They be jammin’: Music festival draws hundreds to Stockbridge field in first year

By Dan Colton | Correspondent.

STOCKBRIDGE — The first Valley Jam music festival saw 400 people during the height of celebration.

“People were very active,” said 18-year-old Austin Burrett of Hyde Park. “It had the vibe of a larger festival even though it was smaller size.”

With corporate sponsors including Vermont Soap, the Swiss Farm Inn and Tweed River Tubing, the festival on the Tweed River in Stockbridge carried on throughout the August 21 – 23 weekend. From Friday through Sunday, over two dozen bands performed on two stages.

“We are a new concept created by the owners of Tweed River Tubing,” said Marc Latzky, Valley Jam executive producer. Latzky is a veteran of production, he said, having organized the three-day Pico Mountain Jazz Festival in 1994.

From rock ’n’ roll to funk, from world beats to rap, Valley Jam incorporated all types of music, Latzky said.

Alis Headlam’s world beats band, Limbo Lounge, played Sunday. She stood in the shade of a tent canopy after the performance.

“We just finished,” she said. “It’s awesome. It’s an awesome venue.”

Latzky said the Stockbridge location, owned by Tweed River Tubing, is used by two other music festivals. But the area fell into limbo after its anchoring music festival, the Tweed River Music Festival, moved its location to Waitsfield this year.

As a longtime employee of Tweed River Tubing, Latzky approached the company’s owners and told them he could introduce a new music festival in Tweed River Music Festival’s absence.

“There was a void,” Latzky explained. The owners caught on to the idea.

Joe Smith’s professional sound systems helped fill that void. Owner of Dubtek Productions, Smith said he brought a 30,000-watt sound system to Valley Jam. The system included six 15-inch main speakers and six 18-inch sub woofers that played all weekend, he said.

On Sunday afternoon, the band Squid Parade played instrumental progressive rock on the main stage. By that time, most people were packing up their tents and belongings after a weekend of music and recreation. A fraction of Saturday night’s 400 people remained. A few RVs remained parked in the grassy field — several camping and merchant tents were still standing as the festival’s last day drew to a close.

Festival-goers like Rosie Haas traveled in from out-of-state to check out the Valley Jam’s inaugural weekend.

“The weather was at peak,” said Haas, a Norwalk, Connecticut resident. The favorable conditions led to a free-spirited, camping-conducive environment, she said.

“People were camping out right on site, and I saw them in the woods.”

Haas’s husband, Peter Callas, said he was a 16-year-old at Woodstock in 1969 in New York. He compared Valley Jam to the historic Woodstock gathering.

“It is on the same level playing field, but the multitudes were in the hundreds of thousands [at Woodstock] … Everyone here is experiencing the spirit, the relaxation.”

By 2 p.m. Sunday, Burrett’s bags were packed up and stowed away in his friend’s pickup. It had been a full weekend, he said.

Music wasn’t the only thing that lured him to Valley Jam. The natural surroundings made the festival an especially attractive destination, he said. Between the bags of luggage, a metal rowboat was lashed down to the truck’s bed.

“It’s beautiful water,” Burrett said of the Tweed River. “We’re big fishermen.”

Valley Jam is a celebration of music for people of all ages. Attendees were of every age, Latzky said.

“From young ones to my mom who came,” he said. “She’s 82.”

Producing Valley Jam was a “labor of love,” he said. The event is a go for next year, he said, and suggested the addition of another venue in 2016 following this year’s success.

“When a bunch of bands and agents get together, we’ve unlocked the combination,” he said.