Rock N Roll Resort v4 was a dream come true for those looking to start the festival season of 2014 on the right note. Wicked Cool Productions and Magic Hat presented the fourth annual music and arts festival hosted at the Hudson Valley Resort & Spa in the heart of the Catskills in Kerhonkson, NY on April 4th-6th. Given the history of the resort, it was the ideal location to host such a grand weekend party after the long winter and cabin fever that Upstate had endured. With over 60 musical acts, 4 stages, an indoor shakedown scene, the Overlook Art Gallery, themed costume nights, plus all the extra activities, dreams came true for guests at Rock N Roll Resort v4: The Dream Machine.
Friday night’s festivities began with a set from Scooter Dude in one of the more ornate and lavish rooms that Hudson Valley Hotel and Spa offered, the Grand Ballroom. Located right off the main lobby and in the heart of all the action, so to speak, this carpeted dance room saw luxurious couches lining the outside of it for comfort and an incredible chandelier that aided everyone’s visual enjoyment. Every band and/or lighting director took turns all weekend using this crystal centerpiece to their benefit by bouncing and reflecting lights off of it, much to the delight of all in attendance. This was definitely one of the more aesthetically pleasing constants of the weekend which never failed to disappoint. Space Carnival took over the Grand Ballroom for a set filled with their spacey disco jams that included a killer Talking Heads’ “Cities” that sent the crowd shooting through the room almost as fast as the laser beams. The Oneonta quartet took their performance with serious precision as they lopped melodies and held a fast consistent dance tempo that was hard to orbit out of.
Guitar phenom Bobby Paltauf was joined by Jen Durkin on the Acoustic Stage which was located literally right in the center of the lobby, so it was by far the most accessible of all the stages. Their hour long set gave the young guitarist a chance to make his name known and featured a fun take on the Keller Williams classic hit “Best Feeling”. This was a pleasant intro for one of the more pure rock n roll acts of the weekend, The Broadcast. The played in one of the two larger rooms of the weekend, the Empire Lounge, which had all the look and feel of a swank cocktail lounge from the 70s. While the room may have been a little sparse due to late arriving festival goers, the Asheville, North Carolina rock outfit delighted those who had checked in already with their energetic set of primal rock. The icing on the cake was a phenomenal version of Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” which could have easily served as the motto for what this group delivered all weekend. With a lot of electronica and funk outfits on the bill, their brand of pure rock, with an impressive female lead singer named Caitlin Krisko, was quite the breath of fresh air.
It was a short walk from the Empire Lounge to the adjacent Manhattan Theater that housed many of the larger acts of the weekend. The first of these was Upstate New York’s own Conehead Buddha. The resurgent rock, funk, reggae and ska act delivered a little bit of all of this and then some to the patrons that were in attendance early. With a nice mix of uptempo originals and cover songs, Conehead Buddha did a fantastic job of turning a fairly empty and lifeless room into one full of energy and anticipation for the rest of the weekend. The Alchemystics turned the Empire Lounge into a tropical storm of smooth reggae and hip hop that preached fierce words of spreading love and hope. The soulful groove was contagious as the simple and exotic percussion kept bodies moving with lyrics that inspired a revolution on the dance floor. The vocal harmonies were uplifting with echoes of a timeless message but with a modern day aura.
BRYAC Funk Allstars is a collaboration of all things funk from Connecticut with members from Kung Fu and Deep Banana Blackout. A classic big band sound like an Earth, Wind and Fire funk, but with way more edgy rock. The band’s everlasting notes and chords kept the peaks high as the brass section kept in triumphant unison. One of the highlights of the set was the head banging, thrash about jam of “Red Hot Mama” with Jen Durkin wailing on vocals and tambourine. Peter Prince & the Trama Unit was a five-piece, pure rock show mixed with funk and a great female sit in from Shannon Lynch of Conehead Buddha on Saxophone for “Friends” for an added jazzy blast. Peter Prince wailed bluesy vocals as Johnny Trama joined him for continuous guitar shredded. DJ Honeycomb sweetened the night in the Grand Ballroom with sit-ins by Friendship from The Hornitz and fellow beat boxer, Frido Lays, putting a fresh spin on the night with their fast spitting beats.
Dumpstaphunk then took over the reigns of the Manhattan Theater which was now much more full of revelers. This act has become a staple on the festival circuit and their vibrant, energetic blend of rock and funk always seems to draw a crowd. Friday night was no different as the energy and mood of the venue continued to soar with each new number played by this supergroup of sorts. Drummer Nikki Glaspie really stood out in this performance (a feat unto itself) which was punctuated with a spellbinding “Drum solo -> Scat solo -> Immigrant Song” cover. Tauk was the set of the night with their face melting rock jams that took everyone by surprise in the Empire Lounge. The quartet from Brooklyn has a consistent rhythm in their live performances as they fuse progressive rock with experimental improvisation creating a unique genre of their own. Tauk’s instrumental rendition of The Beatle’s “I Want You (She’s so Heavy)” is one for the ages as they break it down to hypnotize audiences with pauses and driving climaxes.
Saturday was a fresh start for festival goers to wake up to a catered breakfast, enjoy the spa amenities and partake in the numerous activities being hosted such as the Disc Golf Tournament, The Great American Pin off and the Magnificent Mini-Golf Tournament. The afternoon saw bands like Eggy, a galactic rock band, and The Hornitz, a beatboxing funky dance duo, kicking things off to start the day before 7 Below, an up and coming Phish cover band, did their thing in the first set in the Manhattan Theater of the day. The energy really kicked up with SOLARiS and their set in the Grand Ballroom. Taking full advantage of all the sights and sounds this room had to offer, this rising act that was formed in Binghamton, NY was really one of the jewels of the weekend. Producing way more energy and sound than any normal three piece band, this group has the look and feel of established electronica acts like The New Deal and Conspirator. They had everyone bouncing around the room to their infectious sound, including one guy who was compelled to do multiple back flips on the dance floor. This is truly an Upstate band that should not be missed.
Their set flowed quite nicely into that of another Upstate New York act, Roots of Creation. These guys have been delivering their brand of ska-infused rock for many years now and it was nice to see them get a respectable time slot for their performance which featured a nice take on the Grateful Dead classic “Row Jimmy” among other songs. Following them in the Empire Lounge was another great New York band that’s fairly new to the scene as a band, but with musicians who have been around the block a little. Mister F is composed of members of the now defunct Timbre Coup and Capital Zen and they recently released their first album entitled The F Stands Four. Rock and Roll Resort was an ideal venue for this band to start having their sound heard by the masses. They play a truly infectious brand of electronic-based rock that had the entire room dancing in unison. With stellar performances of songs like “Vocoder” and “This One Goes to 11”, there is no doubt this performance turned some heads and garnered the group a few new fans.
One of the other weekend headliners, Everyone Orchestra, then took center stage for the night. Featuring prominent names like Steve Kimock, Reed Mathis, Natalie Cressman and Jennifer Hartswick, this traveling ensemble delighted everyone with a special blend of jams, improv and soaring vocals courtesy of Hartswick and Jen Durkin who resurfaced during their set. EO delivered the soaring jams and quirky improv along with the audience participation for which they’ve become so well known.
Business Casual Disco kept the party going in the Ballroom with their DJ remixes of classic and today’s hits with danceable beats and breakdowns. The crowd pleasers were The Jackson 5’s “ABC ” and Daft Punk’s “Doin it Right.” But for a completely different direction, Cabinet provided a Bluegrass Americana groove that is a classic staple to the historic Catskills and the rest of Upstate New York. The Empire Lounge was filled with string plucking and picking, as bows glided with rising vocal harmonies. Jordan Simms had quite the rowdy crowd singalong in the Acoustic Stage area as he played a late night set with Nephrok, Bobby Paltauf and Jen Durkin for the Rolling Stones “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and Joe Cocker’s “Feelin Alright.”
The last major act of the evening was a break from all the other groups that did such an exemplary job of representing both New York and the East Coast. The Motet flew out from Colorado and delivered a true dance party. This most recent incarnation of the band has been touring nationally the last few years and includes elements of funk, afrobeat and disco among others that had the entire Manhattan Theater eating it up. This represented perhaps the peak of the weekend in terms of intensity and crowd population. Seemingly everyone in the hotel was present for both of the band’s sets this evening. The highly anticipated act delivered a rousing performance that surely had some folks hoping they’ll be on other bills later this summer.
With the Sunday theme being “Pajama Party”, everyone was dressed with bathrobes and slippers, ready to relax and enjoy the last day of Rock n Roll Resort. The Akashic Record, the five-piece funk machine from Boston woke up the crowd with jazzy, free flowing tunes with solid Hammond organ jams thanks to Beau Sasser and soul charging trombone from Brian Thomas. Sasser stayed on to take the reins for the later set of Beau Sasser Trio who had members of Turkuaz join in for a cover of Frank Zappa’s “Stinkfoot.” The Grand Ballroom was filled with sweet salvation pouring from the vintage organ all day long and out into the glorious sunshine for festival goers to enjoy the fresh air. The Kings of Belmont returned to the Empire Lounge in the morning after having their raging first set of the weekend at 4:30am on Saturday. Keeping with the easy flow of Sunday, they covered Pink Floyd’s “Time” and “Breath” for a psychedelic groove.
One of the great things about festivals, no matter the type, is a band that’s somewhat off the radar beforehand and then blows the house down and makes one of the biggest impressions of the weekend. Turkuaz filled the role of pleasant surprise this weekend and did it in a most impressive manner. This nine-piece band featured a blaring horn section, two guitarists, backup female singers, along with a sterling rhythm section that all worked in perfect harmony with each other from start to finish. It was loud, it was energetic, and it was in your face rock music that blew the roof off of the Hudson Valley Resort and Spa. A first set cover of Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” was played with precision and was very well received by the crowd, which had dissipated a lot from yesterday as many festival goers chose to leave early on Sunday. Although the numbers may have been fewer, the energy of those still remaining and dancing was palpable. This is all thanks to Turkuaz, a must see act that’s surely coming to festival near you in the future.
To cap off a fun and full weekend of music, the Rock n Roll Resort Superjam featured a constant revolving door of talented artists. From Beau Sasser to Nephrok himself, the Superjam was a fun and spirited way to cap off the festival. The couches in the Grand Ballroom may have gotten a little more use at this part of the weekend due to tired legs and bodies, but there was still a lot of good music to experience before calling it quits. The crowd did eventually thin out even more and as traces of sunlight began to make themselves visible, it was clear to all that this massively successful festival was at its end point and the time to start planning for next year’s bash was now underway.