As things go‚ Lift Festival in Enfield‚ NH took the cake for surprise northeast festivals going down this spring thus far. With the sudden and unexpected cancellation of the much-hyped SnowMont that was set for Killington‚ VT‚ the pressure all of the sudden turned to Lift to see what kind of atmosphere a snow/music based festival could provide during VT/NH's notorious mud-season. Once the mud settled‚ Lift definitely did not disappoint.
Upon early arrival on Friday afternoon‚ the mood was a bit anxious as the staff started to man their stations under some light rain and wait to see how the first day's turnout would substantiate. Most early-comers scoped the well-constructed scene of vendors and legit stage set-up constructed just alongside the base lodge‚ with major thruway I-89 hovering unbelievably close to all of the action. Some of those on the early train laced up the boots and made their way onto Whaleback's only double-chair for some "adventurous" slush turns which proved to be quite fun. Anyone living in NH or VT this winter can certainly imagine that the mud patches were already front and center‚ but the friendly vibe on the mountain throughout had everyone smiling regardless.
Friday's music scene started to heat up with great sets by Speakerbot and The Indobox. Speakerbot was clearly feeling it all weekend as he mingled night and day with anyone who came his way. It was an interesting vibe both days as the crowds filed in later in the day than expected‚ perhaps due to the lacking snow conditions‚ but once things filled up‚ the scene took off. Friday's lineup reached fist-pumping status once Orchard Lounge took the stage and the venue quickly packed in. There was also a solid vibe behind Jeff Bujak. Originally scheduled to perform during the Conspirator set break‚ Bujak came out early and churned out a solid set prior to the night 1 headliner taking the stage. Who knows if Brownie (bassist Marc Brownstein) and co. rolled in a bit late or just decided they wanted to throw down a massive set‚ but once they took the stage Lift definitely took off and raged it for the remainder of the night with lazers and rocking riffs abound‚ including a dirty‚ lengthy "Orch Theme" teaser‚ leaving a tough act to follow for Saturday's crew.
Saturday's action picked up earlier in the day‚ starting off with the McLovins. For those who have not caught the (now) quartet recently‚ they are giving off a discernibly different vibe‚ with a duo of guitarists (Justin Berger and Atticus Kelly) replacing prodigal founding member Jeff Howard (essentially the namesake) who decided to leave for academic pursuits. The group came across as more soulful to a degree‚ featuring a mellower approach than the original trio and cutting out some of the predictable covers that they had become known for early on. We were fortunate to get to spend a bit of time catching up with drummer Jake Huffman who was enjoying the VIP treatment throughout the day‚ and who was front-and-center and visibly getting into a myriad of other performances throughout the day. He mentioned that the band is excited for the new direction and plans to pick up a more active touring schedule in the near future. Saturday's action continued with DJ Greg D laying down a unique blend of disco/boogie beats as if the youngin grew up in the 70s‚ spinning an array of awesome second-hand records. Like Huffman‚ Greg D was also a mingling menace who seemed to turn up to chat at most every performance throughout the weekend. Later‚ the bangin beats of Lettuce and Break Science fueled the entry of the imminent crowds before the sun went down and things heated up even more once again. The highly-anticipated Paper Diamond took to the stage as the darkness engulfed the stage before showstopper Ghostland Observatory absolutely tore the roof (or lack thereof) off of the place. For those that have not yet caught Ghostland‚ their in-the-face blend of bangin-rock-meets-electro creates a show not-to-be-missed‚ and that's even before you factor in their serious set of lazers‚ which‚ dare I say‚ probably outdo even the Biscuits'. Aaron Behrens proved himself a dominant frontman and their show absolutely RAGES. Simply stated‚ they stole the show‚ hands-down.
One of the best and most appreciated aspects of the weekend was the low-key‚ intimate vibe that was pervasive throughout Enfield's local‚ homespun mountain. The top level of the lodge was transformed into a VIP lounge for intimate performances by some of the weekend's most dedicated performers‚ including Speakerbot and Orchard Lounge. The ensuing scene was an incredibly social and engaged one‚ with great up-and-coming artists all connecting and sharing in the scene.
All-in-all‚ while not the most overcrowded‚ sold-out festival on record‚ Lift proved that by using some creativity and bringing a great crowd of like-minded artists together in a place as off-the-radar as Enfield‚ New Hampshire in March‚ one can absolutely still have an incredible‚ elevated music experience.