Catskill Chill rounded out the New York summer festival season September 24-26 with a stacked line-up and a new location. Moving just a few miles from its former location in Hancock, NY, the Catskill Chill found a new home this year in Lakewood, Pa. Previously held at Camp Minglewood, this year the Chill found its new home at New Minglewood and included an extra day of camping and more music.
The festival’s inaugural Thursday night pre-party was a great addition to the weekend. Twiddle highlighted the evening with two sets including a sit-in with Scott Hannay of Mister F. Although the turn out for the night’s first two bands, Aqueous and Jimkata, was light, the packed house for Twiddle verified that many festival goers had taken advantage of the Thursday night ticket.
Arriving early had more benefits than just the music. Many festival attendees enjoyed the ability to set up camp and explore the grounds before the barrage of attendees arrived on Friday. “The best part of the Thursday ticket was being able to get the choice camping spots.” Jennifer Bliss of Saratoga Springs, NY told NYS Music. “It was also nice to have our camp ready to go, so that we could really enjoy the music on Friday.”
Mike Gordon drew the largest crowd of Friday Night to the main stage. Among the songs performed, the Phish bassist debuted “Let’s Go,” a tune generally reserved for a Phish set list. George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic also enjoyed a great turn out, many of whom had never seen the master of funk live. “I had only heard the name George Clinton, but didn’t really know what he was about. Thinking about it, that set might have been my favorite of the weekend. I liked that Chill has artists like that on their line-up,” noted Brian Thomas of Cleveland, Ohio.
Other much talked about sets on Friday night included Pink Talking Fish and Pink Talking Fu. The Pink Talking Fish set included a variety of Phish, Talking Heads and Pink Floyd with a sit-in from Kung Fu’s Tim Palmeri on “Great Gig in the Sky” and “Crosseyed and Painless.” The B Stage was turned into a dance party during Pink Talking Fu (Pink Talking Fish and Kung Fu.) The two bands highlighted the music of David Bowie and Prince in a tribute set that featured both top 40 hits and beloved deep tracks. Shira Elias of Turkuaz and Hayley Jane both sat in for vocal performances throughout the set.
Saturday’s main stage was highlighted with an assortment of musical styles that kept the variety going throughout the day. Ryan Montebleau, Cabinet and Keller Williams’ Grateful Grass added an element of relaxation and chill while Lettuce and Particle were funky and dance worthy.
Saturday was the day of tribute sets, providing a plethora of familiar music performed by some of the festivals most beloved artists. Fikus and Shwizz came together to perform as Shwikus Plays the Beatles, while the Heavy Pets played the 80’s and Lespecial paid tribute to Primus.
“I just loved all of the tribute sets at Chill,” mentioned Nick Augustine of Silver Springs, MD. “Every one that I saw was executed perfectly!”
The most intriguing set of the night went to Turbine, whose RadioDead set was at times mind twisting and enigmatic. The concept – Radiohead songs played in the style of the Grateful Dead and Grateful Dead songs played in the style of Radiohead. Turbine did a stellar job of translating the songs into the respective styles, so much so that many attendees couldn’t quite wrap their heads around what they were hearing. “Wait, is this Radiohead or the Dead?” was overheard often during the set.
For the second year in a row, members of Dopapod and Turkuaz brought the house down during their tribute set, this year with a tribute set to the preppie-loved classic soft rock of the 80s known as Yacht Rock. The set was fun, campy and executed with perfection. It’s a nod to both groups of Berklee trained musicians, as they take such care with music that could otherwise be dismissed. Somehow they find a way to celebrate not only the music, but the production quality that feels like you are square in the middle of a musical time capsule.
Josh Schwartz (Turkuaz) receives MVP nods for his spot on vocal tribute to soulful baritone Michael McDonald. However, Rob Compa who tackled vocals on the Eagles classic “Hotel California” as well as the entire Dopakuaz crew wins honorable mention during a production perfect version of the song. The set also included the most “had to be there” moment as Dopapod bassist Chuck Jones took to the Chill Fam seas with a stage dive and crowd surfing adventure.
The Chill Fam All-Stars tribute to Michael Jackson was another highlight of the night, however, many festival attendees were turned away as the Late Night Hall was packed to capacity before the music even started. However, despite not everyone being able to attend, the set was highlighted by the vocals of Elise Testone, whuch were a milky and smooth compliment to the original. The Chill Fam All- Stars included Eric Gould (Pink Talking Fish); Adrian Tramontano and Robert Somerville (Kung Fu); Shira Elias, Chris Brouwers and Michelangelo Carubba (Turkuaz); Danny Mayer (Eric Krasno Band); Steve Molitz (Particle) and Robert Volo on trombone (Deep Banana Blackout).
Sunday’s Main Stage was highlighted by performances from Dopapod, Greensky Bluegrass and Electron. Although the festival grounds and attendance at sets appeared to begin to thin out by Sunday afternoon, festival goers that stuck it out were also treated to great performances by Perpetual Groove, Tom Hamilton’s American Babies, The Werks and Broccoli Samurai.
Sunday’s most noteworthy performance went to Pigeons Playing Ping Pong. They made the most of their two sets, including a two-hour cover set late night at Club Chill. The set was one of the most sit-in heavy of the weekend including performances by Tom Hamilton, Shira Elisa (Turkuaz), Steve Molitz (Particle), Elise Testone, and Rob Somerville (Kung Fu).
The New Minglewood grounds felt like home for many Catskill Chill veterans. The added facilities of more “play areas” including the basketball courts by the B-Stage created a fun vibe that more people plan on taking advantage of next year. Wins for the new location included closer parking to the camping grounds, more common areas and the B-Stage, whom many felt housed the best music and sound of the weekend.
However, despite the great sound at both the main stage and the B-stage, many festival attendees found themselves hanging outside both Club Chill and the Late Night Hall due to the facilities acoustics. “It was really loud in both the indoor venues,” noted Mike Dustin of Allentown, PA, “For the most part, we chose to just sit outside and listen there. It just literally sounded like we were watching music in a high school gym. So much of the sound quality was lost.”
Most of this year’s attendees agreed that the cabins, vendors and security were in sync with previous years. However, it was noted by several folks that this year the port-a-potties in the camping areas could have used much more attention, as the usual daily cleanings of the facilities seemed to have been missed in at least one location.
As the weekend’s attendees packed up and returned home, most were happy with the new location and the line-up. But beyond that, it was the Chill Fam vibe that most were pleased to be a part of. “Chill is my favorite festival – hands down,” said Kelly Kepler of Portland, Maine. “I was scared that this year would be different, that changing the location would mean all the things we loved about Chill would be different. Honesty, I think it was better. It was a great way to bond with new people because everyone was on even ground. It only made our little Chill family stronger. I can’t wait for next year!”