Kung Fu in action

With schools back in session and only a few weeks left in the summer of 2012, a few thousand hippies and music fans convened this past weekend at Camp Minglewood in Hancock, NY for the Catskill Chill Music Festival, looking to spend some of the year’s last warm days re-living old summer camp memories and catching sets by the fantastic lineup of electronic, bluegrass, funk and jam-rock acts. Despite a brief weather interruption on the second day of the festival, the Chill delighted its record-setting crowd with its impressive and eclectic selection of music, relaxed atmosphere, comfortable accommodations and beautiful scenery.

Perched on the banks of Sand Pond (which was closed for swimming during the festival), Camp Minglewood proved an ideal location for the event, housing the capacity crowd of 5,000 with no problems. While some festival-goers pitched tents on whatever free spot they could find, filling every nook of the grounds and even slinging hammocks under porches and decks, others chose to stay in the camp’s cabins, which offered running water, electricity and bunk beds. Featured acts FiKus and Schwizz even set up show in a centrally-located cabin, hosting intimate jams and late-night sets in the campground all weekend. The venue also provided covered structures to house the two stages, which were especially vital during the weekend’s bouts of rain. The main stage even had bleacher seating around two edges of the crowd area, giving tired dancers a place to rest throughout the weekend.

The festivities began on Friday afternoon with Caravan of Thieves, who initiated the eager crowd into their tribe of “freaks” and impressed everybody with their powerful vocals, unique “gypsy swing” sound and fun-loving attitude, closing out their set with a medley-turned-mashup of disco hits “I Will Survive” and “Stayin’ Alive.” The day continued with Melvin Seals and the JGB, who opened with their classic cover of “The Harder They Come” and delighted deadheads with a closing “Deal.” The energy really started building after dark with Conspirator, who kept the Dead covers coming with their take on “Scarlet Begonias.” Kung Fu took the stage next, inviting Conspirator’s Chris Michetti and Neal “Fro” Evans from Dopapod to sit in for parts of their set, including Billy Cobham’s “Stratus.”

Up the hill at Club Chill DJ Logic set up for his first set of the festival, playing to an almost empty room at first but drawing in the crowds with his horn-heavy soul samples and hip-hop beats. The party continued with Lettuce, whose (characteristically) high-energy set was the highlight of the night. Adam Deitch, Neal Evans, Erc Krasno and Co. played strong versions of tracks from their new album Fly, including an impressive “Ziggowatt,” and welcomed Nigel Hall on vocals for a large chunk of the set, including a cover of Curtis Mayfield’s “Move On Up.” Dopapod followed the funk behemoths with their largely instrumental grooves, which heavily featured drummer Neal Evans and bassist Chuck Jones. While some didn’t have the stamina, the most committed Chillers kept raging with EOTO, who rocked the main stage into the deep hours of the morning. Logic also performed with Freekbass, Particle’s Steve Molitz and special guests Tim Palmieri and Adam Deitch as Headtronics.

Consider The Source opened up on Saturday, shaking the crowd awake with their quick, rapid fire guitar riffs and bass line attacks. Throughout the early afternoon rumors of extreme weather started to circulate around the camp, with predictions of heavy rain and 75 MPH winds forcing vendors and campers to take down their pop-up canopies in preparation. At about 2:30 bands of heavy rain doused the camp, sending the crowds to their cabins or into large shelters, many of which turned into their own storm parties. Fortunately, the rain passed and the winds never hit their predicted force, allowing the unharmed (but damp) festival to resume after a few hours of delay. With a retooled schedule, all the scheduled acts were still able to perform, with daytime acts like the Alan Evans Trio and The Indobox playing shortened sets. Taking the stage after nightfall, headliners Yonder Mountain String Band seemed extra energetic during their set. Bassist Kaufmann explained that, for reasons innumerable, the band was especially “amped” during their set, and it came out in their playing. After an extended “Rag Doll” Jeff Austin expressed his admiration for the crowd and festival, musing on the diversity of musical styles showcased and thanking the “powerful tribe of music fans” that make it all possible. The crowd showed their appreciation too, especially towards the end of the set when “Two Hits And The Joint Turned Brown” set off a massive, wild dance party. The night continued with Zoogma’s moody electronica and a blowout Soulive set, which featured the Shady Horns and another extended guest appearance by Nigel Hall, who lead an amazing rendition of Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants To Rule The World.” Adam Deitch’s hip-hop tinged project Break Science performed next, changing up the tone but keeping the energy up before Particle, who kept the festival blasting on late into the night once again.

The festival woke up slowly on Sunday, with the first acts starting up at 2 PM. Timbre Coup and the Jennifer Hartswick Band led off the day, followed by The McLovins, who played an interesting, fan-friendly set including covers of “Up On Cripple Creek,” “Shakedown Street” (with a tease of “Rapper’s Delight” from drummer-vocalist Jake Huffman) and Bob Dylan’s “Quinn The Eskimo,” which also appeared on several Phish setlists this summer. A new-look Cornmeal followed the young band, bringing in Pete Kartsounes on guitar and Drew Littell on drums to replace recently departed members Kris and JP Nowak respectively. While the new Cornmeal lineup attracted some intrigue, the most anticipated set of the day started when Lotus took the stage at 8 PM, following FiKus. Lotus wowed new and experienced fans alike with their energy and setlist, which included the rarity “Caywood” from their live album “Germination.” While some chose to leave Camp Minglewood after Lotus, the majority who stayed for Sunday’s late night offerings enjoyed roots newcomers Yarn, who played a set of Grateful Dead covers earlier in the day, an encore performance by Derek VanScoten under his D.V.S* moniker, The Heavy Pets and Kick Rocks, a new supergroup joining members of The Disco Biscuits, Lotus, Dopapod and Brothers Past.

With its jamtronica-skewed lineup, this year’s Catskill Chill may have been more energetic than the name would suggest, but the sellout crowd proved more than ready to dance all weekend long, turning Camp Minglewood into a party-fueled summer camp that definitely wouldn’t pass counselor inspections.

Melvin Seals maintains his roots