Maple House Music + Arts Festival

Words and photos by John Patrick Gatta on June 3, 2022
Maple House Music + Arts Festival

Midway through Lake Street Dive’s hour-long set, lead vocalist Rachel Price joyfully expressed tothe nearly 6,500 in attendance at the inaugural Maple House Music + Arts Festival, “Isn’t this fun? Live music.” 

Everyone understood what she meant. The one-day festival at Hartwood Acres, just outside of Pittsburgh, indicated to music lovers that we may finally be moving beyond the pandemic’s hold of two years and getting back to the jubilant communal rite of outdoor concerts. 

While the demand for vaccine cards and negative tests for entrance have mostly subsided, Maple House presented the next “new normal” of concert life — a constant adaptation to the sudden changes in the weather. Over the span of Maple House’s 12 hours of performances by national acts including headliner Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Black Pumas, Elle King, Joseph, Welshly Arms, Adia Victoria, Noah Kahan, Ripe, Eric Gales and Big Sam’s Funky Nation plus rising local acts Ghost Hounds and The Vics. festivarians dealt with a cloudless sky, 90 degree temperatures and humidity.

Then, Mother Nature made a sudden switch as the threat of a nasty storm put a stop to the day’s good vibes and Ghost Hounds set. Following a 45-minute delay that featured high winds, and despite being pelted by tree pollen instead of rain droplets, less than half the crowd returned for strong, but shortened, sets from the remaining two acts.

Black Pumas headlined the smaller Gibson Stage with a concise set that rewarded the faithful with its powerful psychedelic soul that worked its way to the group’s hit “Colors.”

Fronting his tight band, the 400 Unit, Isbell kept words to a minimum in order to pack in as many songs as possible on the Maple House Stage. In an hour he got through 11 including hits “If We Were Vampires” and “24 Frames” and favorites such as “Super 8,” “Cover Me Up” and a cover of Drivin’ N’ Cryin’s “Honeysuckle Blue,” which featured guitarist Sadler on vocals.

These two artists culminated a day’s worth of music tackling rock (Welshly Arms), blues (Gales, Victoria), funk (Big Same, Ripe) and folk (Joseph, Kahan) with the sophisticated pop (Lake Street Dive), R&B (Ghost Hounds) and (outlaw) country twang (King) thrown into the mix for added sizzle.  

Other than the precautionary delay, Maple House did enough things right in its first year that it would be surprising not to plan on the fest returning with another synergistic lineup in 2023.

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