Summer music festivals have long been viewed as the domain of the nomadic jam-band scene. In large part owing to the epic outdoor concerts proffered by our own Phab Phour, Phish, the very term “Vermont music fest” conjures visions of barefoot revelers feverishly wiggling to their heart’s content. But, of course, music in beautiful outdoor settings appeals to a far wider audience. And, thanks to one industrious Vermont fan, the hills are alive in an unlikely corner of the state with the sounds of a remarkable variety of music.
Ed DuFresne, best known as the man behind the scene at Montpelier’s eclectic Langdon Street Café, founded the Northeast Kingdom Music Festival six years ago. Following the lead of any number of jam-oriented fests, the two-day concert initially featured a fairly predictable lineup of heady acts. But recent years have seen a fundamental shift in DuFresne’s approach to booking, and the result has been a vibrant celebration of local, regional and national talent from diverse genres.
Though NEKMF has yet to announce a headlining act for this year, the lineup is already worth the relatively low price of admission — around $65 for both days and camping. It features a slew of Langdon Street faves, including indie geeks The Mathematicians, Americana darlings The Amity Front and local-ish newgrass outfit The Powder Kegs. Previous years have brought an impressive roster of national talent, as well, including funk-punk legends Fishbone, righteous babe Anaïs Mitchell and the then up-and-coming act Gogol Bordello. So expect big things when the headliner is announced.
Though the music is always excellent, the festival’s real draw might just be the pastoral setting of its adopted home: the Chilly Ranch in Albany. It’s only a short jaunt to Bread & Puppet’s digs in Glover, and some primo swimming holes are even closer. So load up the cooler — the festival is BYOB — and plan to spend August 1 and 2 with 2000 new friends.