Written by Amanda Marcazo
Photography by Filip Zalewski
Set again at beautiful Gardner’s Farm in Stephentown, NY, Disc Jam brought the music, the disc golf, the art, and the fun to festival season for 2018. I never expected Disc Jam to disappoint me as I knew it would be a great time. What I didn’t expect was how much higher they would set their own bar this year. Between the extensive lists of musical artists, spectacular sponsorships, wonderful visual artists and vendors, Disc Jam 2018 blew every expectation I had for a great weekend right out of the water. I have not seen a numbers comparison yet, but there must have been double the attendees from last year. The camping alone stretched far beyond where it was in 2017. The weather this past weekend was just wonderful. We arrived Thursday morning about an hour and a half after the gates opened and found the usual smiling faces setting up camp around us. If there is anything I have come to find at Disc Jam, it’s wonderful fellow attendees willing to lend a hand or a frosty cold beverage. The vibe at Disc Jam is like that of a really great party. Your friends keep showing up and the music just gets better and better as it goes on.
The festival kicked off at the tent stage with Buffalo, NY’s band Cypher who delighted all of us early birds with some super tasty funk and prog jams. The tent stage is great as it creates a wonderfully intimate setting to catch a band, while still having ample space for everyone. We hopped quick on over to the main stages from there to catch the guys in Mushroom Cloud with their brand of tight jams. They finished off their set with a little Jessica from the Allmans – a very well received gift to the folks in attendance. From there we enjoyed some super funky and tight Harsh Armadillo. These folks hail from New Hampshire and brought so much funky, jammy, hip hop fire to the stage with their set. I was super impressed. They are a band I plan on keeping a close eye on moving forward.
Later in the early evening, Aqueous took the stage. I can’t say enough how great these guys are. Last year I was referring to them as the hardest working young band in the jam scene, and I stand by that. These guys kill it every time they take the stage with their super fun energy. They can take a set from funky dance to straight hard rock and the crowd just eats it up. I happened to be standing side stage during the set and found myself next to Rob Compa from Dopapod. In my usual dorky way, I try to strike up a conversation with him. He had to cut me short in the most polite manner though as he was about to hop up on stage! So we got a spectacular Aqueous/Compa gift. They even delighted the crowd with a stellar cover of “Benny and the Jetts”. Magic!
The acts on Thursday were so much more than I expected from day one of a huge four day festival. Everyone was in an incredible mood and that vibe just carried across the fields and touched every one of us as the night progressed. I was so incredibly excited to catch Gubbulidis over in the tent stage that night. I credit Twiddle with being the band that first pulled me into this scene with their song Lost in the Cold, so it was almost too perfect that they opened their set with that song. There is always a lot of emotion carried through in their delivery of this song and to hear it acoustic with just the bass and guitar was delicious. They amped that up a few minutes later with a cover of Counting Crows’s Round Here, and the entire tent stage burst into a massive sing a long that I was delighted to be a very loud part of. That song is a long time favorite of mine so it was simply fantastic. Later that night, the magic kept on with the rest of Twiddle and a solo set from Brook Jordan and a solo set from Ryan Dempsey. This was followed by the magic of the Compa/Gantzer duo. So much awesome, so little energy left in me!
Friday found us a huge batch of sunshine and the morning grooves of Boston’s own Bearly Dead at the tent stage. They are a daily fixture at Disc Jam and something I look forward to now every year. Nothing says “good morning!” quite like the grooves of the Grateful Dead. Later on, we hopped over to the main stages to catch Funky Dawgz Brass Band. These guys blew me away. Based out of New Orleans, they brought with them such incredible stomp and fire goodness that I was unable to move for a minute. Then the beat hit me and I could not stop moving. They are a massive sound with incredible tightness and I can’t say enough how much fun they are.
The very next set was a band called Fake Flowers, Real Dirt that I was pleasantly surprised by. What a cool sound these guys have with such smooth and laid back vocals. They carry a little bit of funk, a little bit of hip hop, a whole lot of fresh groove. We happened to catch their vocalist as we were walking by the vendor row, and got to chat with him and his adorable kids for a few minutes. They had taken the drive up from their home base in Baltimore for the festival and were just hanging out and enjoying the vibe. I can’t wait to hear more from them.
Over in the tent stage we were able to catch a set from Pennsylvania’s jam favorites, Catullus. They put on an excellent set that had the crowd moving with their brand of smooth jam, and they are some super kind guys! After that it was back to the main stages for some killer sounds from the Nth Power. What a power house of soul and funk! I was so impressed by their presence on the stage.
Next up for me on the Friday lineup was Kung Fu, who never, EVER disappoints. They held true to that with an incredible set, blessed by some guest appearances. Eli Winderman of Dopapod hopped up to lend his keys to their song Paragon. Then up comes Shira Elias from Turkuaz to help out with her sassy set of pipes on the Kung Fu tune Daddy D before launching into We Are the Champions from Queen to close out the set. I didn’t think it was possible for Kung Fu to be more awesome than they are, but this was it. Talk about a huge singalong!
Shira was far from done in her own awesomeness, as she again lent her pipes when she hopped up with the already incredible Motet. The night continued with an amazing set from Galactic who blew everyone away with their funk royalty and yet another set of Shira’s vocals. The late night tent stage was the much anticipated DJ Logic and Friends, those friends being Aron Magner and Marc Brownstein from the Disco Biscuits, Eli Winderman and Rob Compa from Dopapod, Mikey Carruba, Shira Elias, Chris Browers, Greg Sanderson, and Josh Schwarts from Turkuaz. Seriously, it was a crazy amount of energy and awesome. This was of course followed up with the Barber acoustic set, which was a highlight of the festival for so many people.
Saturday brought us and incredible set from Dub Apocolypse, with Eli stepping in on keys. He told us after the set that he has been jamming with the Dub Apocolypse guys for a long time, and it was such a great set. There is a mellow and groovy vibe to these guys with this kind of cool Pink Floyd type guitar flavor. They are something really special and I was really stoked to catch their set this year. We also caught the set from Big Mean Sound Machine which is probably the most appropriate band name in history. This one was a serious “WOAH!” moment for me with this incredible percussion and trombone action just spitting funk and jam all over the crowd. The energy was intense and fun. They could have played all day and I would have been delighted to dance along the whole time. The day rocked into the night on Saturday with sets from Space Bacon, Ghost Light, the wonderfully visual Beats Antique, and a crazy dance magic spectacular from personal favorites of mine, Lotus. I had such a great time just dancing up a storm with total strangers in the vendor lines as I made my way to the stage during that set. They happened to play Eats The Light, which is one I really wanted to hear, and I was in heaven. Thank you for that one, guys! Over in the tent stage, Electron ripped it up and gave everyone something spectacular, followed by the much anticipated “secret set” from Octave Cat. They are an incredible trio including Eli (Dopapod), Jesse Miller (Lotus), and Charlie Patierno.
Sunday brought some clouds, but not enough to dampen that Disc Jam vibe. Sets from bands like Goose, The Wiley Griffin Band, Soule Monde, Lord Electro, and Yes Darling closed out the weekend and another Disc Jam. Overall, there were over 100 artists packed into this weekend’s festivities. What about the disc golf? There was so much music, I didn’t even play any disc golf! I did get to walk the course a bit, sponsored by Innova Disc Golf, when we arrived on Thursday, and it was lovely. It was specifically designed for newcomers and pros alike so everyone and anyone could toss a few discs. Next year, Disc Jam. Next year I am going to finally play!
The question remains – will we be back for Disc Jam 2019? As long as Disc Jam is there, we will be too.
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