Chill as it Ever Was: Catskill Chill Music Festival Review

The Catskill Chill celebrated its 4th annual music festival weekend on September 6th-8th at the scenic Camp Minglewood of Hancock, NY, located in the heart of the Catskills. The festival brought together another year of great music with a talented lineup and loving community known as the Chill Fam. What was once a summer sleep away camp gave festival goers the ultimate end to the summer party with the rustic and wooden stages, laid back staff and fun seeking friends that brought back memories of childhood and past Chill weekends. Guests had the option of renting cabins, complete with bunk beds, bathrooms and showers as well as plenty of tent camping for those seeking a view of the clear star filled skies at night while vendors were set up near the stages offering a variety of foods, clothes and odd ends at all hours of the weekend, complete with an Ice Cream Silent Disco Truck.

American Babies, kicked off the festival weekend on the Main Stage with a gentle rock vibe with slight southern twang. Keyboardist Adam Flicker kept a very close ear to his organ almost as if he was resting his head on every note. “Blue Skies” brought an enchanting melody of endless sunshine while their rendition of The Grateful Dead’s “New Speedway Boogie” helped the crowd stretch out their singing chops and dancing muscles. Spiritual Rez is a reggae ska band that can dance harder than you and they aren’t afraid to show it. Toft Willingham is a total talented nutcase as he sings and rocks on guitar all over the stage, encouraging the crowd to join in on a massive primal scream. Drummer Ian Miller, having recently broken his right arm, still managed to beat the hell out of the drums left handed and Mohamed Araki took a break from his keyboards to excite the crowd with a stage shaking keytar solo. Making their third appearance at The Chill, the four piece electronic rock band, Particle sent the crowd rocketing with their “Launchpad” opener into Eddy Grant’s “Electric Avenue.” It was an unusual, somewhat early (5pm) set for the group but that didn’t stop the Chill Fam from packing out the Main Stage area for their spacy dance jams. The band congratulated the crowd on making the right choice to attend this year’s Catskill Chill as it is one of their favorite festivals to perform at and went on to cover Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al.”

Jimkata had the crowd grooving in a beautiful unison with angelic yet robotic synthesizers and hard hitting guitar riffs. Drummer Packy Lunn slams relentlessly on the cymbals throughout “Die Digital” as Evan Friedell’s vocals cascade around the dance floor. Capital Zen, the progressive funk rock band from Upstate New York had music going in every direction. Their lyrics are fast spitting poetry that hits you at warp speed as their electronic tunes mix with hardcore rock and eventually into a cover of Primus’ “My Name is Mud.” Lotus brought the sound of lasers to life as they blasted the Main Stage to pieces with “Uffi” into “Golden Ghost”. Big electronic build ups throughout the set with heavy beats and intense guitar shredding provided a never-ending dance groove for the Chill Fam. The set got kicked up a notch as Particle keyboardist, Steve Molitz, joined the band for “Greet the Mind” for the ultimate get down. “Alright, we are pretty lite up” joked Alan Evans after their set opener, “They Call Me Velvet.” Given only an hour and a few minutes to play on Stage B, the Alan Evans trio didn’t waste a minute of pure funk explosion. Keyboardist Beau Sasser could barely sit down as he shook the keys and Guitarist Danny Mayer’s riffs were so sharp, they could cut right through you.

Primate Fiasco, newcomers to the Chill this year, scored one set Friday and Saturday night on the Acoustic Junction stage. The modern day ragtime band was a refreshing and fun surprise to folks who found themselves dancing in no time. J Witbeck’s deep sousaphone notes kept the music hot while Dave Russo picked on the banjo with fire. The true highlight of Friday night came from the 10 piece party machine, Lettuce, who threw down the funk on the Main Stage and never picked it up. Their high energy horn section blasted the groove so even folks all away across the lake could get down. It was an old school, disco dance party with plenty of soul to spare. The crowd screamed with excitement as the band played the infamous “Apache’ by Jerry Lordan. Alecia Shakour had smooth sensual vocals as she sat in for “Do Your Thing.” Kung Fu ended the night on the Main Stage with a dirty funky groove full of serious attitude. The hard core electronic beats and ripping saxophone from Robert Somerville are things not to be messed with. John Durkin and Nigel Hall joined in for the far out funk of “Steppin in It.”

check out Bryan Lasky’s photos below and keep reading for more of Catskill Chill from Saturday and Sunday

A brief early Saturday morning storm passed through, making way for blue skies with sunshine and a jam packed day of music scheduled. Twiddle had a surprisingly large crowd at the Main Stage for their noon set plus multiple musician sit ins. 13 year-old guitar hero Bobby Paltauf sat in for “Mamunes the Fawn” and Todd Stoops from Kung Fu sat in for “Brown Chicken, Brown Cow” > “Funky Town.” Twiddle’s music mixes with all the best flavors of music such as funk, jazz, and rock causing a delicious start to Saturday. The Z3, a three piece funk band dedicated to music of Frank Zappa consists of Zappa lovers Beau Sasser, Tim Palmieri and Bill Carbone. The trio appealed to more than just Frank Zappa fans on the B Stage with their funky twist tributes of his original experimental rock songs. After last year’s late night cabin set, Solaris, Ithaca’s electronic trio rocked the comfortably crowded Club Chill. The all instrumental group fed off the wild energy in the room and threw it right back with a higher dosage of funk jazz fusion. Jared Raphel couldn’t be stopped as he gyrated back and forth, crushing his keys with atomic awesomeness.

One of the more diverse bands of the weekend was Shwizz. One moment they are raging 80s German techno then suddenly it’s a light and soft lullaby jam. The band had so much love for the Chill Fam that it rained on the crowd and mixed with the cloud of glitter that was continuously being shot out of a cannon. One of the highlights of the set was the “Theme from Jurassic Park” closer, possibly the best cover of the weekend; Shwizz slowed down the piece and gently brought it up to a mountainous climactic peak. Quite the tear jerker. Aqueous delivered tight jams with improvisational grooves that kept the audience in nonstop motion. The big highlight and surprise of the set was their cover of “The Kids Aren’t Alright” by The Offspring, which brought out the teenage rebel in everyone, leading to a moshing sing along.

Galactic gave The Chill a taste of New Orleans soul shakin funk music as well as a modern twist with speedy lyrics especially during “Move Fast.” The five piece band brought the Mardi Gras jazz and groove with their horn section and a resilient rhythm from Carter Burgess and Aaron Hagele. Fikus, best described as an electro funk rock, fused together a combo of hip hop attitude with piano solos and classic rock guitar riffs that turned Club Chill upside down. Brothers Past crushed it for over an on the B Stage for an hour set, with the highlight being a smooth and exhilarating “Squeeze” going just over 17 minutes. The dangerously fun headliner, Conspirator, was proud to return to Catskill Chll this year as they dominated the Main Stage. The band has a devoted fan base, due in part to Marc Brownstein and Aron Magner of The Disco Biscuits and for the powerful electronic rock dupstep that fans can’t get enough of. Drew Suto of Dutch Masterson Designs provided an intricate light and visual show that highlighted the unstoppable dark dance party. RAQ ended the evening with the quartet bringing an old school rock groove to the Chill Fam. The set consisted of on point jams with strong harmonies that flowed from “Cheap Sunglasses>Pushin’ Up Daisies> Bootch McGoo.”

Check out Bryan Lasky’s photos below for day two of the Catskill Chill and keep reading for a review of Sunday

On Sunday, Cabinet brought a beautiful start to Sunday with their all-string bluegrass sound. Their soft harmonies and bow playing was as fresh as the Catskill Mountain air. There were breaks in the clouds with gorgeous rays of sunshine that reflected off the lake while Cabinet’s music echoed off the breeze. It was more of a bluegrass meditation as concert goers eased into the third and final day of the Chill. More bluegrass followed as the four piece band, The Brummy Brothers, strummed on the Acoustic Junction stage. The Brummy’s introduced the song, “Cell Phone Blues”, by saying how one of the best things about the Catskill Chill is the zero cell phone service, a rare treat for today’s generation to enjoy The Chill with no technological distractions. The Brummy’s lyrics revolve around partying, the simple things in life and modern troubles, all with a jamgrass vibe that folks can both relate and “shake their brum” to. Later that day, the crowd was dancing, stomping, and singing along with the eight piece funk and soul band, Sister Sparrow and The Dirty Birds as their music flew off the Main Stage. The main songbird herself, Arleigh Kincheloe, blew minds with her stunning vocals and stage presence. The Dirty Birds know how to get down and dirty with a booming horn section, shrieking harmonica plus groovy drum and guitar solos.

The McLovin’s, with less than an hour set, took the stage wearing furry animal costumes and played their second consecutive year at the Catskill Chill. The band did a solid version of Pink Floyd’s “Run like Hell” before bringing up the Horn Section from  Grant’s Tomb, New York’s top jazz jamband for a few songs, adding an extra party element. Legendary musician George Porter Jr. joined the animals on stage for a surprise cover of “Rappers Delight” by The Sugarhill Gang resulting in a massive dance breakout. Traveling all the way from Boulder, Colorado and one of the most anticipated sets for Sunday was The Motet playing a Funk is Dead set, a tribute to The Grateful Dead. The Motet performed the classic Grateful Dead songs such as “Scarlet Begonias”, “Fire on the Mountain”, “New Speedway Boogie” and “Shakedown Street” but with a funky fresh and exotic groove that was contagious. It was almost like hearing the Dead for the first time.

The Meter Men got the crowd jiving with a steady beat from the “Hand Clapping Song” opener which helped the musicians stretch out their groove muscles. The set was an easy flowing funk session with the Meter Men constantly feeding off each other’s vibes. Page McConnell took a moment to share with the crowd how he was reeling at the fact that he was playing with his musical heroes resulting in a roaring cheer. One of the highlights of the set was when George Porter Jr. invited Bobby Paltauf, the aforementioned 13 year old guitarist, to join them on stage and introduced him as one of the up and coming musicians to watch out for. Paltauf held his own among the music legends as he had Porter Jr. and McConnell laughing as he went note for note with Nocetelli. The crowd couldn’t get enough as they cheered on the musical magic that was happening before their eyes. After The Meter Man capped off their set with “Just Kissed My Baby”, Turkuaz blew up the B Stage with their high energy funk explosion of a performance. Geneva Williams and Sammi Garett bumped in perfect unison with their tambourines, taking turns with their own killer vocal solos. The horn section didn’t miss a chance to blow fans away as the set got wilder by each second. David Brandwein was front and center with his hard hitting vocals and nasty guitar shredding. Turkuaz doesn’t stop from the second they step foot on the stage to the second they get off, be prepared to dance your shoes off.

For the most dedicated of the music festival fans, there was the climactic late Sunday night trio of Dopapod, Papadosio and a collaboration of the two to form, Dopadosio. As the evening temperatures dropped into the low 40s, the crowd was more than eager for the music to start as the bands took time setting up the gear on stage. New York City experimentalists Dopapod treated fans to an uplifting fusion of rock meets techno meets improvisational jam, something akin to an outer space back yard party. The four piece band isn’t afraid to push their music or fans out of their comfort zone with their genre mixing testing. Papadosio have a more relaxed sound as they started with a spacey “Hippie Babysitter” only to take an electronic turn and add haunting vocals for “Method of Control.” The quintet combined psychedelic rock with a techno jazz composition that kept people hot on the dance floor. The final act of the Catskill Chill weekend came when members of Dopadosio closed down the Main Stage with a three song tribute to RadioHead with “Airbag”, “Paranoid Android” and “Optimistic.” From the first tent set up to the last car leaving the lot, smiles could be seen all weekend. There was a constant feeling of appreciation as friends gathered to celebrate each other, the talented musicians and hardworking staff that helped make the weekend all that it could be and even better. With more than enough music and positive energy, The Catskill Chill lived up to their motto, “All Love, All the Time.”

The final set of pictures from the Catskill Chill from Bryan Lasky.

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