The 2017 Halloween season got off to a frighteningly good start last weekend courtesy of a small and intimate party in The Berkshires that featured some of the region’s burgeoning musical acts. Bands from Upstate NY and Western MA, along with an intimate collection of 200 some-odd live music lovers, assembled at the rustic H.A. Moses Scout Reservation in Russell, MA for a brief, yet utterly enjoyable, festival of nostalgic music and musical costumes courtesy of Disc Jam Presents! and the third rendition of its Halloween Horror Camp. With each band playing a predesignated set of covers from other artists, the opportunities to “dress up” both in costume and musically ran rampant this cool October evening.
Normally used for Boy Scout camping purposes, the main lodge was transformed into a dance hall of sorts and nearby cabins were available for additional purchase as well for those that preferred bunk beds instead of roughing it outdoors. In fact, in a really unique twist, “campers” weren’t even informed of the event’s location until about 48 hours beforehand when an e-mail was sent to ticket holders. All that was known was that it would be somewhere in the 413 area code of MA. Those that were willing to put their faith in a party with no address were rewarded with a night of music that spanned multiple eras and genres.
One of the earlier acts of the day was Creamery Station who performed a “Watkins Glen” themed set of Dead and Allman Brothers tunes. With band members feeding into the holiday spirit and adorned in full body cow costumes, classic tunes like “Deal” and “Statesboro Blues” greeted still arriving guests and those still setting up tents and camps. A cover of The Band’s signature hit “The Weight” was also included in this engaging early set of music.
Shifting courses a bit, a set of Daft Punk covers followed, delivered by Northampton’s own Mammal Dap with assistance from Mary Corson on vocals. Together, they did justice to Daft Punk’s seminal album Discovery in a performance that covered nearly the entire recording. Songs like “One More Time,” “Voyager” and “Too Long” seemed to get the dance floor moving a little steadier and served as a great precursor for things to come.
Albany’s own Formula 5 then delivered one of the more anticipated sets of the evening with a blistering set of Phish covers. Beginning with a well jammed “AC/DC Bag” that fed directly into “Story of the Ghost,” the Upstate NY jam outfit did not disappoint with its cover set of one of their inspirations. A crisp “2001” kept the rave vibe alive and well in the main lodge but one of the true gems of the set was “Reba” and a corresponding jam that was melodious and powerful all at once. The same could be said for the rousing rendition of “Harry Hood” that followed later in the set before a customary “Cavern” set closer.
Cosmic Dust Bunnies then turned back the clock and took everyone on a musical romp through the 80s with a long set of covers from the era of hair spray and cassette tapes. Songs like “Superfreak” and “Word Up” gave the start of their set a retro dance vibe before the New Haven rockers settled into more pop hits like “Everybody Wants To Rule the World” and the ever present Rick Astley classic “Never Gonna Give You Up.” The Bunnies continued to impress and up the ante with standout takes of “Dirty Diana,” “Love Is a Battlefield” and “Panama.” The selection and variety of artists that were covered in this set was really impressive and a fun take of Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long” helped bring a close to it.
Strange Machines, a Boston-based rock fusion act, then threw it back even further with a standout set of songs by The Doors. A full throttle version of “L.A. Woman” kicked things off and a fun “Love Me Two Times” > “Higher Ground” > “Love Me Two Times” sequence showcased the band’s ability to stylistically bob and weave. The “Riders on the Storm” and “Strange Days” that came towards the end of the set offered a true psychedelic tone to the evening that proved not all the music tonight had to be upbeat and poppy in order to be enjoyed.
The party kept going well into the hours of Sunday morning courtesy of a Bassnectar themed DJ set from Uncle Bob and a stellar set from lespecial chock full of Primus covers, a sound the band has really honed of late. The final set from Roots of Creation featured Grateful Dead and Rage Against the Machine songs intertwined and throwing the crowd into a final frenzy of the night, while Kerry Quirk gave the fans what everyone wants late at night, a healthy dose of Madonna. Those that stayed and camped overnight were welcomed with a community breakfast in the morning to help recharge before leaving the wilderness and returning to civilization. Halloween Horror Camp has all the feel of a remote festival with a powerhouse music lineup combined with a backwoods campfire among friends. In other words, definitely be on the lookout for when and where Disc Jam Presents plans next year’s outing. If you dare.
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