Saturday night had the feel of festival season, with a balmy, beautiful summer-like night serving as the backdrop for the second and final night of ArtsQuest’s 2017 SouthSide Arts & Music Festival
The festival, which featured visual art displays and competitions all over South Bethlehem, turned musical as the day worked into the evening hours. Variety across genres — and from inside and outside of our region — made for some memorable performances, capped by a spirited and captivating show from Rusted Root, who are perhaps most well-known for their 1995 hit, “Send Me On My Way.”
Before they took the stage though, we began the evening at the National Museum of Industrial History with Blair Crimmins and The Hookers. We were happy to see the Atlanta-based ragtime jazz outfit grace our presence once again, as their tight performance was every bit as good as we remember it being back at Musikfest.
Next up, we popped just down the street to Musikfest Cafe to catch the early part of Ceramic Animal‘s set. I had heard a lot about the Philly natives, whose polished performance combined the spaciness of Tame Impala with the more straightforward pop sensibilities of The Killers.
Playing at the same time up at Touchstone Theatre was Bethlehem’s Sing, Bird of Prey. We definitely wanted to make sure I caught some of their set, so we trekked up to 4th St. on foot to join them in the middle of their set. Their psychedelic sounds — including selections from “Crystal Embryo” — filled the room, and the band’s onstage chemistry and energy left those in attendance amazed by the end of the set.
After that (and before dinner), we wanted to catch one more set, so it was back to the National Museum of Industrial History to hear New York City’s Hannah Gill and The Hours. Hannah — just 19 years of age — is an absolute vocal powerhouse, supported by guitarist Brad Hammonds for arrangements that are laden with soul, but accessible enough for any audience to enjoy. Hopefully, we’ll be seeing them come around our way again!
After taking a brief re-fuel break down the street at Steel Pub, we found our way back to the ArtsQuest Center to catch the second half of Coco Montoya’s set. Having never heard Montoya play before, I was blown away by his ease in making his guitar do just about anything he wanted. I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone play an electric guitar with such precision, with such a dynamic contrast between his quiet tones and louder chords. (We didn’t get there in time for the first three songs, so unfortunately, there are no photos. Sorry, but I had to eat :-/)
However, we were there for the entirety of Rusted Root’s mind-blowing performance. The Pittsburgh-based jam band played selections from throughout its discography, delivering a funky energy and a captivating intensity. Frontman Michael Glabicki was on-point all night long, seamlessly trading lead guitar duties with bandmate Dirk Miller and showing vocal ability that, if anything, has only gotten even better over the course of the past two decades. Vocalist/percussionist Liz Berlin, however, served as the band’s MVP on this night, playing just about every percussive instrument in sight to give the band its signature world music groove.