Northern Current flows back into town with new sounds

Music festival on Sunday will include dancing, masking

SARANAC LAKE — Music-lovers will put on a mask and their dancing shoes Sunday to head on over to the free Northern Current music festival at Riverside Park.

Northern Current — the spiritual successor to Hobofest — was first held in 2019. It couldn’t happen in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic, but it’s back this year.

“Things got better, and now they’re getting worse again. None of the regulations have changed,” event co-organizer Jess Collier said. “But we are being very conscious of that. We want to make sure that live music is able to continue past this event.”

Organizers are asking people to wear masks, social distance and sanitize when they come out to dance, socialize and take a load off.

Collier said it’s been complicated to plan the event after a year-long break.

“It’s a littler easier to do things now that we have some idea of what we’re doing, but we’re also two years out from our last time, so we’re trying to refresh our memories a lot here,” Collier said.

They’ve planned a shorter day this year — from 1 to 9 p.m., compared to 11:30 a.m. and ending at 10 p.m. in 2019.

A couple of the extra activities from 2019 — the children’s play area, and the craft and activity vendors — won’t happen this year because of the virus.

There will be food vendors, though. Collier said Saranac Lake’s Barley Sandwich will be there and Kate Mountain Farm will be serving up Banh Mi sandwiches.

Collier is obsessed with live music; it’s a big part of her life. In normal times, she said she’s usually traveling to see a show just about every weekend.

Now, she’s helping put on a music festival herself, with a group of fellow music-lovers. She said she’s learned it takes a lot of work.

“I’m used to walking in the doors, having the band come on and dancing,” she said. “There is so much that goes into it before that.”

Their goal is to be diverse, she said. They want to bring out sounds that are not common to hear in Saranac Lake.

Waterhole co-owners Eric Munley and Kiki Sarko helped book the bands, but Collier said they’re not booking bands that are already playing shows at the music venue and bar.

“There are Waterhole bands and then there are bands that haven’t been here before,” Collier said.

She said bringing in eclectic and experimental sounds is a risk worth taking.

The Mallett Brothers Band, from Maine, is an alternative country band putting a modern sound to a classic style. They’re string-heavy and have lyrics that are heartfelt as well as humorous.

Underground System, from Brooklyn, brings a bouncy and afrobeat sound, with hypnotic rhythms and danceable grooves galore.

Folkfaces, from Buffalo, is a fright-train folk band with rapid-fire vocals, driving drums and a stand-up bass player who might stand on his bass.

Paris Monster, from Brooklyn, is made up of two multi-instrumentalists who, with a spread of knobs, dials, strings and drums before them, create an exciting, experimental drum, bass and synth sound.

Giovanina Bucci and Co. is led by the eponymous singer-songwriter from Burlington, whose soulful voice and descriptive stories told through song bring create a personal sound.

Collier said she hopes the event will be a welcome reprieve from a tough year.

“It’s so important to give people this opportunity to get together and celebrate being a part of the community, after such a really hard time that we’ve all been through dealing with COVID,” she said.


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