Rock N Roll Resort

April 4-6, 2014, in Kerhonksen, NY

by Elise Olmstead

For an avid festival goer, there’s no worse itch than for an outdoor weekend of music when it starts approaching spring time.  When the weather still has a chill and the multiple day, multiple stage events are sparse, Rock n Roll Resort is the perfect festival to get us over the hump.  Taking place at Hudson Valley Resort in Kerhonksen, NY, the 3 days of music, art, and antics spent inside a comfortable hotel is a rager’s dream vacation.

The resort hails from the heyday of luxurious Catskill Resorts where New York City residents would get away to enjoy beautiful landscapes and a variety of entertainment.  I imagine the resorts in the 60’s buzzing with social butterflies, dressed to the nines and carrying champagne, and I can still feel the festive energy of this place now transformed into costumed circus of dread heads, dead heads, fire performers, costumes, and lots of funky music.

The typically funk-headlined festival also hosts jam bands, jamtronica bands, DJs, reggae bands, and all sorts of flavors in between.  The horns definitely took precedence over the spotlight, and  you just can’t resist the party the brass brings when it blows.  Funk favorites Dumpstaphunk headlined Friday as well as jam powerhouse Tauk and Nephrok! Allstars. We wasted no time in seeing music after we checked in that evening, and were instantly swept down the long carpeted hallways and into the Manhattan Theater for BRYAC Funk Allstars, featuring members of Kung Fu and Deep Banana Blackout.

Besides the Manhattan Theater, the largest room, there was also the Empire Lounge next door that featured a smaller dance floor and a spacious bar.  After a walk through a carpeted lobby filled with vendors, you came to The Ballroom, which hosted mostly jamtronica bands and DJs.  The smaller room was the perfect place to shine pretty lights that shown behind the stage and colored the chandelier a sparkling blue.  We popped in to see DJ Adram Amrod spin some bass-heavy electronic, then walked out front just in time to see performers spin fire staff and poi.  The drippy weather wasn’t enough to dampen spirits and the night was just getting started.

Tonight’s costume theme was “Decades of Decadence” and we enjoyed watching ladies in afros and tie-dye mingle with ruffled Victorian ladies and 1920’s style flappers.  A Cigar Room, which is seldom seen anymore in hotels, was situated next to the Empire Lounge and seemed to be a perfect environment for the night’s decadent debauchery.  After shaking the smoke from our velvet and fur we danced to Peter Prince & The Trama Unit, a bluesy rock band with Warren Haynes’ raspy vocal sensibilities.

Before we knew it everyone was rushing to Dumpstaphunk and The Manhattan Theater quickly crowded with excited fans.  The funky music swept us off of our feet and we disco danced across the floor under colored lights.  They closed the set with a cover of “Vivrant Thing” by Q-Tip mashed with “Immigrant Song” and left everyone sweaty and exhilarated from a healthy session of “puttin’ it in the dumpsta.”

The highlight of my night was Tauk‘s set immediately following Dumpstaphunk.  The New York based band has been blowing minds and melting faces everywhere they go and left one hell of an impression on Rock N Roll Resort that no patron will soon forget.  Taking the audience through jam odysseys into body-shaking heavy rock breakdowns and danceable guitar riffs, the band captivated everyone and got our feet moving.  They ended with a crowd-pleasing trippy version of “She’s So Heavy.”

Saturday we enjoy a little catered breakfast of French toast and sausage.  Your room package for Rock N Roll Resort comes with meal tickets to 5 different catered meals throughout the weekend.  If you were hungry in between meal times, food vendor Gouda Boys was pumping out subs, pizza, and lots of macaroni and cheese all weekend to keep us fat and happy.

Music started at 1PM with progressive rock band Eggy in the ballroom, and high energy duo The Hornitz in the Empire Lounge.  The Hornitz use looping technology and human beat boxing to turn their trombone and trumpet playing into a full funk/jamtronica experience.  Band members Friendship and Stoo didn’t seem to stop playing even after their set ended, and I saw them again joining reggae/rock band DPR in the Theater later that afternoon.

The night got dance happy real quick and I was already in the groovin’ mood after a set of Mister F‘s jams and live jamtronica band Cosmic Dust Bunnies‘ futuristic dance beats.  While we bought Taco a Third Eye Pinecone in the lobby near the acoustic stage, a crowd started gathering for the hip-hop flavored beats master APEL.  This crowd coming together was full of crazy characters, and the costume theme “Superheroes and Villians” started cropping up everywhere.  Batman characters were an obvious favorite among the partiers but we found Where’s Waldo lurking around as well as unicorns and gators wandering into the fray.

Everyone Orchestra featured some powerhouse stars such as Steve Kimock and Jennifer Hartswick.  The members came together to make sweet music full of groovy, chill jams, and Jen’s beautiful bluesy voice soothed our soul.  While the set wasn’t the best to get you moving, it certainly had you smiling as you swayed. “Newgrass” band Cabinet had to be my favorite set of the night, and I’ve never seen so many people packed in the Empire Lounge bringin’ the energy.  We danced to some of my favorite songs like “Nashville Blues,” “Old Farmer’s Mill” and “Caroline.”  The Motet played two amazing sets joined by who other than the guys from The Hornitz at one point, as well as Jen Durkin from Deep Banana Blackout.  The Kings of Belmont capped off the night at 5AM and we said farewell as plenty of ragers kept the dance party going.

Sunday the sun was out and spirits were high, and though many people where finding their way home, plenty of folks were just getting into the swing of another day full of music.  We caught the keyboard heavy grooves of Akashic Record in The Ballroom, which also featured the deep bass of a baritone saxophone.  We soaked up some last minute time with friends and packed our things in time to catch some Beau Sasser Trio rockin’ the ballroom.  The band consisted of two members from Alan Evans Trio, which recently changed their name to Alan Evan’s PlayonBrother.  Alan Evan’s being, of course, co-founder, writer and drummer of Royal Family Records band and former Rock N Roll Resort headliner Soulive.  We caught our boys Kings of Belmont one last time and shook it to some Ween covers as well as some jam/rock originals.  We were sad to miss Turkuaz, the 9-piece funk “army” from Brooklyn, NY, who played two sets for the rest of the Rock N Roll ragers that just wouldn’t quit.

I’ve concluded that the more wildly flamboyant you are allowed to be on vacation, the better the memories.  Friendly people were everywhere, eager to gather and party with like-minded gators, superheroes and disco queens.  Though the wonderland hallways of Rock N Roll Resort do not extend on into forever, I am grateful for my time spent in the beautiful Catskills with friends.  Until next year Rock N Roll Resort, stay fabulous.

Photos by Appalachian Jamwich Photography

Nick Hobbs photos:

Taco Olmstead’s photos: