The inaugural Northlands Music & Arts Festival took place over the weekend in Swanzey, NH. The first-year fest at the site of the Northlands outdoor concert venue featured performances from Joe Russo’s Almost DeadTwiddleLotus, and many more over two days.

The successful outing of the Northlands Festival was the latest development in the continuing story arc for the Swanzey venue. What began as a Drive-In Live became a symbol of the music industry’s resilience during the socially-distanced concert era. The New Hampshire natural amphitheater was among the first venues in the country to put on a consistent stream of live events at a time when many were just trying to stay afloat.

As the safety precautions surrounding live music continued to lift throughout summer 2021, Drive-In Live began staging pod concerts as Northlands in July 2021. One year later, the venue has made a complete evolution and now hosts conventionally-seated concerts and made its festival debut this past weekend.

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Many of the acts who appeared at Northlands Music & Arts Festival were already familiar with the grounds. Bassist Rob Derhak and drummer Vinnie Amico of moe. performed the first-ever pod concert at Northlands on July 3rd, 2021 and also helped get the festival going on Friday with their band Blue Star Radiation featuring guitarist Tim Palmieri (Lotus) and keyboardist Nate Wilson (Percy Hill), who performed following an opening set from Dogs In A Pile.

Friday also saw sets from DopapodLettuceLotus, and a headlining show from Joe Russo’s Almost Dead. The performance from the marquee Grateful Dead tribute act featured a pair of substitutions with Erik Deutsch pinch-hitting for keyboardist Marco Benevento and Jon Shaw taking the place of bassist Dave Dreiwitz.

Saturday was anchored by Drive-In Live veteran Twiddle, one of the first acts to perform at the venue back in September 2020. The second and final day of Northlands also witnessed sets from Yonder Mountain String Bandlespecial, Drive-In Live alumnus Pink Talking Fish, and more performing on the alternating Echo Stage and Mountain Stages with no overlapping sets. Melvin Seals also delivered a special Grateful Revue set with help from guitarist John Kadlecik, drummer Vinnie Amico, trumpeter/vocalist Jennifer Hartswick, bassist Reed Mathis, and pedal steel guitarist Roosevelt Collier.

Check out a gallery of images from the first Northlands Music & Arts Festival courtesy of photographer Kevin Cole. Full-show videos of Lotus, Dogs In A Pile, lespecial, Lettuce, and Twiddle are available thanks to mk devo and Beats & Streams.

Lotus – Swanzey, NH – 6/24/22 – Full Set

Dogs In A Pile – Swanzey, NH – 6/24/22 – Full Set

Lettuce – Swanzey, NH – 6/24/22 – Full Set

lespecial – Swanzey, NH – 6/24/22 – Full Set

Twiddle – Swanzey, NH – 6/24/22 – Full Set

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