My birthday parties typically consist of pizza and ice-cream cake. For Hudson Valley resident Lee Mazzola’s birthday, there were more than twenty bands with hundreds of celebrators dancing and socializing in addition, of course, to pizza and ice cream.
The party, dubbed Mazzstock, took place from August 24-26 on a back road in Marlboro, NY. While my wife Lauren and I could only attend Saturday’s festivities, everything we overhead confirmed our own time was representative of the overall experience: an intimate hangout among friends and neighbors, where overbearing security and a daunting list of rules were unnecessary; a small patch in the Hudson Valley hills with nonstop music and carefree families.
Before I arrived at the music, here’s an anecdote that aptly encapsulates the Mazzstock milieu: I took a brief shuttle ride from parking to the festival, driven by an apparently crotchety, ponytailed and mustachioed middle-aged man named Steve, who could’ve easily passed for a farmer, trucker, original-Woodstock-survivor, or all the above. After jolting the van to a stop at the music drop-off point, Steve overheard another older gentleman, a curious neighbor who didn’t realize paid tickets were necessary. The gentleman asked Steve to drive him back to his car, disappointed, since he couldn’t pay for the ticket. Steve replied, “Hell no, brother. You take one of my tickets. I bought a bunch because the guy running this shindig is a helluva guy and one has your name on it. You’re staying all weekend, my friend.”
Hours later, I saw the older gentleman enjoying himself plenty and hoped that Steve was somewhere nearby partying, too.
When I did finally arrive at the music area, a soccer field-sized clearing with a smattering of people around two smallish stages set up on the woods line, New Paltz’s The Other Brothers were playing. Led by flamboyant frontman Chris Owens, the nearby natives entertained for forty-five minutes. His backing band churned out funk led by steady percussion while Owens pumped his legs and wrung his hands, belting out soulful vocals. Owens’ voice was pleasant and his presence was vibrant and I was nicely surprised with The Other Brothers.
The weather was unimpeachable—sunny and seventy, the humidity had finally dissipated—and Lauren and I wandered around the festival grounds before the Alpha Male Gorillas took the stage. Kids (and grownups) were running around, dancing and hooping, everyone in high spirits. A communal bonfire smoldered in the middle of the grounds and revelers played cornhole and beer pong as music wafted from the background.
Back at the stage, the Alpha Male Gorillas began their long set with a few bluesy ballads. The vocals were gravelly and the riffs were plucky, a nice changeup from the preceding bands’ jams. To the chagrin of the crowd, they threw a curveball and welcomed a couple rappers to the stage for freestyling midway through the set. Covering a large gambit, they played everything from Nate G to Bob Marley. Festival namesake Lee Mazzola jumped on stage during the set to announce they were the only band who’s played every Mazzstock and the growing crowd vehemently approved.
While the Alpha Male Gorillas wound down, everyone scooted to the second stage for what turned out to be the highlight of the night. As the sun set, funk powerhouse Kung Fu took the stage and, from first note to last, catalyzed a phrenetic dance eruption. Early in their set, I overheard someone tell his friend, “There’ve been some good sets this weekend, but these guys are next level professionals.” I couldn’t have agreed more.
Kung Fu rocked Mazzstockers as each bandmate took his turn soloing and harmonizing, a tightknit unit firing on all cylinders. At the end of lengthy jams, a uniquely Kung Fu riff snapped the crowd back to the chorus, before they cast off into another crescendo.
An extensive drum solo from Adrian Tramontano highlighted the set while guitarist Tim Palmieri and tenor saxophonist Robert Somerville were constantly in sync, shifting between lead and rhythm roles. As with every able funk outfit, bassist Chris DeAngelis thwapped away tirelessly on the bass and keyboardist Beau Sasser rounded out the lineup with an upbeat performance on the keys.
Two hours after they took the stage, Kung Fu left and a feeling of dazzled awe settled in the air. Late at night and with a long ride ahead of us, Lauren and I called it a night and walked back to the shuttle, bragging about the day we had just experienced.
I was a little disappointed that Steve was still on duty as he dropped us off to the car. But, he said, he would be raging tomorrow.