The potential for the Hudson Project was endless. With MCP presents backing major festivals like Camp Bisco and Counterpoint, and with a lineup blending such a wide variety of fantastic acts everyone had very high expectations for the inaugural year of this fest. The first qualm that many of the patrons had, had been the fact that there would be no car camping and an added expense for leaving your car in a parking lot for the weekend, to be shuttled to the festival venue. Many festival goers were left dragging all of their camping gear miles across the grounds to camp sites scattered every which way. A wooden bridge connecting two muddy stretches of trail with steep, rickety stairs were the main access to the festival grounds leaving many people struggling to carry all of their gear up and down. By the last day of the festival the small swamp under these stairs had flooded to the point that everyone attempting to evacuate the premises had to wade through the mud with all of their belongings.
Aside from the lengthy journey to actually set up camp sites, there were many check points fully staffed with local police and police dogs. While the need for increased security to cease drug trafficking throughout festivals is certainly necessary, the last thing someone wants after walking miles with all of their belongings is for local police to tear through your bags and coolers, making you feel like a criminal. Within each checkpoint the festival staff looked through purses, wallets, pockets, hats and threw out open cigarette packs, which not only was unnecessary but also created excessively long waits to enter the actual music venue. Although the need for safety at a festival should always be top priority, the festival promoters took this to new levels.
Throughout the festival, police patrolled the camp grounds shining their flashlights into attendees tents. Security guards patrolled the main roads on horses, and each checkpoint was a gauntlet for individuals before getting into the venue to see music. On top of all of this it seemed like basic amenities like cell phone charging stations, showers and shuttles, all cost an excessive amount of money. If the patrons are not allowed back into their cars throughout the weekend then cellphone charging stations should be free. The water fill up stations, however, were extremely convenient (and free, surprisingly), but during the heat of the day the lines were so long it would leave many people feeling overwhelmingly dehydrated and exhausted. One of the rules on the festival’s website was that Camel Back water packs would not be allowed to be filled until inside of the venue, also leading to very long lines throughout the weekend.
However many qualms one may have with the Hudson Project, one thing is for certain; the music was golden. Sound Tribe Sector 9 played a phenomenal hour and a half set with their new bassist Alana, showing that even with out their former front man David Murphy, they were still more than capable of throwing down an energy packed set. The Flaming Lips played the main stage directly after Sound Tribe with a crowd that seemed to go on for miles. Their stage set up was perhaps the most intricate out of any act of the weekend, with giant psychedelic mushrooms and rainbows that made the stage into a spectacle, paired with the amazing Flaming Lips set. At one point the band had to stop playing due to an individual in the crowd having a seizure which the band attributed to their wild stage presence and décor (very possible).
Friday night was by far the best lineup for music with many of the major head liners one directly after the other. This, unfortunately, made it difficult to catch all of the bigger acts. It would have been far more ideal to spread out the headliners day-to-day instead of having large acts back to back Friday and Sunday. Saturday was a full day of fantastic music including ZZ Ward who played an outrageously soulful and energy-packed set that was perfect for a beautiful sunny day in the Catskills. Twiddle also performed a fantastic daytime set in the circus tent but with that many people in a closed tent it was abrasively hot and difficult to enjoy the entire set. Bonobo played a beautiful and ambient set while the sun went down and the evening settled on the Hudson Project. After Bonobo, Big Gigantic took the main stage with full force. This was interrupted by a torrential downpour that sent many campers running to take shelter, and other attendees dancing in the pouring rain. Almost all of the late night sets were extremely sub par. Moby’s set was filled with heavy drops and face melting bass with seemed to keep the crowd happy from start to finish. Four Tet played the exact opposite set on the other side of the grounds with zero bass drops and more of an experimental sound which gave patrons options between their late night experience.
The social media backlash began after the Sunday acts were cancelled due to extreme weather conditions were outrageous. Patrons from near and far shared their horror stories from each day at the festival leading up to one of the worst closing days since Woodstock ’99. Patrons began demanding a refund for a third of their ticket for missing an entire day of music and major acts such as BassNectar, Paper Diamond and Tipper. Those who were not lucky enough to get off the festival grounds before the storm hit were left scrambling to collect their things and seek shelter. By the time the patrons of the festival got to their vehicles the ground had begun to dissipate leaving hundreds of people stranded without food or water. The major social media backlash led to the festival putting out a statement that all attendees would be refunded for the last day of the festival. This was still a fuzzy area for many patrons who had purchased their tickets off friends or internet trading groups.
The weather certainly was the muddy tip of the iceberg for a long weekend at the first year festival. While the music still made it well worth your while, many of the circumstances throughout the weekend made it a less than desirable festival to consider attending again. This could be attributed to many different reasons, many of which are far beyond the festival promoter’s control, nonetheless it left many people very unimpressed by this festival. Nonetheless, with the broad spectrum of musical guests the Hudson Project brought to Upstate, NY, this festival has a potential to make a comeback in 2015.
Editor’s note: requests for comment from MCP Presents were not returned