atop the Lucid bus with fireworks lighting up the sky nearby.


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