Written by Sam Stratton
Photos by Amanda Sandwicch
Slowly but surely, the group over at Disc Jam Presents is gaining a big reputation for themselves with the Disc Jam Music and Arts Festival in the Northeast scene. With their most recent gathering being their 7th iteration of the festival, many festival goers will remember the weekend they had for a long time to come. With the extra special lifespan that is a four day festival, Disc Jam reanimated itself from June 8th to 11th to please funk fiends, bassheads, and disc golfers alike on the cozy property that is situated behind Gardner’s Ice Cream and Coffee. Stationed in the middle of an Appalachian valley in Stephentown New York, the land that the festival defines as home is not only scenic but conventional. With the parking lot being only a five or so minute walk from the venue itself, non-car campers didn’t have to worry about being distanced from their vehicle. And with a security team as professional and friendly as you could hope for, the only hesitations one could have had for going out to the lot were only made from laziness.
Mix the fact that most of the camping was on a tended driving range sporting lush yet cut grass, with the fest’s strict no glass rule, and you are given one of the best fests to ever go barefoot at in my personal experience. And for what was originally a questionable forecast, the weather we had for the four days of Disc Jam was absolutely perfect, with Sunday’s heat being the only thing to slow patrons in their tracks.
Two stages were lined up next to one another in the main stage area, never leaving the crowd hanging for more than a minute or two without a performance to awe and gawk at, with the side stage managed by CEG entertainment. While the main stages were designed for morning and evening showings, the tent and woods stages flourished during the later hours, cradling the attention of any night owls roaming around at 2AM.
Mushroom Cloud did the honor of kicking off the weekend for us, opening early Thursday afternoon on the main stage with their jazzy jams. Car after car, the first wave of weekend warriors settled into the venue as Mushroom Cloud was followed up by Cal Kehoe, the William Thompson Funk Experiment, and West End Blend. The sun began its first descent behind the mountains when Strange Machines came on to rile things up. Playing either some synth assisted jam rock or hanging all cool like on some reggae influenced jams, Strange Machines was a pleasure during the fests first sunset. It was at the end of the set was when Disc Jam’s artist at large, Haley Jane, came out on stage. Together with the band, they did an amazing cover of The Doors’ Soul Kitchen. Afterwards, Roots Of Creation stepped the reggae up a notch and took the position as the first performance of the night. It was around this time that the bass heavy Woods stage would open for the night. Headlining Thursday night with a two hour set was Lespecial, the self-described “Death Funk” trio from Boston. Starting the set off with their song “Fruit Wolf Dance” off the Omnisquid album, their high energy set wasn’t only filled with exotic originals, but contained fusion covers that would make you look twice. Mash ups like “Enter Sandstorm” (Metallica and Darude Sandstorm) excited the crowd and provoked a multitude of special guests like Lee Ross, Honeycomb, and Sean Bemand aka Dojito. The band even decided to dedicate a minute to covering the beat of Kendrick Lamar’s Humble. The welcoming night of Disc Jam was nothing sort of a success.
Lespecial Set List
Disc Jam Music Festival, 6/8/17
Fruit Wolf Dance *
Skull Kid ^
In Bloom #
Harambe Zombie +
Enter Sandstorm ! +
Pressed For Time +
Sound That We Do>
Jerry Was A Racecar Driver $
Cannibal Holocaust &
Where is My Mind ?
* with “Schism” (Tool) and “Killing In The Name” (RATM) teases
^ with “HUMBLE” (Kendrick Lamar) tease
# Nirvana (Dub arrangement)
+ feat. Neal Evans aka Fro-id on percussion and guitar
! Metallica/Darude mashup
~ TNGHT, with “In the Air TNGHT” tease
& feat. Lee Ross on saxophone and Honeycomb on beatbox
@ feat. Neal Evans and Jules Jenssen on percussion
? feat. Sean Bemand aka Dojito on acoustic guitar, with “When It Rains It Pours” (Twiddle) tease
Bearly Dead, the Grateful Dead cover band we all know and love, would start the day off right at 10:30am every morning from Friday on out. Friday morning also saw performances from the Funky Dawgs Brass Band and Humble Digs. And for his 12:30 set on the mainstage, beatboxer Honeycomb formed his own band of different musicians for a talented set of improv, each member showing how clever they could really be with their sit in. Following HC’s set, was The Brighton Beat, Swift Technique and Chromatropic, all of whom threw their creative hats into the ring that was Disc Jam. It was after Teddy Midnight, a quick tempo jam band from Brooklyn’s eccentric display that I sat down with the bassists from both Teddy Midnight and Chromatropic that we discussed some of the more technical aspects of being a bassist in the jam community. Wobblesauce, a 4 piece progressive livetronic from Boston made an appearance, balancing out the days more whimsical music with their heavier vibe. Aqueous flew on up next. Starting the set with the first half of Kitty Chaser, and ending it with the second half, their set nothing short of a rhythmic odyssey. Haley Jane hopped up on stage, helping the band do a cover of Fiona Apple’s Criminal. Giant Panda Gorilla Dub Squad, a reggae rock band as big as their name, trailed Aqueous. Like a Hawaiian breeze, GPGDS’s dubby vibe washed away any stress I had been feeling earlier in the day. Ensuing was Kung Fu, one of the most recognizable faces in all of the jam scene. Other than maybe Turkuaz, no other band felt as aligned as Kung Fu. With a cohesiveness that would make glue jealous, Kung Fu played like they could read each other minds. Each member took turns soloing it out, unleashing their own slices of Kung Fu fury on the crowd and their instruments. As soon as their applause ceased, tension could be felt in the anticipation for Dopapod.
A brief moment of silence passed and a voice took to the mic. “Now announcing the undisputed, undefeated, heavy weight champions of Disc Jam, Dopapodddd!” The lights kicked on and the band immediately got into the swing of things, starting the set off with their song “8 years Ended” off the Radar album. A few songs and jams later, an unfamiliar tune announced itself. Rob let the crowd know that the next one would be an unreleased single and everyone rejoiced, replying to the end of the song with applause and adoration. The applause ceased and Rob Compa took a deep breath, leaning into the mic. “So, what do you guys wanna hear? We’ll take votes.” Rob bent over into the crowd holding the mic out. “And what song would you like to hear young man?” The gentleman opted for “Bats In a Cave” off the Drawn Onward album. Rob took a few more votes, getting requests for songs like Trapper Keeper and Freight Train. After a short deliberation by the band, they threw everything they had left into the final song of the set, Cloud World.
Disc Jam Music and Arts Fest 6/9/2017
8 Years Ended
Freight Train Filled With Dynamite
For the next three hours the Woods stage would garner my attention with its different styles of nighttime bass music. Trappy bass music reigned supreme as Brightside finished his hour set, leaving his cult following wanting more. DELTAnine then took to the Grassroots sponsored woods stage, putting in a solid hour of lively glitch hop and some old school sounding dubstep. Armed with Evan Lintz, the drummer of Electric Love Machine manning all sorts of live percussion, DELTAnine was probably my favorite electronic performance of the weekend. Of The Trees followed up, at some point making a shoutout to Lespecial’s Luke Bemand, saying “Yo I hope you guys like Lespecial, this is Luke’s voice”, putting on a mix derived from the singers vocals.
Back at the tent stage, The Motet was properly funking it up with little concern for error. The seven member funk collective from Denver electrified the crowd with their performance. Performing with them and any other act on the tent stage was OPTEX, an intense visual experience created with a standalone LED wall onstage. Immediately after, the Primate Fiasco picked up where The Motet left off, going mobile. But this wasn’t all Friday night had to offer, with Holly Bowling taking the late night stage at 2AM. A set most sat down for, Holly’s graceful mastery of the piano was nothing less than amazing.
Saturday had a good start with the likes of Qwill, Funk You, Wild Adriatic, and Agent Lockhart. Consider the Source took to the side stage at 2:15PM, manifesting their insane tornado of jazz fusion as usual, returning later in the evening to put on an “acoustic” late night set. Right after, Formula 5 had to compete with Ghost-Note for an audience. The side project for some members of Snarky Puppy, every note sounded meticulously thought out and note a measure was wasted. TAUK and Manic Focus both played their hearts out. With TAUK playing their iconic Mokuba, their unmistakable sound spilled over the crowd in excellence. One of my neighbors even told me that the TAUK set sold him so well, that they’re probably one of his favorite bands now. And after a set like that, how could you blame him? Manic focus started out pumping jams by his lonesome on stage, but was then accompanied by the members of the Break Science live band, making for one of the most interesting sunset shows of the weekend. Then came what would be one of the liveliest acts of the weekend, Turkuaz. A 10 piece soul and funk collective, not a single member could stand on their own musical talent. The coordination for a group of their size was almost flawless, save for the fact their set was only 2 hours long. Special shout out to the baritone player, a multi-gifted man who took the spotlight to even do a quick beatbox sesh, coming back around full circle with the rest of the band.
Bassheads rejoiced as the woods bumped and boomed with Toadface, Esseks, and Yheti. Each a little different than the last, these wubby time slots were the musical peak of the weekend for a lot of attendees wanting to get erratic late at night. But the bass in the forest wasn’t the only late night spectacle around as the Break Science live band took to the tent stage, accommodated with an incredible visual performance still curated by OPTEX. With some well-seasoned musicians from the funk band Lettuce, Break Science was in my opinion the best set of the weekend. Later on in the night Consider the Source returned to do an extra special “acoustic” jam. With everyone seated, the word “viewing” was more appropriate than “show”. And an extra special viewing it was, with the ballad of 40% Gentleman, 60% Scholar, at least a few people were picking their face off the ground at 4AM when the set ended.
When Sunday came around it was interesting to see that a large chunk of patrons had packed up and left, making the rest of the fest feel like a friendly campout rather than a music festival. But that didn’t discourage acts like Treehouse, The Schooley Mountain Band, and The Gnome Project from slaying tunes like a vampire hunter. Gubbulids was the last act to perform on the B stage. With a reggae style that reminded me of a less poppy version of The Dirty Heads, Gubbulids were so high spirited even their cover of Gary Jules’ Mad World sounded groovy. And closing the mainstage area for the weekend was Pink Talking Fish. Doing covers of some of our favorite bands of all time, two really stood out from the rest. Dogs, off of Pink Floyds Animals album really tickled my Floyd sweet spot. But the number that really moved everyone was when Haley Jane showed up and helped cover Soul Shine as a tribute to the late Greg Allman. Rest in Peace my man.
And to close out the festival was Yes Darling, the newly joined efforts of Haley Jane and Ryan Montbleau. With just Ryan playing his guitar or ukulele and the both of them adding vocals, the pair sang sweet duet after duet. With most of the songs about the laughable kinks of relationships, Yes Darling gave Disc Jam the cute almost fairytale ending it rightfully deserved.
Disc Jam was a beautifully fun time that rode out as smooth as marble and I would have changed very few things about how the weekend was operated. I feel obligated to say though, I have but one gripe with the weekend that was Disc Jam 2017, and it can be summed up with one word. Water. When showing up to a festival, it should never take me or any other patron more than an hour or two to find the water station. Aside from the fact that the only source of water was in the stage area, the tanker was facing the wrong way! Fenced off and hidden from normal patrons, something this simple yet crucial should not be ignored at any festival. Hopefully we can get more water stations next year.
However, water aside, I had what felt like a strange realization on Saturday. And it was that Disc Jam is now one of my favorite festivals, and I don’t even like playing disc golf all that much. But with top tier musicianship and a wonderful homey vibe few festivals are able to recreate, my personal feelings on disc golf fail to give me much grief. Thank you to Tony Scavone of Disc Jam Presents, you’ve cultivated one of the funnest weekends of music in all of New York.
Yeah I know “funnest” isn’t a word but I don’t care.