The New England Shake-Up 2017

This past weekend we attended The New England Shake-Up, a music festival featuring rockabilly and 50's style music, record hops, seminars, a vintage car show and a pool party. This marked the fifth year for the event. We have attended every year and it's always a fun time.

 The program for the New England Shake-Up, year five

The program for the New England Shake-Up, year five

The Shake-Up 2017 is held at the Sturbridge Host Hotel, in Sturbridge, Massachusetts.  The hotel is located right on Cedar Lake, has a fabulous indoor pool area and even a mini golf course. It is an older hotel that does show it's age a bit and the beds aren't the most comfortable, but it is relatively easy for us to get to and has a certain kitsch factor that is perfect for this event.  

Usually Chris takes the concert photos but he wasn't going to be able to attend much of the first night's performances, so I decided to try my hand at it.  My photos from the first few bands weren't the greatest but the quality did improve throughout the weekend,. I tried to get photos of everyone in the band, but many times I wasn't in a good spot to see everyone.  It was certainly a different experience for me to view the bands through a camera lens so I made sure put the camera down from time to time and just listen to the music.

Day 1: September 22, 2017

Del Villarreal, from Detroit, Michigan is the MC for the entire weekend and always does a great job introducing the bands and keeping the schedule moving.  Between each band's performance, different DJs spin great rockabilly music, while people dance or just hang out and drink.

Del Villareal, emceeing the weekend

Chris had to work overnight on the first night so was only able to attend the first band and a few songs from the second.  First up was Emma Williams & the Ramblin' Men, from Montreal, Canada. Their set was full of fun 1950's covers including covers of Janis Martin and Patsy Cline.

Next up were The Starjays and one of my favorites of the night. They are from Seattle, Washington and are a 40s and 50s rhythm and blues act.  The band features two lead singers, Angela and Roy, who had fabulous chemistry on stage. I loved their back and forth way of singing on many of their songs. The band looked like they were having so much fun performing, which I think always makes the performance much more enjoyable.

 The Starjays

The Starjays

Austin Texas was heavily represented this weekend and  Shaun Young & the Texas Blue Dots was the first of four bands from there.  We really enjoyed Shaun Young's performance at last year's Shake-Up and were excited to see that he was on the lineup again. Chris was really bummed that he wasn't able to attend this one.  They have a great bluesy sound and their set was fantastic.

The last band that I saw that night was Furious, from Liverpool, United Kingdom.  This trio played some great loud and fast Rock n' Roll and were really fun to listen to.

 Mark Halligan

Mark Halligan

 Andy Halligan

Andy Halligan


There was one more band that played that night, but their set started at 12:15 and I was so tired, I couldn't stay up any longer so decided to call it a night. 

Day 2: September 23, 2017

Chris had been up the night before working until about 5:30 in the morning, so on Saturday morning I sneaked out early to let him sleep in for a while. I amused myself by visiting the vendors in the shopping lounge and outside at the car show.  I was there as soon as the car show started so was fortunate enough to snag some great vintage items before they were picked over.  The car show vendors had a good mix of vintage and retro items and for the most part their prices were very reasonable, which was nice.   I also visited a local shop just up the road that specializes in vintage fabric and clothing.


Once Chris woke up we walked around the car show for a bit.  The show isn't huge, but did have some fun cars to look at.  There were a few bands that were playing at the show and we heard a few songs, but it was so hot out that we decided to retreat to the air-conditioned comfort of our car and visit a few of the local antique shops where I found a few great items.  We had a late lunch at the Oxhead Tavern, which is located conveniently right next to the hotel.  We then went back to our room to rest up before the night's bands started.

The first band of the night was The Rock-A-Sonics, hailing from Rockville, Maryland.  They played a fun set and were a great start to the evening.

The next band was Bailey Dee & Her Late Night Bait.  A rhythm and blues band from Chicago, Illinois; this band was one of my favorites of the weekend. The lead singer had a fabulous voice and her band was fantastic.  I thoroughly enjoyed their set and I definitely want to see them again.

Next up was another great band, Rockin' Lloyd Tripp, from Austin, Texas.  In addition to his drummer, Lloyd was joined on stage by his wife on upright bass and daughter on guitar.


The Lucky Stars from Los Angeles, California were next and another favorite.  Chris was impressed by the speed and accuracy of the guitar playing.

The Barnshakers, are a great rockabilly band from Helsinki, Finland and were fantastic and the crowd really seemed to be into them.


The last band of the night was Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys.  We were really excited to hear that they were on the bill this year. They played The New England Shake-Up in the past and we loved them.  They did not disappoint. Big Sandy is one of the most charismatic performers we've seen and his band is incredibly talented. They are always a joy to see play.

After the last band, there was a late night picnic scheduled outside the ballroom. The menu included fried chicken, Fluffernutter sandwiches and other picnic-themed snacks.  It was a great idea and smelled wonderful but 1 am was much too late for us to eat, so we went back to the room to crash.  I would love to see this offered next year, but maybe at an earlier time in the evening, especially because timing dinner before the first band starts is often a bit difficult.


Day 3: September 24, 2017

The next day there was a pool party at the hotel, with bands performing. Socializing in our bathing suits isn't really our thing so Chris and I decided to go visit some more local antique stores, including a junkyard in Brimfield that was full of weird and wonderful stuff and the Charleston Flea Market.  We had a late lunch/early dinner at the Thai restaurant across the street from the hotel.

First up for the evening was local New England band, The Bopthrills from Providence, Rhode Island.  We've seen them before and they are always fun and super high energy.

The next band was another one of my favorites.  Lil' Mo & the Unholy 4 come from Los Angeles, California. As always they were great and super fun to watch.  At one point they were joined on stage by Kevin Patey and Miss Amy Griffin who we always enjoy.

While we were watching Lil' Mo, had a good view of back stage and saw a woman walk in with a guitar.  We both became really excited because we recognized her as Laura Chavez, an amazing guitarist who we had seen perform a few times with Candye Kane.  She was performing this night with the next band, The 24th Street Wailers from Austin, Texas. When the band first started the crowd was still pretty light, but once they started playing their first two songs people just started packing the ballroom.  Singer/songwriter Laura Beaver has a deep smokey voice and plays the drums as well. In addition to Laura Chavez on the guitar, the backing band consisted of another guitarist, an upright bassist and a saxophonist. It appears that this may not be her usual band, but they were incredible non-the-less.  I would say that this was probably Chris and my favorite act of the weekend.

The next act was Lucky Tubb & The Modern Day Troubadours, from Austin, Texas. Lucky Tubb is the great nephew of Ernest Tubb and played a great set of old school country and rockabilly.  He was joined on stage by Sean Mencher with whom he apparently went to high school.  They were great and these ended up being some of my best photos of the night.

After Lucky Tubb was the Sunday Night Jamboree hosted by Sean Mencher.  This has become a New England Shake-Up staple and is always the last act of the weekend.  This year's jamboree was broken up into two sections; the first being different musicians popping up on state to perform one or two songs and the second half being a Chuck Berry Tribute.  In year's past, the Jamboree has been completely random with musicians and audience members jumping up on stage and performing whatever they want.  This year was a bit more structured and there appeared to be a set playlist to the event.  In the past, the jamboree would go off the rails a bit, so we understood the thought process behind the more structured format, but we sort of missed the spontaneity of the previous years.  Even so, it is always a treat to see some of the weekend's performers for one or two more songs and especially great to see musicians where were not part of the original band lineup.


Overall, it was a fabulous weekend.  We highly recommend it for the qualities of bands chosen and the intimate atmosphere of the venue.  We've already booked our rooms for next year.