Friday marked the kick-off to the 26th Musikfest, the giant musical and cultural extravaganza that takes hold of historic Bethlehem year after year. In addition to various local and national bands that play the free stages, the organizers at ArtsQuest bring in big acts for shows at the Sands RiverPlace stage, and Friday was no exception.

Kicking off this year's Musikfest was 90s radio favorites the Counting Crows, backed by Augustana and rapper NOTAR. Mixing up band members and songs, the artists flowed flawlessly through over 25 songs in two and a half hours. Those who attended the show to hear the Crows play their radio hits and nothing more may have left disappointed, but those looking for a true musical experience were rewarded with a long set scattered with covers spanning the likes of The Beatles to Bob Dylan. Tossing aside their biggest hit, "Mr. Jones", the band favored extended cuts and sweeping guitar solos, culminating in a nearly-eleven-minute version of "A Long December". (Click here to view photos from the show.)

Personally, you couldn't have asked for a more attentive, lively crowd or a nicer outdoor venue, which was accented by a light breeze and perfect temperature.

If Friday's concert is any indication, the rest of Musikfest and the headliner shows at the Sands RiverPlace stage should be fantastic and are sure to set the bar high for the transition of the RiverPlace stage to SteelStacks next year.

Did you go to the show Friday night? What did you think?

This post was written by Lehigh Valley InSite guest blogger Glenn Koehler, who also writes The El Vee blog. He took the photos too!