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SAWFest: For the Eclectic Music Lover

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SAWFestSAWFest is returning to Salem Art Works this Saturday, July 31st from 6pm-11pm. This year’s music festival will feature performances by local bands The Mathematicians, Beware! the Other Head of Science, The Woodshed Boys, The Troy Chainsaw Ensemble and, from a little farther away, the Brooklyn-based Horse’s Mouth.

SAWFest, for anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure, is kind of like a local Woodstock for those in and around the region, sans the multiple days of performances. When you go, you’re given the choice of whether you want to stay just for the evening’s five hours of deliciously eclectic entertainment, or if you’re more adventurous (or driving in from further away), you can choose to camp out overnight on SAW’s sprawling 118 acre grounds. The overnight camping is offered free of charge to attendees (the festival itself asks for a $15 contribution as a suggested donation). Food and drinks are also available.

Over the years, the festival has gained a loyal following, with many past attendees returning each year. SAW refers to the festival’s growing fan base as “part of a growing extended family,” and it’s this type of laid-back, warm attitude that keeps attendees coming back each year.

Headlining this year’s festival will be local favorites, The Mathematicians. If you’re a fan of The Mathematicians, take note: after this show they’ll be going on hiatus to work on their third album (coming out in December), so you’ll want to be sure to catch them here.

For those less familiar with the band, they’ve toured the US multiple times since forming in 2003, and besides their two albums, they also have a full-length feature film. The Mathematicians usually appear in stereotypically nerdy white button downs, ties and over sized glasses. But their music, with its constant references to mathematical concepts, is anything but. Members Dewi Decimal, Albert Gorithm IV and Pete Pythagoras have developed a unique repertoire with a sound that ranges from the fairly mellow “The Ping Pong Champion” to the pounding techno beat of “Weapons of Math Instruction.”

Beware! the Other Head of Science was named 2009’s ‘Best Electro Pop Band’ by Metroland. Their live performances explode with psychedelic lighting and powerful sound. The band’s six members each play multiple instruments, everything from the usual suspects (guitar, keyboard, synths) to the completely unexpected (anarchy cowbell). Their performances are packed with non-stop energy and, quite often, confetti.

The Woodshed Boys, another favorite from SAWFest’s past return to the stage this year. The group, which describes itself as “Trance-a-billy porch rock from upstate NY,” has a sound reminiscent of traditional folk music (the banjo features prominently) but with a harder edge. The trio from Greenwich has built a large and diverse following since they began playing together in 2004. Their enthusiastic fan base draws fans from colleges, farm towns, art shows and even biker bars.

From a little farther away come The Troy Chainsaw Ensemble, “a musical group committed to aural invention through two-cycle combustion whose repertoire includes patriotic and popular tunes as well as improvised pieces” and Horse’s Mouth whose five members blend their diverse backgrounds and influences in classical, folk, rock and other genres into their own unique sound. Says Ampeater, Horse’s Mouth creates “music that skates through so many moods and meters and feels that it’s hard to say just what exactly makes it feel coherent, though certainly something does. Perhaps it’s the common sounds of each member’s voice (they all sing, excluding Beck, the drummer), or the distinctly personal style each has on his or her instrument.”

The event is being held at Salem Art Works on 19 Cary Lane in Salem, NY. Tickets are a $15 donation and food and drink will be provided for purchase. Free overnight camping is also available for those traveling to the show. For more information, visit

–Sarah Cramer is an Assistant Editor of The Free George.

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