It’s no secret: The Rosendale Street Festival is literally the hottest gig of the year. In the past few seasons, showtime temperatures have been sniffing at three digits. The sun is a brutal hammer. A picture of me playing with Ratboy on the Mountain Stage four years ago is the reason I will never gig in shorts again.
But blazing heat and all, the people come, huddling in the shade of beer tents and sidestreets, praying for thunderstorms. The people come so reliably that the festival organizers have to keep reminding us that it’s not an invincible, assured thing, and that we need to keep supporting this free and sprawling, music-centric community festival.
There’s a lot going on at the venerable Street Festival. I only care about music, really. With six stages rocking for two full days, the Festival perforce reflects the diversities of the local scene. But here’s one of the nice perqs of having a scene, which we actually kinda do these days: The curators can still have biases, preferences, some favored styles and temperaments. And they can depart from it in ways that are intentional, not of-necessity. Traditionally, the Street Festival sound is roots, folk and world; jazz, blues and funk; kids’ music early and devilbilly late, courtesy of one of the Street Festival’s flagship acts, the great Pitchfork Militia.
This year’s bottomless list of acts is a real testament to the depth and quality of the local talent pool. There’s the uptown, immaculate funk and soul of Mad Satta. (What crazy-good horn charts that band has; I heard them from several miles away, on New Paltz fireworks night, and was floored, right there on the rail trail). The Old Double E brings the evangelical retro-bluegrass and folk. Earl Lundy’s other project, the possessed heavy funk group Voodelic that he co-fronts with our hero Ross Rice, will be closing the festival in what they are calling one of their final performances. The Compact mostly works the other side of the river; Erin Hobson’s deceptively easygoing songs and articulate, jazz-grade guitarwork are always worth the trip.
Kevin Sharp will tread two stages: one with the brilliant, long-running heavy punk outfit Tiger Piss and once with his own Red Nekromancer, a self-described country metal project (“Death to false country metal!”). Paul McMahon is the least-predictable folkie ever, because he’s not a folkie. Joey Eppard, solo, is so intensely talented that it is kind of hard to watch. An appearance by the storied nightmare surf band Purple K’nif means that there’s actually a chance that John Lefsky will show this year. And there stand Los Doggies, the wildly imaginative heavy prog comedians and scholars who are the outsiders on every bill.
Between Dylan Doyle, Myles Mancuso and elder statesmen Murali Coryell and Big Sister, the blues guitars are in the ablest hands. Reminding us that this is a festival run by serious musicians are the Street Fest All-Stars, with heavies like Ross Rice, Jimmy Eppard, Charlie Knicely and Carrie Wykoff, several of whom run this great old thing.
Rosendale Street Festival, Saturday/Sunday, July 19-20; free (but with a suggested donation of $5). Shuttles run from parking areas at the Bloomington Firehouse, Tillson School, Brookside School, Rondout Municipal Center and Iron Mountain Kiln lot on Binnewater Road. For more information, call (845) 943-6497 or visit https://rosendalestreetfestival.org.