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Wednesday, April 16
Festival Review and Photos: Rock and Roll Resort - Hudson Valley Resort and Spa - Kerhonkson, New York - April 4th - 6th, 2014
As spring set’s in, the air becomes warmer as flowers beginning to blossom seeming to wake the world up from its winter slumber. Spring also brings with it the start of festival season, a much awaited time for music fans from across the country to gather together with friends and family in support of their favorite artists. For those in the North East there is no better place to begin this season than “Rock And Roll Resort” now in its 4th year and 3rd straight at the Hudson Valley Resort and Spa located in Kerhonkson, New York.
The setting is unique to what many festival goers are used to, offering up everything one would expect from any outdoor festival, served up inside a resort. The main lobby housed everything from a bar and general store to glass and clothing vendors, even offering a poster art gallery from the amazing John Warner Studios. There was also face painting and a rather fun and spirited photo booth that both seemed pretty popular over the course of the weekend. Food was served daily via Phatboyz BBQ for all those who were staying at the resort, while the Gouda Boys and Road Warrior Pizza threw down outside 24hrs a day for those who wanted to treat themselves to some over the top creations. Over the course of weekend the festival offered plenty of non music related activities to keep everything interesting, from morning yoga to screen printing demonstrations as well as live painting that could be seen taking place throughout the weekend. For those who were looking for something different and wanted to be a little more active there was both a disc golf tournament as well as a mini golf tournament offered up on Saturday. The resort even offered a full 18 hole golf course and fitness center with everything from a pool and a hot tub to a fully equipped gym that festival goers were welcomed to use if they so desired. The music was offered up on 3 stages staggered throughout the main floor of the festival, delivering a unique experience from room to room. Located in the Manhattan Theatre was the main stage offering up a General Admission concert feel with a large dance floor and staggered row seating for those who chose to relax at any point. The Empire Lounge offered side seating and a dance floor that took you to the edge of the stage leaving you almost face to face with the artists, creating an extremely intimate experience. There was also a full sized bar stretching across the back of the room making it a perfect place to grab a drink mid set. The 3rd stage was located in the Grand Ballroom which was just that, a ballroom with large chandeliers that with the lights dancing off them created a rather mesmerizing scene. There was also a fourth and final area dubbed the Acoustic stage which was located perfectly between the main stages and the elevators to the rooms. This stage offered up a unique variety of acoustic sets as well as several surprise performances over the course of the weekend, allowing for what seemed like non-stop music.
One of my favorite things about Rock N Roll Resort is their unmatched ability to put together a lineup that is solid from top to bottom, all while maintaining a very intimate setting in which the artists and fans share in the experience together throughout the weekend. This experience started immediately upon checking in as we were treated to the beautiful vocals of Jen Durkin accompanied by the very talented Bobby Paltauf on guitar coming from the Acoustic stage. This was a pleasant treat and more than enough to keep me and my bags hanging around for the rest of their set. The first Friday night of my festival season was drenched in the ever present funk that surrounds Rock N Roll Resort with powerful sets by both the “BRYAC Funk Allstars” and “Dumpstaphunk.” Both of these bands delivered solid driven funk on the main stage, turning the entire room into a full on dance party for the duration of both. With nothing but a crowd full of elated festival goers the night was still young as one of my favorite acts of the evening, as well as the festival was just beginning to take the stage in the Empire Lounge. Tauk, a recent up and comer who has steadily been on the rise delivered a set full of powerfully moving instrumental rock with hints of electronica and funk mixed into the equation. Having seen this band several times previously, I went into the set expecting them to impress and that they did, exceeding my already high expectations.
From their unique style of their music to the way it’s delivered with pure passion these guys have a way of drawing you in and then holding you there on the edge of their feet till the very last note. With highlights ranging from a crowd favorite combo of Afro Tonic into Dead Signal as well as the beautifully worked cover of the Beatles “She’s So Heavy” these guys should be on your must see list if they aren’t already. After a quick break for a drink and to catch my breath from dancing it was back inside to close out my night with what can be best described as a spiritually moving set of music delivered by the Nephrok! Allstars. With beautiful vocals and a powerful crew of musicians this was a late night funk throw down. With a sit in by Jen Durkin on the Funkadelic song “Stuffs and Things” and a first time played song that without a doubt should make the regular rotation, helping make this set one of the best of the weekend. Although there was plenty of music still going I was shot and was only able to make brief stops at both Positive Mental Trip and Digital $torm who both delivered energetic sets of dance infused tunes keeping the evening going till it was almost time for the sun to come up.
Saturday brought a day full of enough quality music to satisfy even the toughest of critics, keeping the crowds entertained the entire day. Starting it all off for me was 7 Below, a Phish cover band who happened to be just what I needed. Ripping through some of my personal favorites Such as Reba and Divided Sky allowing me to fully let loose, getting the juices flowing properly. On a rather memorable day of music notable performances were plentiful, with bands like Leroy Justice, Solaris, Roots of Creation, Mister F and Cosmic Dust Bunnies all delivering powerful sets of well-crafted music. These are all acts that I would recommend looking out for as they are sure to be coming to a town or festival near you.
As the day’s music steamrolled into the evening Everyone Orchestra began to take the main stage. Conducted by the extremely talented Matt Butler this ever revolving cast of musicians was made up of Jennifer Hartswick, Natalie Cressman, Steve Kimock, John Kimock, Reed Mathis, Peter Prince and Jordan Simms. The performance is controlled by Matt as he calls out changes in key, speed and just plain directs the band on this musical journey into the unknown. From sections of crowd interaction to each member taking the reins and starting the groove only to have it twisted and turned into a unique masterpiece this was one hell of a set of music.
With musicians such as Jen Durkin and Jans Ingber joining in this was easily one of my overall highlights of the weekend. Having the chance to see completely new and unique music created on the fly is very uncommon creating a rather unforgettable experience. Directly following was yet another one of my festival highlights delivered by “Cabinet” in the Empire Lounge. This intimate room was the perfect canvas for the band to work with, bringing the fans in close and then quickly spreading them out as they danced along to the beautiful sounds created on stage. Unlike any other of the groups this weekend they are deeply rooted in folk bluegrass and country, taking fans on a smooth yet exhilarating ride throughout their set. Painting a picture with their lyrics and creating perfect harmonies this is a band that will have you singing along as you begin to dance uncontrollably to songs such as “Susquehanna Breakdown” and set closer “Heavy Rain”. At one point even bringing up a guest guitarist Bobby Paltauf to shred on “Nashville Blues” showing the versatility of this band as well and allowing those who may not have seen Bobby yet to gain a tiny glimpse at his uncanny ability to captivate a crowd. After all this music it was time for a trip to Gouda Boys who have been serving up some fat ass sub’s and bowls of mac and cheese all weekend.
While eating, Cosmic Karma Fire began their nightly performance creating the perfect excuse to sit down and eat my food. These guys and girls are very passionate and it shows thru their art, putting on a rather entertaining performance manipulating fire to do as they will with ease. Heading back inside I made it in time to catch The Motet who were mid-way thru their first set with a room full of dancing fans. From a strong rhythm section including lead singer Jans Ingber who also displayed his percussion skills several times throughout their performance to the killer horn section this is an extremely cohesive band, churning out funky grooves over both sets of music. With sit in’s from members of the BRYAC Funk Allstars as well as Jen Durkin they seemed to fully capture the crowd all while delivering an impressive musical performance. The night also had some other rather memorable performances over on the acoustic stage the first of which was an unannounced performance by The Hornitz two-piece act that combines horns, keyboards and beatbox adding live loops to create one rather powerful show. These guys were hot and the lobby was quite packed for the entire set. This is a band that can keep a room moving and smiling with ease and I look forward for the opportunity to see them perform again soon. Following that was Jordan Simms of the Everyone Orchestra who turned his solo performance into a group throw down bringing in not only Neph and Kit Holliday from the Nephrok! Allstars but also Jen Durkin of Deep Banana Blackout to fill out the vocals. Bobby Paltauf and his guitar also joined in for most of the set Adding to the already strong group made up of Joe Harris, Eric Marazo as well as Aaron Hagele. This musically flowing performance was highlighted by a beautifully done version of “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” turning the lobby into a full on sing along. Another high point was a very powerful version of Sly and The Family Stone’s “Thank You” that seemed to be as fun for the band as it was for the fans dancing in front of them.
Sunday morning came way to soon leaving me feeling the effects of my first festival of the season but that was quickly cured with some coffee and a solid brunch provided by the festival. Going strong this day offered up solid performances across the board by groups such as The Kings of Belmont, The Broadcast and The Darian Cunning Band. Akashic Record also killed it with a rather entertaining set of soul infused funk driven by strong guitar work paired beautifully with Beau Sasser killing it on the Hammond and an amazingly talented horn section. Keeping the Hammond spinning Beau Sasser took the stage yet again this time with his trio made up of Danny Mayer and Ted Sullivan. These guy meshed together beautifully creating one of the most upbeat and enjoyable sets of the entire weekend. Featuring a sit-in from Taylor Shell and Craig Brodhead both from Turkuaz as well as Neph and Kit Holliday both from the Nephrok! Allstars adding vocals. Highlights from this set ranged from a killer version of Frank Zappa’s “Stinkfoot” with the boys from Turkuaz to a song that’s music was written by Beau with lyrics written by Neph who also performed this song with the band. Beau and company seemed as happy to be performing as the audience in front of them which transferred to the crowd an energy taking this performance to the next level. As the final evening fell upon us the festival still had plenty to offer as Turkuaz was set to deliver 2 sets of their powerful dance inducing music. Saving the best for last is a cliché often over used but in this case it couldn’t hold more true, with this huge 9 piece offering up some of the best sets of the festival. From their 3 piece horn section to double guitars this band has it all and rounds itself out beautiful with the added vocals and tambourine playing of Sammi Garett and Geneva Williams.
This band commands your undivided attention both with overall charisma and out right talent from the opening note till the final bow. These guys leave you wanting to following their schedule in hopes to catch them on their next stop in your area. Highlights for me were two tunes off their latest album Future 86 “Bubba Slide” and “Pickin’ Up” as well as one of my personal favorites “Monkey Fingers” which the band closed the night with. If you haven’t seen them before I would recommend drinking a bunch of water getting your favorite dancing shoes on and planning to being swept away by the non-stop energy this band brings to the stage. Following an act like Turkuz is a not an easy task but with the weekend all but over the staff and fans alike seemed to find one extra level of energy as the Rock N Roll Resort Super Jam began. This was what seemed to be an almost 3 plus hour set was a rotating cast of all the remaining musicians from members of Turkuaz, The Hornitz, The Broadcast as well as the Beau Sasser Trio, Nephrok! and Darian Cunning. The stage was full of life as the musicians seemed to be playing freely, as if they were just getting together for a fun Sunday night throw down. This was a stellar way to close out this amazing festival putting a touch of soul, funk and rock into this continuous set leaving everyone smiling and wishing the festival wasn’t ending.
Rock N Roll Resort v4 The Dream Machine was a magical weekend from over the top musical performances with the ability to share it with friends new and old in such an intimate setting. From the moment you entered the doors of the front lobby you had everything you wanted all wrapped up in a perfect little package. The staff was accommodating to any and all needs that arose throughout the weekend and ensured that the festival ran as smoothly as possible leaving me beyond satisfied with the overall experience. Rock N Roll Resort is one festival you can't go wrong with and I personally look forward to next year, when once again family and friends gather together to celebrate music and the start of our beloved Festival Season.
Words: Chason Heins Photos: Mike Geller A Grateful Link to the Band of RnR Resort v4