‘Tis the festival season. NoTown Music Festival in Stockbridge is back for its third year. This do-not-miss fun fest happens July 27-29. If you bought a VIP ticket, then you get early admission on Thursday, July 26. Camping is included with a festival weekend pass, which includes all shows and activities. The camp-style kids’ programming was specifically designed so parents can watch the music while their kids play. With plenty of grass to spread out on and the nearby river to cool off in, NoTown Music Festival is the quintessential summer music festival for the entire family. It is put on by Stockbridge residents Matt and Chris Lillie. I had the pleasure of speaking with Chris to learn more about NoTown.
I have not been able to attend this festival in prior years, but you’ll definitely see me this year as there are so many acts I’m looking forward to seeing. Many of my friends and past article interviewees are on the ticket, like Hamjob, Rick Redington and The Luv, Krishna Guthrie Band, Super Stash Bros, Bow Thayer, Miss Guided Angels and last but certainly not least, Nathan Byrne, who played at the Outback in Killington on Sundays this past season. There are plenty more acts and Chris Lillie talked about them and how this all came about.
Chris and her husband Matt used to do production for the Tweed Fest that happened on the same site for a few years (last held in 2013). Chris said, “When the Tweed broke up, we thought now is the time to do a festival in our hometown. It’s only a mile-and-a-half from our house. The first year we just did it for fun: local people, friends and family. The second year, we had about 800 attend and this year we expect about 1,500. I keep it smaller than some festivals because I want it to be fun for me and I want families to be able to come.” There are many activities for families like the Art Bus and camp-style activities. Kids can paint, draw, make pet rocks, and play giant checkers. There’s even yoga for kids.
And if you’re a music fan, this festival’s for you. It’s not a big festival, but it’s a great place to chill out, listen to good tunes and cool off in the Tweed River. Chris said, “Everyone on that stage is a friend of mine.” Besides the local bands that they already know, people will suggest bands to them or a band will pop up on social media. Chris said, “I’ll go listen and if I like them, I’ll inquire more. Then we’ll put them up for a group to decide.” The screening process seems like what it is on TV talent shows. Bands go through the screening process with Matt and Chris and if they make it, they move on. Chris added, “It’s about the music, yes, but it’s also about their online presence. I always like bands that are doing new music or a new album. We don’t do this to make money – we do this to promote music.”]
Each night there’s two headlining slots that each do a 90-minute set. Friday is Redington and the Welterweights, and Saturday is Bow Thayer and Hamjob. For the VIPs on Thursday, there’s River Frog and Bow Thayer. Sunday is filled with good music, too. You have Miss Guided Angels, Rick and Hezzie show (Redington and Heather from The Luv) and Mama’s Marmalade. Rounding out the fest are SoulTree, New Nile Orchestra, Jennings & McComber, Seven Leaves, Hudson’s Crew, Choir of Aether, Jake Wildwood, Sisterhood of the Silk Road (Chris said she loves the dancers) and Georgetown, which is George Nostrand doing open mic. That’s another one I’m looking forward to.
Practically every band on the bill is releasing a new album at NoTown, including Bow Thayer, Hamjob, Rick Redington, Welterweights, Mama’s Marmalade and Krishna Guthrie – although his will be released later. It’s hard for Chris to narrow down her favorites since she’s friends with all the bands, but said, “I’m looking forward to Hamjob because I booked them for three years and this will be the only one with the original lineup. Those boys have a cool thing happening. I listen to all these bands on CD in my car – this is the music I listen to. I think the Welterweights are going to kick ass on Friday night. Kelly Ravin’s guitar sound is one of the sweetest things I’ve ever heard. Rick’s music is always changing and now he’s kind of rockin’ it out. Bow is bringing back some of his old band, so that will be good. I don’t usually put solo acts on the main stage, but I did with Nathan Byrne because he’s a talented kid.”
Photo by Chris Lillie
The stage at NoTown Music Festival features bands that bring the audience to its feet.