The Debrief | Dave Marzollo Talks Catskill Chill 2013

Earlier this month the 2013 installment of the Catskill Chill festival took place at Camp Minglewood in Hancock, NY boasting a lineup that included Page McConnell and The Meter Men, Lotus, Galactic, Conspirator, Lettuce and many other bands from our scene. We recently spoke with Catskill Chill owner and promoter Dave Marzollo about how the event went and all the work behind putting it together.

[Photo by Scott Harris]

JamBase: Now that Catskill Chill is over and you've had a little time to breathe, what are your general impressions of this year's festival?

Dave Marzollo: This year's Chill was my favorite. Each year, we do our best to build on what makes the Chill special, while attempting to learn from our mistakes. I think that everyone involved - from the attendees and vendors, to the staff and artists - had a great time. We have received nothing but positive feedback. I am extremely proud to say that the wonderful responses we received from Page and the Phish camp were echoed by everyone involved.

JB: I would imagine with each passing year you learn what works and what doesn't when it comes to logistics. Was there anything that changed logistically between the 2012 installment and this year's event? How did that turn out?

DM: Sure. We wanted to provide our attendees with more camping areas. As we continue to grow, we look for new ways to make the experience better for our ChillFam. We felt that the camping areas seemed a bit crowded in 2012, so we opened up the new lakeside "Overlook Campground." While this area was a bit farther from the stages, we felt that it allowed our campers to have more space to set up their sites and enjoy Camp Minglewood. Jason Deeney and Jay Urse did a great job on the site plan this year.  Also, we really ramped up the production and talent for our Acoustic Junction Stage. I was thrilled with this mid-campsite venue, and I thought stage manager Martin Hill did a tremendous job making this stage such a hot spot.

JB: I'm sure there were many, but can you share a few of your personal musical highlights from this year's event?

DM: To be honest, I don't get to see too much music. I don't see any music Friday, given the nature of the attendee ingress, and only a little music on Saturday, as I try to make my way around the site, to ensure that everything is running a smoothly as possible.  I did get to catch the last 15 minutes of Galactic and I was blown away by how great they sounded. By Sunday, I can usually get down to the stages a good deal. I really enjoyed Sister Sparrow's set, and the Motet's Funk is Dead set was magnificent. The Dopadosio Mega-block was spectacular - i'll say more on that is a moment. The highlight of the entire event was The Meter Men with Page McConnell. I got goosebumps when they brought child guitar prodigy Bobby Paltauf on stage, and he was trading licks with Leo. That might have been one of my favorite Chill memories to date. Check out the picture.

JB: How did the Dopodosio set come together?

DM: Great for me and great for the fans - but probably not as great for the production team. Luckily, I have the best Production Manager in Kurt Steelman and Stage Manager in Lance Royes. These guys stick to the schedule by the second, and don't make any mistakes, but we put their skills (and patience) to the test with this one. Of course, the guys handled it with all the efficiency that we have come to expect from them over the years. I was really happy with how smoothly the entire production team performed the entire event, but especially with this triple set, at the end of such a long weekend.

JB: How well do you think the two bands pulled off the Dopodosio performance?

DM: It was incredible. As a big fan of both bands, I loved each of their individual sets, but the combination of the two blew me off my feet. I was thrilled by the fact that everyone stayed, even though it was well past 3:30 a.m. on Sunday night, by the time it was over. We are lucky to have some amazing footage of the set, as well as full soundboard recordings, so for those who missed it, we will still give you a chance to share the wonder we all witnessed.

JB: How long ago did you start planning this year's event?

DM: From the second the Kick Rocks set ended on Sunday night of 2012.

[Photo by Scott Harris]

JB: What's the most time-consuming part of producing Catskill Chill?

DM: The booking takes a long time. Constructing our "dream team staff" is time consuming as well. Clean-up takes all winter and well into the spring. Yet, the perhaps the greatest time bandit of all is the time spent on the phone with partners Larry Siegel and Josh Cohen micromanaging the details. These two guys seem to spend every waking moment considering the little stuff and we talk for hours on end - as my wonderful and patient wife Melia will attest. We don't get it all right every time, but it certainly is not for lack of effort. Deep debates on details as mundane as port-o-john placement, merch selections and advertising detail will rage day and night. These guys care about every detail, and I like to think it shows.

JB: What's the most frustrating part of producing Catskill Chill?

DM: Maybe missing most of the music. While I am thrilled with the staff we have assembled, I am just too much of a hands on promoter to just sit back and enjoy. My wife gave birth to my second son, exactly one week before the Chill. The close proximity of these two life-altering events forced me to hire a staff that could run the entire event without me even being there. Let's face it, the birth of my child is the only thing that would make me miss my festival. Yet, even though I know that all of my department heads were fully self-sufficient, I just can never resist the urge to ride around on my cart and check on how things are going. Thankfully, I have plenty of audio and video to get me through the winter

JB: What's the most rewarding part of producing Catskill Chill?

DM: Hearing the reactions of the masses. Pam Koslov, our Director of Artist Relations and Hospitality, sends me all the artist feedback, and from the headliners to the opening acts, all seemed thrilled to have taken part. That part is amazing, but even better is the feedback I hear from the shuttle drivers on Monday morning, after ferrying the attendees to their cars. Everyone seemed to have had a great time, and that is why we do this, after all.

[Photo by Scott Harris]

JB: With so many bands now a part of the "Chillfam," does it become difficult to balance wanting a fresh lineup with bringing back the acts that always deliver at the event?

DM: That might be the hardest part. We want them all back every year. We have become friends with many of our Chillfam artists, and having to tell them that they may need a year off - not because they aren't amazing and dear to us and our following, but simply to get in some new acts, is always something I dread. Luckily, we are going to be doing a great deal more club show promotions this year, so that should give us more opportunities to keep everyone intimately involved.

JB: As Phish fans, what was it like bringing Page and The Meter Men to Camp Minglewood?

DM: It was awesome. We are Phish fans, and have been since high school in the early '90s. At the end of the day, I just couldn't get over how nice Page and his manager Richard were. You hope everything will go off smoothly, but from the moment these guys rolled off their tour bus, to the moment they rolled back out, they were just great. The first thing Page did was to take an unaccompanied walk though our vendor village, to see what the vibe of the festival was. George Porter Jr. helped to make this booking happen, as he was the only one in the group to have performed at the Chill in previous years, and he happens to be one of the nicest guys on the planet, so he gets a tremendous amount of thanks from the entire Chillfam. Overall, I couldn't be happier with how it all went. They might have the first act we ever allowed play a encore - going over their time. Steelman keeps us on schedule, no matter what, but somehow I just couldn't resist.

[Photo by Scott Harris]

JB: Have the Hancock/Wayne County locals embraced the festival?

DM: I think the reaction is pretty positive. We use a handful of local food vendors, and Ken Hays's Terrapin Foundation had a great food drive, which was all donated to the Hancock, NY Food Pantry. Hopefully, the local businesses all did a little extra business as a result of the attendee traffic.

JB: Do you expect Catskill Chill to return in 2014?

DM: Indeed we do. We are already in deep debate about headliners, site plans and new dates. The details will be announced in the coming weeks, but one thing is for sure, the Chill will be back at Minglewood in 2014, and you are invited!

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