It was certainly different from any festival I have ever attended.
Rock n Roll Resort v5 Electric Avenue, nestled in the Catskills at the Hudson Valley Resort and Spa in Kerhonkson, New York, promises a weekend unlike any other on the festival circuit. Instead of the typical start of setting up a tent and campsite in a giant field, all we had to do was park and check into our room. Pretty simple and uneventful.
Inside the entrance is what you’d expect at any festival: A few stands selling clothing and trinkets and people getting prepared for the weekend. It was almost time for the first band to start, so we hustled to settle in and go right down to the Grand Ballroom, one of four venues inside the resort.
I don’t have the numbers, but it certainly felt like the crowd was thin. With dozens of festivals popping up each year, attendance was bound to suffer at some point. This was a fun and exciting weekend, and I hope it can come back for years to come.
Kicking off the music was Brooklyn-based Cousin Earth, formerly called Ukulelien, a group that appeared gimmicky at first glance.
“We all play little instruments,” Joe Calfa, on ukulele, said.
Cousin Earth, a five-piece, is about as far from a gimmick as possible. Calfa plays an electric ukulele, tuned GCEA, Corey J. Feldman plucks a four-string U-Bass, which is essentially an electric bass the size of, you guessed it, a ukulele. On lead vocals and melodica is Tara Lawton, a trained theater actor, who fits perfectly with Terry Brennan, another actor. Together, the pair added a Broadway-style flair to the hour-long set. On the backbeat is Nate Searing.
The group’s sound is so rich and full.I heard everything from calypso, to jam rock to hip-hop, reggae and even video game themes. Cousin Earth opened with a riveting cover of Phish’s Possum, which featured Calfa’s technical, but fun, chops. Out of all the acts I witnessed for the first time this weekend, Cousin Earth gets my recommendation for band you absolutely need to experience.
Next up was Eggy in the Empire Lounge. A four-piece from Connecticut, Eggy continued the tone set by Cousin Earth with a very danceable set intertwined with some deep improvisation. I was only able to stay for a bit, as I had to do interviews for the next few hours.
Sprocket’s Dan Haller took a few minutes to sit down with me. The group recently landed a residency at The Bitter End in Manhattan, playing late-night sets. Haller said, in a nutshell, that the band is continuing to rise, but doesn’t want to stop connecting with fans.
“We have honed our live sets, but we want to start throwing dance party ragers,” Haller said.
In the midst of all the music was the Overlook Gallery, where art was displayed on the walls while artists painted pieces in real-time. Run by Gregory “GreyEgg” McKenna from New Jersey, this art show is specific to RnR Resort, as he said he doesn’t run any other shows across the country.
I was able to stop in for brief stints with Flux Capacitor, the Skints and Sprocket, before getting ready for Lucid, a band out of Plattsburgh, NY that has risen highly among regional acts. Full disclosure: I attended SUNY Plattsburgh with a few of the band members, and have been seeing them live since 2007.
The group has grown immensely since I first saw them at the Monopole. Their sound is full, they’ve honed their chops and it’s no wonder why they are getting bigger and better gigs each year, and host their own festival in Peru, NY, each year called Backwoods Pondfest. The six-piece melded roots, rock, blues and reggae all into an hour-long set.