Clearwater Festival Harnesses the Power of the River and Music

[3 June 2013]

By Sachyn Mital

Contributing Editor

“Not even Rip Van Winkle could sleep through the cultural clarion of today’s Hudson Valley. The legendary snoozer in Washington Irving’s tale might descend from his Catskill Mountains hollow to find some of the country’s best folk musicians at the Clearwater Festival in Croton-on-Hudson. Founded by now 93-year-old Pete Seeger, the festival marks its 35th anniversary in 2013.”
- National Geographic Traveler, ‘Best Trips 2013’

Last year, PopMatters (dis)covered the Clearwater Festival in the Hudson River Valley, seeing firsthand “the festival’s mission to promote environmental and economic restoration to the Hudson River valley”. Clearwater has pursued this mission since the ‘60s. It draws inspiration from Pete Seegers’ dream to clean up the Hudson River and has become a celebration of environmental preservation, restoration and activism. Proceeds from the Festival are used to help support revival efforts, educational programs and support the non-profit organization throughout the rest of the year. The primary Festival draw for audiences is likely the music but there are tons of family friendly activities that are available throughout the park grounds.

Some of the diverse artists are listed in a press release describing the festival, which was “founded by Pete Seeger and nurtured by over a thousand dedicated volunteers. [T]he event embraces the changing, increasingly hip, locavore, and eclectic spirit of the Hudson Valley. The new scions of gritty Americana Son Volt and Drive-By Truckers (now gone solo) Patterson Hood and Jason Isbell will play side-by-side with gospel soul legends like Mavis Staples, an unplugged Hot Tuna, and veteran legacy artists like Judy Collins and David Bromberg. New voices, including the Virginia mountain-top chamber pop of The Last Bison and the harmony-rich Brooklyn country of The Lone Bellow, will ring out alongside Seeger himself. Seeger will be performing with long-time collaborator Lorre Wyatt in a special festival appearance, one of several strong collaborations at this year’s festival: Jorma Kaukonen & Steve Kimock and Keller Williams & The Travelin’ McCourys. In addition to American roots music, the festival has long welcomed world music. This year is no exception, with Afrobeat intensity (Antibalas), uplifting Afropop (Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars), Bhangra-powered brass (Red Baraat), virtuosic Malian desert blues (Vieux Farka Touré), and funky Celtic-Asian fusion (Delhi 2 Dublin). Native American artists—Buffy Sainte-Marie, Joanne Shenandoah, and roots-soul vocalist Martha Redbone—are also a major component of the festival lineup.”

Obviously both days will have great entertainment, but Clearwater does remain an activist draw. In the video at the bottom, Tao Seeger discusses the music, activism and history behind the event. The press release further explains, “what unites festival participants, from farmers to volunteers to headliners, is a shared ethos”. The message is one that should have bipartisan support as their agenda is to improve and develop sustainable local economies across several realms including agriculture, transportation and education. If nothing else, the event allows for a short excursion via Metro North from the concrete jungle of New York City to the picturesque Hudson Valley. 

Come rain or shine, Clearwater will go on June 14th and 15th. Tickets, which include options for the $80 single day pass, the $120 weekend pass, and the $200 weekend pass with camping, are currently available (those are the non-member prices). Further information about the Clearwater Festival is available on their website

Line up includes (in no particular order):
Pete Seeger
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings
Red Baraat
Vieux Farka Touré
Son Volt
Drive-By Truckers
Patterson Hood
Jason Isbell
Kris Kristofferson
Mavis Staples
Hot Tuna
Judy Collins
Keller Williams & The Travelin’ McCourys
David Bromberg
Lorre Wyatt (Performing with Pete Seeger)
Jorma Kaukonen & Steve Kimock
Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars
Delhi 2 Dublin
Buffy Sainte-Marie
Joanne Shenandoah
Martha Redbone

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