Words by Zach Franck | Photos by Ross Citrin
During the first weekend of September, Catskill Chill Music Festival returned to the scenic Camp Minglewood in Hancock, New York for its fourth year in a row. Although it was my first time in attendance, I knew right away that this festival wasn’t ordinary; I knew that it was something special.
Between the music, people, venue and vibes, Catskill Chill has established itself as a community capable of offering a unique, unmatched energy that can’t be found anywhere else. The lineup offered a wide array of talented artists and bands, obviously put together by music-lovers. From Lotus to Lettuce and Brothers Past to The Meter Men, there was something for everyone. And it’s set in an absolutely incredible venue for a music festival; large enough to have privacy yet small enough to feel like a tight-knit community. Plus there are bunkhouses and cabins to stay in; everyone should experience these accommodations at a festival at least once in their lifetime. Capping it off is the memory of mist slowly rising off the lake, a picturesque setting that has been instilled in my mind since.
For many, it was the last festival of the summer, the positive vibes and high energy proved this to be true. There were smiling faces and soulful music around every corner, a combination that can make even the coldest hearts feel warm.
While the lineup had deep roots in funk and jam, they didn’t forget about the electronic side of things either. The best funk performances of the weekend go to Lettuce and The Meter Men. Lettuce blew me away with their professionalism and song selection, which was packed with a wide array of genres – both old and new. They really got the crowd going when they crushed a few Jay-Z covers; nobody expected that at all. Drummer Adam Deitch is one of the most talented in the scene right now; nobody can match the sound he creates with his drums. And The Meter Men, the legendary funk masters out of New Orleans featuring Page McConnell of Phish on the piano/keyboards, easily proved to the crowd why they were some of the best musicians on stage that weekend. They also did a good job of letting everyone get the spotlight, especially when they brought out Bobby Paltauf – an extraordinary, young guitarist (just 13 years old) who came out blazing, a young Trey-in-the-making that will soon be a household name. Finally The Motet performed a great set that many patrons enjoyed; combining both funk and jam, they played revitalized Grateful Dead songs with funky twists throughout.
When it came down to the jamtronica side of things, the festival was definitely not lacking. Lotus played an incredible set to start things off on Friday; When they played the opening riff of “Flower Sermon”, the crowd literally erupted, very cool thing to see from the back. It was hard for other acts to match the energy that they brought to the table; they rarely ever fell out of the pocket when jamming. Along with Lotus, Brothers Past and RAQ both played great late-night sets. RAQ guitarist and shredmaster Chris Michetti spent his birthday at The Chill and crushed two sets on Saturday night with both Conspirator and RAQ. Conspirator even played a set that was jam-heavy, they usually play live-electronic music with a lot of tracking. After their set, Marc Brownstein said “Tonight was the first night we actually opened up the jams, a lot more improvisation than in the past”. The set spoke for itself and took many by surprise.
Although it’s extremely difficult to pick just one “best set of the weekend,” it should definitely go to Dopadosio (Dopapod + Papadosio). Nine people on stage from two different bands, set to play the last slot of the last festival of the summer. The energy under that roof was absolutely incredible and will be extremely hard to match next year. They opened up with a Radiohead cover and absolutely crushed it, not an easy thing to do with nine musicians on stage. Whoever was managing the main stage did a good job at setting up for that set and making sure the transitions ran smoothly. Dopadosio played a few songs from each of their resprective catalogs and closed the festival out better than I could ever imagine. Everyone should really keep Dopapod and Papadosio on their radar for the next couple of years. Two ridiculously talented bands who have been touring relentlessly over the past two years who are finally getting the exposure that they deserve.
While it never gets a huge command of the national media’s attention, many believe that Catskill Chill was the best festival of the summer, myself included. It was an amazing, collaborative effort from all the parties involved. More and more festivals are created each summer while others continue to grow in size every year, but I think Catskill Chill proves to festival-goers that there is still hope in the world, there are still good people out there, that the terrorists have not won. Maybe the festival will grow in size, but I’m confident that The Chill will continue to keep its family vibe, or “The ChillFam” as some call it.
As patrons broke down their campsites and packed up their cars, a mutual feeling floated through the air, from musicians to fans and more importantly from one human to another. Many smiles and tears of joy were shared. After all, Catskill Chill had come and gone again. There were no goodbyes, only exchanges like “see you next year”. Birds chirped in the evergreens above, as the last bit of mist on the lakes’ surface dissipated. There were no negative stories exchanged, no bad vibes bouncing around, it was an all-around beautiful weekend. Catskill Chill was pure, the perfect example of what a festival should be, in a world as diluted as ours.