The Catskill Chill: A Hidden Gem of Geniality
14 Sep 2012

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I am only a reflection of you- let us SPARKLE to inspire and be infinitely blessed!

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I raised my eyes to peer at the hanging dreamcatchers, handmade with newly picked Goldenrod and Queen Anne’s Lace from nearby fields.  The weathered beams from which they hung, strongly reverberated the music as clear as a mountain-top echo.  The crowd respectfully swayed together, in a silent agreement of enjoyment.  I closed my eyes and let the waves of Zoogma shift my body’s weightless energy from foot to foot.  I was at the CHILL.

Expectations were high for this year’s Catksill Chill Music Festival.  This being the second time I’ve made the trek to the beautiful Camp Minglewood in Hancock, NY, I felt like I knew what to expect.  (Feel free to check out last year’s review here).  The festival boasted a stocked lineup, but capped the ticket sales at 5,000.  This continued the smaller, family-style vibe, which was only good news for me.  After experiencing Gathering of the Vibes, Camp Bisco, and other main-stream festivals this summer, I was soothed when reunited with the Catskill Chill Family.

The six-hour journey from New Hampshire to New York was mountainous and beautiful.  We arrived mid-day on Friday and wasted no time in the security line.  We switch-backed down into a small valley, at the bottom of which sits the pond-side camp.  Due to the increase in attendance, the walk from car to campsite was a bit more strenuous.  My experience last year taught me well and I brought my childhood wagon to help lug everything from car to campsite.  The distance varied depending on the time of arrival, but a 10 minute one-way walk up (and down) a steep hill can be a bit of a pain.

For me the music started with Twiddle.  One of the newer acts on the lineup, I was excited to experience this group that had been recommend by multiple friends.  I was amused by their combination of bluegrass, jam-band, and improv.  Definitely wish I had made it a bit earlier to see the whole set….

Jerry Garcia Band (JGB) satisfied attendees’ Dead-fix, proving to be a great way to warm up my dance moves to familiar songs.  Melvin Seals was completely elated to share the music of such an influential musician, and, like a sponge, the crowd soaked up the positive energy as fuel for the rest of an incredible weekend.

For me, the highlight of Friday night was Conspirator.  The repertoire of each member’s previous projects is impressive, including Aron Magner and Marc Brownstein (The Disco Biscuits), and then Chris Michetti (RAQ).  Adding fuel to their fire was drummer KJ Sawka of Pendulum.  I was not impressed with their set last year, so my expectations were exceeded greatly.  The band started their fall tour with that night’s show, which happened to be on Michetti’s birthday, making the energy palpable.  The size of the festival provided the opportunity to be upfront and close to the music.  I was able to read the genuine expressions on Brownie’s face as joked with the crowd from under his Big Gigantic hat.  I melted into the funky cover of Scarlet Begonias, loving every minute of the messy-as-a-sloppyjoe goodness.  I am grateful to have the chance to see them again later this fall in Boston- keep an eye out if they swing by you!

Conspirator

Kung Fu continued the night with their matching kimono-like outfits.  I couldn’t help but laugh at the sight, and I wish more bands took advantage of the chance to come out in costumes.  The lead saxophone was a soulful crisp accompaniment to the closing-in autumn air.  Background pastel rainbow lights showered the crowds in a disco atmosphere that reminded me of something out of Austin Powers.  Their funkadelic notes were an ideal warm-up to the upcoming Lettuce set.

Deep down in my soul, I’m addicted to funk- but had never seen Soulive or Lettuce.  And I now realize how sickly deprived I’ve been!  The beginning of the Lettuce set put lead guitarists Eric Krasno in the spotlight with soul-wrenching solos.  As the act continued, a greater emphasis was placed on the horn section, allowing there to be playful fills and staccato accents at the end of phrases.  I swooned, yet again, over Adam Dietch as he moved the beat forward at a catchy and rhythmic pace.  The last few songs brought out guest vocalist Dwele, who especially shined during the Chuck Brown cover, Bustin’ Loose.

Dopapod continued to maintain the crowd’s excitement with a catchy performance, reflecting cascading waterfalls of sound.  Instead of funk, the music was filled with the band’s signature electronic sounds.  Earlier this summer at Gathering of the Vibes when I saw this crew, I was impressed with the band’s ability to keep the crowd active and engaged.  They played a Presidents of the United States of America Peaches cover at Vibes, but this time the boys let the crowd busta’ move to the Jeopardy theme song!

I only caught a bit of EOTO’s set in the early hours of Saturday morning.  The day of driving, setting of camp, and raging had gotten to my stamina.  However, I am grateful I made the time to see this duo, as they sprouted from the center of a giant on-stage flowering lotus.  The elaborate decoration was perfectly designed for layers of sound vibrating through speakers.

Sunny Saturday morning was greeted with disheartening news of hurricane warnings and late-afternoon downpour.  We strolled the pavement paths snaking through the tents and cabins.  During my failed quest to seek out the noon-time yoga class, I stumbled upon Lespecial– a womply, loud, trio that was lead by Les Claypool-influenced bass.  I smiled when they covered Because by the Beatles, slowing things down to a reggae and intimate pace.  I was impressed by the band’s courage to be diverse and honest with their music, hopefully paving a bright future worth keeping tabs on.

The threat of torrential rain and 50 mph winds halted the music in the early afternoon.  EZ-ups were taken down, tents were secured, and evacuation maps were distributed.  Crowds sprinted to the stages or were ushered into rented cabins.  It was incredible how generous and welcoming the attendees became during this time of need.  Complete strangers shared conversation, watching the droplets pelt the dusty ground.  The rain tapered off and shortly after, Rubblebucket took the main stage.

Rubblebucket

I’ve followed this group for a few years now, and am extremely proud of where they have taken their music.  One of my all-time favorite bands, they preformed excitedly as the nighttime dark advanced. With a new release just days old (on 9/11/12, check it out here) the musicians were as animated as the crowd.  The way Rubblebucket performs is like a mirror: they rile you up until it is a two-way reflection of complete ecstasy.  The cover of Blondie’s  Heart of Glass made me reminiscent of ­­­­­­­old time MTV, complete with lead-singer Kalmia Traver spittin’ rhymes in between verses.

I’ve been a Yonder Mountain String Band supporter for a long time, but never an official fan.  Friends raved about their All Good performance this summer, so I was pumped to stomp my favorite cowboy boots to some quality bluegrass.  My show-long smile was so big my cheeks hurt.  With bluegrass, the music removes the backbone of a drummer.   With YMSB, this absence is not missed but viewed as an opportunity for intensified expression.  Every crease and wrinkle on the band’s face reflected that of strong intention, reflected in the passion behind the notes.  They covered all-time favorites like Two Hits and On the Run.  Lead singer and mandolin player, Jeff Austin, riled up the crowd by yelling into the mic, “You let your mind open up (to other types of music) and you never know what you could find- it doesn’t matter if it’s “bluegrass” or not… We are a powerful force to be reckoned with!”

Soulive played the second of two back-to-back funky sets.  At one point lead vocalist Nigel Hall scat-battled trumpet-player in a show off of improve solo talent.  Covers of the show included  “Eleanor Rigby” and “Everybody Wants To Rule The World”.   Alan Evans and keyboardist Neal Evans astonished me with their telepathic connection  that only two brothers could create.

BreakScience was a repeat from last year’s Chill, gaining popularity in comparison.  Even with the absence of common collab with Chali 2na, the duo continued to impress.  They showcased new material- true to the incredible relationship between dubstep- grimy drops and a live drum set.

In the early morning, Particle wrapped up the incredible day with a solid set.  Almost as back-of-the-fridge leftovers from the recent complete night of Pink Floyd covers out west, the band covered three songs originally born from the brains of Roger Waters and Syd Barrett.

For me Sunday started slow and was filled with multiple unknown bands.  I could tell the day was going to be one of realization and magic after the Jennifer Hartswick Band came on the main stage.  With trumpet skills comparable to Miles Davis and a voice like Aretha Franklin, leading lady Jen Hartswick is a double threat.  She is, and, has been harmonizing vocals and trumpet for various other side projects, including the Trey Anastasio Band.  Drummer prodigy Nikki Glaspie, from Dumpstafunk and Beyonce’s all-female band, absolutely killed it.  Love to see those empowered, kick-ass ladies beating the precedent and shining in the spot light!

Rookie band McLovins reflected an accelerating popularity by the size and energy of the crowd.  Composed of four baby-faced boys, this band is overloaded with talent.  Claiming to be “the next generation of jam-band”, they uphold this statement by covering the Dead’s Cripple Creek and Phish’s Quinn the Eskimo.  If these guys can continue to gain ground, I have no doubt they’ll continue to rock on.

Back to bluegrass and the main stage, Chicago-based band Cornmeal preformed an old time bluegrass show.  Many fellow festie-goers raved this group.  I enjoyed their down-to-earth presence, but their music was a tad bit too country for my liking.

Finally, before driving through the night to make it to work on Monday morning, my heartbeat raced with eagerness to see Lotus.  After a totally awesome set at Camp Bisco this summer, I had high hopes.  Two core members Jessie and Luke Miller expressed their nostalgia on returning to their childhood summer camp, this time to boogie down.  The band opened with well-known favorites Suitcases and The Surf, they moved on through a stacked set list.  Unlike Bisco, where they psyched fans with a Zelda theme song cover, only originals were played.  The band continues to create diversity and depth with the combinations of sounds, while still staying true to its roots.

The Chill was, once again, incredible.  The size made me feel actually cared for, the scenery was breath taking, and the musical acts were fully satisfying for my pallet.   Word says the size will plateau, due to lack of space on the property, which is good news for the future of this event.  This secures a continuation of the unforgettable and valuable experience offered the second weekend in September.

The overall atmosphere of the weekend was utter perfection.  Big enough to draw some decent acts, but small enough that I continually felt safe and a part of the experience.  The three stages are all covered, a huge perk when unexpected Catskill storms are frequent.  For the extra dollar, cabins create a unique dynamic for attendees to have access to a shower, toilet, bunks, and an open porch.  Some groups brought mini-fridges to defer the cost of ice, as well as speakers and turntables for an impromptu jam-session.  I appreciated the noticeable number of live-painters and artists.  A courageous and admirable outlet of expression, I hope this becomes more frequent in future events.  After trying to find the daily yoga class two days in a row, I was frustrated at the miniscule range of diverse alternative activities.  I believe festivals are an incredible opportunity and space to educate, grow, and reach past just seeing some stellar live music.  The Catksill Chill is a music festival, and nothing more- although that is nothing to complain about for the environment, price, and experience.

I feel honored to have been a part of the experience and respect the concern around safety- for the third year in a row there were zero evacuations from the site due to medical concerns! Many thanks to all of those who helped and attended Catskill Chill!

Much love and surprises!

Amaryth Rose

<This article was submitted by our home girl Amaryth! You too can contribute your stories to Sparkleberrylane.com. For more information on how to spread your sparkle please contact us a Sparkleberrylane@gmail.com!

Photos by Amaryth Rose and Fileshea White

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