, Newburyport, MA

August 29, 2013

Playing in the park

Singer Matt Nathanson to headline this year's Riverfront Festival

By Jim Sullivan

---- — Music lovers will be asked to “Come On Get Higher” during Saturday’s 12th annual Newburyport Riverfront Festival.

“It’s a nice way to unofficially say goodbye to summer,” said Matt Phipps, music director and “Afternoon Drive” host at Boston radio station The River 92.5, which hosts the free festival.

Five bands will converge on the waterfront between noon and dusk, including AJ Edwards, Satellite, The Lone Bellow and Brett Dennen. Headlining the show will be Lexington’s own Matt Nathanson, who once opened the festival and is now the main attraction.

“Our morning host, Rita Cary, told me she remembers introducing Matt at a Starbucks in Harvard Square,” Phipps said. “And the place was packed with his family members and friends. I think he has come a long way since then.”

Known for such hits as “Come On Get Higher” and “Falling Apart,” Nathanson has been playing music for 20 years and will be promoting his new album, “Last of the Great Pretenders,” which recently debuted at No. 16 on the Billboard Top 200. The Riverfront gig will serve as a warm-up of sorts for his national tour, which kicks off in Portland, Ore., on Sept. 20.

“The thing about Matt is, musically, he is really, really good,” Phipps said. “But onstage, he is a riot. He’s got a great banter with the audience. He is hilarious, and it’s borderline stand-up comic material. So, he’s not only entertaining, musically, but he will make you laugh, too.”

Phipps is also excited about the supporting acts on the bill, most of which are promoting new releases of their own.

“We have a number of really great, up-and-coming bands opening up for (Nathanson),” Phipps said.

Last year’s festival drew an estimated 10,000 music lovers to Market Landing Park, where the stage sits less than 30 yards from the Merrimack River.

“You’ve got the band, and right by the band is the water,” Phipps said. “It’s certainly one of the coolest stage setups you will ever see, and it is completely free. Just bring your beach chair and blanket.”

The festival will also give visitors a chance to get to know Newburyport, with Market Square directly across the street. A number of food vendors will set up in the area, and a beer tent will be open from noon to 6 p.m.

“You have all of downtown Newburyport to explore in between the artists,” Phipps said. “We’re going to have a number of vendors handing out free stuff, so it really is a fun day, and there is enough there along with the music to keep you occupied for the whole day.”

If you go

What: 12th annual Newburyport Riverfront Music Festival

When: Saturday, noon to dusk

Where: Market Landing Park, Newburyport waterfront

How much: Free. Food and beer available to purchase.

Band schedule

Noon-12:30 p.m. — AJ Edwards

1-1:45 p.m. — Satellite

2:15-3:15 p.m. — Brett Dennen

3:45-4:45 p.m. — The Lone Bellow

5:15-6:30 p.m. — Matt Nathanson