‘Life is good’ music festival a success
Published: Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 03:09
Perhaps one of the greatest attributes of any live show is the powerful, vibrant intensity of a performance that simply cannot be captured within the confines of a studio album. On that front, Thao & The Get Down Stay Down surely delivered during this year’s “Life is good” festival.
Now in its fourth year, the two-day event, which takes place on Prowse Farm in Canton, Mass., features a variety of events for families and hosts a range of indie and mainstream musicians spanning folk, rock and soul genres. Thousands of attendees and two stages transformed the typically quiet, picturesque farm into a vibrant concert venue. Proceeds from the festival benefitted the Life is good Kids Foundation, a charity organization dedicated to helping children in need. This year, the festival successfully raised over $1 million for the foundation.
Playing a Saturday afternoon set on the festival’s Positive Purpose stage, the San Francisco-based band Thao & The Get Down Stay Down perfectly captured the Life is good Kids Foundation’s motto of “good vibes” with an energetic performance that quickly attracted the attention of concert-goers. Wearing a hot pink dress and cowboy boots, frontwoman Thao Nguyen embodied the indie band’s unique sound: hard and soft, a blend of folk and pop with a raw, unrestrained edge.
Despite there being just a small crowd at the beginning of the show, Nguyen dove into the band’s opening song, “Body,” with an impassioned performance, setting a high bar for the remainder of the band’s set. The band soon transitioned to “Holy Roller,” a track from its latest album, “We The Common.” Plucking the banjo, Nguyen showcased her instrumental abilities, while her distinct, soulful vocals brought the folk-rock number to life. On songs such as “When We Swam,” the band demonstrated its knack for developing irresistibly catchy pop melodies, while during “Beat (Health, Life and Fire),” Nguyen captivated the audience with her intense, emotional voice.
As the set continued, people of all ages gravitated towards the stage to catch a glimpse of the mesmerizing and vigorous performance. Despite being a relatively little-known indie band in comparison to some of the festival’s more popular headliners like The Roots and Hall & Oates, Thao & The Get Down Stay Down still managed to capture the attention of many spectators who were probably hearing them for the first time.
Throughout the band’s 45-minute set, Thao & The Get Down Stay Down never lost steam. Seamlessly transitioning from playing the guitar to the banjo to the mandolin and even to the drums, Nguyen tackled each song with a fearless vitality, withholding nothing from the unforgettable show. At one point, Nguyen even strummed a guitar placed on a keyboard stand, further highlighting the group’s creative and inventive spirit.
Nguyen pulled out her banjo once more for the band’s closing song, “We the Common (For Valerie Bolden).” The folksy number, influenced by Nguyen’s work with the California Coalition for Women’s Prisoners, is a cry for social justice and a fitting end to the band’s set. Nguyen invited the audience to join in with the song’s wordless chorus, a melody preceded by the line “Oh, how we the common must cry.” At that moment, the audience — the common — did indeed cry out, united by the sounds and rhythms resonating throughout the festival grounds.
A fun, quirky quality defines Thao & The Get Down Stay Down. The performance was bright, explosive and full of life — perfectly suited for the “Life is good festival.” And during their performance, we, the common, truly felt alive.