The Borderland Music and Art Festival was conceived as a twin-day event built around a community vibe that emphasizes a casual air of relaxation over the relentless intensity of many major festivals around the country.
That vibe permeated day two of the festival on Sunday.
From its debut in 2018, Borderland has been super chill. The breathtaking location, at the massive Knox Farm State Park in East Aurora, lends itself to that vibe. There’s abundant room to spread out, the staff is plentiful and uber pleasant, and the amenities are many. The overriding air of sustainability consciousness and caring for the natural beauty of the park lends to this feeling of escaping the hustle and bustle for a more bucolic and easy-going reality.
And then there’s the music.
Borderland creator and East Aurora native Jennifer Brazill cut her teeth working in the jam band and bluegrass niches of the music business, and she brings that experience to bear on Borderland. However, over the past five years, the festival has spread its wings, expanding to encompass modern indie and alternative music, and this year welcoming jazz, funk, R&B and soul to the party.
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On Sunday, a main stage and local stage spread across the field and stables of Knox Farm State Park hosted a beautifully curated blend of bands and artists of both the local and national variety. And the main stage sat poised to host headliner the Flaming Lips late into Sunday evening.
By the time Buffalo power-soul ensemble Miller and the Other Sinners hit the main stage at noon, the crowd – comprised of holdovers from Saturday’s fest, which included a much buzzed-about headlining performance from Portugal. The Man, as well as single-day attendees – had committed to shaking off the previous evening’s cobwebs and letting the music do its thing. That meant dancing in front of the stage, most likely before many of the assembled had even downed their first coffee of the day.
Bluegrass + Bloody Marys with A Girl Named Genny helped the crowd ease into the day on the local stage before Delaware-based up-and-coming jam quintet Dogs in a Pile kicked day two into high gear on the main stage. The young band was already known to Buffalo audiences following a very well-received set at Buffalo Iron Works earlier this year. On Sunday, it played a tight, exploratory and thoroughly engaging hour-plus of music bolstered by dynamic interplay and – there’s no other way to say it – killer jams and improvisations.
Spafford followed with an equally outstanding set, blending an amiable ’70s vibe with some blazing forays into Phish-land, particularly in the guitar department.
Over on the local stage, a large crowd vibed to the easygoing folk and country of the Stove Pipes. Throughout it all, patrons strolled the vendor village inside the Knox Farm stables, indulged in craft foods and beverages, prepped themselves for the rest of the evening, which was slated to include sets from Walter Kemp 3, Keller Williams’ Grateful Grass, the Infamous Stringdusters, Critt’s Juke Joint, and headliner the Flaming Lips, whose considerable array of stage props could be seen assembled on the main stage throughout the day, like a distant early symbol of freaky good times to come.
Borderland 2022 went a long way toward cementing this regional festival’s burgeoning reputation as one of the finest seasonal gatherings in the Northeast.