Words by Chadbyrne R. Dickens | Images by Patrick Hughes
[drop]B[/drop]y all accounts, the most fulfilling and fun festival of the 2013 season took place on September 6th-8th at Camp Minglewood in Hancock, NY. Five stages displaying over 70 musical sets representing a myriad of stimulating options within jam, electronica, bluegrass and funk, is the “Catskill Chill Music Festival” …. “Chill” for short. The tranquil and bucolic sloped setting in upstate New York is an ideal environment for attendees who travel far and wide to the destination location. Chill is a mere 2 hour drive north of Manhattan and within a 3 to 4 hour radius of Philadelphia and Boston. With tickets selling for approximately $150, the weekend pass proved an exemplary value.
It is always challenging for a sequel or anything with major hype to live up to expectations. A Godfather II or Terminator 2 is a rare exception of a film sequel surpassing the original. Neil Young’s Harvest Moon was an extraordinary follow up to Harvest and one of the few concept albums to match the original. Similarly, this relatively small festival only gets better with each roll out. Chill sold only 2,700 tickets in its 2nd year but sold out its 5000 capacity again this year. Since its line-up announcement in April, music lovers have had the early September weekend circled, as it possessed the strongest line-up of any festival this year. Catskill Chill managed to do more than match its reputation from previous years, it surpassed significant expectations and may have achieved legendary status. Led by promoters Larry Siegel, Josh Cohen and David Marzollo, this year’s Catskill Chill provided thrills and frills. The Festival was organized in seamless fashion and went down without a hitch. The cold temperatures over Friday night couldn’t prevent the rabid festival goer’s from enjoying the music and each other. The Shwikus cabin, co-inhabited by members of talented bands FiKus and Shwizz, returned for another year of all-night jamming. Suprises abounded all weekend including an impromptu set from Mun’s Wiley Griffin, Cosmal and Adam Harris outside the Damn Sam Production tent at 1am. The beauty of Catskill Chill is that one is offered divergent options: One may seek respite in the sea of tranquility offered in the beautiful spacious grounds or venture off to see a plethora of diverse musical outlets. Despite a Chill fam that proved to be a tight and unified loving community, ultimately the Festival prevailed as a success due to the stellar varied musical performances that provided multiple eargasms for all. As Bob Weir once sang, “a couple more shots of whiskey, I’m going down to Minglewood!”
Friday, September 6th
Jamtronica outfit Particle covered “Electric Avenue”; local upstate-New Yorkers Jimkata impressed with their trippy electro-rock; Primate Fiasco delivered a stellar improvisational set to yet another festival crowd,; Chicago’s DJ collective trio Orchard Lounge impressed the late night crowd and festival favorites Kung Fu smashed an early morning homerun with a fun and fanciful funk-laden set.
Cabinet Dead Set :: 8:30pm-10:00pm :: Club Chill
The darlings of rural Pennyslvania have been playing in support of their inspired 4th album, Leap, for the past year. Incessant touring and stops at various festivals including Peach and Meeting of the Minds VII keep the band focused and tight. In a change of pace, the boys who consistently bring the blistering bluegrass, vigorously tackled a barrage of Grateful Dead classics for the first time. Although scheduled at the same time as juggernaut, Lotus, Club Chill was packed and standing room only and bouncing in contagious and alluring fun. JP Biondo (mandolin/vocals), Mickey Coviello (guitar), Pappy Biondo (banjo/vocals), Dylan Skursky (bass), Todd Kopec (fiddle), Jami Novak (drums) delivered a highly satisfactory bluegrass take on the iconic band’s hits. JP’s clear and resonant voice reminded those in ear shot of an early Garcia as he took the reigns on the Robert Hunter penned ditty, “Brown-eyed Women.” Highlights also included a buoyant “Cumberland Blues” and the fast-flowing “GDTRFB” had revelers dancing in delight. One can only imagine that Cabinet will continue to do the Dead justice and even improve on this stellar initial performance. Fans love to dance and sing along to the Grateful Dead and this incarnation did it justice – Old & in the Way would be proud.
Set List: Let the Good Times Roll, Brown Eyed Woman, Big River, Mr. Charlie, Big Railroad Blues, Liberty>New Speedway Boogie, Raceway Park, Cumberland Blues>Going Down the Road Feeling Bad, Wind & Rain, Easy Wind, Black Peter, Shady Grove, Loose Lucy
Lotus :: 8:00pm-9:55pm :: Main Stage
The powerhouse of Lotus is Mike Greenfield (drums), Jesse Miller (bass), Luke Miller (keys), Chuck Morris (percussion) and Mike Rempel (guitar). The instrumental electronic band has blown up in recent years, having sold out everywhere they go including a run at Red Rocks. The band is an overload to the senses due to the intense sounds and jams emanating from the veteran outfit. Known for their explorations in the late night slot at most festivals including All Good, Bonnaroo and Camp Bisco – it was refreshing to catch them in the prime time slot on the inaugural night of the Festival. The sly and sophisticated groove music enthralled a crowd eager to get the party started proper. The multi-genred band demonstrated their usual fusion of musical musings to showcase Jesse Miller’s bass bomb-dropping and Rempel’s prowess in knowing when to take off and fill the space. On tour in support of their 11th album, Monks, a departure from their usual roots and their successful foray into hip-hop, they didn’t perform any cuts from the new record. Set List: Uffi, Golden Ghost> Flower Sermon, Kodiak, Jump Off> Plant Your Root> Mikesnack, Disappear in a Blood Red Sky, Greet the Mind (w/ Steve Molitz on keys), Missif, Wax> Tip of the Tongue> Wax
Saturday, September 7th
Vermont’s Twiddle continued to garner new fans through inspired shredding; Tim Palmeiri of Kung Fu led a respectful Zappa set withThe Z3; Brooklyn-based Americana rockersYarn returned to Chill for another round of quality musicianship; Shwizz again demonstrated prowess with progressive rock and funkadelic jazz complete with a rousing closer of “Jurassic Park”; Brownstein and Magner further proved with an energetic set from Conspirator that it is more than just a Biscuits side-project and after a hiatus the jam trio RAQ shared one of the most talked about sets from Saturday night.
Mun :: 3:00pm-4:15pm :: Acoustic Junction
The Brooklyn based quartet is comprised of Andrew Ostenfeld (keys), Doug Gresh (bass), Bryan Hershkowitz (drums) and Wiley Griffin (guitar). The quickly-ascending jazzy jam band earned the last spot to play at the festival after winning the “Vote to Chill” contest and made the best of it of the opportunity. Although the band has made its mark of late with remarkable performances at The Big Up and Maz Fest, their 1st public acoustic set ever witnessed the band taking a step to another level. Griffin is well known for his exploratory noodling on his axe, but the free form jazz musings provided on a beautiful Saturday afternoon proved an exquisite example of stellar finger work and seamless segues into a bevy of euphoric tunes. Highlights included a poignant and nuanced “Girl From Ipanema” and a rowdy “Killing in the Name Of.” The consensus of those in attendance was that this was the most fulfilling performance of the weekend. Set List: Celestia, UfunkO,Girl From Ipanema, Hustler, Round Midnight, Alchemy, Ayo, Good Times Jam, Killing In the name of, Sex
Galactic :: 8:00pm-9:55pm :: Main Stage
The reigning funk Kings of NOLA are Jeff Raines (guitar), Stanton Moore (drums), Robert Mercurio (bass), Ben Ellman (sax), Richard Vogel (keys) and Corey Glover (vocals). Originally named Galactic Prophylactic in 1994, the funk masters have been entertaining for decades. Influenced by rock, hip hop and blues, the band remains known best as a bonafide jazzy funk act. The band can actually be broken into two factions: one incarnation is the tour de force musical explosion of instrumental jazz improvization backed by thick funky back beats, while the other are the multitude of songs which include Corey Glover of Living Coluor which turns the sound into more of an R&B outfit. The veteran musicians have released 10 albums and the show catalog is widely varied. It was a special treat to have the talented bassist Mercurio joined by George Porter, Jr. Galactic’s performance was this high point for many on the Saturday night schedule. The uber impressive brass master, Corey Henry, has been tabbed to replace the legendary Kermit Ruffin for a residency at Vaughan’s in NOLA. Set List: Boban, Hey Na NA*, Let’s do it Together*, Out in the Street*, Keep the Dream Alive, George Porter Song, Heart of steel, Boom Boom* >, Move Fast, 2 Clowns, You Don’t know*, What is Success*, Chicken Pox, Ooh Nah Nay (Boe), E: Sympathy for the Devil
Sunday, September 8th
Arleigh Kinchelhoe displayed her tremendous pipes on a soulful set with Sister Sparrow; the quickly-ascending bluegrass band The Brummy Brothers brought an up-tempo dance session to a blossoming crowd on the acoustic stage; the talented quartet The McLovins proved they are evolving in substance and style including each member dressed in costume as an animal and a sit-in on “Rapper’s Delight” with George Porter, Jr.; festival veteran Cosmal (Ryan Coyle) performed yet another stellar set of mind expanding exploration; Brooklyn funksters Turkuaz pranced about while belting a high-energy danceathon directly after the headliner’s set; and powerhouse outfits Papadosio and Dopapod closed the festival down as a super group called Dopadosio which included 3 Radiohead covers.
Motet – Funk is Dead :: 5:30pm-6:55pm :: Main Stage
Created as a Halloween experiment, The Motet’s foray into Grateful Dead funk has parlayed into nearly a dozen shows due to overwhelming fan interest. The veteran Colorado band of 15 years includes Dave Watts (drums), Garrett Sayers (bass), Joey Porter (keys), Ryan Jalbert (guitar), Jans Ingber (vocalist), Gabe Mervine (trumpet), Matt Pitts (tenor sax) and Camilee Armstrong (vocals). Band members are not even huge fans of the Grateful Dead, but took on the cover idea upon realizing that could do it justice and delivery fans with a memorable experience. With horns, 3 part harmony, and uniquely new arrangements, the Motet delivered a bombastic and enthralling take on the jam band hierarchs. Led by energetic soulful lead singer Ingber, who recently delivered one of the most impressive sets on the festival circuit earlier this summer at The Big Up while playing a Prince tribute performance with Kung Fu, again demonstrated his versatility and prowess behind the mic. Armstrong, who has also performed with Steve Kimock and Friends, also proved to be a vocal powerhouse who provided stellar feminine vocal chops that Donna could have never achieved. Highlights included a bouncy “Scarlet Begonias” and the song that Weir was said was an “attempt to write a disco hit”- “Shakedown Street” which tore up the frenetic main stage to close the set. Although rumored to be The Motet’s last Funk is Dead performance, after this exemplary demonstration, one can only hope they continue sharing such exquisite love.
Set List: They Love Each Other, The Music Never Stops, Help on the Way, Slipknot, France, Scarlet Begonias, Speedway Boogie, Fire on the Mountain, Stella Blue, Playin in the Band, Shakedown Street
The Meter Men :: 8:00pm-9:55pm :: Main Stage
Some were puzzled when The Meter Men were tapped as the Festival headliner. Although the band contains legendary performers, they have simply not been as big a name or draw as some of the others acts on the bill including Lotus and Galactic. However, the veterans of this super group proved in the prime slot on the last day of the festival that they were more than worthy of the label. George Porter Jr. (bass) Leo Nocentelli (guitar) and Joseph Zigaboo Modeliste, (drums) have performed together for over 45 years and this year are nominees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The Meters influence on funk music is well-documented but the ante went up when they enlisted Phish’s Chairman of the Boards, Page McConnell (keys). Phish fans may have been disappointed by the limited straight improvisation, but all were impressed with the powerful sharing of Meter’s staples, “Fire on the Bayou” and “Hey Pocky Way” which fueled a funky dance party to the overflowing main stage crowd. The highlight was the shot-in-the-arm frenzy provided by 13 year old guitar prodigy Bobby Paltauf (sat-in over the weekend with DJ Logic, FiKus and Twiddle) who demonstrated his awe-inspiring guitar chops. Porter stood smiling, relishing the moment, as the young phenom and Nocentelli traded licks in an epic call and response interlude.
Set List: The Hand Clapping Song, The World, Cissy Strut > Cardova, Fire on the Bayou, Funkify Your Life, Change/Reform, Hey Pocky Way, Look A Py Py, Cabbage Alley, Just Kissed My Baby, Africa, What’Cha Say, Pungee, This is My Last Affair, Chug a Lug, Ain’t No Use. Encore: People Say
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