Thirty-seven acts, the most ever, will play the Merident Daffodil Festival this year. Every one of them has some connection to Connecticut—they live here, first formed here, etc. Of those, ten or so are indelibly linked to the festival’s host city of Meriden.
The Meriden Daffodil Festival is the oldest and largest festival of Connecticut original-music bands in the state. You can thank Meriden citizen Rob DeRosa, who books the festival, for turning it into such an extremely valuable and cutting-edge showcase of the current Connecticut scene. DeRosa, who also hosts the Homegrown local-band radio show on WESU 88.1 FM, arranges extraordinarily balanced schedules—established bands and new ones, cover acts and originals, acoustic and electric, ancient and modern, popular and obscure… yet all Connecticut-bred, with a special focus on those who’ve emerged from Meriden. The middle of the state is anything but middle of the road. How many town’s spring-in-the-park festivals turn into major statements on the state’s place in the music universe?
I’m proud to be the first to publicly divulge the names of the bands playing the 2012 Meriden Daffodil Festival. The days and times the bands are playing have yet to be announced. The festival takes plays Saturday, April 28 and Sunday, April 29, in Meriden’s Hubbard Park. The official Daffodil Festival website is here.
Music highlights include Mates of State, the reunited ’70s local lights Saucers, and the popular Barefoot Truth; fresh acts such as the pre-teen act The Foresters and the psychedelicized The Guru; scene stalwarts such as The Manchurians, Ivory Bills, Frank Critelli and Big Fat Combos; earnest downcast singer/songwriters such as Sidewalk Dave, M.T. Bearington and Farewood; and, um, me, playing Velvet Underground covers on my trusty uke. No kidding, Rob DeRosa booked me.
Here, in alphabetical order, are the bands:
Amalgamated Muck: Lauren Agnelli and friends, well-known from the Small Concert series in Chester. Agnelli was a member of the folk combo Washington Squares. Daffodil debut.
Christopher Arnott & His Ukulele. Yours truly. Jazz-age and punk covers on a battered acoustic four-string. My Daffodil debut!
Barefoot Truth (hugely popular straightahead rock five-piece, on the bandshell stage at fireworks time on Friday night)
The Big Fat Combo: Tom Hearn is the master of working-class roots rock with a punk edge.
Bird ‘n Boys: Covers-and-originals quartet, with British vocalist Ellen Sackman being the “bird.” Meriden connection.
Bop Tweedie and The Days: Some recall Bop from 23 Hello back in the ’80s. Others know him from a flurry of recordings he’s done in the past year.
Boxxcutter: Rock cover band. Meriden connection.
Burrito Betty: Rock/crunk experimentalists, with intriguing guitar sounds and sound rappy vocals. Meriden-based. Daffodil debut.
Anne Castellano & The Smoke: The New Londo-based blogger behind “Anne’s Shore & More” on localbandreview.com, and her band. Daffodil debut.
Chico & Friends: Frequent festival entertainers, doing acoustic covers and originals. From Meriden.
Chuck E. Costa: Named Connecticut state troubadour, and the composer of a “Connecticut Sings” anthem about Meriden, performed with some of the town’s middle-school students.
Frank Critelli: A longtime Daffodil favorite, known throughout the music scene as a folksinger, coffeehouse concert host and all-around local-music-lovin’ good guy.
Crosseyed Cat: Accomplished area R&B/rock cover band. Daffodil debut.
The D. Smith Blues Band: One of the area’s reigning blues legends.
Dagwood: Young rockers with a noble lineage: Some of Dagwood members’ dads play in Big Fat Combo and Mold Monkies. Daffodil debut.
The Forresters: Three siblings, all still in grade school, playing blistering pop-punk. Daffodil debut.
The Gonkus Brothers: quirky cover act, doing Irish folk and Grateful Dead and such. Meriden connection.
The Grimm Generation: Hard-working band which dwells in shattered romances and other harsh realities. Distinguished by the scratchy-throated vocals of Carmen Champagne. “Nothing astral going on.”
The Guru: Spacily complex rock quartet with a solid following at the teen clubs. Shouty, worldly and psychedelic. Daffodil debut.
Jennifer Hill & Co: rousing piano poster who writes of darkness, decay and long sentences. Daffodil debut.
The Ivory Bills: The most electric of illustrious singer/songwriter James Velvet’s multiple musical personalities. Velvet of course is the host of the Local Bands radio program on WPLR and the leader of one of the best-known bands in New Haven in the 1990s, The Mocking Birds.
Kelly & Sean: “Soft rock covers.” Meriden connection.
M.T. Bearington: Local indie sensations and Safety Meeting Records signees, built up into a solid band from Matt Thomas’ initial solo musings.
The Manchurians: Venerable Connecticut R&B/rockers fronted by Roger C. Reale (whose songs have been covered by B.B. King and others) and assisted by ubiquitous local guitarist Dean Falcone.
Mates of State:The internationally acclaimed husband/wife indie duo, playing on the intimate The Jeff Crooms Welcome Stage at fireworks time on the Saturday night.
Mark Mirando: Pop songwriter who grew up in Connecticut bar bands and now has worked with Ringo Starr and Kristin Chenoweth. Meriden connection.
The Pedro Valentin Orchestra: Dozen-member-strong Latino orchestra. Daffodil debut, with added Meriden links.
River City Slim & The Zydeco Hogs: Some swamp boogie for the masses. Can’t stay this festival doesn’t cast a wide net.
The Rivergods: New London’s roots originalists.
Riverstreet: Rock cover band known at the Daffodil fest for backing local-boy-mad-Nashville-songwriter Gary Burr. Meriden based.
The Saucers: The legendary Connecticut band that Rocket From the Tombs bassist and Craig Bell put together when he moved to New Haven. The group reunited last year and has made some new recordings. Though Mark Mulcahy was the original drummer, the “new” line-up features another pounder from the vital ‘70s scene, Kerry Miller, plus founding Saucers Craig Bell, Malcolm Marsden and Malcolm Doak. Daffodil debut.
Sidewalk Dave: His website reads “Sidewalk Dave can’t be your friend, and the juxtaposed up-beat mid tempo folk-punk arrangements of the music accompany the reasons why.” Full-bodied folk-rock with groovy keyboards and earnest yowls of frustration. Daffodil debut.
691: Classic rock covers. Meriden connected.
String Theorie: “World fusion trio” from the Hartford area working out new ideas on guitar. Daffodil debut.
The Swingaholics: Country Swing outfit. Daffodil debut.
The Tropical Hotdog Band: Prog-rock-jazz combo, as you might tell from their Captain Beefheart-derived band name. Daffodil debut, plus a Meriden connection.