Is Rubblebucket’s Dream Picnic the Indie Coachella?

Hunter Savery ’20

A&E Editor

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending Rubblebucket’s Dream Picnic in fabulous Holyoke, Massachusetts. I must admit that this festival was not the reason that I had initially decided to cross the border and that festivals as unabashedly indie as this are not usually where I spend my time, though the genre is a mainstay of both my Spotify playlists and weekly radio show. Knowing that we would be in the area some friends and I decided the Dream Picnic was worth the visit. The festival, now in its third installment, was hosted and headlined by veteran indie rockers, Rubblebucket. The lineup would have baffled most people, but as a highly casual follower of the indie scene, I knew at least three of the performers in passing. The big name at this year’s Dream Picnic was Portland, Oregon’s own STRFKR, an impressive group best known for their song “Rawnald Gregory Erickson the Second,” which is recognizable when heard, but the name has not lodged itself in the collective unconscious for good reason. The festival was a strange collection of vibes, far more chill and orderly than GovBall or Boston Calling, I’d say the average age was 25, though there was truly a remarkable age range present.

Overall, the festival felt like a pleasant fever dream or one of those scenes in Twin Peaks where people are kind of talking backwards.

There were only three performers my friends and I had any genuine interest in seeing: Sid- ney Gish, Guerrilla Toss, and STRFKR. These were three substantially different acts and I’ll describe them in greater detail later. Arriving in the late afternoon, the heat was sweltering. New England must have cut a deal with Mother Nature and that groundhog in Pennsylvania to stave off fall indefinitely and the results were less than ideal. On the bright side, the Dream Picnic, which occupied a few blocks along repurposed facto- ries along a canal, was serving sangria and craft beer.

Shaded by my the requisite festival-going bucket hat and sipping on sangria I settled in for Sidney Gish’s performance. Gish, a student at Northeastern University, gave a solo performance that was distinctly chill. She performed the top tracks from her 2017 album “No Dogs Allowed” including “Sin Triangle,” “Sophisticated Space,” and “Impostor Syndrome,” in which she muses that she’s grossly under-qualified to be a human and grossly over-qualified to be a dog. And I’m sure we can all relate to that. The festi- val grounds were separat- ed into three areas Outer Space, Inner Space, and the Be Here Now Village. Outer Space represented the main stage where the festival’s headliners performed, while Inner Space featured some of the more avant-garde, which is really saying something at this festival. The Be Here Now Village was on another planet with classical guitarists and a meditative air. I spent most of my time outside but while visiting Inner Space I did enjoy the thumping apocalyptical sound of Home Body, a synth duo that seemed to have escaped from a dystopian future and headed straight for the Pioneer Valley.

Another exciting act was Guerrilla Toss, a Brooklyn band described by local radio host and music critic Fiona McElroy ’20 as the B-52’s if they were from outer space and here to conquer. There was indeed a strange resemblance between the Guerrilla Toss lead singer Kassie Carlson and the B-52’s Kate Pierson underneath the layers of otherworldly synth. I couldn’t make out a single word of what Carlson was singing, but the vibe was outstanding and the band was masterful in their intergalactic groove. The biggest name on the list and the band that I had the most interest in seeing was STRFKR. At the risk of overdoing the astro analogies, STRFKR is what Phoenix would be like if they formed aboard the International Space Station instead of France.

STRFKR was in peak form playing all of their hits from the aforementioned “Rawnald Gregory Erickson the Second” to “Kahlil Gibran,” “While I’m Alive,” and even a cover of Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” STRFKR played beautifully, but the real stars were the three danc- ing astronauts that stole the show. This space force even had dazzling techni- color lights pulsing in co- ordination with the music built into their suits. The performance represents the most successful example of crowd-surfing by an astronaut since Buzz Aldrin went to Woodstock. We left before Rubblebucket took the stage, so I cannot comment on the qual- ity of their performance, but they certainly know how to organize a festival.

Rubblebucket’s Dream Picnic was a refreshing change of pace from the usual festival scene. While price of entry was a bit steep for an indie festival in Holyoke, the genuine talent and novelty of the performances made the Dream Picnic well worth the cost of admission. The festival represented the best of the indie scene and at least 35% of Marianne Williamson’s campaign donors. If you find yourself in the area next year I highly recommend making the trip and I’m looking forward to seeing the lineup for the fourth Dream Picnic.