By Mathiew J. Medeiros
On a hot, sunny Saturday during Rhode Island summer your options for adventure are limitless, but close to 2,000 people chose to hit up the Summit Music Festival in Lippitt Memorial Park. Headlined by the Dirty Dozen Brass Band playing for the first time in recent memory in Rhode Island, the free event was not to be missed.
Hosted by the Summit Neighborhood Association along with Miriam Hospital and the City of Providence, this year’s festival on Aug. 15 benefited the Fresh For All Fund, which supports local farmers and increases access to fresh foods for all. During the day, members of the hospital staff circulated, seeking contributions.
There are probably only a handful of cities that support free live music outdoors along with a beer and wine garden, glorious food and local arts vendors while bringing the entire community together. Clearly Providence is one of them.
The fun all started earlier in the day with the Hope Street Farmer’s Market in the same park. Folks stocked up on fresh food and then picked out a spot to watch and enjoy the music. As the market ended, Extraordinary Rendition Band started playing and marched from the fountain to the front of the stage bringing everyone to their feet to dance.
Around the edges, Matunuck Oyster Bar, Julian’s, FUGO, Acacia Café, Lotus Pepper, Tricycle Ice Cream, Pat’s Pastured, Fancheezical, and Like No Udder were among the prepared-food favorites. To quench the hot-day thirst, there were Revival Brewing, Narragansett Beer, Gnarly Head wines and Yacht Club Soda.
Entertainment for kids included Music For Children RI with bongos, xylophones and other instruments that they could bang on all day without annoying their parents. Those daring enough tried to climb to the top of the mighty Rock Wall. And for those that preferred to stay grounded, The Avenue Concept had a 40-foot Art Wall that everyone could help paint. No festival is complete without face painting and Art on the Spot had that covered. All of these were free.
Once the marching band finished, Torn Shorts, consisting of Josh Grabert and Chris Ardoin blending indie, blues, folk and rock n’ roll, took the stage for an inspirational set.
The crowd was then presented a special treat from neighborhood locals, Brother Henry, made up of Dylan and Ethan Itkin, of Providence, with Henry Lee and Jackson L’Heureux, of Cranston, all young teens, who played two originals and then covered “Loser” by Beck.
The Northampton, Mass., trio And The Kids followed with a blend of guitars, rhythm and vibrant, layered vocals.
Next came singer/songwriter Garrin Benfield, who played his unique mix of country-tinged original folk songs layered with masterful acoustic guitar looping. Then, with SNA President Dean Weinberg on stage, called for a shout of encouragement from the crowd for a mutual friend with a serious illness.
Following that was one of the final performances from The Mighty Good Boys, playing acoustically from in front of the stage.
The highlight of the day was when Dirty Dozen took over and everyone, sunburnt and all, danced to their New Orleans-style jazz. About 400 people jammed the grass below the band to end the day.
What really made the Summit Music Festival so amazing was the sense of community you felt as you walked around. Neighborhood residents and folks from all over came out to enjoy a day of live music, food and spirits. So next year when you consider your plans for a fun-filled weekend, it’s really hard to pass up an event where the best of times will be had.