The Big Up Review :: A Euphoric Eruption
16 Aug 2013

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08/08/13-08/11/13  :  Hemlock Hollow Farm  ::  Claverack, NY
This review is written by Chadbyrne R. Dickens and it sounds like he had a blast!!

“No intoxication, Unless you see what I see, Dancin’ hot and sweaty, Right in front of me.” – Jans Ingber singing Prince’s “Musicology” with Kung Fu

Jans Ingber (c) Shane Webster

Jans Ingber (c) Shane Weber

Up up up and away!  The Big Up has lift off!  New Orleans is nicknamed, “The Big Easy” and perhaps henceforth Clavernack, NY should be renamed “The Big Up” as the euphoric eruption that is The Big Up Festival ( took place in that small town August 8th-10th.  It is centrally located only 2 hours North of New York City, 170 miles West of Boston and 200 miles northeast of Philadelphia. The reasonable ticket price of $135 includes 3 nights of camping, yoga, competitions, challenges, guided meditations, rock star karaoke, hula hoop workshops, art installations, theme nights and more!  With over 60 artists, representing today’s finest in electronic, jam, funk, performance and dance music, the Big Up was an exploration into a largesse of quality music.

Much has been made of in-fighting amongst genres or even within a genre of fans.  Just recently at Camp Bisco there was a turbulent division between fans of Bassnectar and The Disco Biscuits, and even Grateful Dead and Phish fans aren’t always in agreement.  However, at the oasis that was The Big Up, although there was a hybrid of genres – a heavy and distinct division of factions of both jam and EDM music – fortuitously the fans kept an open mind and soaked up both categories in equal measure.  Folks happily coincided together in utopian harmony without criticism.  A sign read, “Take a trip to spaceland” and another said, “Fly Me 2 the Moon!” and many signed up to travel to another world, despite the genre that would take one there.  One’s pleasure button could be pushed in a myriad of ways through a myopic rather than dissociative approach.  It was as if the thousands in attendance agreed to act as one, as an “Upstronaut” first, while leaving differences at the door.

The festival contained an abundance of quality vending including glass being blown, clothing, art, knick-knacks and other memorabilia.  The food was in a centralized location at reasonable prices (pizza slice was $4 compared to $7 at Bonnaroo).  The layout of parking was handled smoothly and effectively.  A great bonus to a smaller festival is the ability to hear the music when at your campsite – this serves as a great way to never miss any music.  Another great asset was the third stage, at which many of the lesser-known bands performed, located in the woods.  The Schwartz Woods Stage was nestled in a small enclave in the deep forest off the main parking lot that allowed many to camp in the crevasses around it.  It was like living in “Hobbit Land” where one commiserated with friendly freakish strangers in the dark while always wondering while foraging down the trail if the Keebler Elf was lurking behind the next tree.  It provided a sense of wonder, magic and the thrill of a make-shift city of like-minded people all co-existing in peace and tranquility in the woods like a carnival in an utopian city.

John Ferrea of Consider the Source (c) Shane Webster

John Ferrea of Consider the Source (c) Shane Weber

Although there was no overt police presence on the festival grounds, there was certainly an over-reach by law enforcement in the vicinity.  With its location in a rural setting in upstate New York, an infestation of young music revelers were served up as a prime target for intense scrutiny and interrogation.  People were relentlessly pulled over with no legitimate reason given for the stop and questions immediately asked like, “Do you have drugs in the car? Why are your eyes bloodshot?”  Ultimately, 27 individuals were arrested and a mass of contraband was confiscated.  The zealousness did not impact the enjoyment of the happenings on Hemlock Farm.  The main challenge for festival goers was the frigid temperatures on Saturday night and the pervasive and deep mud that surfaced in front of the stages and on the trails throughout due to heavy rain on Thursday night.  Gabriel Marin addressed it during the CTS set on Saturday, “You guys are hippies – you can handle some mud!”  Promoters Jules Jenssen & Zach Levy of Shireworks should be commended for pulling together an exemplary festival and making the decision to invest money into bales of hay that was consistently put down to assist in making the grounds more solidified for trekking by thousands of fans.

Thursday, August 8th

New Jersey’s FiKus started the weekend off proper; Boston’s livetronic death-funk party Lespecial garnered new fans; jam juggernaut Dopapod conquered the main stage with a high energy show with sit-ins by Scott Flynn and Dan Africano of Elephant Wrecking Ball on “French Bowling”; Mun jammed an interesting take on “Good Times” into “Rapper’s Delight”, multi-platinum selling producer Gigamesh took us on a space journey; and new wavetronica band Cosmic Dust Bunnies demonstrated their skills.

Friday, August 9th

Jon Schmarak (FiKus) (c) Shane Webster

Jon Schmarak (FiKus) (c) Shane Weber


Trancy surf rock trio Galaxy Dynamite delivered the goods; Buffalo-based jam band Aqueous duly impressed, Brooklyn’s Escort shared groovy remixes including their infectious “Cocaine Blues”, Dr. Fameus (Allen Aucoin) demonstrated versatility with his drumming pulses, veteran London based producer Gaudi grooved to his genre-bending beats, aerialists Sheauwei Pidd and Lauren Eliz enhanced the dance rhythms of Higher Organix; Jeff Bujak played 2 sets of innovative keyboard music as his collaborator, Jen DuLong showcased her skill with the LED hula hoop; and Brothers Past closed the first night of music with an energetic 4am set complete with blistering guitar riffs.

Saturday, August 10th

The Denver trio, Lost Optical, laid down their electric funk and dub; Shwizz delivered another high-energy show and a frenetic “12”, Los Angeles DJ Eskmo (Brendan Angelides) brought a mind-bending set; Richard James and the Name Changers impressed with a bouncy cover of The Band’s “Ophelia”, New Jersey’s Speakerbot (Aashish Bansal) brought an eclectic mix to his 3 sets with music from Wu-Tang Clan to Whitney Houston; and late night electronic musical trio Greenhouse Lounge combined the computer based production of a DJ with rock guitar leads, heavy synthesized bass and live drums and a sit-in by The Heavy Pet’s Jim Duest.  Philadelphia’s Space Jesus (Jasha Tull) created a unique atmosphere of intensity during a rare live show, but he went over his time allotment and had his bass so loud in the mix that it was challenging the amp system.


Gabe Marin of Consider the Source (c) Shane Webster

Gabe Marin of Consider the Source (c) Shane Weber

Consider the Source  ::  2:00pm-3:00pm  ::  Heineken Big Up Stage

Ironic, that on a day where Star Wars vs. Star Trek vs. Spaceballs was the costume theme, that Consider the Source would be asked to deliver an electric set to incite the Main Stage in the early afternoon.  CTS are original instrumentalists who deliver music heavily influenced by middle-eastern culture with a sci-fi fusion flare that takes listeners onto a journey to the unknown. Gabriel Marin (guitar) with John Ferrera (bass) and Jeff Mann (drums) invited us on a majestic adventure through the unpainted canvass of our soul with their mastery musicianship.  Like a “choose your own adventure” book, one doesn’t know what path each musical interlude will take and thus one is left on the edge of their seat with anticipation.  The quickly-ascending band has garnered notoriety for its extensive touring and impressive work ethic in 2013 and performed both an electric and acoustic set at The Big Up as well as led a class in Consider the Source Academy.  The band is so dedicated to its craft that Marin’s double-necked fretless axe is slowly losing some aesthetic appeal due to his pleasant abuse during a grueling tour schedule and there are pictures of him actually sleeping with his intergalactic weapon.  Of course, “Pimp Hand” contained the “Star Wars Theme” and as customary before the last number, Ferrara pounded out such fat thumping beats by slapping his bass that Pastorius and Entwistle would be proud.  The best part of CTS is that once you think they can’t be any better – they surprise you by improving the next time out.  They don’t vary the set list too much from show to show, but this allows the opportunity through repeated performance to master a particular tune.  Look for them to continue shredding at Camp Barefoot, Evolvefest and Catskill Chill festivals.

Set List:  Moisturize the Situation, Up to but Not to Exceed Whoa, The Great Circuiting, Paranoid Android, Keep Your Pimp Hand Strong, \_/. (Hand symbol song)

Mun ::  2:30pm – 3:45pm :: The Schwartz Woods Stage

Mun is Wiley Griffin (guitar),Andrew Ostenfeld (keys), Doug Gresh (bass), and Bryan Hershkowitz (drums).  Fresh off a spirited performance at Maz Fest the weekend before and an exquisite late night set the previous night, Brooklyn’s instrumental outfit attempted an experiment:  the first live karaoke at The Big Up.  Despite inherent trepidation of performing songs in front of a live audience for the first time, after selecting from a series of options from a menu, fans lined up for the opportunity to pretend to be a rock star ala the next Mick Jagger, even if for a fleeting 5 minutes of fame.  The cover selections were all well-known classics from The Grateful Dead to Sublime.  A cross-section of people performed with a mixed bag of results and a highlight goes out to Evan Marley Wallace who nailed an infectious take on Radiohead’s “Creep.”  Mun closed out the rambunctious, fun and free-wheelin’ good time with their original compostion, “Sex.”  Look for Mun to continue entertaining crowds with their specific brand of jam music at Uphoria Festival and an acoustic set at Catskill Chill.

Set List
:  Shakedown Street- Grateful Dead, Sex and Candy- Marcy Playground, Creep- Radio Head, Santeria- Sublime, Dancing in the Moonlight- King Harvest, Loser- Beck, Killing In the Name Of – RATM, Fire on the Mountain – Grateful Dead, Nuttin But a G Thang – Dr. Dre, Under the Bridge- Red Hot Chili Peppers, Amber – 311, Lovin’ Cup – Rolling Stones, The Joker – Steve Miller Band, “Sex”- MUN

The Heavy Pets  ::  4:00pm-5:15pm  :: Heineken Big Up Stage

The soulful quartet from South Florida continues to entertain on tour relentlessly for a consistently growing-fan base.  Jeff Lloyd (guitar/vocals), Mike Garulli (guitar), Jim Wuest (keys), Tony D’Amato (bass) and Jamie Newitt (drums) are on a tear.  “So Thank You Music” remains a staple of their rotation for good reason.  With bouncy and contagious reggae rhythms, one can feed of the song’s growing energy as various members solo and it intensifies to a screeching and electrifying crescendo over the 10 minute+ span of the improvisational tune.  The inspirational and beautiful ariel work of Rae Mae added stimulating visual equipage to a show already worth personal investment of mind and soul.  In addition to an extensive East Coast tour through the fall, The Pets will be making listeners smile soon at Equifunk, Nightlights and Rootwire Festivals as well the Rombello Festival in the Bahamas in November.

Set List
:  Dewpoint, Better, So Thank You Music*, Keep Me Running, Last Babies, Holy Holy*, The Day The Sun Forgot To Rise     *featuring Rae Mae on ariel silks

Kung Fu  ::  8:15pm-9:30pm  ::  Heineken Big Up Stage

The three-headed monster of Somerville (sax), Palmieri (guitar) and Stoops (keys) led a frenzied sensory attack with Chris Deangelis (bass) and Adrian Tramontano (drums) via frontal funk assault.  Kung Fu always knows how to effectively throw the funk down, but the immeasurable talent and frenetic pace of the band was best served by this incarnation that covered a slew of classics by the funkster himself, Prince.  Palmieri continued to expand the bounds of his instrument with his prowess on the guitar, and the funk outfit broke barriers when tackling material by the Purple One.  It is impossible to mimic, copy, or emulate Prince and unfair to ask any mortal to do so.  However Jans Ingber (of The Motet) was charismatic and enthralling as the lead singer possessed the appropriate range and moxie to carry out the tall task.  He instructed the crowd, “”Don’t be afraid of the mud – just come on down we need body heat.”  The level of funk would not have been possible without the thick beats brought by DeAngelis.  Christine Tambakis added backing vocals, and Nick Biello on keys.  The band pulled in a blossoming crowd and garnered well deserved audience adulation for a set that many considered the highlight of the festival.  It was a dancethon as one Prince classic seamlessly segued into another as the best Prince funk house-band in the land inspired legions of folks to boogie.  The highlight of the night was the moment Todd Stoop’s five year old son, Oskar, got up on stage for “Purple Rain”, was lifted up at the end of the song to face the crowd’s ovation and he did a double point out to the crowd.  Although some fans were disappointed the band didn’t perform “When Doves Cry” or “Controversy”, Prince simply has too many hits to satify everyone.  Stoops called the performance, “one of my most favorite sets I’ve ever been a part of.”  Hopefully, Kung Fu will tackle this material again as it proved a magical result on this night.

Set List:  Let’s Go Crazy, I Would Die 4 U, Musicology, Raspberry Beret, Kiss, Darling Nikki, Take Me with You, DMSR, Little Red Corvette, I Want to Be Your Lover, Purple Rain, 1999

Normal Instruments  ::  9:30pm – 10:30pm  ::  Spaceball City Tent

Normal Instruments (c) Shane Webster

Normal Instruments (c) Shane Weber

Normal Instruments is Michael Carter from The Indobox (guitar), Jules Jennsen from Higher Organix (drums), Matt Beckett from Cosmic Dust Bunnies (bass) and Jeff Bujak (keys).  This improvisational juggernaut is a modern-day supergroup of sorts with its members all better known for involvement in other bands.  There is no set list as the magic is created ad hoc on stage in the moment with no pre-preparation of any kind.  The band joked about using the set list before the show:  “colon > semi-colon > colon” sandwich.  Fans of the band noted that The Big Up was one of their strongest performances to date – specifically on how the band played together as a whole unit.  The band played off each other, inspiring a tour de force of intense improvisation that served as impetus for all in ear shot to gyrate to the grooves.  Bujak stated, “Everything came out naturally and we all followed on the same page. We don’t practice at all, so when we get together, there’s no pressure… no stress, just call a key and run and somehow it stays together and people get all weird.”   Bassist Beckett shared, “We don’t have a set list, but we never do, just hand signals for key changes, style changes and other on the fly changes.”  Jules Jennsen concluded, “it is all in the moment and based off the energy we get from the crowd. Needless to say it was a good setting to get the most out of us.” Ironic that a band that most in attendance had never heard of, was also the one being talked about the most by festival’s end.

Beats Antique  ::  10:45pm-12:00am  ::  Heineken Big Up Stage

Beats Antique (c) Shane Webster

Beats Antique (c) Shane Weber

The headliner of The Big Up earned it’s coveted spot after years of dazzling and enthralling live performances across the country.  Beats Antique provides a sensory overload of visual and auditory delight, equipped with enough horsepower to light up a small city.  With momentary alteration in style and substance, the off-beat troupe is a visual and auditory assault to the senses through a spectacle that blends performance art and world culture inspiration with dance in an effectively addictive way.  Formed in San Francisco in 2007, the troupe consisting of Producers David Satori, Sidecar Tommy and world-renowned belly dancer and performer Zoe Jakes, has been taking the scene by storm and immediately converting those in attendance into fans.  Beats Antique is an ideal headlining act for a festival, as they are a complete professional outfit that can fully satiate anyone’s appetite for quality entertainment in a myriad of ways.  Beats Antique is a Jack-in-a-box within a melting pot of wonderment.  With the mesmerizing, genre-defying and trance-inducing

Zoe Jakes of Beats Antique (c) Shane Webster

Zoe Jakes of Beats Antique (c) Shane Webster

sounds coming from the stage and the costumes and headdress adorning the beautiful Jakes, the performance was a nod to ancient tradition and reeked of the ethos of an earlier era in history and the inherent aura that envelops.  The cover of the biggest hit song of 2013, Daft Punk’s “Lucky” was simple, alluring and subtle while Bob Marley’s “Satisfy My Soul” was layered, mixed and provided both an eargasm and eye candy to those mesmerized by the momentum of the performance.  However the event culminated during the final song, “Catskills” when a larger-than-life, blow-up giant squid appeared on stage and it had to be fought in an attempt to avoid it eating Jakes and Satori.  Beats Antique are perfect festival fare – a band that is quirky and not afraid to take creative chances as an impetus to entertain the masses.

Set List:  Overture, Egyptic, Beauty Beats, I Got, Alto, Stash, Pandora’s Box, Daze, Colony Collapse, Sky Talk, Get Lucky, Dope Crunk, Crush, Hero, Satisfy My Soul, Nesatovo, Encore: Voodoo, Catskills

A few thousand people were catapulted up up and away at The Big Up – and it would make sense that many of them still haven’t come down.

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