Upstate, tucked away on a lake in the Catskill Mountains, a band camp called Camp Minglewood hosted this year’s Catskill Chill Music Festival: a three-day, three-night music extravaganza with some of today’s hottest funk and jambands with a side of some hot DJ’ing and electronic beats.
First impressions? As we ran from our campsite to the Lettuce show, missing everything but the encore, I rounded the hill and was taken back by the sight of about 5,000 people at the main stage. In 2011, there were 3,000 people, this year, 5,000 members of the ChillFam had arrived. Regardless, this is still one of the most friendly, down to earth, outgoing and caring festivals I’ve been to.
Once we got our bearings around the camping area and found our way to Club Chill, where Wyllys was spinning, we made it to the main stage where EOTO was jamming, and ended the night with Jeff Bujak’s trippy intimate set on keyboards. On my way back to the cabin, I ran into the FiKus/Schwizz house (which was a cabin in the camping area) and watched Shwizz jam out. At this point I thought that if this was just the late night lineup of the first night, we were in for a fine weekend.
I woke up on Saturday morning and heard about “The Big Storm.” Everyone was talking about it, and since no one at Camp Minglewood had any cell service, I was out of the loop. Later on, I learned that there were tornado watches, there was no live music on the stages, and all the campers should seek shelter from the covered stages. In the end it rained, it was windy, and it lasted less than an hour. Shortly after the rain ended, there were friendly Catskill Chill Staff members walking around with updated schedules. The hospitality rocked for us all, and the staff was able to still fit in all the scheduled artists.
We went to see the Alan Evans Trio, who offered an extended set of raw beats and deep grooved funk, then caught Rubblebucket. Rubblebucket’s singer sounds like a mix between Bjork and Sinead O’Connor. When I got to there I saw these women on the stage dancing in sheets, doing hippie twirls. Then came out the Rubblebucket Robots who traversed through the crowd. I saw lots of happy, dancing faces all around me as I made my way out to go to Stage B.
This set happened to be to be my favorite jam of the weekend. This iteration of Headtronics was a mash up of some of today’s most talented musicians on the scene: Steve Molitz (Particle), Adam Deitch (Lettuce), Freekbass, DJ Logic, Tim Palmeri (Kung Fu) and Jules Jenssen (Indoboxx) . They played no more than 5 songs in their 90 minute set, and it was powerful, it was tough, and it felt like sweet thick jam all over the Chill.
Stumbling out of Stage B, I went back down to the Main Stage to see Yonder Mountain String Band. They were gracious to our hosts at the Catskill Chill, and they were gracious to the crowds with their great string lineup. All 5,000 or more Chill Fam campers packed into the stage area, and did a few fun jigs with the Yonder Mountain String Band until it all exploded into a wild dance party during the encore.
Saturday night’s headliners raised the roof once again to a slamming Soulive show with The Shady Horns playing amped up renditions of “Eleanor Rigby,” “Everybody Wants To Rule The World,” “El Ron” and “Too Much” with Nigel Hall wailing on the vocals.
Stage B was reverberating with Break Science: Adam Deitch (Drums) and Borahm Lee. The livetronica set had Lee spinning incredible tunes while Deitch hit the beats perfectly in union to create great dance tunes. Deitch is a monster on the drums, he played technically perfect and moved with Lee’s programmed beats to enhance the music and amp the energy.
It was a slow moving Sunday, and bringing back our gear to the car took up most the morning, but we were treated to a raging show with the Jen Hartswick Band, with TAB singer/trumpetist Jen Hartswick and Dumpstaphunk drummer Nikki Glaspie. The McLovins played an awesome set with Grateful Dead classics such as “Samson” and “Shakedown Street,” a nod to Levon with a rousing “Cripple Creek” and later ended the set with Dylan’s “Mighty Quinn.”
Cornmeal played the main stage as more slow to rise campers made it in to see their Sunday start with some more bluegrass. More jigging was to be had, square dancing aside for an hour and a half until we broke to take the rest of the gear to the car so not to miss Lotus and then Yarn plays Dead. There was also a main sewer pipe broken throughout the evening, so we made sure we walked around some suspicious puddles on our way up and down to the main road.
Once back to the stages, we were treated to Lotus, who never disappoint with their electronica jams and impressive light show. For me, the last set of the weekend was Yarn plays Dead, a set of all Dead tunes by Yarn. I loved this set, the encore was “Fare Thee Well,” perfect enough to send me back on the road, traveling far from Camp Minglewood. Fare thee well indeed.