Review | Catskill Chill | Hancock

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Words by: Meredith Berke
Photos by: Scott Harris

Catskill Chill Festival :: 9.5.14 – 9.7.14 :: Camp Minglewood :: Hancock, NY

For the fifth anniversary of The Catskill Chill, things had switched up a bit. There were new vendors, new placements of Acoustic Junction and the addition of the Red Bull Campsite DJ truck. But make no mistake: the vibe this festival serves up year after year was unchanged. The Chill is known for its relaxed atmosphere as the ChillFam is friendly and the mantra “All Love All The Time” is not just lip service – it’s the law at Catskill Chill. The ChillFam makes the vibe, the Chill Festival provides the space. 2014 was no exception.

There was so much music served up at the Chill that I wasn’t able to see every band play. I’ve heard raves about the incredible sets that went down at the Acoustic Junction Stage, the tasty tunes and disco tracks at The Red Bull DJ Stage and once again I hear the FiKus Cabin was raging until the wee hours. However, I still was able to witness plenty of performances and here’s my report on a wonderful weekend at Camp Minglewood in Hancock, NY:


FRIDAY

We began with The Eric Krasno Band featuring Eric Kalb on drums, Peter Levin on keys, Chris Loftin on bass, Scott Metzger on guitar and the beautiful Alecia Chakour singing with Krasno. The banter between Krasno and Metzger was impressive, they both played easily with each other as the guitarists’ tit for tat was tight and perfect. Kraz’s latest solo ensemble laid down a particularly impressive rendition of The Beatles’ “Get Back,” which went deep into the afternoon. The fog machine was set on high, so it was tough to see the band at times, but the sound was spot on to highlight the musicians on the stage.

Next up was Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, and the band’s driving beat set the tone for the energy this first evening of the festival. Tight and quick hitting beats from Karl Denson’s dance party commenced on the Main Stage and then we went up to Club Chill, where Alan Evans’ Playonbrother was playing a set filled with Cream covers. There was a bit of technical difficulties with the keyboard, but once the techs fixed the issue we were off and running. Evans’ group wailed on a batch of Cream’s greatest hits such as “Crossroads,” “Strange Brew” and “White Room.” The beginnings of FOMS (Fear of Missing Something) became truly palpable as I was dancing at one stage wondering what was happening down on the Main Stage with Karl D.

We walked back up the hill to catch a set from keyboardist Marco Benevento. Bubbles filled the air, along with fog, as Marco and his band (Dave Dreiwitz on bass and Andy Borger on drums) highlighted new material from his latest album, Swift. The trio also did a great Floyd tease into Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets,” before they said “thanks so much,” and back down the hill we went for the night’s main attraction (as if Karl D. wasn’t enough) to see a full set of Lettuce.

Lettuce, complete with The Shady Horns and Alecia Chakour, performed in front of a full crowd. The energy was pitched to almost a feverish pace as first night festival excitement commenced. It was dirty, it was heavy and the beat went into your soul as we threw down, east coast proper style at The Chill. The funk revivalists played their some of their best material including “Sam Huff,” “Ziggawatt,” “Madison Square” and “Blast Off.” I was exhausted by the time the thrilling set concluded.


SATURDAY

Saturday began at the Acoustic Junction, a stage where smaller bands were playing, and we heard some incredible prose and poetry from some of the ChillFam for the first 30-40 minutes of the day. Saturday afternoon began with a set from Deep Banana Blackout’s own Jen Durkin and The Business throwing down their funky tracks. Two special guests from ShwizZ (Matty Carl and Ryan) sat in and brought the funk up a few more notches. All in all, it was a great set filled with impressive new material and even a few fun covers thrown in. In my opinion, you can’t really go wrong when Jen Durkin sings and dances.

Twiddle, who were completely decked out in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle gear, hit their set running. The Vermont band’s music runs the gamut from acoustic bluegrass to electronica, with a bit of funky reggae thrown in for good measure. The performance space was packed and the crowd was loving them. Fun times indeed.

Cabinet was next, with a jiggy, groovy type of sound. They call themselves “a band with roots firmly planted in the Appalachian tradition.” I would call them more jammy then bluegrass, to be honest. With their sweet harmonic vocals over their persistent fiddled beat, Cabinet added to a beautiful Saturday afternoon. The crowd was in heaven as we spent the day dancing. Cabinet also did a second Dead set later that evening which I heard was a throwdown and included favorites like “Mama Tried,” “After Midnight,” “Loose Lucy” and “Scarlet” > “Fire.” Whoa.

Dopapod followed with their signature fusion of electronic, funk and groove. The crowd was amped, the Main Stage was packed and everyone was pumped. The first time I saw Dopapod was at The Catskill Chill in 2011 and I could noticeably hear and see a difference with these guys. They have matured, the sound is cleaner and their presence on stage is more commanding. And they were having fun, as were we all.

I wandered over to Acoustic Junction where Brock Butler sang in front of a large crowd. People were dancing, singing, laughing and standing around to watch his great set. After some grub and a wardrobe change we all went down for the main event – Yonder Mountain String Band. For a bluegrass lover – heck, for any lover of music -Yonder Mountain serves up some great tunes, their talent is unmatched and the amazing Allie Kral joined in as special guest for this set on fiddle. YMSB are more than bluegrass, they are a great string band with incredible vocals. Highlights included “Landfall,” “Jolene,” “Traffic Jam” and their encore of “Only A Northern Song.”

Break Science (Adam Deitch, drums and Borahm Lee, keys & Abelton) brought the heavy beats with special guests from Lettuce including Jesus Coomes (bass), Eric Krasno (Guitar) and The Shady Horns (Benny Bloom and Ryan Zoidis). The only way to explain them is Deitch lays beats alongside Lee’s mixing and keyboard work making hip-hop a little more electronica, with serious hits. This night with Jesus, Krasno and the Horns lifted them up to new heights, sending the B Stage into a frenzy.

Lastly, The Nth Power packed the B Stage with their new sounds. This band is making waves and the buzz is not unfounded. With heavy hitters like Nikki Glaspie (drums), Nigel Hall (keys), Nate Edgar (bass), Nick Cassarino (guitar) and Weedie Braimah (percussion), this band packs it full on. The vocals from Glaspie, Hall and Cassarino are harmonic, sometimes soft and sweet, other times hard and rough. Their music ranges from funk to rock to soul and everything in between, including some West African drumming from Braimah, which is a joy in itself. We were treated to some new songs that are coming out on their full-length debut album, Abundance, in March 2015.


SUNDAY

Turkuaz opened the last day of the festival, and since this was my first time seeing them, I was particularly excited for this set. To be honest, I was blown away. The band is filled with incredible musicians including Dave Brandwein (guitar, vocals), Taylor Shell (bass), Craig Brodhead (guitar), Michelangelo Carubba (drums), Greg Sanderson (sax), Joshua Schwartz (sax, vocals), Chris Brouwers (trumpet), Sammi Garett ( vocals, tambourine) and Stephen Malinowski (keyboards, organ.) There was a new female singer who brought the music to new heights. The beat was steady, high energy, in your face funky and groovy -a wake-up-and-listen-to-us-now kind of music. It was loud, and hard filled with incredible vocals and guitar and bass playing. The encore was “Monkey Fingers” and that particular song stuck in my head all day long.

The jamtronica didn’t stop at the Chill and Particle was there to show everyone how it’s done. Particle busted out a song they hadn’t played in seven years, “Cheap Novelty Hats,” and the crowd went insane. The Turkuaz Horns sat in on “London Forces,” and The Hornitz Horns and former Particle bassist Eric Gould, who was on hand with Pink Talking Fish, joined in on a cover of Tomoyasu Hotei’s “The Battle Without Honor Or Humanity.”

Kung Fu tookthe Main Stage with their frenetic funky jazz session as the late afternoon began to settle in. Special guests The Turkuaz Horns and Singers joined in on “Haven’t Done Nothin’” and they ended their set with “Samurai” and “Bringing up the Rear.”

While Marc Brownstein Marc Brownstein (Disco Biscuits/Conspirator), Aron Magner (The Disco Biscuits/Conspirator), Tommy Hamilton (American Babies/Brothers Past), and Mike Greenfield (Lotus) performed an Electron set that featured a cover of “Comfortably Numb,” we went to see Turkuaz honor the music of Sly and the Family Stone. This was an incredible set which included “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” with Chuck Jones and Eli Winderman of Dopapod. It took me a few seconds to realize what song this was because it was played off beat. Most of Sly’s greatest hits were touched upon, including “You Can Make It If You Try,” “Family Affair,” “Sing a Simple Song,” “Everyday People”, “Take You Higher” and “Que Sera, Sera.” All in all this set brought the house to yet another beautiful emotional rescue. Sly, Turkuaz and The Catskill Chill, hit the mark high with great tunes, great people and great fun.

I’m not sure how this festival continues to get better and better each year, but it does. I’d like to Chill there forever. Grab your tickets when they first become available, as I am sure next year year’s festival will be sold out before you know it.

JamBase | Five Years Of ChillFam
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