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Sunday, September 27

Review and Photos: Catskill Chill 2015 - "A Farewell to Minglewood"

 Small music festivals have been steadily on the rise over the past few years. They offer fans the chance to see the music they love in a more intimate, less chaotic environment then offered at most of the larger festivals. If you are anything like me then these smaller festivals are just about perfect and none more so than my favorite local, as well as festival period, Catskill Chill. This has become a home away from home for me as well as so many other local music fans one weekend a year.  Pairing what has always been a powerful lineup with a camp setting that allows for all the main stages to be covered as well as offering up options from tent camping to cabins. The people that make up this magical event otherwise known as “Chill Fam” are possibly the biggest part of what makes this festival so very special to so many of us. From late night cabin jams to the main stage dance parties and everything in-between there is always someone looking to share in a good time or just a smile in passing, helping to create a vibe that permeates throughout the festival grounds like a wave of love crashing onto the shore. This year the festival was as much of a celebration of the music and life as it has been for the past 6 years, but also a somber parting goodbye as the entire Chill Fam came together to bid a final farewell to Camp Minglewood, which has been the festivals home from the beginning.
This festival, that at most has 5,000 attendees, has managed to find a way to not only stay small but keep relevant with top quality music all at the same time which is no easy task, bringing local and national touring acts together in one place all for the love of music. This year’s lineup was no different with acts the like of Moe, Zappa Plays Zappa and Lettuce joining bands like Hayley Jane and The Primates, Teddy Midnight and ShwizZ creating memories that will last a lifetime.  Sitting down wondering what should be mentioned from a list full of highlights is not as easy as one would think, but also shows me just how good this weekend truly was. It all started off with Lettuce, who kicked off my Catskill Chill beautifully. As I arrived I could hear the Shady Horns blasting from the media check-in area making it even harder to not already have been here. I waited for my credentials and finally with a green light I quickly boogied down to the main stage. Upon arrival there were familiar faces everywhere smiling and singing along with the music and just like that I was home. This was the dance party I remembered so vividly from years past and as Nigel Hall joined the band, the entire place erupted much the same as I did. His stage presence and vocals take the band to a completely different level that I personally can’t get enough of, starting my Chill perfectly.

From the modern day Funk of Lettuce to the old school Funk of the legendary George Porter Jr. this one two punch was exactly what I was hoping for as I found myself glued to the stage for their entire performance. This set was quite the treat as George and The Runnin’Pardners seemed locked-in, firing off funky bass bombs and moving jams over the course of their set. The music, which at this point had been going for hours, seemed to have no end in sight as Lotus took to the main stage in front of a packed house of screaming fans. This band, whose music doesn’t live in just one genre, treated their fans to a refreshing mix of styles throughout their set of originals, showcasing exactly what it was that helped them build their fan base as a young band, their live performance. From there my night went back in time with the help of Twiddle and Dopakuaz, each playing their own unique tribute sets. Twiddle was up first with the help of a few friends playing what seems to be a tradition in the making, with was at least their 2nd  Dead Set at this festival.  The band made up of Mihali Savoulidis, Zdebek Gubb, Brook Jordan, Tim Palmieri, Josh Dobbs and Ryan Clausen with a sit-in by Chris Houser and Todd Stoops for “The Music Never Stopped.” This set was not about well-polished perfection, as much as it was paying tribute to one of the greatest bands ever and their unmatched catalog of music. There were missed lyrics and mistakes all which did nothing to affect the overall enjoyment of this set as a whole. If anything, making it more authentic as no one is perfect. The stage was packed throughout the set, with many fans outside where there was plenty of room to dance and enjoy the performance. Keeping up with the tribute sets Dopakuaz took to the stage with a Studio 54 tribute performance that may have been the single best of the festival with songs ranging from “Bad Girls” to “Disco Inferno” and more, ending my first night at Chill in beautiful fashion.

Saturday afternoon comes quickly when there is music till after 4am, but with clear blue skies and mild temperatures, getting going for the day was a breeze. After a quick walk and some food it was off to catch the day’s opening act and a band I had never before heard of, Red Barrat. This was one of many pleasant surprises of the weekend as the bands energy and unique sound was perfectly fitting to start off a day of live music. From there the early part of the afternoon was occupied mostly by the combo of FiKus and ShwizZ who took over Club Chill with 3 back to back sets. FiKus kicked it off wonderfully leading into ShwizZ whose set was one of my favorite I’ve seen from them.  Highlighted by the “A Day in the Life pt 1”--> Hog Thai, Orange Wreck --> A Day in the Life pt 2.  After a quick costume change the two bands then combined creating ShwiKus for a tribute to the 80’s. This set was as fun as it gets, taking me back in time with songs of my youth instantly bringing a smile to my face. From there it was on to Moon Hooch, a band who I have been personally missing each time they come around making this a must catch performance for me. Much to my delight the boys crushed from the start getting the packed house in front of them partying instantly making it really hard for me to walk away, but there is always another set somewhere. This set happened to be Hayley Jane and The Primates, a band I have been heard nothing but great things about but had yet to see live. From the moment we arrived I knew I was right where I belonged. The passion and energy I felt resonating off the stage was unreal, quickly backing up all the praise this band has recently received.
The next 6 hours of music quickly became one my favorite nights ever at the Chill starting with The Werks, a band that I have not seen nearly enough. They seem to truly love performing and do so in a way that draws you in each and every time they take the stage. This set was the spark that set my night on fire, with highlights ranging from a raging “2001” to a sit-in that saw all of Twiddle, minus Brooks, join the band for “G-Twerk.” Next up it was time for Moe to join the Chill family as they took to the main stage for their first ever performance at the festival. The band hit the stage running with an opening segment that was as good as it gets, with “Seat of my pants” > “Recreational Chemistry,”  the set seemed to fly by with tight jams and some interesting sit-ins by Diggy Lessard and Moon Hooch for “Happy Hour Hero. Then just Moon Hooch for “Dr. Gaffenberg.” From there it was the Stratosphere All-Stars another one of the unexpected highlights of the weekend. This all-star cast definitely lived up to their name delivering an extremely tight and enjoyable set. Although this set was one big highlight, my favorite moments came from two over the top sit-ins by Hayley Jane and Rob Compa. From there it was on to my final show of the night with Twiddle taking over the main stage. This set was darker then what I have seen from the boys recently but every bit as good and truly entertaining. Keeping in the theme of sit-ins over the course of the weekend the band brought out two of their friends throughout the set, first starting with Wiley Griffin, who not only played guitar but laid down some fun vocals as well during “BeeHop.” The second was a keyboard explosion as Todd Stoops joined in for “Brown Chicken Brown Cow”.  This was a perfect placement for this band who has continued to not only grow, but improve with each performance.
Just when I thought I had seen the best this festival had to offer, Sunday showed up and smacked me upside my head. The day was all meat and potatoes starting with Turkuaz taking to the main stage kicking it off in unbelievable fashion with their powerful sound and charismatic stage performance. This band is always a must-see act that has taken their music to the next level and with a new album dropping in early October their future is brighter than ever. From here the day quickly grabbed a hold of me, as there was music to be seen non-stop from 3:15pm straight through to the last notes of the festival. Making my way back through the crowd at the main stage I arrived just in time for the dance party that is Motet as they took to the stage. I have loved catching this band over the course of the summer, as they seem to pop up on lineup after lineup constantly giving fans a high octane dance-a-thon each and every time.

At some point over the course of a festival there is going to be more than one show you really want to see happening at the same time and this is exactly what happened when American Babies and On the Spot Trio were slated for almost identical time slots. This became the first time of the festival I felt I needed to be in 2 places at once, finding myself rushing from American Babies over to On The Spot Trio for the last few songs. These are two bands I love and happen to each have two of my favorite guitarists as members, Tom Hamilton and Danny Mayer. Although it wasn’t easy to walk away from the Babies, making it in time to see Danny tear up Club Chill made this one powerful afternoon treat for my ears. Keeping me wishing I was able to clone myself once again, Dopapod took to the main stage around the same time Beau Sasser Escape Plan and Brock Butler Acoustic were also playing. Although I somehow planned to make my way to some of each of these other shows, Dopapod held me captive for almost their entire set. Somehow dragging myself away from the stage turned into one of the best things I had done all weekend, as Brock Butler (Acoustic) was one of the biggest treats of the weekend. An acoustic set it was but Brock was far from alone as ¾ of his band Perpetual Groove joined him much to the delight of the screaming fans lucky enough to be a part of this experience. Having the chance to be up close and personal for something like this was one of the most memorable experiences of this festival and a moment I won’t soon forget. As the last few sets approached it was hard to imagine not being back here next year and for many more to come, there was a level of sadness that seemed to start creeping in. This somber feeling faded as Brownie & company took to the stage for a magical performance. Electron, an all-star band in its own right, destroyed any bit of sadness I had previously felt replacing it with pure euphoria. Highlights ranged from the set opening “MEMPHIS” to “Have a Cigar” not to mention the ending nod to the Grateful dead with “Scarlet Begonias>I Know You Rider.” As the energy of this set was still coursing through me, it was over to Pink Talking Fish who blend music of Pink Floyd, Talking Heads and Phish. Any one of these bands could easily make my top five favorite bands at any point in time, so combining all three makes it hard to not love these guys, not to mention their playing and delivery is as good as it gets. The entire set was remarkably fun, highlighted for me with a “Divided Sky>Pigs>Psycho Killer>Divided Sky”.
As the evening and the festival came to an end, Dave Marzollo took to the stage introducing Particle as the only band who had the honor of playing all 6 years of the festival and thanking not only the band, but the fans for helping to create and maintain such an amazing Chill Family. The set dubbed as Particle and FAM truly was a family affair as with almost each song played a different musician took to the stage throughout the set. This was truly a musical celebration of all that is Catskill Chill and a beautiful way to end an amazing 6 years at Camp Minglewood. The band played a healthy dose of original tunes both new and old as well as covers by David Bowie (Fame) and The Eurythmics (Sweet Dreams) and festival ending Sly and The Family Stone (Family Affair) > Sister Sledge (We are Family) with what seemed like most of the remaining Chill Fam joining in for a perfect ending to the festival.
This festival truly became a home away from home for those who were fortunate to experience even one Chill. It became that place you looked forward to from the moment the previous year ended. The friendships formed and memories made over the past 6 years are exactly what it is all about, Chill Family. Getting lost in the adult wonderland that was Camp Minglewood, wandering from stage to cabin jam and back was just a tiny part of the magic over the years and this one was no different. There is always a smiling face, raging set, or random conversation to get lost in and no matter who you are with, or what you do, you’re doing it with Fam. The future is bright for this festival and I can’t wait to see where next year takes place and what the founders have in store for the faithful family that will be waiting to call a new place home come next September.




Words: Chason Heins
Photos: Mike Geller
   ©Grateful Music LLC