Musikfest, Day 5: Mosey Beat, Zaire Acoustic Trio, The HillBenders, and Wesli

By the time Tuesday evening hit, there was not a cloud in the sky anywhere near downtown Bethlehem. After a late night on Monday night (we closed out Plaza Trop, after all), Tuesday was a nice, easy day; one where it was important to take my time in my travels through Musikfest.

This gave me the opportunity to sit back and really listen to a few of the day’s performers, starting with a local jam band that I had heard good things about, The Mosey Beat. Those good things I heard were entirely well-reasoned.

The quartet, based in nearby Alpha, NJ, showcased fluid musicianship and improvisational prowess, with bassist Dave Abraham estimating that approximately 75% of their live performances are made up on the fly. To the listener, however, everything seems well-rehearsed, making this groovy foursome even more impressive.

I then proceeded downward, now with my 7-year old niece Amber in tow, from the Provident Bank Main Street Stage to Hotel Bethlehem Platz. That was where the Zaire Acoustic Trio, also hailing from the Phillipsburg area, was in the midst of a set of classic rock standards.

Then, it was on to Volksplatz, where I had a date with The HillBenders. I had looked forward to seeing this Springfield, MO-based bluegrass quintet since talking to guitarist Jim Rea in advance of the festival. For obvious reasons (Monday night’s showcase), I couldn’t make the band’s re-imagining of The Who’s “Tommy” at Americaplatz on Monday night, but I made a point to check out their original set on Tuesday.

I, and many others, were blown away. The HillBenders’ brand of high-energy, progressive bluegrass is marked by versatile songwriting, an electrifying stage performance and, not to be understated, powerhouse vocals. And, even though I missed the “Tommy” show on Monday night, they still treated us to a couple of selections from the project in between their originals. In particular, their rendition of “Pinball Wizard” got a well-deserved, mid-set standing ovation.

As night had begun to fall, Amber (who was a great sport and so well-behaved while I ran around and took photos) and I went over to meet my brother back at Plaza Tropical, where Haitan-born, Montreal-based Wesli was in the midst of putting on an Afro-roots reggae dance party. This show was amped up, as the multi-instrumentalist and singer kept people moving to the rhythms of Caribbean-influenced music and strong positive vibes. In my personal opinion, I would love to see Wesli back on a Saturday night. I think the strength and energy of his performance alone would draw people in and pack a tent, until it couldn’t be packed anymore. If you missed him last night, you should absolutely check him out tonight over at Volksplatz.


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