Life is good serves up plenty of good vibes

A review of the Life is good Festival at Prowse Farm on September 24 & 25

, Managing Editor

Although the week leading up to 2011’s Life is good Festival was a bit rainy, the weather cooperated and the festival at Prowse Farm in Canton went off without a hitch. There were so many great performances and the schedule was nicely balanced so that fans were able to catch as much music as possible, while also enjoying a plethora of activities, games, art, food and other forms of family fun. Best of all, the festival was a smashing success by raising over $1 million to help kids in need.

There’s nothing better than a weekend of live music for a great cause and once again Life is good served up plenty of good vibes. With that said, here are just some of our favorite moments from the 2011 Life is good Festival:

Set with Most Good Vibes – Michael Franti & Spearhead:
The Life is Good festival is all about spreading good vibes and they build their lineup around artists who do the same, which made this award quite difficult to decide. Michael Franti & Spearhead edged out the beautiful balladry of Ray LaMontagne and The Avett Brothers, the fun-loving soul of Raphael Saadiq, and the quirky joyfulness of Ingrid Michaelson with a set full of high hopes. It’s hard to compete with songs that feature lyrics about love, sunshine, and optimism. Franti warmly capped off his set with “Say Hey (I Love You)” as he invited a chorus of children onstage to join in.

Best Set – The Avett Brothers:
Sure, they had the advantage of an extended set being one of the headliners, but no matter how much time you give these guys they pour everything they have into it. The North Carolina folk rockers thrilled with both energetic toe-tappers and beautiful ballads as well. Much of their set was derived from their latest album, the hugely successful I and Love and You.

Best Set from a Local Group – Ryan Montbleau Band
A tough category as LIG does a great job of supporting local music by including a handful of New England-bred acts. We really enjoyed Jenny Dee & the Deelinquents but we have to go with RMB, who had fans dancing in the sun throughout their short, but sweet set. It was quite enjoyable singing along to “75 and Sunny” while it actually was 75 and sunny. Also props to the local favorite for soldiering on after breaking a string early on in his set and restringing it himself while his band jammed.

Best Planned Collaboration – Brandi Carlile & the Boston Pops
The Levon Helm Band also enjoyed performing part of their set with members of the Boston Pops but it still fell short of the spectacle that was Brandi Carlile with the Pops. The two combined to make songs like Carlile’s “The Story” and Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” even more powerful.

Best Unplanned Collaboration – Raphael Saadiq with Robert Randolph:
It was fun seeing Ray Lamontagne joining the Levon Helm Band for a couple of tunes including The Band’s “The Weight” but Randolph raised an already strong set by Saadiq when he added his pedal steel virtuoso to rousing renditions of “You Should be Here” and “Day Dreams”.

Most Patriotic Moment – Martin Sexton:
This one has to go to Martin Sexton, who opened his set by yodeling the National Anthem. It wasn’t Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock, but it was still fun.

Best Cover Song – “Folsom Prison Blues” by
Brandi Carlile:
This may be the toughest category to decide of all. There were so many covers over the weekend at Life is Good fest and they were all great- Zee Avi doing Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks”, The Avett Brothers doing Dylan’s “Just Like A Woman”, and Robert Randolph doing “Purple Haze” especially come to mind. Still, they couldn’t match the thrilling run through of Johnny Cash’s “Jackson” and “Folsom Prison Blues” by Brandi Carlile. She also ended her set with a beautiful rendition of “Hallelujah” with the Pops that is certainly noteworthy.

Best Adult Hangout – Stub Hub’s New England Sports & Brew Lounge
The lounge was packed on Sunday with the Pats on, while fans from out of town could enjoy their games as well with TVs set up all over the tent. Although the Pats lost, at least there were great local brews on top for fans to drown their sorrows with.

Best Kids Hangout – Instrument Petting Zoo:
This of course would be the best kid’s hangout other than the “Good Kids Stage”. Kids were allowed to create their own sound and be the stars themselves in the “Good Karma” area at the Instrument Petting Zoo. With music education quickly fading within schools it was great to see kids have a chance to get their hands on a musical instrument and see what it has to offer… even if they weren’t keeping in time.

Best Outdoor Games activity – Seed Spitting
The fest had plenty of sports-themed games (football, baseball, soccer, and even bocce) but the competition we enjoyed most was Seed Spitting. It was some great old-fashioned backyard fun that had competitors of all ages lined up all day to get in on the action. In fact, we held our little showdown, which has one BMS member setting the adult record with a perfect score of 200 points.

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