Summer Camp Spotlight: Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds

Summer Camp Spotlight: Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds

When I went to my first Summer Camp in 2012, I was blown away by the sheer amount of music the weekend had in store. There were so many artists I had never heard of, not to mention a whole scene to learn the ropes of. In any case, as my brain began to wrap around the concept, I started to check out some of the smaller bands, since that’s where you tend to find the gems. One band name really stuck with me and instantly made me curious about their sound: Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds. I thought to myself “What kind of music could this be?!” My first guess was some sort of acoustic, down-tempo-type situation, breathy vocals, maybe a violin or two. I could not have been further from the truth.

Hailing from the Catskills of upstate New York, Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds sound like they were yanked out of the 70s to bring us their fierce brand of power-funk soul. Frontwoman Arleigh Kincheloe’s vocals range from slinky back-alley seduction to sun-drenched wailing to skin-shredding Joplin-esque howls, while her brother Jackson puts his harmonica through what could be described as “musical acrobatics”. Berklee College of Music graduate Sasha Brown runs all over the place on guitar, while bassist John Myers holds down the rhythm with drummer Dan Boyden, as Phil Rodriguez (trumpet) and Brian Graham (tenor and baritone saxophone) provide the Motown-esque backdrop for some of the most energetic soul music I’ve ever heard.

Anyway, after checking out their album Pound of Dirt, I knew I had to see them at the festival. They played early on Saturday morning (11 a.m. is early at Summer Camp), and I could hear them from where I was sitting in the forest. By the end of the first song, however, I was over in the front row at the Campfire Stage, spellbound by the whirlwind taking place onstage. You could feel their hunger and raw energy, but they never lost themselves and kept the pace going at just the right level of intensity. They were basically a sonic freight train, blazing down the tracks straight for you. It was easily one of the highlights of my first bigger festival.

This will be the first time since 2012 that the group will grace the stage at Three Sisters on Memorial Day weekend, and I could not be more excited. Having followed up Pound of Dirt with an EP, full studio album, and live album in the intervening years, Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds have really honed their sound into a wild maelstrom of funky-yet-precise, loose-yet-hard-hitting soul. Their ceaseless touring and interactivity with their fans has led to spots not only at Summer Camp, but at venues large and small all over the country.

With a cemented reputation as a must-see act on any festival bill, be sure not to miss Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds at Summer Camp 2016 (or their newest album The Weather Below). It’ll be a doozy for sure!

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