The Clearwater Festival took a year off in 2016 to deal with some “financial and leadership issues,” the euphemisms go; but this exemplary music festival with the larger social agenda is back in 2017 and armed for bear. Always misperceived as primarily a doctrinal folk and bluegrass festival because of its tight association with the late and legendary Peter Seeger, Clearwater hasn’t actually fit that particular description for many years. It is, in fact, one of the most inclusively curated and globally sourced festivals anywhere. It is also completely unintimidated by drums and guitar amplifiers.
I love this year’s lineup. You’ve got genre-defying rock royalty in Richard Thompson and Los Lobos. You’ve got a generational craftsman and a New Wave icon in Nick Lowe. Next-gen progressive folksters such as Lake Street Dive, Josh Ritter and Alejandro Escoveda abound. The old masters are vibrantly represented, from Arlo Guthrie, Tom Chapin, Tom Paxton and David Amram to the great rural blues heir Josh White, Jr. The local resident professional scene – Larry Campbell and Theresa Williams, Jay Ungar & Molly Mason – speak to the Clearwater’s sense of the deus loci.
As in other years, the Clearwater lineup is impossibly deep. You really have to go the website to grasp the scope of it. And of course, this has always been one of the least hedonistic and most goal-oriented of all festivals as well, so the non-music and family-friendly offerings are abundant. Ticketing and camping packages are as complicated as they need to be.
Clearwater goes down at Croton Point Park in Croton-on-Hudson on Saturday and Sunday, June 17 and 18. For tickets and complete information, visit www.clearwaterfestival.org.