Catskill Chill 2013

Review by Elise Olmstead

Photographs by Appalachian Jamwich photography

and Nathan Ekis (watermarked) 

People come to festivals with different intentions.  Some come to rage, some come to catch the biggest band on the lineup, some just want to chill.  Upon arriving for my first time at Catskill Chill on September 6-8, I could feel a vibration of loving intention—a group of people who have been looking forward to the Chill for a very long time, not just for the music, but for the people and scenic landscape.  A family of Northeast friends and cliques mixed with people all over the country were excited to once again come together for the intimate gathering at beautiful Camp Minglewood in Hancock, NY. 

The property itself sets the festival apart from others, taking place on a private lake with pavilions, cabins, tennis courts, and plenty of land for camping.  The central location of many of the cabins made for a rowdy party of porch dwelling groups armed with cases of beer.  Winding paths take you through camping mixed within the cabins and trees, past VIP close to the stages and the water, and out to Acoustic Junction.  There was plenty of land to walk and enjoy with landscapes much more intriguing than the usual flat fields with a monster stage focal point situated at the end.  The covered pavilions also provided a great convenience in the case of any inclement weather.


We were lucky to get very little rain at the Chill, and only experienced a little bit of sprinkling on Saturday and some rain Sunday morning.  We were comfortable and delighted at the first weekend of hoodie weather, welcoming the fleecy security of layers as the sun disappeared over the horizon.  There was always so much music going on, spread over 4 different stages such as Club Chill, B-Stage, and the Main Stage, that is was hard to catch it all.  The music was often staggered so that you could at least wander over and catch pieces of different band’s sets.  Every stage got plenty of attention and crowds overflowed the pavilions eager to catch the show.

Music started Friday at 3PM with band American Babies, fronted byCHILL-11 Tom Hamilton of Brothers Past, who played the B-Stage late night Saturday.  The Mantras couldn’t make it for their 4 o’clock slot, so we caught the funk reggae band, Spiritual Rez who took their place.  It was their first time at Catskill Chill and they made it memorable, enthusiastically head banging their long hair to hard rock drums, then suddenly dropping into a smooth dub beat with Sublime-like vocals.  After a performance from Chill-veterans Particle, we catch indie-dance-band-on-the-rise Jimkata at the B-Stage where they perform plenty of songs from their ground-breaking album Die Digital such as “Night Shade” and “Chain Store.” While everyone rushes to see Lotus at the main stage, we sneak away to catch a Grateful Dead set by one of our favorite bluegrass bands, Cabinet, at Club Chill.  The stadium-like bench seats inside the pavilion make for a cozy place to sit while singing along to favorites like “Brown Eyed Women” and “Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad.” 

We rush over to see Primate Fiasco at the Acoustic Junction stage and shove our way to the front to catch a view of their smiling faces.  Their colorful performances remind me of a carnival. The clarinet, saxophone, banjo, sousaphone and drums create a unique, playful sound.  We dance to fun songs like “Sidekick” and a Jackson 5 cover “I Want You Back.”  We are left exasperated and smiling, but we absolutely can’t miss our favorite band on the lineup, Lettuce. When we walk backstage to start taking photos Taco spots Nigel Hall by the stage.  I give him a brief hug and turn bright crimson, a flush that doesn’t seem to end the whole show.  I’m bristling with excitement as they play their sensual saxophone groove over sly percussion that frequently explodes into wild drum solos.  Alicia Shakour joins the stage to a round of applause and later Nigel pumps up the crowd with the crowd-favorite “Do It Like You Do.”

It’s our son Alex’s birthday on Saturday and we got to share in the excited vibe that he sent around the campsite.  After a filling birthday breakfast and some bundling up, we made our way to the stage.  We soon shed all of our layers, however, as the sun beat brightly down on us.  The grammy-nominated Americana band Yarn starts our day in a gentle swing, making for a good warm to Eric Krasno Band. It was delightful to see Alicia Shakour once again on the stage belting her signature soulful vocals.  Their honey smooth vibration laid thick upon Krasno’s precise guitar that will tickle your brain at one second and have you swinging your hips another.  George Porter Jr. joined him on stage for a powerful cover of “Take Another Piece of My Heart.”


The Acoustic Junction stage had become bewilderingly crowded around Consider The Source for their acoustic set, and we tripped over tents as we politely tried to make our way to the stage.  Alex, the birthday boy, slithered easily into the crowd and caught pictures of Gabriel’s meditative face as he picked the guitar with intoxicating middle-eastern flair. The band is all sitting, creating an intimate setting that didn’t lose any intensity of their electric sound. 

As the sun went down we watched a hooper in a pirate costume dance lithely along with a man juggling glowing balls.  A wave of love and happiness had invigorated the crowd, and everyone smiled, a group even created a little conga line of back massages.  “Happy Birthday, Alex!” everyone says to my son as we pass by, including a high five and a handshake along the way.  We are feeling right at home, and the hospitality doesn’t end there! During Galactic’s set Alex is allowed for a moment to get close to the stage and even later snaps a picture with Corey Glover.  He enjoys the scorching saxophone and trombone solos the most, but my favorite is when George Porter Jr. of The Meter Men joins the stage to play “Band of Gypsies.” I also enjoyed their rousing encore of “Sympathy for the Devil” by The Rolling Stones.

Headtronics at the B-stage turns into a huge jam with members of Particle, Kenn Mogel of The Mantras, and Freekbass joining the stage. Conspirator was pure party time, their fast, relentless beats raising your heart beat as you dance and watch the lights pulse and strobe.   The delicious beats were just getting started with live-tronica band Wobblesauce over at the B-stage after Conspirator ended, and I danced as long as I could before I was all wiggled out. 


Sunday the fun is hardly over, but we have to say our goodbyes due to school being the next day.  We say goodbye to old friends we are lucky to see but a few times a year, and new friends we made that already felt like family.  I heard wonderful reports of the sultry Sister Sparrow and The Dirty Birds, the legendary funk band The Meter Men, and of course “Dopadosio.”  Dopapod and Papadosio play consecutive sets then play one together as the brilliantly weird hybrid band, and they made a memorable end with their set including lots of Radiohead covers!

The long drive home through the cool air was quiet and I smiled when Alex fell asleep only a couple of miles into the ride.  I have realized why so many people return year after year to the beautiful Camp Minglewood and “mingle” as family for a blissful weekend.  The lineup always features great music from local and headlining bands, the intimate 4,000 person gathering, and the beautiful landscape are already calling me back to that fresh air of Catskill Chill.