Words by: Adrianna Hilborn
Photos by: Barry Lindenmuth Jr. and Adrianna Hilborn
Sometimes it’s nice to get out of the city for a 1-day festival highlighting some of the best songwriters in music. For my first time attending Appel Farm, I couldn’t have asked for a better day to spend in rural NewJersey, catching some great musical performances, sitting in the warm sun drinking a nice cold beer, and checking out the crafts of talented local artisans.
For 24 years, Appel Farm has turned out a great lineup of songwriters, and this year’s festival stayed true to that tradition with everything from acoustic folk to high energy indie rock. The crowd was a mix of young and old, with a little bit of something for everyone. Puppet shows and magic for the kids, craft vendors for the shoppers, and of course, the great music! I was looking forward to seeing some established bands and possibly discovering a new favorite.
Bouncing back and forth between two stages had me occupied all day. The smaller, more intimate Grove stage kept things in the acoustic singer/songwriter vein with performances from Joe Crookston & Peter Glanville, Aoife O’Donovan, John Gorka, Iris DeMent, and Colin Hay. It was definitely the place to chill out and listen to the great voices and stories that these artists have. John Gorka’s “I’m From New Jersey” was a crowd favorite. I also enjoyed the southern twang of Iris DeMent.
Low Cut Connie got things started on the larger Meadow stage. With their flamboyant piano rock, front man Adam Weiner drew many comparisons to Jerry Lee Lewis. Caravan of Thieves followed with a gypsy styled mix of jazz and folk. Their rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody” had the entire crowd singing along. Brother Joscephus and The Love Revolution kept the good vibes flowing with their soulful rock and ended their set with a New Orleans style brass band parade that led a crowd from the stage through the festival grounds.
The performance that everyone was talking about was from North Carolina band Delta Rae. This young band gave a highly energetic, kick ass performance that wowed the Appel Farm crowd. Delta Rae has a bluesy/gospel sound and they absolutely killed it in their live show. Delta Rae left everything they had on that stage, and I think attendees would have taken more if time allowed.
Delta Spirit brought a huge crowd of fans to the Meadow stage, playing a great set of their earlier hits and new favorites. Highlights included “White Table”, “Bushwick Blues” and “California.” Delta Spirit was probably the most rocking act of the festival, and they had the crowd up on their feet. Being one of my personal favorites, I took the opportunity to talk with the band backstage. The guys were super chill and friendly while we chatted about the band working on some new material and getting ready to record a new album.
Topping off the evening was Brandi Carlile, a singer/songwriter who just exudes joy with her cute-as-a-button smile and her strong voice. It happened to be Brandi’s 32nd birthday on Saturday, and the crowd welcomed her to the stage by singing “Happy Birthday” and holding up signs. At one point someone from the crowd offered Brandi a red Solo cup attached to a wine glass stem, from which she took a gulp and exclaimed, “it’s champagne!” Ms. Carlile had great audience interaction, telling stories of her early busking days and obliging song requests. For most of the set, Brandi and “The Twins” (Phil & Tim Hanseroth), each played acoustic guitar, and for a couple songs Brandi played the piano. However, her voice is what shines no matter which instrument she plays. It is strong with just a touch of raspiness. She has the kind of voice that you would just love to listen to her tell any story. Highlights from her set included “Raise Hell,” “Dreams,” “The Story” and a cover of “Jolene.” Brandi said she loves to be on the road, playing shows and it seemed as though her fans love her right back.
For me, Appel Farm was a great kickoff to the summer music festival season. I will definitely be back.