Friday, September 29, 2023
Green Woods Roots and Cultural Revival 2020

Photography by Matthew Bourgeois

Green Woods Roots and Cultural Revival 2020

When I saw that my long-time friend Dom was keeping with tradition and throwing the Green Woods Roots and Culture Revival this year, I was immediately excited about the possibility; especially because the world has felt the strain of a virus that has kept us apart as people, and the Greenwoods experience is all about unity and joining together with good vibes, peace and love for all humanity.


I felt that we needed an event like this to help ease the tensions some of us have been dealing with. I knew that the Green Woods team would be taking all necessary measures to assure a safe event. With this in mind, I wanted to show support and make sure that I was there to run with the vibes that are always high at this festival!


When I saw the text message from Dom inviting me to be MC I was floored! It’s an honor to be the host of any event, but this event has particularly high vibes! Overall it attracts such conscious people, who not only perform at the event, but also attend!


I’ll admit that I honestly felt something that I very rarely feel: nervousness. 


Having been a performer enough times in my life, being on stage almost feels like second nature. I’ve played in multiple gigging bands and have been in front of some fairly large crowds. 

Always as the drummer, though. 

Always somewhat hidden behind the front of stage musicians, and my drum set. 

I could just jump on stage and kick out the rhythms without much interaction with people at all.


Confidently telling Dom “Yes”, I would MC the festival, I tabled the excitement and nervousness that I felt over taking on the role. 


I’m glad I did!


This year Green Woods Roots and Culture Revival was an amazing experience to not only be a part of, but to witness! The fact that it was held at what has to be one of the most beautiful venues in Maine, that also happens to be large enough so we could all social distance without feeling like we were too far apart, was perfect.


The music, though...the MUSIC! It was an absolute pleasure to introduce acts that I hadn’t heard of that blew my mind! There is so much talent in the world, and Maine in particular has an abundance of true raw talent. All of the acts were world class, and the bands from Maine absolutely blew me away!


Penobscot nation representatives, The Burnurwurbskek Singers, kicked off the event with a powerful performance, singing and chanting songs of the first nations while playing their tribal drum. Their songs were a blessing for the festival, and one I will never forget. I have played the 30 second video of their performance that I took at least 10 times for my sons, and many other times for friends.


Later in the evening on day 1 of the festival, other members of the Penobscot nation played in a band that will be etched in my mind forever as well: Justice for the River. Although they were chosen as the headlining act for the first of two day’s proceedings, I had never heard of them before. I had no idea what to expect. 


What I witnessed was a band so tight in their grooves, and so dynamic in their sound, that I was overjoyed watching them! I almost threw my voice out hailing them up to close their set! Justice for the River brought an amazing level of musicianship, with a rhythm section thumping out the foundation for a shared vocal lead.One Penobscot man brought a raw vocal fury reminiscent of ‘Zack De La Rocha meets Eminem on some social justice lyrics’ and consciously magnetized the crowd. 


Justice for the River’s other vocal lead, another Penobscot gentleman, brought style and finesse to his Professor Longhair meets Ray Charles Keyboard playing. When he switched to electric guitar his explosive notes reminded me of Freddie King meets Jimmy Page at a Jazz club. Plus, as band leader, his overall stage presence and stylistic attire was so fucking cool. If you ever, EVER, get the chance to see Justice For the River play, just drop whatever you are doing and go. 


These first nights acts sandwiched crucial DJ skills by the man Satta Sound--featuring vocal talent Prince Negasi--as well as the silky smooth reggae vocal stylings of Greg Roy, who brought the fire! Local Maine band The Midnight Ramblers, led by audiophile Will Neils, also brought the house down with their well written songs! They were joined by Mallet Brothers Band fiddler extraordinaire Andrew Martelle, who added folk-rock flourish to The Midnight Ramblers brand of “Dr. John/Louisiana Blues Rock’.  


Day 2 of the festival was more heavy on the reggae and dub. The crowd filled out a little--though social distancing was still practiced--to see acts that have reached more of a national and international level. The grounds at Thomas Point Beach were spaced out for parking, with enough room for people to put a blanket down and sit outside their vehicles. This ‘Drive-in concert’ was well thought out. I really got a sense on day 2 of how effective it was going to be. The social distancing requirements were easy to adhere to with larger grounds, yet there was a feeling of togetherness as the crowd was all on one field. The message of unity at the heart of Greenwoods Roots and Culture Revival was alive and well, even with the current social mandates. 


Kicking off the vibes for Day 2 was The Van Gordon Martin Band, comprised of members of Dub Apocalypse. They laid a solid foundation for their guitarist (and band namesake) Van’s incendiary electric inflections. 


Next was Roots, Rhythm & Dub who had a great summer sunshine reggae sound. As the light of the afternoon was changing towards evening, their bubbling sound provided a sweet soundtrack as I enjoyed some CBD smokable flower while talking to my friend, Farmer Wan, who came to check out the event.


After Roots, Rhythm & Dub’s set, the Green Woods audience had the opportunity to witness the R&B/Hip-hop debut of local vocalist Sydney, who was backed by Green Lion Crew’s high grade sound. Sydney brought her well crafted vocal stylings to original songs, and it was clear that she has a nice road ahead of her as a vocalist. 


New Fame, the world traveling ladies of hip hop and r&b, jumped on stage after Sydney, lighting the place up with some seriously high vibes! Their hype was real! These gals worked the crowd like seasoned veterans to the stage. They brought the house down and set the tone for the rest of a special evening]. Local top ranking sound system, Green Lion Crew and Zuggu Dan (with his first singing performance in the US), crushed it with roots riddim stylings that increased the sweet smell of ganja from the crowd. Zuggu Dan is a true bushmaster! 


Night had fallen during Green Lion Crew’s set. In the darkness, the headliner and closing act of the Green Woods Roots and Culture Revival took the stage. After the evening's lead up of great performances, I walked on stage and introduced Dub Apocalypse featuring Dela from Slightly Stoopid to the stage and watched from the wings as they brought the complete musical package. They pulled out all the stops and left it all onstage for the audience. Dela’s saxophone was an exceptional addition to this band.  What an absolute scorcher of an act! Dub Apocalypse has a world class rhythm section, and this six piece even brought Zuggu Dan back on stage during their set, to drop a couple songs worthy of dancehall stylings for the grateful crowd. Consummate Professionals, it was a perfect set to close what felt like the perfect event to be at. 


In this time of social distancing, fear, and separation in society, Green Woods was a breath of fresh air for so many people in attendance. It was put together and thought out so well that everyone I saw at Thomas Point Beach was able to have the time that they wanted with the space that they felt they needed. People could adhere to the state and federal covid mandates. People could dance, and enjoy the herb under the summer night sky, with perfect weather, at the perfect venue. The music soothed us, and all the smiling faces reminded me of the truth in Bob Marley’s lyrics: “One good thing about music, when it hits you feel no pain”.