Dark clouds were again looming over Bethlehem when I got back into town from visiting my brand new niece and going to my friend’s engagement party. It was around 5 p.m., and I wanted to make sure I got to Musikfest before the rains inevitably hit.
Lo and behold, Mother Nature gave us a reprieve this time.
Some very light and spotty showers were all that came down the pike, and were no match for the spirit of ‘Festers on the second Saturday of the festival. This was a good thing; I had a precise route planned for the day, and didn’t want any storms to put a damper on my plans.
The first stop of that route was the Yuengling Lagerplatz stage, where New York’s MAYVE was combining their new wave, synth pop sounds with the acoustic, listening room atmosphere of Musikfest’s newest platz. I had heard the full-band version live before last summer, and was excited to hear that their sound, stripped down ever so slightly to fit the mood of the tent, carried over well to an intimate setting.
I then busted it up to Main St. around 6:30, where April and Matt of VoirVoir were making their triumphant, spacey indie rock return to Musikfest. VoirVoir had been lying dormant for a while, but the duo seemed to pick up right where the band left off in advance of new material that I heard is forthcoming through the grapevine.
After sticking around the Main Street stage for a while, I started down toward the North-South Transfer shuttle, as it was my goal to catch Philly’s Foxtrot & the Get Down on the Americaplatz stage down at SteelStacks. On the way, however, I stopped to fill my mug at Corked (it was Saturday, after all) and relaxed at Hotel Bethlehem Platz for a few minutes while taking in the acoustic stylings of local singer-songwriter Adam Web.
I continued on my trek southward and began to see Shuttleplatz in my sights. However, before I could get there, I was taken in by some intoxicating, soulful R&B sounds emanating from the direction of Plaza Tropical. That’s where I happened upon Flemington, NJ’s Nalani & Sarina. The twin sister duo are not only pop vocal powerhouses, but their showmanship and guitar skills arm them with the potential to turn into bona fide superstars in the world of soul.
From there, I boarded the North-South Transfer to head to Americaplatz, where Foxtrot & the Get Down had already begun their set. A little history lesson: I know this band from back in the early days of The Quinn Spinn, when we were but a fledgling internet radio show in north Jersey. We even put on an American Cancer Society benefit in June 2014, and Foxtrot was one of the bands that joined us. I was pumped to see them again, especially considering how far they’ve come since, having recently recorded the majority of their new album, “Roots Too Deep,” in Nashville.
Anyway, they killed it with their potent combination of rock, blues, and soul. Frontman Colin Budny’s gritty vocal is complemented nicely by the harmonies of Erica Ruiz, who is a new and welcome addition since the last time I saw this band in 2014. Foxtrot & the Get Down has continued to expand its sound and its horizons. And, as could be seen on Saturday night in the shadow of the Bethlehem Steel blast furnaces, they are a band to watch going forward. We hope to see them back in our neck of the woods soon.
After re-connecting with Colin and getting a big, heaping helpin’ of Island Noodles a little ways down First St., crowds had begun to flock onto the Levitt Pavilion lawn for the next Americaplatz act: Igor and the Red Elvises.
Full disclosure: I’m a bad Bethlehemite because, to this point, and for all the years I’ve been back in Bethlehem, I had never seen a Red Elvises show until Saturday night, I knew they were popular, and I knew they were a party band, but that was the extent of my knowledge. I had no idea what I was in for when this Santa Monica-based group took the stage.
What I got was one of the most fun and interesting performances of the festival. For those who haven’t been, a Red Elvises show is what would happen if the B-52s and a ska band mated after an all-night vodka bender. The band’s collective, flamboyant stage presence lit up the stage, and that, combined with their lighthearted, offbeat lyrical content, is precisely what keeps fans here and across the country coming back for more.
During intermission, I decided to catch the North-South Transfer back north, to where my car and Night 2 of the Lehigh Valley With Love Comedyplatz both were. When I got there, I was entranced by the sounds coming from Plaza Tropical once more. This time, I heard the psychedelic jam grooves of Boston quarter Wobblesauce. I stopped in for a song or two before heading over to The Ice House.
I then moved onto Lehigh Valley with Love Comedyplatz at The Ice House… but, when I got there, I realized that my camera battery was critically low. Thus, I couldn’t get any shots, but I will say that, among the 10:30 p.m. lineup, Blair Socci’s quirkiness and absolute fearlessness was noteworthy, and I enjoyed particularly strong performances from Jason Brown and Keele Howard-Stone. I hope that Comedyplatz becomes a regular thing. It’s a solid addition to the festival, and provides a nice nightcap for those looking to wind down and have a few laughs.