The weekend of September 18-21, The Catskill Chill said farewell to Camp Mingelwood in Hancock, NY as they set their sights on a new location for next year. It was a heartfelt weekend for the whole Chillfam, bands and fans alike, as they raged a final rage at one of the most perfect places they know. The energy from the crowd was unreal all weekend long and the bands gave it right back. Basically, this weekend was a showcase of a whole bunch of bands I like, a few I forgot I liked, and a bunch more I didn’t know I liked. From a musical standpoint, my cup remained overflowing for a solid 3 days!
Something about this festival draws the best performances from these musicians when they are there. Every band seems to bring a career performance with them. The bands are so happy to all be in one place at one time. “Chillfam” refers to all that enter the grounds. Bands are part of that too! The weekend collaborations were amazing. This festival could have easily been called “Catskill Sit-In and Chill!” Almost every band seemed to invite someone from another band to share in their career performance.
FRIDAY – Jonathan Scales Fourchestra was a perfect choice to kick off the weekend and start things in the right mood. Oddly enough, the “fourchestra” were really a group of 3 gentlemen with some incredible chops. The drummer was great, the bass player was as funky as could be, and Jonathan Scales leads the charge with a steel drum that belts out melody you would expect a guitar to carry. I’m a sucker for creative use of traditional instruments. Speaking of which, Friday afternoon also featured the guitar work of Consider the Source that is as masterful as it is strange. Also, Nth Power and Aqueous – two bands both of which are gaining popularity fast and scoring some serious opening bill opportunities. Friday evening got into full swing with a blazing and powerful set from Lettuce. Jesus’ bass was absolutely bowel rattling! Sorry for the gross, but it was deeper than a standard rib cage rattle. New Orleans funkmaster George Porter Jr. smoothed things out at B Stage. His weapon of choice for a band for this weekend was The Runnin’ Pardners. Then we went electronic, as Lotus and Break Science took over for smoking sets of their own. In Catskil Chill style, we had electronic in the front and mellow in the back. Twiddle gave an epic performance in Club Chill. They performed a Dead Set with Tim Palmieri of Kung Fu sitting in. “The Other One” featured Tim and Mihali trading licks to see who could get freakier. The crowd was the clear winner of this duel! Even Todd Stoops and Chris Houser sat in on “The Music Never Stopped.”
Friday was quite literally the perfect opening day of Catskill Chill’s Farewell to Minglewood. The day’s music was keenly crafted to culminate in what was the most anticipated and, in retrospect, one of the top performances of the whole festival. At 2:30 AM Dopapod and Turkuaz morphed into Dopakuaz. The music, the crowd, and the Main Stage morphed into Studio 54 until after 4 AM. For the generations, including myself, that never witnessed the legend back in the day, this was truly an experience. The crowd dressed the part and Dopakuaz played what seemed to be EVERY staple that one would expect to hear at Studio 54. The music was SPOT ON. Dopakuaz played each one of the songs like they wrote them.
Mindblowing factoid – They only had TWO days of rehearsal for this performance! This is a testament to how good these musicians really are!
My personal observation and opinion – Another highlight of the Studio 54 performance was the disco ball that hung over the audience in the center of the Main Stage ceiling. I’ve never witnessed a disco ball used in all its majesty before now. When used properly with proper lighting and a slight spin on that magical ball of mirrors, WOW! After that, I strongly feel this should become more commonplace at jam band shows, but only if used properly. Like the LED hula hoops, the disco ball would become a total waste if in the hands of someone who doesn’t know how to use it.
SATURDAY – The day began with great sets from Caravan of Thieves and the Relative Souls. The High and Mighty Brass Band were high energy. Kung Fu had an early Main Stage set where they presented new addition, Beau Sasser, to the Chillfam. It appears the sudden lineup change has given Kung Fu some creative momentum to head in new directions, as they showcased a slew of newer songs. Friday’s time machine stopped in the 70’s at Studio 54. Saturday’s time machine was set for a decade later. Shwikus Plays the 80’s was off the hook. Chillfam All-Stars Tribute to Herbie Hancock was so much fun!
This brings me to the gem of the festival, the rare find. Every festival I go to, I get turned on to some new bands that blow my mind. They are so good that I get unknowingly forced on to their fan wagon and start to pay a keen attention from that point forward. For me, that newly discovered gem is Hayley Jane and the Primates. I have heard this name EVERYWHERE as of recent. I have heard that they are exploding on the scene and are only going to get bigger. I am happy to say I have now seen why and cannot agree more. Her songs are catchy as hell. With a band of great musicians backing her, Hayley Jane gives a vaudeville style performance that keeps your attention like a moth to a flame! Their performance on the DC Corner stage included Dopapod’s road manager sitting in on percussion.
Now the music started preparing us for the headliner and up next was one of my favorite performances of the festival and definitely my favorite sit-in of the weekend. I watched Zappa Plays Zappa. What can I say? They are never a disappointment and tonight was extra special. Highlights for me personally – they played “The Grand Wazoo,” one of my favorite Zappa songs, and they invited Dopapod guitarist Rob Compa to join them for “Cosmik Debris.” The musical interaction between Rob and Dweezil was by far my favorite collaboration of the weekend! They went back and forth in guitar conversation, just awesome! At this point, we headed back for a drink and ran into The Primate Fiasco playing a street set in the campgrounds outside the cabin next to ours. We saw a big crowd accumulating and as we drew closer, you could hear the accordion playing the start of Beck’s “Where It’s At.” Now that is one satisfying drink run if I ever had one! All while The Werks were tearing up the B Stage with a set that included a sit-in by Mihali of Twiddle and gave the crowd a glimpse at what they can expect when The Werks and Twiddle combine and form “The Twerks” for a tour this Fall.
Our headliner, moe. brought the performance and deep cuts they promised. With a sit in from the Moon Hooch horns and a set that closed with “Buster,” fans left the Main Stage satisfied to the core. Supergroup Stratosphere All-Stars threw down a powerful set that included Hayley Jane handling the vocals on a cover of David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance.” Late night on Saturday was hosted by Vermont’s finest, Twiddle. They played a steamy set to a PACKED house that included Todd Stoops sitting in on “Brown Chicken, Brown Cow.”
SUNDAY – The third and final day started full throttle with powerfunk heavyweights, Turkuaz. Just weeks before the release of the highly anticipated, Digitonium, they hit the stage with new outfits and a fresh focus. Their set was riddled with new songs interwoven with classic favorites and each delivered with almost super-hero like funk power. A great way to start your Sunday, sorry you won’t find your yoga here! Their partners in crime, Dopapod also tore up the Main Stage Sunday afternoon with a set that included Adrian Tramontano of Kung Fu on percussion.
A highlight of the afternoon was The Primate Fiasco, up to their usual antics, leading a parade around what seemed to be every inch of the campground and leading to the DC Corner stage where they TORE IT UP! Their set was crazy high energy and the crowd just kept growing and growing. This set included a sit-in by Rachel Kroft on “Strawberry Fields Forever,” and a cover of “The Walrus” with Hayley Jane on vocals that just left the DC Corner in complete shreds. After nightfall, The Primate Fiasco played an additional set at Club Chill. This band is constantly refining their sound and pulling out new tricks. “Coulda Shoulda Woulda Monster,” WOW!
The final Catskill Chill at Camp Minglewood came to an end with a jam heavy set from Electron, followed by a smoking set from Pink Talking Fish that included a sit-in by some Turkuaz and Werks members. Greg Sanderson absolutely DESTROYED the sax solo on Pink Floyd’s “Money!” The final performance of Catskill Chill was Particle and Fam, the only band to have performed at every Catskill Chill. It was a heartfelt performance that turned into a sit-in free for all. The Particle and Fam set included sit-ins from members of The Werks, Turkuaz, Pink Talking Fish, Disco Biscuits, DJ Logic, Hayley Jane, Dopapod, Shwizz, and FiKus, just to name a few.
A perfect weekend came to a perfect end, as we bid a proper farewell to Camp Minglewood and set our sights on the unknown location of the next Catskill Chill. Unsure of our next destination, I know it will be great and I cannot wait to get there and do it all again! “DAD, ARE WE THERE YET?!?!?”
WRITTEN BY: George DiFabio
PHOTOS BY: Jerrie DiFabio