Catskill Chill 2016 in Review

Last week Catskill Chill found a new home, “Camp Minglewood” in Lakewood, PA, where we gathered as a community of committed music lovers who supported each other and our environment. The sense of caring, respect and attention to detail evidenced by the staff, volunteers, musicians and fans was remarkable.  #ChillFam is not just a slogan, it is truly a family. So many great artists – even if you didn’t make it to every set you planned, your days were filled with great music. One of the most exciting parts of the weekend were the “mash ups” or artists from different bands playing together something that happens more at Catskill than at any other festival.
The weekend started with the Thursday pre-party featuring Aqueous, Jimkata & two sets of Twiddle on the “B” stage, a covered pavilion with an intimate atmosphere. These acts got everyone up dancing & feeling the love before Trakstar took the stage at “Cafe Chill” for a late night set comprised of Todd Stoops and many of his friends, including members of Aqueous, Twiddle plus the amazing Haley Jane.  Even those of us that were already tired, danced until we regretfully allowed them to leave the stage.
We spend a leisurely friday morning in anticipation of the 22 hours of music beginning with the Funky Dawgz Brass Band with their powerful horns and soulful vocals. Aaron Eaddy stated that he loved playing festivals because “it was the perfect opportunity to see people spreading the love” and that “Catskill Chill was his favorite festival”. The crowd readily gave back all the love he could handle, giving meaning to the hashtag #AllLoveAlltheTime. After my first time seeing Haley Jane and The Primates, they are on top of my Favorites” playlist. Wonderful fun music that could move mountains with the power and emotion in Haley’s vocals.  I was lucky enough to catch her in a number of the artist mash-ups throughout the weekend & those performances were amazingly passionate. Out of The Beardspace, who I saw at their own festival “Beardfest” were fun, funky and inspired much dancing, skipping and general running amok. George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic embody the heart and soul of funk and it was great fun to see the entire audience grooving to their music. George looked like African royalty in his bright floor length boubou, and some of his band members looks were equally distinctive, from the contrast of bright blue shirt with gold teeth, to white fuzzy bellbottoms with matching hat and nothing else but tattoos, to the three female vocalists, sporting looks including leopard print hot pants, sequined bra top, half deadlock half shaved head, and more. Check out the photos and you’ll get the idea. Their music was as original as their outfits, with solid funk and hip hop rhythms supporting the many vocalists who sang, rapped, and whipped the crowd into a frenzy with nearly constant demands for hands in the air and voices raised. I was happy to see a number of families with children (in jammies and with ear protection) on their shoulders, because I believe it is important to teach the children to love “the funk” so that it becomes a significant & influential part of their musical repertoire. Mike Gordon played a funky jazzy rock set to headline the evening. Not my cup of tea, but a big hit with the fans on the main stage, an outdoor natural grass field surrounded by vendors and the perfect size for the Catskill Chill crowd. John Kimock (Steve’s son), a familiar face on the drum kit went unnoticed by most, but he’s one to keep an eye on as his chops and styles expand constantly. Mike threw down two debuts, “Waking Up Dead” and “Let’s Go”, and encored with “Yarmouth Road” a song Phish plays regularly. There were multiple late night options, and our favorite was Scott Pemberton, a West coast guitar master whose jazzy jam style was as good as I remembered from a Jibberjazz festival a few years back. We also caught Pink Talking Fu, featuring all members of Pink Talking Fish and Kung Fu. They played a set of covers featuring Bowie and Prince, and featuring sit ins from Haley Jane (on “Under Pressure” and “Purple Rain”) and Shira Elias of Turquaz (on “I Wanna Be Your Lover”) and they both came out for the closer “Memory Of A Free Festival.”  Although I had missed Primate Fiasco’s scheduled set, I was lucky to see them playing while roaming on “Minglewood Main,” the vendor lined road, as I was walking between stages, as they have done for years at Gathering Of The Vibes and other festivals. They put pep in my step even though I was very tired! The late night drum circle and bonfire were an oasis of warmth (physical and spiritual) after a wonderful, but intense, day of musical immersion.  “Chillin”’ in our cozy cabin didn’t occur until much later than my normal bedtime but it was incredibly difficult to allow the day to end.
Saturday continued the beautiful weather of Thursday and Friday, although by evening it turned rather cold when only dancing, snuggling, and the bonfire kept us warm. We spent the bulk of the day at the main stage and I enjoyed every minute of my day. There were no bad choices to be made!  Cabinet stirs my bluegrass loving soul and makes it smile with their classic songs and their new and innovative tunes.
The Main Squeeze was wonderful and my favorite were their Led Zeppelin covers! Particle’s “funktronic space porn” was jammy and very original, and I am now a fan.  The energy of the band, the beat of the music and the passion of the fans made this an unforgettable set! Keller Williams’ Grateful Grass is one of his several incarnations, playing bluegrass versions of songs performed by the Grateful Dead or JGB and is more fun than allowed by law.  Keller performs barefoot in warm weather but had to accommodate the chilly fall temperatures by wearing socks.  The audience wasn’t able to stop dancing long enough to get chilly.  Lettuce is a remarkable funk band!  The dancing could not end yet, there was still more great music and Lettuce certainly made sure that there was no sitting (or even leaning!).
Dopakuaz, a mash up between Dopapod and Turkuaz was fun, fun, fun! Their yacht rock set included favorites like Hotel California, and it was a party for sure. We weren’t able to get into the Michael Jackson tribute by the ChillFam Allstars because the Late Night Hall was at capacity so we discovered a wonderful Plan B dancing to PandaJam in one of the nearby cabins followed by the drum circle and bonfire and eventually, a nap which had to suffice in lieu of a proper night’s sleep, before starting all over again!
Sunday the difficult choices continued, and I started with Bitches Bloom, a tribute to Miles Davis performed by “Eric ‘Benny” Bloom with his lettuce bandmates. American Babies Tom Hamilton’s band, but just one of his many musical endeavors They are touring in support of “An Epic Battle Between Light and Dark” an album of original music drawn from his personal experiences with depression and other life challenges. I found the new songs powerful and intense. I love to watch someone who is not only incredibly talented but is also enjoying what they are doing as much as Tom does. I spent a few minutes with Tom before he joined Electron on the Main Stage as the Saturday headliner. He was gracious and open with me in spite of this being his fourth festival in four days.  We talked a bit about the new material and the personal aspects of dealing with depression and anxiety that he explores in this album. I asked what helps him now and he said learning that “this won’t last” has been an important realization for him. In answer to what makes the creative sparks fly, Tom described the evolution of his roles within the music industry. He listened to and played the music of the Grateful Dead beginning when he was five years old, has had the opportunity to play with and learn from Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart, and worked with contemporaries like Joe Russo. And he described how that is ao different from his role working with, and in turn, mentoring, the musicians in American Babies. Greensky Bluegrass played to the Sunday sunset with a high energy set of covers and original music from their new album. They opened with “When Doves Cry” and were joined by Roosevelt Collier on slide for their closers “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” and “Ain’t No Bread In The Breadbox.” The energy between Collier and Anders Beck, Greensky’s Dobro player was incredible. Perpetual Groove, the four piece from Athens, GA, played a set of rock originals, and it was good as ever. Then Electron rocked out for the final main stage set. The energy between Tom Hamilton and Aaron Magner (Disco Biscuits keyboards) was electric, and Brownie went hard on the bass. But what sets this band apart is the precise high energy drumming of Lotus drummer Mike Greenfield, who was solid, while leading the rhythm changes in many songs. Justin Mazer (American Babies) a local from Northeast PA sat in. Again there were several late night options, and we caught Partiwerks, and mix of Particle and The Werks. They opened with Daft Punk’s “Robot Rock” and played a solid raucous set.
I would be remiss if I didn’t thank my cabin mates for making me laugh so hard it hurt and everyone for welcoming me into the #ChillFam.  I am exhausted, excited and already, anxiously awaiting next year’s Catskill Chill!  #AllLoveAlltheTime

Words by Maggie Jaskolka

Photos by Steven Phillips

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