Photos and story by: Chris Conte
Vibes are such an important thing in all parts of life; relationships, friends, business, situations, most parts of life that involve interacting with other people. You can feel it. It penetrates your skin just as much as your mind. You know when you are flowing with something or not. Catskill Chill has the vibe you want year round, in every aspect of life. Warm and welcoming, wild and weird, a mixture of all things love and all things mischievous.
For the first time ever the weekend started off with a Thursday pre-party. This gave us a chance to get the lay of land before most of the crowd got there. New Minglewood is a sleep away camping settled in the beautiful countryside of Lakewood, Pennsylvania. This is what makes it completely unique to Catskill Chill and what makes it so exclusive. A camp with paved roads, cabins, covered stages, serene landscapes and a gorgeous lake. Twiddle kicked off the celebration for me. These guys are such talented dudes, I've seen them countless times and they haven't played the same show twice.They continually kick out powerful jammed out sets that make audiences fall in love all over again, every time we see them.
As Friday rolled around the grounds started to fill up. Patrons filling in, setting up tents, packing into cabins, getting lubed up and ready to get down. The first highlight of the day was Pink Talking Fu laying down the law with David Bowie and Prince tunes. Their energy and style really set the bar for that classic Catskill Chill spirit. First telltale sign is the essential cover set, the second Chillfam veterans, Pink Talking Fish and Kung Fu, the third an all out, balls-to-the-wall dance party. There were smiles all around and shuffling feet barely touching the ground.
The second remarkable set was the debut of Reed Mathis' Electric Beethoven. It's such a fascinating concept; jammed out versions of classical Beethoven pieces. It's something extremely fresh and exciting. The set is filled with an energy that gets reinvigorated by the familiar chord progressions you've been hearing for decades. After a flight delay and a stage change we were excited to hear that Rory from lespecial would be joining Space Jesus onstage to add the intensity of his set. As people steadily packed into the Late Night Hall, the energy was palpable. We were all ready to get our minds blown by Commander in Chief of weird bass. It was by far the best set of the night and definitely the heaviest.
The day turns to Saturday and the party is officially in full swing. Joy lights up peoples faces, camps are welcoming new friends, the jams are soaring and booze is flowing. Nursing a hangover myself I decided to start the day off with some Cabinet to ease into it. You can't go wrong with a little early afternoon bluegrass. After recuperating with a little hair of the dog, I made my way over to TAUK's set. I can't say enough about these guys. They are just pure performers, seeing them once will make you a fan. Festival sets always have a bit more oomph behind them and this one was no different. Next up was lespecial's highly-anticipated Primus cover set. This was one of my favorite sets of the weekend. Les Claypool's bass playing is some hard shoes to fill, and let me tell you, they did it exceptional well. My hat is off to you, Luke. Combined with Rory's drumming and singing combo and Jon's guitar. They nailed it. Let the record be known that lespecial started the first mosh pit at Catskill Chill. By now night is steadily approaching and with it comes the chill but with the cold comes late night sets! The highlight being The Heavy Pets’ 80's set. Ripping through tunes like “Electric Avenue,” “1999,” and “Take on Me.” It was a retro time machine back to the heyday of synths and shoulder pads.
After surviving a night of temperatures in the 30's, the final day of the festival had arrived. As a shook the cold off my bones I wandered off to Late Night Hall to catch Elise Testone doing Led Zeppelin. Robert Plant's voice is another difficult feat to accomplish. Elise did it with flying colors, it was a pleasure to experience and a great way to get the blood flowing. As the day churned and the last beers being drank it was time for the final few sets. In classic Catskill Chill fashion, Electron closed out the main stage. They blasted through their versions of Disco Biscuits’ songs and a Pink Floyd cover tossed in between. A massive dance party ensued giving the final performance on the new main stage it's proper farewell.
As the festival season comes to a close and I look back on the summer, this weekend is the one that sticks out the most. The people, the staff, the sets, the environment all of it adds up to being a radiant and pervasive experience. There is a magnetic force that surrounds all things Catskill and it will bring me back year after year. Hopefully, you to, will get to experience it in your life. Peace and love to all the Chillfam, can't wait til next year.
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