Mazzstock Music Festival, taking place August 9-11, in Marlboro, NY, is one of the “biggest small festivals” you’ll ever see, with so many things to love. It’s a perfect event for those who love music both “digital” and “analog” with a penchant for the unique and a passion for musical discovery. The event has been going on 12 years and run as a non-profit by a team that started out as a community of volunteers that continue to work hard to bring it together for little more than the satisfaction of a great party with friends. This grassroots approach allows them to keep their prices low for attendees and the experience a truly independently ran festival with no sponsors. If that doesn’t already make you feel warm and fuzzy, you can also feel good about your contribution because a portion of proceeds will go towards Strangers Helping Strangers. We talked to organizer and member of Alpha Male Gorillas, Vinny, about what makes this event so special, and after reading, I guarantee you won’t want to miss the magic.
How many years have you been holding Mazzstock? What was the inspiration behind creating Mazzstock?
Mazzstock is in its 12th iteration this year, and it’s fifth as a 3-Day Music Festival. The event was born out of a conversation between our founder “Big Lee” Mazzola and his good friend Jack Saffioti. Lee and Jack were hanging out on Lee’s beautiful property when a light-bulb when off in Jack’s head, “Hey man– you could have your own Woodstock here!” Lee, being an avid music fan, loved the idea and decided to host his 50th Birthday Party at his home, booking local bands and providing food and drink for everyone completely out of his pocket, and letting people camp and stay over so that they didn’t have to drive home intoxicated. So the inspiration really came out of love, kindness, and generosity, and the willingness to share one’s home with not only friends and family, but complete strangers as well. That’s the kind of guy Big Lee is. That, and an enormous party animal, haha. He didn’t know it at the time, but he ended up giving all the rest of us the greatest gift on his own birthday– an annual event that people could hang out and enjoy great live music for days at a time. It’s become so much more than that too, because the anticipation leading up to the event, and the memories shared after the event really put people on a positive wave for months at a time on either side of the festival. Over the years, it has evolved and grown, and the people we have met there and the crew we have assembled has been beyond compare, and the music and art created just speaks for itself. It really is an amazing place with the best vibe.
Where does the name “Mazzstock” come from? What is the inspiration behind your groovy mustachioed sun/moon logo?
So Lee’s last name is MAZZola, and with the whole Woodstock-type party in HIS backyard, the natural name for the event was Mazzstock. Our original tagline was “1 more day of peace, love, and music.” Now that we are 3-Days, plus our Thursday Night pre-party, our motto has become “3 Days, 2 Stages, 1 Love, No Worries.” The logo, as you mentioned, sports a half sun-half moon in kind of a Taoist Yin-Yang fashion, with sunglasses, and a moustache that we refer to as a “Mazzstache.” The Mazzstache was born at the first Mazzstock when my bandmate, and Alpha Male Gorillas vocalist Joe “Milli” Infelice shaved his face in a Fu-Manchu and soul patch configuration (he also had some really badass sideburns too), it had edge, looked cool, and it was super noticeable, so people were calling Joe out on it and asking him, “What’s the deal with your facial hair?” He answered simply, “It’s my Mazzstache.” It caught on, and has become the secret handshake of sorts at Mazzstock where Joe and a bunch of other guys rock them every year, and they have taken on some really cool designs– barbers have been involved and everything, haha. For the segment of our population who are facial-hair inhibited, a lot of them get faux Mazzstaches and glue them on, or have one of our very talented face painters do the job. As myself and Lee decided that we needed to get slightly more commercial to sell more tickets and merch to survive, we knew that we needed a logo. The original logo was just the sun with glasses, and the ‘stache designed by our friend Neil Zimbaldi, and has evolved into a Yin-Yang Sun / Moon complete with our signature facial hair!
Can you tell me a little bit about the venue?
I can’t just tell you a little bit about the venue, because I automatically have to gush over it whenever I speak about it! It’s a beautiful spot, about 10 acres nestled in the hills of Marlboro, NY in a spaced-out Agricultural/Residential neighborhood, and the grounds are something to behold! The entrance exit is a narrow road referred to as “The Bridge,” and once you cross that bridge, you leave the “real world” behind. We have 2 permanent stages with big white tents over them that serve as cover for the bands and awesome screens for projections once the sun goes down. The stages are only 125 feet apart, so the walk between music is very short, or even non existent if you plant yourself in the middle as the bands alternate back and forth, and the music doesn’t overlap until after 2 AM. There are large custom-fabricated iron monuments that were dedicated and donated to the event, and other really cool art installations, some permanent. Our Flow Tribe run by Heather Davies and Small Tribe Hoops puts out dozens of hula hoops for people to hoop dance to the music right by the West Stage, and they rope off areas for fire performers at night. There are large party tents for shade, 2 vendor rows featuring delicious food and fine crafts, and 3 main areas for camping, “Tent City,” “Shanty Town,” and “Moonbase.” Tent City is a non-stop party, complete with lawn style games and all sorts of other shenanigans, Shanty Town is where are our RVs and Trailers are parked with tents mixed in, and Moonbase is hill-top car camping, and is a bit more chill. We have a water truck for free water which we graciously thank Troncillito Bros for providing, showers, porta potties, and a general store run by super-volunteer Maranda Farrier. We have plenty of off-site parking, fantastic people running our shuttles, and golf carts on site to help people get around as well. Overall, it’s just a really bright, beautiful, and colorful place ripe with personality and expression, and I can’t help but smile just thinking it’s only DAYS away at this point!
When did you personally start organizing/coordinating events? What inspired you to get into this business?
It started for me with my band Alpha Male Gorillas— we started back in 2005 and have always looked to put on unique and really fun shows for ourselves and our fans/friends. Lee found us at local bar and asked us to play the first Mazzstock for free food, booze, and other party favors, back in 2008, and we delightfully accepted. Since then, we have been the only band to play every Mazzstock, and we still do it for the same deal, haha! Lee pretty much exclusively ran the event and did LITERALLY everything entirely by himself until 2013, and I saw that it was wearing on him, so I offered to take on band booking and some other general operations. That was also the first year where we went to a 2 day event, and in 2015 we went to 3-Days, and we had gotten a tremendous amount of time and help from the love of my life, Victoria Bourbeau, who really kicked up all of the behind-the-scenes operations about 30 notches. We have attended dozens of festivals together, and really wanted to take the best elements of all of the other fests and incorporate them into ours– so far so good!
What is a lesser known band on the lineup that are you excited for and why?
This is a really difficult question, because the cross section of Mazzstock attendees is really diverse, and the vantage point of who is “lesser known” is totally unique for each person. For instance, the attendees that have been coming to Mazzstock since 2011 truly know how awesome perennial band Skydaddy is every year. That band is very local to the tri-state area, but are some of the true kings of Mazzstock as performers. The out of towners who only frequent larger festivals will likely have never heard of them– and I’m excited to see their reaction to Skydaddy, because they always bring it, and the crowd in front of the stage will be jam-packed for them on Friday Night. To a lot of our local attendees who don’t go to festivals outside of Mazzstock, some of our headliners like Lespecial or Flux Capacitor are actually “lesser known,” and their minds are going to be blown when they hear these festival juggernaut bands for the first time. But if I had to pick one band that I am personally super excited for, and is probably actually “lesser known” in downstate New York, than they are in ironically, EUROPE– It’s The NY-Chillharmonic! 22-pieces of jazzy-rock-soundscapes with a super powerful frontwoman Sara McDonald, it truly is a spectacle and an awe-inspiring sight! In fact, I am super pumped for what I am calling “The Double Diva Headliner” on Sunday Night as The NY-Chillharmonic and Hayley Jane & The Primates will round out the festivities back to back! What a treat for all the people left who “never miss a Sunday show,” and with Hayley Jane & The Primates going on indefinite hiatus, this may be one of our last chances to catch this really great band.
What makes Mazzstock different from other festivals? What are you doing this year that is special or Mazzstock exclusive?
What makes us different? Let me count thee ways! We often like to refer to ourselves as “New York’s BIGGEST small festival.” We say this because we boast a “big” festival feel in terms of our production, crew, advertising, merchandise and operations, yet we’re well under 2,000 people and just about everybody knows everybody and have become a big, loving, extended family. So, BIG festival feel, “little” festival family! Our volunteer crew is the most well-oiled machine you could ever dream of, and work as hard as if they were getting paid enough for home ownership in Westchester County, when they are simply getting a t-shirt, a few meals, and the feeling of contributing something larger than themselves. We owe it to Laura Brown, Tricia Reed, and Jack Kenney for hand-selecting such fine individuals and organizing them seamlessly. We are also 100% independent, we don’t take any sponsorship money, and therefore don’t have to play by any other rules but our own, and we only have 1 rule, “no violence.” We are not a for-profit organization, and are lucky to break even every year, as we do this for one reason: for fun. No one who officially works for Mazzstock takes a salary or is trying to make a living off of this, which explains why our prices are low, and why we operate the way we do. Fortunately, enough of us make a comfortable enough living at our day jobs for us to not be as cut-throat as other promoters need to be, and I can’t really blame them if they are relying on their production to eat or pay rent. Although we aren’t technically a Not-For-Profit, we manage to raise money for charity every year–this year, we are working with Strangers Helping Strangers who help feed the hungry.
Our site is privately owned by Big Lee, and everyone loves and respects that, and treats his home like it was their own, which is beautiful. Having the site year-round is also advantageous for making sure we can deliver the best experience possible for everyone. In the past year, we have installed 2 roads, drilled a well and have installed a half dozen water spigots on site through several hundred feet of trenching and underground pipe, ran permanent power to several locations, and have cleared enough land for an additional 100 or so camp sites and parking spots. We tip our hats to other festivals who rent their grounds from third parties, and set-up and break them down in under a week’s time– we don’t know how they do it!
Our attendees are also not your typical concert crowd. As I explained earlier, Mazzstock started off as a big Italian family reunion and birthday party of sorts, that has been molded together with people who enjoy music festivals of all sizes from all over– and somehow, it just works! Actually, it does more than “work” it’s about as good as it gets– it’s your Uncle Tony wearing tie-dye for the first time and smokin’ a J with “Fairy Bear” who came all the way from Asheville, arm in arm while the Mazzstock All-Star Band performs our annual rendition of “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd, and there’s not a dry eye in the house!
As far as features, one really cool thing we do takes place during late night– we go “Super Analog” and “Super Digital” simultaneously after 2 AM on Friday and Sat nights. Our campfire jams are a really awesome synergistic experience for those into the “analog” acoustic guitars, hand drums, and voices singing along in chorus with no amplification. At the same time on Friday Night, we have our “Silent Battle of the Bands” which features 2 Jamtronica bands on the same stage, plugged D.I. (directly-in) to a wireless broad-cast system which allows the crowd to listen to the bands jamming over wireless blue-tooth headphones. The headphones have a channel switch that allows the listener to switch back and forth between both bands, and they light up to let the bands know which band the audience is listening to– hence, “the battle”! To my knowledge, I don’t know of any other festival that does this, and it doesn’t cost anything extra. We do the same thing on Saturday Night with DJs battling as well, and the headphones have a lot of range, so a lot of people wander all the way up to Moonbase and can still hear the bands and DJs rocking as if they were right up on the stage– it’s awesome!
Can you give us any insider tips to make our Mazzstock experience the best it can be?
Absolutely– I would absolutely do all 3-Days, without question, and as a 3-Day pass holder you are entitled to hang at our pre-party on Thursday night! So I’d just take off work from at least a half day on Thurs 8/8 to Monday 8/12, and get a 3-Day pass. I’d come prepared for all 3-Days, maybe bring some snacks, but largely rely on the really awesome food at the event to feed myself. Most parking is off-site, but it’s not that far and our shuttles run regularly, but it would be best to make sure you have what you need at your tent when you first set up. Take full advantage of the golf cart cabs on site to help you move your stuff around and throw the drivers a tip! Bring cash or an ATM card. There is very poor cell service at Mazzstock, so it’s not credit card friendly, but having little use of phone and internet is actually pretty great. It’s a welcome change to see people using their phones only for the purposes of a clock and a camera rather than playing on the internet, and we are just all the more connected in person for that reason, and living in the moment more. But that also means to make sure you plan ahead if you’re meeting up with friends or whatever, because it’s harder to get in touch with people once you’re there– but once you’re in, it’s small enough and easy enough to find everyone and everything that you are looking for! There are some showers on site near the water truck, so bring toiletries and a towel for that if you want to break up the 3-days with a shower or two. Other than that, simply leave your troubles behind, and be ready for the best party NY’s Hudson Valley has to offer this summer! 3 Days, 2 Stages, 1 Love, No Worries– Mazzstock!