Anyone well-versed in the peaks and the caverns, the royals and the rabble of the current mid-Hudson Valley music scene couldn’t help but detect a note of defiance and conscious dissent in the O+ Festival music lineup. Plainly, this Festival describes a different Hudson Valley: a minority opinion expressed in great particularity and diversity throughout the streets of Kingston for three days in October.
To overgeneralize (and what else is there to do when you open your mouth?), O+ caters to the region’s urban refugee population and its aesthetic sympathizers (the writer quietly raises his hand) more than to the blood-and-soil, rock, blues and roots faithful who are so well-served by their own three-day, thin-air Bacchanalia on Hunter Mountain in late spring and by countless other shows, venues, festivals and benefits in all of our splendid seasons.
To put it another way, if the late, great and beloved-beyond-all-genre lines Levon Helm and his various deputy Ramblers embody and apotheosize the region’s majority musical values, then well-known art/space rockers and longtime valley residents Mercury Rev fulfill a similar totemic function for the area’s underexposed alternative scene. And while Rev itself will not be performing at this year’s O+ (member Grasshopper will), its auspices are implicit.
Late-career Levon made his hay in the Valley and found a couple of Grammy-shaped needles in the stacks. While the Mercury Rev guys are visible and involved community members, their careers have transpired in exotic elsewheres, mostly: down the road a piece and over the pond. O+, then, in some ways represents a temporary and entirely non-hostile takeover of the regional musical apparatus by a sizable and growing minority interest, and some really valuable and appreciated airtime for the other hometown. In its third year now, O+ also fixes uptown Kingston as the locus of the alt scene – the safe place to stop when you are on your way from Brooklyn to Hudson.
So who’s playing and what does it sound like? The Friday-night headliners are a bit of a red herring. Homegrown shambolic folk heroes the Felice Brothers and the rather brilliant alt/roots songwriter Richard Buckner may get more coverage in Pitchfork than in Rolling Stone, but their general rootsy sounds hardly require yogic contortions of the typical Hudson Valley ear.
From there, however, the festival takes multiple turns toward the outré, heretical and subversive: For three days, you will hear more from the indie panoply, more experimental and avant-garde, more art rock, more chamber, more chant, more buzz-saw angularity, more electro-drugginess and way more ether and space than you are accustomed to hearing in these parts. And I think that you’ll like it and find it all bracing and illuminating.
To name-check a few of the over 40 musical acts would be to slight the rest. Suffice it to say that this is an incredibly rich lineup of indie-world notables from here and from elsewhere, and you can not only view the lineup but listen to representative songs at the Festival’s website: www.opositivefestival.org. At $25 for a three-day pass, O+ is a plain steal. The streets will be pumping with music, art and…health care?
The O+ Festival happens at multiple venues in the streets of Kingston from October 5 through October 7. All-inclusive passes cost $25 and are available at www.opositivefestival.org, where the schedule of acts and venues is also located.