Formula 5 has made a name for themselves in the past 7 years, performing at a rally for Bernie Sanders, with shows in more than 20 states, festival appearances across the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, their own Ben &
Jerry’s shake, as well as three studio albums, two live albums and their own festival, Rock the Dock, taking place this Friday in Lake George.
Then, that will be it for Formula 5. The band announced in March that they would go on indefinite hiatus following their Rock the Dock festival on Friday, July 12. The Magic Beans, Eastbound Jesus, Swimmer, West End Blend, Mike Powell, and JT Maple will also perform ahead of their final performance.
We asked fans and former band members for their favorite memories of the band, whose short tenure left an indelible mark on the jam scene in the Northeast.
Since that first Tumbledown weekend (2016) when a bottle of acid laced whiskey led to great friends and a love for Formula 5, to almost year later finding out that said bottle of acid whiskey was the catalyst to “Figure Out A Feeling,” to raging in costumes at Horror Camp, to late nights after Nectar’s, to pen rips on stage at ADK Fest, to deer hits, it’s been a WILD RIDE.
It was at Putnam Den and Formula 5, Mister F and the Other Brothers were playing. It was the first live music I had seen since moving to the 518. I didn’t know anyone, but it didn’t matter, all that mattered was the music and it was everything you wanted it to be.
My favorite Formula 5 show was the 2016 Halloween show up at King Neptune’s in Lake George. They set up a projector and did a jam over a major battle scene from Lord of the Rings. It was epic. Doing an improv rhyme during a cissy strut jam at Dino BBQ in Troy was also dope!
I remember talking with all of the guys in the band over the years while they grabbed a bite to eat at the house on their way to their next local gig. They were excited to share their music as they hit the road and cultivated more F5 fans across the country. The Halloween & Ugly Christmas sweater shows were so much fun. I have great memories of the sounds of the crowds as they yelled and applauded at the end of many of their jams. It was always so great to see all their friends who came out to the shows. They always made sure to shake our hands or give us a hug and tell us how great they sounded and how proud they were of the band. It’s been a wild and wonderful ride and I enjoyed my nights out until 3am!
When I was a junior in high school, I skipped my prom to go see my first F5 show at the Stone Church in Newmarket, NH. I really shouldn’t have even been in that club, but after meeting the band for the first time and getting a few songs in, I knew I made the right choice. I believe that show had the debut of “Blue,” it was so new that Matt had to read the lyrics off of a sheet. It became one of my favorite songs of theirs and is always sticks out in my mind as making missing prom worth it.
Mike and Maria Kane
Disc Jam 2015: The Relix tent acoustic set they played a cover of one of my favorite bands songs which was awesome but I think they did a “Catch Me” that day too which might have been the last time I saw mike perform it
King Neptune’s after ADK Fest 2017: This was the first time I saw them really in the heart of their own turf, which I kind of always thought was Albany but was really enthused by the Lake George vibe surrounding the guys
Eastbound Throwdown, September 2017: When F5 stared their set opening up the weekend, it was raining good but Mikey and I didn’t give a fuck and raged the hell out of their set. As the weather broke, so did a lot of others.
The Hollow, April 28, 2018: this was the last time I saw F5 and the last night I partied before I found out I was having our baby.
Rock the Dock 2018: Mike and I shared with all the guys that we’d be having a baby. Matt Richards dedicated the set to us – not on the mic, but to our faces, which was even cooler to me. We have loved this journey. It is sad to see it end but we will treasure the memories, the music, and the people forever.
My favorite moment with Formula 5 is when I was in Colorado and they were creating a song called “Blue.” I listened to them play the same four notes in our Airbnb about 20 times. It was so annoyed until the song came to fruition and now it’s my favorite and how cool that I got to be a part of that.
Watching Formula 5 open up for The Disco Biscuits in Albany was so exciting, seeing how they perfectly hand-crafted their setlist to fit the music and style of that night. And more of a personal memory, ANY time they played “Excalibur,” no matter where I was at a festival or show, you bet I’d find my way over to the stage.
To list all of my favorite moments with Formula 5 would take way too long. The time I spent seeing this band play and hanging out with them in between is something I wouldn’t trade for the world. From riding in the van with the guys to shows and festivals, to catching them local at The Hollow or Putnam Place, it was always how I wanted to spend my weekends.
Mike McDonald (former keyboardist)
When asked to write about my favorite moment in Formula 5, I very quickly realized it would be much more difficult to choose than I first expected. Having been a part of it from the beginning and experienced the highs and lows, I can imagine mine (or any member) may differ significantly from what others might think. So I decided to pick 3 from my time with Formula 5:
StrangeCreek 2012 – Joe had been in the band roughly 6 months and we had begun to turn a few heads in the jam scene, albeit mostly local to Upstate N.Y. Thanks to some help from Greg Bell, we were able to land a Friday afternoon slot at the very sought after annual festival StrangeCreek in Western Masschusetts. We were incredibly nervous for this show as many bigger bands on the jam scene who we looked up to were on the bill, and it was our first slot at a major regional festival. We started our set on the Vernville stage to a mostly empty field but it very quickly turned into one of the largest crowds we will have ever played. I vividly remember the energy and fun of that set, in part thanks to it being captured by a Wormtown taper. Check out the “Movin On” > “Jam”> “Trampled Underfoot” from this show.
Brooklyn Bowl with Natalie Cressman and Elise Testone, March 2015: Things had been having an upward trajectory in most of late 2014-2015 and we were stoked to have an opportunity to play this legendary venue in Brooklyn. We had the pleasure of having Natalie Cressman of Trey Anastasio Band on trombone and American Idol finalist Elise Testone on vocals as well as playing to a great crowd in Brooklyn.
2015 Garrison Beer Blast – This was one of my last shows with the band and really a homecoming of sorts for the band in Lake George as 2015 proved to be our biggest year of growth so far. We headlined a great one day festival with some awesome bands and some of our best friends and fans in attendance. I particularly felt this was some of our best playing to date and we had an amazing recording of the entire performance along with some videos.
As I sit here and reflect on all my memories with Formula 5 I can’t help but feel remorseful. It feels as though I’m writing a eulogy. A dear friend who always had a magical gift for bringing my favorite people together is no more; it’s really like writing dozens of eulogies. Everywhere I go to this day, I’m stopped by people I’ve met as a direct result of F5. My life and that of my friends is forever different. This is one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. Instead of burying a friend, I’m burying six of my best friends dreams.
If you would asked me seven months ago, I would’ve told you that F5 would be gracing the stages of Madison Square Garden, SPAC, Red Rocks, or just about every other major concert venue around the country but instead I’m here struggling to come to terms with the fact that they may never play again. When I spoke before of F5, I used them as a conduit of inspiration for my musician friends who looked up to them and what they had – tight and blissful improvisions and their ability to draw crowds that would pack The Hollow so tight.
F5 was more than a jam band, and more than my friends. These guys are notorious for doing everything in their power to share whatever spotlight they could harness with other musicians and artists. So many places I’ve been I can say I wouldn’t have gone without them cramming me and Kevin in the van, making room for me at the last minute. The amount of times that F5 stuck their neck out for me or carried me back to the van, propped me up and got me home safe made me feel like a piece of shit. Of every memory I’ve made and every story I’ve told, the good ones always start with “this one time at Formula 5” so I guess I’m just having trouble coming to terms with the fact that no more memories are going to start like that and I might not have as many stories to tell moving forward.
The first time I drink in a bar, F5 was playing The Black Oak in Oneonta. Bill (Shattuck, original bassist) convinced the bouncer to let my underage friend Eric in. The first time I skied, F5 played Hunter Mountain – James gave me my first and only set of skis and Joe taught me. My 21st birthday was F5 at The Monopole. I drove to Hampton for a Phish show and Greg took me in and let me crash. I always hoped they’d play at my wedding and maybe even my funeral. Every time I walked into an F5 show, people knew my name, people knew who I was and welcomed me with a hug. These guys are my brothers and their fans are my family.
For the first time it’s hard to put my F5 hat on, because now I have no more shows to sell, no more merch to push, and now I worry about the condition it’s in. Now that hat is an artifact, a relic of my youth, one I have to preserve. I love this band, they carried me on their backs to adulthood and gave me too much to list. Joe, Greg, James, Matt, Mike and Bill what you have built will never be forgotten, thank you for everything!
Formula 5 Rocks the Dock in Lake George on Friday, July 12th. Other bands include The Magic Beans, Eastbound Jesus, Swimmer, West End Blend, Mike Powell, and JT Maple. Get tickets online or at the box office.