Lucidfoot Presents: Creative Being Music Festival (Review)
August 25-28, 2016, Vernon, NJ
Written by Sam Stratton
Photos by Zachary Scoch
For as long as people have been alive, celebrations involving music, dancing, and campfires have been important staples in human life, regardless of culture. These celebrations become the perfect places to share the moment with a friend and to create wonderful memories to be able to look back on. Although the music and art we celebrate to is a bit different than our ancestors, the ritual is the same. And for as long as these types of celebrations have been around, so have the people that orchestrate them. That’s where Brian Borkan enters the picture with Lucidfoot Productions. Grassroots grown and based in Northern New Jersey, Lucidfoot Productions aims to bring awareness to the local community through music and arts. Founded in 2013, Lucidfoot held the first Creative Being last year with enough success to have patrons yelling about how they can’t wait for next year. So with a little help from Grateful Acres production, that’s exactly what Brian set out to do.
It was three in the afternoon on August 25th and Creative Being Music and Arts festival was ready to open its doors for its second year of being. Not too long after, masses of clouds rolled in and hung over the campgrounds, casting doubt on what Creative Beings pre-party night could look like. Early arrivals trickled in and selected their spots for the weekend. Upon entry, patrons were greeted with a friendly crew of faces who were thrilled to be welcoming everyone. Once inside the beautiful property of Toye’s Recreation, the venue could be taken into sight for the first time. Almost immediately a pond comes into view, boasting not only a jetty and floating docks, but also sporting a scenic fountain sprouting from the middle. A few Rvs and tents surrounded the pond, but the low population surrounding the lake kept the space to a cool, quiet place where you could still escape from the party. There would be several times that weekend where I ventured there alone to reflect and take a breath. Being based in northern New Jersey the area was characterized by the rolling Appalachia hills, and while enough to give the venue a pleasant curvature, at no point was I ever sore from any strenuous hiking. Picnic tables, while not scarce, were only found at every other campsite, making some camp sites luckier than others. I found some familiar faces who luckily managed to snag a campsite with one and decided to set up camp on a small hill right next to the main stage. Before the music started I decided to take a look around the venue and familiarize myself with the property. First on the list was the stage area, luckily though it couldn’t have been more than a minute away from camp. Down the way I emerged out of the end of the trail and appeared at the stage. The sound guys were doing their thing and the stage hands were setting up the stage. The smaller side stage was tucked to the right of the main one. And of course there was the line of stands and Ez-ups that make up every festivals shakedown street. Vendors were rich with typical yet captivating goods like pins, paintings, and clothing and such. One stand who showed up was the popular “Steal Your Plate” food vendor. While not having tried any of their food myself there were many points in the weekend where I found myself next to a friend who looked utterly satisfied with their food. One enthusiastic friend told me that their BLT would be “the life fuel that ran their cosmic vehicle”.
If you walked around the space long enough you would eventually stumble into one of the large canvas’ sitting in the grass, markers and paint spread out before them on the ground, begging to be used. Aside from the glass blowing trailer, I made my way to the back of the field and began walking. I passed by many campsites and exchanged many smiles and discovered a vacant trail leading into a shallow valley with a cleared out space the size of a football field. The hill that separated the valley and the stage area was enough to block out any music that might’ve drifted into the woods and over the hills. The field was completely empty and the stillness gave me time to think about the potential size the festival could grow into in the coming years. I wrapped up the thought of it and went back to exploring. Eventually I ended up near the gate and finally had an idea of just how big the venue really was.
As everyone settled in and the sky began to darken the pre-party music was started. First to go on was PandaJAM from Bergen County, NJ. With a sound that could be described as the lovechild of Dopapod and Lotus it certainly gave the event a friendly familiar start. After a quick ice and supplies run, I came back to see the band Dr.Slothclaw playing, a band self-described as “The Kings of Freak Funk”. Attending many of the smaller funk/bluegrass shows in the area, and having played with some bigger acts like Turkuaz, Kung-Fu, and Dumpstaphunk, Dr.Slothclaw is developing a large enough following that I was asked several times “if I had seen that set?”. The release of their new album Deep Space Boogie is only proof of their current growth.
Skip to the next morning after breakfast and I’m back to seeing what Creative Being had to offer. By the time I was ready to be functional; the daily early morning yoga session was long gone. I never feel very meditative at 8:00am anyway. News quickly spread saying it would reach 100 degrees later on in the day. The higher in the sky the sun rose, the more hesitant people were to travel down to the main stage area where shade was scarce. Many patrons took this as the incentive to experience the beach Toye’s had to offer. Instead of jumping in the pond I decided to brave the sun of the main stage while periodically returning to camp to hydrate. The day started with some light hearted folk acts and then dove into what was one of my favorite acts of the weekend; The UCM Trio. A hard psychedelic rock group coming out of the thick melting pot that is Brooklyn, the band focuses heavily on live improv. Consisting of a keyboardist, a drummer, and a guitarist, The UCM Trio was able to embody the spirit of a jam while maintaining enough composure to keep some direction. With their heavy spontaneous sound, predicting what would come next would have been a feat for any observer. When the realization occurred to me that the band in front of me was mostly working off the top off their heads, I could feel the pressure of the moment, which made the set that much more satisfying. For a band I had never heard of, they were easily my favorite act of the day. The music for the day progressed further into jam phenomena with acts Albert Savage, Funkadelic Astronaut, and The Trongone Band. Playing through the humid summer heat they were able to maintain the tone of the weekend, each with their own styles. The dark sky returned and so did the enthusiasm of the people clinging to what shade they had. The sun was setting and I knew it was almost time to see one of the best local funk bands around; Mystery Fyre. Playing that in-your-face funk, Mystery Fyre is a band that’s hard to ignore. Pulling out all the stops for their set, they went from whipping out a Theremin, any incredibly strange instrument that you play without even touching to doing a great cover of War Pigs by Black Sabbath.
Next was South Carolina locals Dangermuffin, a band I had several people tell me they came specifically to see. Appropriately self described as “sand-blasted roots rock, with a sweet jam spread”, Dangermuffin’s surfer jam style ejects good vibes with every note played. After the set I actually decided to separate myself from the main party and do some soul searching. My wanders brought me to the lake, where the water held a calm atmosphere despite the occasional drunken howl from one of the nearby camp sites. The open water matched the open sky, where every star available to the naked eye laid. Eventually one of the owners joined me on the jetty to ponder the night sky. Although I don’t remember her name I was able to ask her what it was like to own a venue such as this, which lead to some conscious conversation before I went back to camp.
Sunday officially started (for me) when a parade of children streamed by at 1:30pm. The unadulterated laughter and joy of a group of kids parading past alarmed me to the present and shook out the grogginess out of me that is the first few hours of being awake. Other than the parade nothing that afternoon really caught my attention except the group Universal Rebel. A mix of reggae, hip-hop, and jazz, Universal Rebel filled the diversity that so many festivals have missing from their line-up. The set becoming the soundtrack to my day, their music stayed with me until the evening. After Universal Rebel was Philly’s progressive funk band Darla and Salem, Connecticut’s Jeremiah Hazed who both put on a great show. Now it was Primate Fiasco’s turn to shine on the stage. With their iconic sousaphone, exotic accordion, and rickety banjo, they took to the stage and did what they did best, played far out music that you can only dance to rather than listen to. In a way, Primate Fiasco embodies one of the core values Creative Being is about; expressing yourself in a way you can have fun doing, regardless of how unusual it is for the people who might see. After the fiasco was over, what was to become my favorite set of the weekend started; Chromatropic. Being the shining example of jamtronica for the weekend, I was already excited for their set after checking them out on YouTube. And I must say, they failed to disappoint. Their music is the kind that builds you up to what feels like a climax and then gently holds you there in a cradle of electric jams. Chromatropic is a band that sees your vibe, matches it, and then ups the ante with their musical prowess. They keep you on your toes while retaining the easy going atmosphere that started events like this in the first place. But one of the aspects that truly makes this band great is that they’re obviously not afraid to take chances. That was proven to me with an incredibly well done cover of Britney Spears Toxic. Had you told me a jam band was going to cover Britney Spears, I would’ve called it a terrible idea. But Saturday night’s set showed me otherwise. Chromatropic is a band that knows what direction they want to go in, and I can’t wait to watch them pursue it. Next was a band that left a large impression on my first festival experience at The Mad Tea Party Jam years ago; The Mantras. I don’t believe I can sum them up like guitarist Keith Allen was able to at the beginning of their set saying, “Hey guys, so I came dressed in a PBR onesie with a few unbuttoned buttons, so if you’re still not down to party, I don’t think there’s anything else I can do.” A “a five piece jam machine born in Greensboro, NC,” The Mantras have been making head way in the jam festival scene in the past few years, hosting their own festival and playing with the likes of Dopapod, The Werks, TAUK, and Consider The Source to name a few. Although they took a one year hiatus from throwing their festival, that didn’t keep them from working on a new album. During the set they were great enough to debut two tunes off their new album Knot Suite; the songs All You Here and Here We Go. Their latest sound says that even though they are considered a jam band, they haven’t forgotten the hard rock roots that inspired them and so many others to pick up their instruments in the first place. Unfortunately I did not stay for either Rivers or The Dishonest Fiddlers set. I set off to the pond once again to star gaze, to have access to a night sky that you can only get in the most rural parts of New Jersey. Afterwards I went back to camp, tended to the fire, talked with some friends and called it an early night.
While some of us were still sobering up from the night before, others were eager to go home and decompress, to be ready for whatever the “real world” demanded of us the following Monday. Like at the end of every festival, hugs and cell phone numbers were exchanged all around. Strangers were no longer strangers, and Creative Being was no longer just a campout. Things like “Get home safe!” and “Until next year!” were shouted at me from moving cars, the joy of the weekend ever-so-present on the dirty faces of everyone going home. Shout outs to Jordan Koza and Susie Q for making the tear down as relaxing as the set up, I love listening to live music leaving a festival almost as much as I do while entering. Thanks again to Brian and Mr and Mrs.Toye for having us!