Hudson Music Fest

Hudson was host to a whole lot of music this past weekend, with the town hosting two separate yet intertwined festivals: the Black Arts & Culture Festival, and the first ever Hudson Music Fest. From gospel to disco, Hudson had it all. Crowds swarmed Warren Street and beyond, and every direction you looked or listened you could find music, beer, dancing, and smiles.

Friday night Club Helsinki was one of the town hotspots with a lively swing dance upstairs, music outside in the newly open courtyard, and music in the club as well. Late that night most people could be found at the Basilica — an old industrial building turned cultural haven that was recently taken over by musician Melissa Auf der Maur — where a dance party was in full momentum, eventually dissolving around 2am.

On Saturday the shenanigans continued, with folk/soul/blues champion Zach Deputy taking the stage at Helsinki where a wild dance party ensued. If dancing isn’t your thing, the Red Dot (which has been known to host its own dance parties) featured a quiet night of conversation with actor Bruce Dern for an admission of $15. Or, if you found yourself a little further up Warren Street you could catch a listen to rock and blues under a tent sponsored by American Glory Barbeque. Then, of course, there was also music at Spotty Dog Books & Ale. As the name suggests it is both a bar and a bookstore, one which is becoming increasingly involved in supporting live music for a cover that is generally only $5. On Saturday, for that price — which, I might mention, is less than the cost of a movie ticket — you got to see not one but two bands. The first was Genghis Complex, a duo of local luminaries Jonathan Talbott on violin and Seamus Maynard on guitar. The band’s set featured startling compositions by Talbott, and the music was simultaneously complex, beautiful, and intense. The second band was Bird Fly Yellow, a hard bop-inspired instrumental jazz band. I got the chance to talk to the musicians after their set and learned that they met at the New England Conservatory of Music (the school actually has one of the oldest collegiate jazz programs), which would account for their tremendous technique and refinement while still maintaining the edginess that bop requires. Like Genghis Complex, Bird Fly Yellow also featured music composed by one of the musicians in the band, that being trumpeter Joe Moffett. His compositions were intriguing and quite sophisticated, and as a musician he had great interplay with trombonist Dan Blacksberg (who also composed one of the songs the band played). Squaring off the quartet of Bird Fly Yellow were Dave Flaherty on drums, who had an easy energy but let it rip on his solos, and Matt Engle on bass, an instrument that provided a warm background for the brass but also occasionally carried its own melody line. Late on Saturday the Basilica once again hosted a dance party, although this time it was still going strong at 2am with crowds continuing to arrive.

I wasn’t in town on Sunday, but things wound down a little with acoustic afternoon sets at several restaurants. In addition, local favorites Yassou Benedict gave an interview and acoustic set on the local radio station WGXC. Later on there was a jazz workshop at the beautiful Hudson Opera House, while elsewhere in the later part of the afternoon you could find gospel, funk, pop, rock, reggae, and a whole lot more.

The list of participating venues totaled 24, with events ranging from $0-25. The network of people and places all working together to create such a spectacular weekend was heart-warming and helped make the event a wonderful success — and the Hudson Music Fest is still in its infancy, so I only see it getting better each year.

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