As another remarkable summer festival season draws to a close, the 2015 edition of Catskill Chill also marked the end of another magical era. Dubbed “A Farewell to Minglewood,” festival organizers announced the sixth annual Chill would be the last one at its present and only location to date. Camp Minglewood, an incredibly remote and scenic summer camp in Hancock, NY, has been the festival’s home since inception, but perhaps due to a seemingly yearly growth in popularity the festival announced it will seek new quarters next year. This gave everyone in attendance, collectively known as the “Chillfam” one last time to make memories and enjoy a fantastic lineup of music in a truly special place.
With a steady stream of people still filing in on Friday afternoon securing camp sites and cabin spots, a full three days of music began on the festival’s various stages. Things got funky right away as Funky Dawgz and Natalie Cressman each had their brass powered bands open up action at Club Chill. Definitely more clubhouse than night club, the Club Chill stage is a unique one featuring wooden stadium style seating with multiple levels that were also partially enclosed. Although it was located uphill from the main stage, it featured some of the finest acts of the weekend including a thoroughly enjoyable set from Buffalo’s own Aqueous early Friday evening.
The Nth Power, an emerging funk, jazz and soul hybrid act initiated action over on the main stage. Spearheaded by the drumming prowess of Nikki Glaspie. The lively rockers powered through a set of originals including “Only Love” and also included a cover of The Beatles’ “She’s So Heavy”.
This warmed up the stage nicely for Lettuce, who followed with their signature high-octane brand of funk. Fittingly, they brought former member Nigel Hall on stage for the last few numbers laying down a funky “Sounds Like A Party To Me.” This was only the first of many memorable sit ins and collaborations throughout the weekend. The night continued with spirited set of electronica infused rock courtesy of Lotus, Break Science kept the party going and then some with a set that featured a plethora of sit ins from drummer Adam Deitch’s fellow Lettuce band members.
Meanwhile, Club Chill was packed to the gills thanks to another well-orchestrated collaboration. Members of Twiddle were joined by an all-star supporting cast including Tim Palmieri from Kung Fu on guitar and Tood Stoops from Raq on keys for a Grateful Dead tribute set. A clean run through the Jerry Garcia classic “Birdsong” preceded a thunderous rendition of “The Other One”. Other classics like “I Know You Rider” and “Fire on the Mountain” were met with appreciative roars and applause as this hyped set seemed to live up to its billing. One last mashup of rich musical talent brought things to a close on Friday with Dopakuaz Plays Studio 54. Comprised of members from Dopapod and Turkuaz, the big band ensemble replete with female vocalists did their very best to create an air of a late night disco party at the renowned New York City night club starting with an opener of KC & The Sunshine Band’s “That’s The Way (I Like It)”.
The hits just kept on coming late into the night with spot on renditions of “You Should Be Dancing” and “Get Down.” The group even showed an ability to shift seamlessly between songs which was highlighted by an impressive “Funky Town” >“Disco Inferno” transition.
Saturday saw more musical tributes and artists joining forces with beautiful results. Shwizz and Fikus combined for a Shwikus Plays the ’80s set that was very well received. They were followed by yet another super group as the ChillFam All-Stars, which included Steve Molitz from Particle on keys and Mike Greenfield from Lotus on drums, paid musical tribute to the great Herbie Hancock.
Club Chill was enraptured as the All Stars pulled off a set that included hits like “Watermelon Man” and “Rockit”. A tribute of another sort took place later on the main stage as Dweezil Zappa brought his Zappa Plays Zappa band for a set of his father’s music. Their current tour is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention album One Size Fits All so a steady diet of tracks from that were played in addition to other classics like “Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow”.
The main late night musical acts for Saturday featured two bands who are at very different points in their respective careers. Venerable upstate New York jam legends moe. were given the headlining slot for this year’s Chill, the first one they’ve ever played. A set opening “Seat of My Pants” was jammed to perfection and a rousing segue into “Recreational Chemistry” had hopes high for a special set. However, they didn’t dig too much deeper into the musical vault as the rest of set featured staples like “Happy Hour Hero,” “Spine of a Dog” and “Buster,” which served as closer. On the other end of the spectrum is Twiddle, a Vermont based rock quartet that is growing in popularity each passing day. They seem to have already developed a young and enthusiastic fan base and their performance this weekend surely opened some eyes. Playing with a noticeable energy and excitement, the group sent everyone back to their respective homes smiling with a set that saw Todd Stoops sit in on “Brown Chicken Brown Cow” and an impressive display of talent by keyboardist Ryan Dempsey on “Jamflowman” which featured a fun give and take jam with guitarist Mihali Savoulidis.
With two incredible nights of music in the books, Sunday offered no rest for the weary as another full schedule lay in store. Turkuaz got things started in the early afternoon with their customary explosive big band sound. They were followed by The Motet who ran through a set of their own funky hits including “Funny Bone” and “Like We Own It”.
Up at Club Chill, another of New York’s own, Solaris played to a small but rapt crowd as they delivered their version of electronica which included a fun take on the theme from Tetris. Shortly afterwards, it was time for Dopapod and their set on the main stage. With the sun beginning to set behind the trees, a beautiful canvas was naturally created as the group seemed to soak up every minute of their set which was littered with teases of “Funkytown” throughout as a nod to Friday night’s performance.
Additional Saturday highlights included Electron, an old Disco Biscuits side project featuring Marc Brownstein on bass and Aron Magner on keys who were joined by Tom Hamilton on guitar and Mike Greenfield on drums. This was as close to an actual Bisco performance as you can get as the old friends ripped through a set that included classics like “Shelby Rose” and “42” as well as a sterling cover of Pink Floyd’s “Have a Cigar”. Not to be outdone, Pink Talking Fish, a band that melds the music of Phish, Talking Heads and Pink Floyd, played perhaps one of most enjoyable sets of the weekend afterwards that featured other Pink Floyd covers like “Money” and “Eclipse”. The highlight may have been the performance of “Pigs (3 Different Ones)” that was dropped right in the “pause” section of Divided Sky.
To close things out, Catskill Chill had Particle, the only band to appear here every year, play a farewell set that featured sit ins from start to finish. Members of Dopapod, Turkuaz and Electron all jumped on stage at some point for a truly fitting farewell. The family atmosphere this festival has naturally developed was highlighted by the closing selections of “Family Affair” and “We Are Family”. Particle keyboardist/leader Steve Molitz urged everyone to remember the good times created at this special place before everyone went on their way and the book was closed on another special weekend. Some say the month of March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.
While it may be debatable as to when summer festival season exactly comes in, there’s no doubt after a weekend of music like this one that it goes out with a Chill.