If you live in or around Connecticut and you love music, then there is only one place you should be the last weekend in April – The Meriden Daffodil Fest. This year 31 acts will take over three stage the weekend of April 30 and May 1. Every year the Daffodil Fest offers up some of the best and brightest Connecticut has to offer in folk, indie rock, Americana, country, jazz, blues, bluegrass, and a lot more. (Sorry my metal and punk brethren, we usually sit this one out.)
31 acts is a lot to sort through, especially if you are unfamiliar with some (or all) of the acts listed. Plus the one drawback of cramming 31 acts into two days is that the stages often run concurrently, which means tough choices need to be made. So allow The Metal Dad to help guide you through this year’s iteration of the Daffodil Festival. Below you will find five must-see acts from each day of the Festival. Please note that these are not the only acts worth seeing, not by a long shot, and you are encouraged to take in as much music as possible this coming weekend. In fact, you could literally get there when the gates open and stay until the park closes and see killer live music all day long…on both days. But, again, with some great acts playing virtually simultaneously, and limited time for most of us who attend you need to start somewhere…
Saturday, April 30
American Elm (Food Tent Stage – 11:00 am – 12:00 pm)
American Elm is the moniker for singer/songwriter Chris Bousquet. Last year he released his exceptional Into The Light Within album, which continued to set Bousquet apart from a crowded field of very talented singer/songwriters in CT. Channeling Leonard Cohen and Nick Drake and mashing it up with a country aesthetic, American Elm is the perfect way to kick off a Springtime Saturday morning.
The Meadows Brothers (Welcome Stage – 1:00-1:45 pm)
One of the best Americana acts around graces the Welcome Stage on Saturday afternoon. Blending folk and country with a blues edge, the brothers Meadows pack a powerful punch for being just two dudes armed with only a couple acoustic guitars and a harmonica. But their harmonies are the type of stuff only siblings can usually muster and their songs smack of souls much older than their earthly years would let on. A must see act if there was one at all.
Daphne Lee Martin (Welcome Stage – 3:30-4:15)
Your first extremely tough decision of the weekend comes right now as sultry songstress, Daphne Lee Martin, goes up against Hartford’s exceptional funk collective, Broca’s Area. But Martin gets the nod here if only because she’s graduated to spending more time playing out of state than within these days (and yes, that’s a good thing). Martin has spent the last couple years graduating from folksy front woman to the voice of a million sins capitulated to in the seediest of joints. She effortless combines elements of Americana, R&B, funk, jazz, and a lot more into this delicious musical gumbo. Grab a spoon and hold on tight.
Balkun Brothers (Welcome Stage – 6:00-6:45)
Your second extremely tough decision of the day on Saturday happens around dinnertime as the award-winning blues duo, Balkun Brothers, are almost smack up against the eclectic and highly interesting indie rock outfit, Jose Oyola & The Astronauts. But the nod this time around goes to the Balkuns, if only because they are, quite literally, one of the best live act you’ll see coming out of CT in the last decade at least. Winners of a ton of Connecticut Music Awards, and tour veterans these guys have honed their chops on the road, including a trek to Europe last year. Don’t miss out on catching an act that consistently blows the doors off of the competition in every sense of the term.
West End Blend (Welcome Stage – 7:30-8:30)
The recommendation here is simple – end your day dancing. You can’t go wrong with either of the other acts that overlap this set, but as the sun starts to drift towards the horizon the smooth sounds of Hartford’s West End Blend are going to sound so good. Mixing elements of 70s funk and R&B with modern hip-hop, West End Blend give a downright massive live show every time out of the gate.
Sunday, May 1
Frank Critelli (Welcome Stage – 12:15-1:00)
Sunday is a tougher call at this year’s Festival because out of the 13 acts playing, almost every single one of them has a set time overlap with at least one other act. So you’ll have to get a little creative. Quick story about Frank Critelli: I booked Frank for another CT-based festival last summer. His set was fantastic, but the act that was supposed to play right after him got lost and never made it. Without any hesitation Frank offered to just continue playing for another half hour to fill the time. The guy is the consummate professional and showman. I’ve never seen Frank give a bad performance – including the half dozen times I’ve seen him at Daffodil Fest. His uplifting brand of folk is a perfect soundtrack to a Sunday in the park.
Belle of the Fall (Welcome Stage – 1:30-2:15)
You’re going to have to start getting creative here and do some running around, but luckily the stages aren’t that far apart. Emerging from the pairing of singer/songwriter Julia Autumn Ford, and multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriter, producer, Tracy Walton, Belle of the Fall are one of the newest darlings of the CT music scene. Their exceptional debut album, Earthbound, just dropped last month and the sound this act produces truly is the amalgamation of two artistic visions rolled into one. Fans of folksy Americana with a pop sensibility should not hesitate to catch their Daffodil Festival debut.
Seth Adam (Bandshell Stage – 1:45-2:30)
If you’re looking to fill your roots rock fix, then look no further than New Haven’s Seth Adam. Drawing favorable comparisons to acts like Son Volt and Wilco, Adam takes his brand of alt-country on a trip through various shades of rock n’ roll. With songs that cross back and forth between introspective and rollicking, Adam consistently delivers a little something for everyone.
Wise Old Moon (Welcome Stage – 2:45-3:30)
Another act that puts the roots in roots rock, only Wise Old Moon take their brand of Americana to the country. Not afraid to add the lap steel and an extra dose of twang, Wise Old Moon are one of the more country-oriented acts on this year’s Festival. But don’t let the “c” word scare you off. This isn’t some crappy, pop rock with cowboy hats on. No, Wise Old Moon hearken back to a time when country music drew directly from a folk well and artists seethed integrity.
Frank Viele (Welcome Stage – 4:00-4:45)
Equal parts soul and rock, Frank Viele is a musical chameleon. From funk to country to R&B, Viele can take and mold just about any genre into his own unique brand of accessible, bluesy folk rock. Viele is also an exceptional live performer, injecting shots of keen musicianship and high energy into his stage show. Perfect way to finish off a perfect weekend.
Again, this list a partial one. You are formally encourage to see as many acts as possible this weekend. For your ease, below find the entire schedule.