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Thursday, October 6

Catskill Chill 2016 "New Minglewood" Review and Photos

How long does it take to feel at home when a small festival with a family feel moves to a new site?  In this case less than 10 minutes. After parking on Thursday  we were about to set up tent when I heard my name called out by friends in their van using their loudspeaker. This caused another friend who I knew by name only not face to realize that we were setting up right next to them. Immediate proof that "chillfam" is real, not just a hash tag.  While walking across camp to the "B" stage where the first 3 bands of Thursday's pre party were all playing I noticed a few street hockey rinks.  I found myself wishing I had both gone to camp here as a kid and that I had a van and brought some sticks. 

The "B" stage was a perfect setting for seeing music at a festival.  The stage itself was inside a covered with open sides hockey rink.  On the sides were basketball courts with vendors lining the outsides.  I was able to start my chill hearing Aqueous while playing a little basketball.  The first thing I noticed sound wise was that I was able to hear all instruments distinctly and clearly from anywhere I was in that area. To many times you have to be in the center of the crowd to get the best effect of the mix but that wasn't the case here.  If I had to choose between good sound or basketball, the music would have won but thankfully the fans didn't have to make that choice here.

We spent the time between sets exploring the camp.  We found the picturesque lake complete with swimming area stocked with an inflated water park, boat dock, and ropes course just off the shore.  This seemed to be a sports minded camp based on the many basketball courts, ball fields, hockey rinks, mini golf, and even human foosball. Everything was spaced nicely, camping and parking not too far, 2 separate cabin areas instead of randomly scattered. The Main and B stages weren't as close to each other this time but overall the walk from end to end of camp and getting to everything was much easier this year.

Jimkata was next up and did not disappoint.  The crowd had started to fill in as people were arriving by the minute and their set kept getting more and more crowded as it went on. Following them was Twiddle which was the main draw of the pre party.  Their sets had a darker tone then I was used to with them.  I liked what they threw down and the rest of the crowd was in agreement as it had filled up by the time they finished their first set.  The second set was just as good if not better then the first, proving why Twiddle has been on the rise for some time now.

After that it was time for my first venture into "Club Chill". Trackstar featuring Todd Stoops (RAQ) and Rob Chafin (The Werks). They blended rock into EDM with a special sit in from Haley Jane, and Mike Gantzer and Evan McPhaden (guitar and bass from Aqueous) that was one of the best moments of the day.

After the ease of Thursday's schedule this guy seemed to know what was up with the rest of the weekend, having to juggle everything due to a packed schedule. I discovered that the downside to liking almost every band on the lineup is a schedule with tons of conflicts.  Rather than give a play by play of everything we saw/heard I will mention the best moments of the weekend/awards.

Busiest - Michelangelo Carubba of Turkuaz, Adrian Tramontano of Kung Fu, Kito Bovenschulte (FiKus, ShwKus, Particle), Rob Compa & Eli Winderman (Dopapod), Danny Mayer (Danny Mayer Trio, Beau Sasser's Escape Plan), Rob Chafin (The Werks, Trackstar) and Robert Sommerville (Kung Fu, Deep Banana Blackout) all had 3 or more full sets over the weekend

Most unique - Reed Mathis and Electric Beethoven - You don't often hear a full Beethoven symphony at a music festival.  They played his 3rd on Friday.

Best New Band (to me) - West End Blend - First time I heard them and they blew me away
Sound and light crew for Main and B stages - Sound was on point all throughout these stages with clear and distinct instrument sounds from anywhere I was at the stages.

Tightest Collaboration - Dopakuaz Does Yacht Rock- They sounded like they have been playing together years, not just a once each year collaboration.  They even made us enjoy the Eagles.

Best Campsite Happening -  Pandajam and Tigerman cabin jam. While not on the lineup both of these bands rock!  I recommend checking them out.

Best Sound in Club Chill - FiKus, ShwizZ and ShwiKus. While several acts had sound issues in Club Chill as was told to me by many and I finally noticed during the Magic Beans set these guys managed to get it right on Saturday afternoon.

Best Food - Shady Grove wraps

Song cover that made me lose my shit - Haley Jane and the Primates covering Queen's Radio GaGa. I love this song and never expected to hear it played.

Role Reversal set - Bitches Bloom - Eric Benny Bloom usually plays trumpet as part of the Shady Horns with Lettuce.  For this set they were backing him as he walked around stage like a maestro conducting everyone.  Perfect Jazzy set to start a Sunday.

Best Sit In - Ryan Liatsis  of ShwizZ with Kung Fu.  He and Tim Palmieri had a guitar duel worthy of closing out the set.

Proof of how big a deal Chill is - Mike Gordon band debuting 2 new songs at the fest.

Best Sets - Ryan Montbleau, Dopakuaz, TAUK, Perpetual Groove, Electron, Main Squeeze, and Greensky Bluegrass in random order.

Best Stage - B takes this one hands down.  Like I said before, I haven't had the opportunity to play basketball and hear music perfectly ever before.  You had just about every possible option to enjoy the set right there.

Biggest Disappointments - Sound at Club Chill, lack of space at the Late Night Hall which meant that many who tried to see the Chillfam Allstars Tribute to Michael Jackson were unable to get in due to capacity, very cold nights, and the weekend coming to an end.

All in all this weekend proved that when festival organizers are on top of their game, a little bump in the road like a venue change aren't hard to overcome.  I challenge anyone to come up with another festival that is this size, can produce a lineup of this quality year after year and still have the event have a small family atmosphere.  I don't believe you can find that anywhere.  I'll take Chill any time over the large fests that you have to wait well over 2 hours for a decent spot at a set.  To get a good spot here all you had to do was stroll from one stage to the next when a set ended.  You can keep your
huge messes, I'll see you all next year at Catskill Chill!

Words: Mike Geller
Photos: Chason Heins

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