Sirens on the mountain, indeed!
The 2nd annual Sirens on the Mountain festival in beautiful Boone, NC – June 20-21 – was a true celebration of the creativity of female musicians, either solo or in conjunction with male bandmates. I attended the second of the two dates, which is the focus of this review.
There were men and women in the audience (so that my husband felt perfectly comfortable), but the mix was definitely predominantly female. The mood was joyful, and the grounds began to fill up as the day progressed. Some of the early groups, like The Mountain Laurels, Underhill Rose and others who played between noon and 5 p.m. had a smaller but very enthusiastic audience as they provided a a variety of music from Celtic to traditional to alternative. Every act was excellent.
But it was when Rising Appalachia took the stage at 5:00 that things really caught fire. Passionate, dramatic, and uplifting, Rising Appalachia put on one of the best stage shows I have ever seen. Sisters Leah and Chloe Smith use a large contingent of multicultural artists to weave music that is intended to build community and foster social justice. The sound is strongly influenced by Appalachia and by New Orleans. Percussionists Imhotep and Biko Casini provide strong percussion, while the sisters and other musicians play fiddles, banjo and trumpet as the sisters sing and dance. In no time, they had a crowd of women joyously dancing and obeying the sisters’ injunction to forget about gender issues or body issues or anything else but just being and enjoying. There was even an amazing martial artist with the group who provided mesmerizing visual accompaniment to the music.
Other highlights of the show were the amazing Bettye LaVette, who sizzled as she celebrated her 50th year as an entertainer, and Rickie Lee Jones, who performed with no band or backup tracks, just herself, her guitar and piano, and her emotional, incandescent voice. Jones sang her own songs, including,”Chuck E’s in Love,” but she also did outstanding versions of “Sympathy for the Devil” and “The Weight.” She transformed them completely while letting the words shine through more than even on the originals.
The main thing about this festival that made it so special was the free and happy atmosphere of the whole gathering. People smiled and danced and embraced total strangers. There were fire dancers in the crowd and people were lighting and releasing large Chinese lanterns. The vendors were offering jewelry, incense, batik, and homemade soaps and lotions for extremely reasonable prices.
A wonderful woman gave me a very accurate empathic reading for free and others offered massages and acupuncture for free. It was such a giving, loving, accepting festival altogether and it just enveloped everyone in this cloud of happiness that reminded me very much of the early ’70s without the obvious drugs.
Sirens on the Mountain was a resounding success and I hope we can go again next year!
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