Let Me Entertain You: Appel Farm Arts & Music Festival 2010

Two years ago, I attended what could have been the final Arts & Music Festival at Appel Farm in Elmer, NJ. It was a really great event with a very enjoyable and diverse lineup (The Smithereens, Marc Cohn, They Might Be Giants, Suzanne Vega…) and, even though I got horribly sunburned, it was still a great time. Unfortunately, the folks at Appel Farm were hit hard by the economic crisis of last year, and the festival was called off, with a smaller fund-raising event taking its place. Finally, just a few weeks ago, a proper festival returned to the expansive grounds. Scaled back to just one stage of musical performance, the event was no less star-studded. By the time I arrived from the closing festivities of NonCOMM, only three acts had yet to perform. Luckily, they were the three that I was looking forward to seeing the most.

Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings

For all that I’ve said about R&B, the one exception to the current over-polishing of the genre is Sharon Jones. Along with The Dap-Kings, possibly the tightest band on the face of the planet, Jones makes soulful music that is funky, retro, classic and heartbreaking, often all at once. After a lavish introduction by guitarist Binky Griptite, Jones emerged for a album-spanning set. Most of the set focused on the band’s newest album, I Learned The Hard Way, which is already a fan favorite. Songs like “Window Shopping,” “She Ain’t A Child No More” and the red-hot title track were just as strong live as on the record. The show-stopper of the set, though was the “Soul Train” section, in which Jones showed off a handful of classic dance moves like the Tighten Up, the Swim and the Pony. Even after tripping backwards over a stage monitor, Jones was having the time of her life, the true sign of a great entertainer.

Patty Griffin & Buddy Miller

Combining forces to play and sing on each other’s songs, Patty Griffin and Buddy Miller brought the folk-blues tinge to Appel Farm. Miller’s material is more rooted in traditional blues, and he can play the hell out of the array of guitars he brought with him. Griffin’s newest album (Downtown Church, which was produced by Miller), is a collection of gospel favorites. The juxtaposition of weary blues and apocalyptic gospel wasn’t so jarring, and the two genres (as well as the two musicians) got along perfectly. Griffin and Miller had previously worked together on the Three Girls And Their Buddy tour, which also featured Emmylou Harris and Shawn Colvin. At their Appel Farm performance, the duo (along with a virtuosic backing band) brought an incredible mix of music, old and new.

The Avett Brothers

At the last Appel Farm festival, Marc Cohn closed out the night with his somber piano pop. This time around, The Avett Brothers brought their alternately raucous and heart-wrenching tunes to a screaming mass of an audience. Though they’ve only been performing together for 10 years, the Avetts (along with bassist Bob Crawford, cellist Joe Kwon and new drummer Jacob Edwards) have established themselves as folk-pop’s favorite sons. In those 10 years, they’ve also released a ton of material, a lot of which was featured in their evening-ending set. Their latest album, I And Love And You was plenty represented, with “Kick Drum Heart” and the stunning title song getting the fans into even more of a frenzy. The biggest highlight was when Seth Avett performed a solo rendition of “The Ballad Of Love And Hate,” one of the group’s best songs. With selections from Mignionette and Four Thieves Gone, the Avetts brought the resurrected festival to a tremendous close. This is the kind of thing that festival organizers dream of: a comeback that makes everyone feel like you never left.

Click HERE to see more pictures from Appel Farm 2010!!


~ by E. on June 16, 2010.

One Response to “Let Me Entertain You: Appel Farm Arts & Music Festival 2010”

  1. I think Johnny Depp was sitting next to me at Appel Farms.

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