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Sunday - 4 July

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Not surprisingly, Sunday, the holiday, saw the largest turnout headlined by Furthur, the latest iteration of the Grateful Dead, featuring original Dead members Bob Weir and Phil Lesh. The undercard was stacked with progeny of the Dead such as Max Creek and Moonalice, as well as Zappa Plays Zappa featuring Frank Zappa’s son Dweezil playing the music of his father.


Sunday’s early music featured a hit you over the head with heavy set from the Nate Wilson Group. Playing as a quintet with the addition of second guitarist Johnny Trauma, the group’s sound has morphed from melodic hard rock towards an all out barrage of thundering, mind-blowing brew of swirling guitars, riff heavy rhythm and churning keyboards.


The husband and wife duo of Derek Truck and Susan Tedeschi put together a line up of musicians culled from each of their respective personal bands, and have been spending time together, touring with the family in tow. Billed as The Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi Band, they played not only songs from each other’s repertoire (“These Days”), but also included new songs written specifically with this soul and gospel project in mind. Tedesschi’s “Love Has Got Something to Do With It” was inflicted with deep soul, her vocals bellowing out like Aretha Franklin. Keyboardist Mike Matteson wrote the gospel tinged “Bound for Glory”, a fitting song on this day.


Furthur / Photo: Nick Fitanides

Furthur / Photo: Nick Fitanides


Other than hoping in a time machine and traveling back in time to catch a peak era Grateful Dead performance, this Furthur line up is as close as one band comes to recreating the classic sound of that band. Arriving on stage at twilight with a luminous sunset over the horizon, the band opened the night fittingly with Furthur’s first performance of a Phil Lesh & Friends song, “Celebration”. At 77, Lesh’s vocals were off key occasionally, but harmony vocalists and fluid guitar playing from John Kadlecik helped to hide his vocal flaws.


If imitation is the finest form of flattery, then the late Jerry Garcia is smiling wide and proud, as Kadlecik (formerly of the Dead tribute band Dark Star Orchestra) handles Garcia’s vocals and guitar playing deftly without aping his style. On the New Orleans boogie of “Mississippi Half Step”, he traded verses off with Weir, and his wah wah guitar was fluid and clean. “Cold Rain and Snow” melted into the bluesy ode “Ramble on Rose”, which turned into a crowd sing-a-long. Keyboardist Jeff Chimenti also deserves recognition as one of the strongest players in the band. With an upbringing in classical music and later jazz, his piano and Hammond B-3 organ playing has just the right rhythm and blues swagger, evidenced on his jubilant solo on the euphoric “Cumberland Blues”.


The second set opened with the fan favorite “St. Stephen”, with a chorus of vocals and deep, resonating bass from Lesh. The lovely but mournful murder ballad, “Jack Straw” was an apex of the performance. While sung as a duet between Weir and Lesh, the tuneful piano of Chimenti and the searing guitar runs of Kadlecik accentuated the song. The line, “Leaving Texas, fourth day of July” obviously drew a loud cheer from the crowd. The exquisite trilogy of “Help on the Way” > “Slipnot” > Franklin’s Tower” allowed drummer Joe Russo to further distinguish himself as one of the jam scenes most talented and progressive drummers. As expected, Furthur encored with the boisterous “U.S. Blues”, with an entire crowd singing in unison on the patriotic and spirited chorus, “Wave that flag, Wave it wide and high. Summertime, come and gone, my oh my”. The band remained on stage and enjoyed the holiday fireworks display with the crowd. It was a magnificent display that brought the festival to a spectacular conclusion.


Sun Puppets / Photo: Nick Fitanides

Sun Puppets / Photo: Nick Fitanides


The inaugural Nateva Festvial was a smashing success. Though the line up leaned heavy on the Jambands, there were many different genres presented, offering something for everyone. Most all festivals claim to be a family festival, but this one truly did follow through on that promise, offering so much more than just music. Water spigots located throughout the campgrounds and festival grounds offered free water. The Blow Brothers (Number one in the number two business) maintained the cleanest Porto Lets many have seen at any festival. And at least for this year, the awful N2O tanks that have become such an awful blight on the festival scene were, for the most part non prevalent.


Named for his two children, Nate and Eva, Frank Chandler, a first time concert/festival promoter, has found the ideal setting for his event. Hopefully he’ll continue to invite all 9000 of his closest friends back to the fairgrounds this weekend for years to come.


Sunset / Photo: Nick Fitanides

Sunset / Photo: Nick Fitanides


Bill is a New England based freelance critic whose writing has been published in Paste Magazine, Relix Magazine, Performing Songwriter Magazine, The Hartford Advocate and Hartford Courant, Jambase.com, Yahoo Music, among others.


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