Northlands Festival 2024 Recap: Best Things We Saw

Northlands Festival 2024 Recap: Best Things We Saw

In the mountains of southern New Hampshire, mandolin virtuoso Sierra Hull weaved through a cover of Tears for Fears’ melancholic tune “Mad World,” a crowd of thousands at the Northlands festival captivated by her songbird voice: “And I find it kind of funny, I find it kind of sad, the dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had…”

“Particularly today, in the world we’re living in, it feels very relevant,” Hull tells Rolling Stone backstage about the 1982 melody. “We live in such a weird world, where we don’t know what’s real and what’s fake, and there’s just something so real about seeing people standing up there playing acoustic instruments.”

In its third installment, Northlands showcased marquee names in the rock/jam realms — Goose, Greensky Bluegrass, Andy Frasco & the U.N., Big Something, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, and Eric Krasno & Friends.

“I experienced jam music at a formative age and had such a perception-altering experience watching a band choose their own adventure, and feeling like a true participant in the crowd,” says Pigeons guitarist Greg Ormont. “So, to pay that forward to the next wave of music fans is surreal.”

The gathering also featured up-and-coming acts like Kanika Moore, Cool Cool Cool, and Super Sonic Shorties.

“The songs that I’m singing? I know the story and I can tell the story,” says Moore, whose mesmerizing, powerhouse vocals echoed throughout Northlands as its artist-at-large. “I don’t tuck my mood down. Whatever mood I’m in, that’s how I’m telling the story.”

Set at the Cheshire Fairgrounds on the edge of the small town of Swanzey, Northlands emerged from the drive-in concerts that became popular during the pandemic. In just a few years, the festival has established itself as a jam-band bastion at a time when many similar events have disappeared nationwide.

“It’s all about the love,” says Northlands co-founder Jen Meyerhardt. “That feeling of community, where you’re with your friends and making new friends, and everyone is watching magic happen onstage.”

Here’s the best things we saw.

Goose debut a new drummer.
With its new drummer, Cotter Ellis, behind the kit and a renewed sense of self, Goose ripped through a slot on the Mountain Stage. Amid its whirlwind concoction of intricate, improvisational savvy jams and soaring tones from lead singer/guitarist Rick Mitarotonda, a galvanizing cover of the Who’s “Eminence Front” bubbled up to the surface midway through the second set.

“There’s a lot of language that gets built over time in a band, and with playing with Cotter out of the gate, there was a ton of connection,” Mitarotonda says. “It was very clear from the get-go that it was a whole new thing — the runway feels kind of limitless.”

As the band itself is seemingly the heir apparent torchbearers of the jam scene, Goose was coming in red hot to Northlands after a recent gig at the Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre in Colorado, an audience of thousands in attendance.

“It’s been mind-blowing,” Ellis adds. “Especially with a big crowd like [Fiddler’s Green], it’s something I thought I would never experience.”

The Connecticut group is headlong into its summer tour, which also coincides with its 10th anniversary — a period of time where the ensemble went from relative obscurity and grassroots growth to now selling out massive venues coast-to-coast.

“Why you’re creative, why you create, it’s just like any other relationship — life will happen and it’s easy to stray from the original reason you did it,” Mitarotonda says. “Part of what’s going on right now is returning to the reasons why we’re doing it.”

Andy Frasco & the U.N. bring chaos the mountains.
Whether it’s jumping into the audience and sparking a mosh pit, smashing up his gear or spewing whiskey onto his bass player, the most volatile, eye-opening set belonged to Andy Frasco. The front man roars across the stage like a Tasmanian devil. As a raw and real performer or merely a completely unique human being, Frasco is in a league of his own.

“I’m just trying to make people happy,” Frasco says with a cigarette dangling from his lips. “Everyone asks me what genre I am. I call it ‘organized chaos.’ I’m not in the jam scene. I’m not the folk scene. I’m just this anomaly that tries to glue everything together, so we can all play in the same playground.”

To witness Frasco live is to observe, and possibly also participate in, a moment of sheer pandemonium. The show veers erratically from rock to punk to country and back again, with Frasco’s mashup of Eddie Rabbit’s “Drivin’ My Life Away” and Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” a prime example of his artistic risk-taking.

“You don’t know how much time you have on this earth. The importance of living life to the fullest and doing what you love is what keeps us in the moment,” Frasco says. “And the moment is being alive. If we can appreciate being alive, then maybe we could appreciate happiness for what it is and not just this idea.”

Eric Krasno & Friends honor Dickey.
Paying homage to late Allman Brothers Band guitarist Dickey Betts, who died in April, six-string ace Eric Krasno offered up a touching rendition of “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.” Krasno dueled it out with former Twiddle guitarist Mihali under a fading sun on the Echo Stage.

“[Dickey] was super creative. He blended southern rock and soul with jazz,” Krasno says. “And he studied all sorts of players, from acoustic flatpicking to bluegrass to straight up Albert King Blues and then delved into jazz — I was trying to do the same thing coming up.”

Throughout the tribute, Krasno invited a slew of friends onstage to join in, including Greensky Bluegrass mandolinist Paul Hoffman for a rambling take on the Robert Hunter/Jerry Garcia number “Deal.” Closing the set, Krasno brought up Moore and Frasco to tear into Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire.”

Annie in the Water surface in the campground.
At its core, Northlands aims to uplift those smaller jam outfits grinding it out around New England and the greater northeast — Dopapod, Hayley Jane, Jatoba, and Annie in the Water.


One of the first acts to perform at Northlands, Annie in the Water led the charge on the Switchback Camp Stage, the small, cozy platform surrounded by a sea of tents, RVs and vendor booths. A heady mix of rock, indie-folk, and soul elements, the Saratoga, New York, band wowed the masses, with many in the crowd laying eyes and ears on the sextet for the first time.

“We’re doing pretty much everything on our own to make it in this industry, so it was a big dice roll for the festival to give us this slot,” guitarist Michael Lashomb says. “But once everyone starts coming in and everything’s clicking, the train’s moving and everyone’s part of it, it’s overwhelming.”

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