A new festival named for an old hermit is coming to Long Lake this weekend, highlighted by some things that aren't exactly normal in the Adirondacks: psychedelic power pop and robots.
The late "mayor" of Cold River, Noah John Rondeau, lends his name to RondeauFest, the Grip Weeds and the Dark Marbles will bring the '60s-style psych-rock, and Clarkson University and the North Country Children's Museum (a Potsdam-based proposal predicting a fall 2015 opening) will bring Robot Zone.
"Robot demonstrations, Lego robots, remote controllers, and a robot that shoots basketballs" is the description given by the Long Lake town events website.
Kristin Pinell and Kurt Reil of the Grip Weeds pose July 29 at the Summer Ski Jam in Saranac Lake.
(Enterprise photo — Peter Crowley)
"I'm super-pumped about that," town Events Coordinator Danielle Gagnier said.
Exciting as the 'bots may be, Rondeaufest is mainly a music festival. Therefore, Robot Zone, horseshoes, ladder ball and giant bubbles provide something for kids to do while their parents enjoy the tunes.
Of the seven bands on the lineup, four are full-time local: The Dark Marbles, Fat River Kings and trio of Jamie Sutliff, Barry Gregson and Michele Roussel are from Long Lake, and the Blind Owl Band lives in Saranac Lake. Two are visitors: Jeff Umbehauer and the 4i Band. The Grip Weeds, meanwhile, are hybrids. Half of this New Jersey quartet, married couple Kurt Reil and Kristin Pinell, has a second home near Saranac Inn.
"It's a family band," Reil says; he plays drums and is the lead singer, his brother Rick plays guitar and sings, and Pinell plays lead guitar. They're now on their eighth bass player, Dave DeSantis.
The Grip Weeds are the most accomplished group on the RondeauFest lineup. Since the early 1990s they've toured North America and Europe and released five studio albums of original music, plus a warped Christmas album, a new live one and a best-of compiled by Little Steven Van Zandt, a member of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band who has played the Grip Weeds regularly on his satellite radio show, "Little Steven's Underground Garage." Van Zandt even put out "Infinite Soul: The Best of The Grip Weeds" on his Wicked Cool label.
Fans of the "Nuggets" box sets and Van Zandt's show will probably love both the Grip Weeds and Dark Marbles. It's all inspired by baby-boom American rock bands that were influenced culturally by drugs, "free love" and pre-punk angst, and musically by the British Invasion, folk, improvisational jazz, a crescendo of pop songcraft and a crunchy roar that was leaping out of electric guitar amps everywhere in the late '60s.
If you go ...
Who and When:
Jamie Sutliff, Barry Gregson and Michele Roussel (blues-rock, noon),
Dark Marbles (psychedelic rock, 1 p.m.),
Blind Owl Band (churning bluegrass, 2 p.m.),
Fat River Kings (eclectic roots, 3 p.m.),
Jeff Umbehauer (country-folk, 4 p.m.),
Grip Weeds (psychedelic rock, 5 p.m.),
4i Band (danceable jams, 6 p.m.)
Where: Long Lake Ball Field, 1167 Main St., Long Lake
How much: $15, kids under 12 free. Parking is free but limited, so carpooling is encouraged.
The Grip Weeds and Dark Marbles (first formed in 1987) picked up this style a generation later. They're tighter than most bands of that era, they have hindsight to meld the best and avoid the worst, and they have newer bands to draw from, too: Their jangle sometimes sounds more like R.E.M. than the Byrds, their punchy hooks more like the Smithereens than Tommy James and the Shondells.
So now, yet another generation later, it's appropriate to ask: How does this kind of rock 'n' roll age?
"I think it gets older by performing it," Reil told the Enterprise in a phone interview. "I don't want us to change our sound; I want us to make it more intense. ... It's like climbing a mountain. When you climb a mountain in the Adirondacks, you get to the summit and you're like, 'Oh my God, there's another one right next to it.' You see this unbelieveable view of where you can go from there. ... I haven't seen an end to what we're doing in music yet.
"There's something in that music that's very strong and powerful in a very simple way, and I think that's what's attractive about it.
"Psychedelic music, for instance - you can look at it as a drug music, or you can look at it as a very spiritual music ... kind of thought-provoking music that doesn't take drugs to get to that place."
He and Pinell discovered the Adirondacks in the '90s while going north to Montreal for a show and returned here on camping trips for a decade or so after that until they bought their house in 2005.
They've set up a recording studio there (they run and live above a bigger one in Highland Park, N.J., called the House of Vibes), and now they finally have a Grip Weeds gig up this way, thanks to Dark Marbles frontman Paul Roalsvig and his wife Alexandra, who is a lead organizer of RondeauFest.
Reil doesn't think it will be a bit awkward sharing the stage with bluegrass bands and playing for families with little kids.
"There's nothing that needs a parental advisory; that's for sure," he said. "It's stuff you're gong to hear on Adirondack radio anyway as far as classic rock. Every time I turn on Saturday morning radio up there, it's classic rock, and that's kind of our starting point."