Rock & Roll Resort 4.1.11 - 4.3.11
Rock & Roll Resort Music Festival 2011 - April 1st-3rd, 2011
The Hudson Valley Resort and Spa – Kerhonkson, NY
Words By Karen Dugan (Tiny Rager)
Photos By Karen Dugan & Chris Monaghan (Chris Monaghan Photography)
The start of festival season is an exciting time for our musical community! The cold of winter melts off our dancing legs, and the anticipation for weekend and week-long, nonstop events becomes reality. For New Yorkers, the festival season kicked off with the Rock & Roll Resort Music Festival which took place on April 1st, 2011, in Kerhonkson, New York.
Billed on its website as “the ultimate, high-end music destination event,” the 3-day, 4-night Rock & Roll Resort took place within the lovely Hudson Valley Resort and Spa. For the music lovers who can’t wait ‘til the cold season ends, scowl at the hassle of packing and setting up camp, or wish to spend a music-filled weekend with the comforts of a bed and hot shower, this event is for you. Rock & Roll Resort encompassed everything that a regular outdoor music festival delivers with the added luxury of comfortable accommodations. Produced by Wicked Cool Productions, the inaugural Rock & Roll Resort followed in the footsteps of problematic musical events held recently at the Hudson Valley Resort and Spa. I attended Rock the Resort at the same venue last year, and afterwards, it was obvious that a new direction was needed for musical events to be held at Hudson Valley. Although the names were similar, this year’s Rock & Roll Resort has no affiliation with the failed Rock the Resort Festival. In fact, before we go further, let us take a moment to give Wicked Cool Productions a giant round of applause! The quality of this year’s event greatly surpassed that of the Rock the Resort Festival last year! The new lobby/vendor layout, the addition of two more stages, and the elevated price to sketchiness played part in allowing Rock & Roll Resort to establish itself as a legitimate musical event that has so much potential! Like I said, these guys got it right!
Arriving Friday afternoon, the usual bugs in the system, aka “Network Down” alerts, played their part in making the check-in process a bit of a hassle. I was lucky enough to be checked in by the main man himself, Shannon Plaquet, within fifteen minutes of my arrival. Initially I had planned on staying off-site, but the threat of a blizzard changed my plans and a room needed to be acquired. Fortunately, my music karma was once again in check as I got a room practically on top of the main venues on the main floor. The proximity allowed for many a rage scene in my room during most down times. Unfortunately, due to water damage, one of the wings was in serious disrepair. Calling it the Ninth Ward, artists and music fans didn’t allow it to spoil this weekend. Most were just happy to have a clean bed and a hot shower, a luxury not found at camping festivals.
As I gazed around the lobby, I immediately saw the gravity of change that having a competent production company provides. Last year, the lobby was overrun with Wooks passing out on couches, unscheduled bands set up at random times throughout the space and the vendors were located in a dark room unable to hear any music. This year, the vendors were scattered throughout the lobby with smiles on their faces. Popular scene wares such as Kind Suds and Last Fair Deal glassblowers were situated by artists such as Crazyredbeard. With inviting plush couches under large crystal chandeliers, guests could grab a drink at the lobby bar and either watch the game or enjoy an impromptu performance by an artist on the baby grand piano. The caliber of dog had even risen. Dogs? Yes, dogs are allowed! The threatening lot dogs of last year were now replaced by approachable, gentle dogs eager to play rather than defend.
The Rock & Roll Resort had four music stages: The Manhattan Stage, Empire Lounge, Zildijian Rock Room and the Spin Spin Shakedown. Providing more stages was another positive change as previous music festivals held on site provided only two stages which caused major delays in the schedule and helped perpetuate the random lobby bands setting up. Scattered throughout the scheduled musical sets were activities such as mini-golf tournaments, tennis tournaments, a Rock N Roll Scavenger Hunt which was hilarious (find four pigs or porn), Dance Class by Dancin’ Greg and Yoga. There were open mic events, battle-of-the-band contests and even a texting program guests could access with their phones for event updates and voting for said events.
There was glass blowing in the courtyard and dancers from Oh My Goddess Entertainment performing aerial silk acts, hoop dancing, belly dancing and fire dancing. To top off the excitement, each night had a theme assigned to it. Guests could be seen walking around in their bathrobes and slippers for Pajama Jammin’ Friday, there were wigs and psychedelic shirts for Saturday’s Funk Mob Throwdown and on Sunday, The Royal Family Masquerade had some of the funniest masks being created and worn.
The only weakness of the event was the food. Frustratingly, between the hours of 3 P.M. and 7 P.M. and another unreasonable time slot in the morning, the only hot food you could find was the hot dog from the rack behind the lobby snack counter. Unacceptable! What about the vegetarians? They got a fruit cup. During its open hours, the quality of food that could be found in the ballroom style dining room was less than satisfactory. Dried cafeteria burgers, oddly dense donuts, hard rice with “insert Asian cuisine here.” However, the portions were huge once you ordered as they piled plates high for hungry hippies. Wicked Cool Production saw that some changes needed to be made with the food service and could be seen asking festival goers ideas to make improvements for next year. On a more positive note, a particular stand out portion of the weekend was the brunch with The New Riders of The Purple Sage. Crisp bacon, fresh eggs, sausage, bagels, toast with a side of pedal steel guitar and other various goodies were served for a fixed price as we slowly woke, feeding our bellies with good food and our ears with even better music.
Speaking of music, The Rock & Roll Resort had a substantial line-up comprised of some of the region’s most established jamming musicians and new up and coming artists! Pulling wonderfully talented musicians, DJs and bands from up and down the East Coast, guests could be sure to find something they all enjoyed at any given time over the weekend!
The main acts of the weekend consisted of multiple musical groups from The Royal Family record label. The members of The Shady Horns, The Sam Kininger Band, The Nigel Hall Band, Break Science, Chapter 2 and Lettuce headlined each night over the three-day musical event. The different acts brought an amazing array of musical talent and diversity from the beautiful vocals of The Nigel Hall Band to the funky grooves of The Sam Kininger Band, Eric Krasno & Chapter 2 as well as Lettuce and the late night beats of Break Science. The Royal Family left their mark on Rock and Roll Resort 2011 in a deep way.
For an in-depth overview of each of these acts, please check out my article for The Royal Family Records website.
Even though Lettuce or some might argue Chapter 2 had the sickest set of the weekend, Deep Banana Blackout had the largest turnout and absolutely brought down the house on Saturday night. Jen Durkin celebrated her birthday at the resort and the strength in her vocals made it party time for all in the house. Fuzz Fuzzman also stood out that evening playing funk leads reminiscent of the late great Diaperman Garry Shider.
Acts like progressive rock/funk bands The Breakfast and Kung Fu, both led by shredding guitarist Tim Palmieri, succeeded in keep our energy raised. The psychedelic keyboard playing of Todd Stoops and the pounding drumming of Adrian Tramontano is always a rage to behold. Quality acts such the Garcia-infused Max Creek and The New Riders of the Purple Sage littered the line up while hip-hop/reggae groups such as The Alchemists and The Problemaddicts made for a diverse line up of music. The Spin Spin Shakedown room was the late night go-to joint housing Djs and table turners such as JoJo, Digital Storm, Nutritious and Socal Republic. The light show that was produced in that room was pretty groovy as you wondered into the space late night and witnessed shadow dancing by Zoe Wilder or visual art by various light technicians on the walls and screens.
One of the beautiful things about these smaller, regional musical events is the ability for up-and-coming musical acts to be recognized, realized and, by music lovers like myself, dissected. There are a few new acts that need some special recognition.
Caravan of Thieves: Fuzz Fuzzman (Deep Banana Blackout), his wife Carrie Sangiovanni and their band mates kicked off the festival Friday afternoon bringing unique sounds reminiscent of Django Reinhardt to the ears of our community. No one in our scene has even attempted to modernize acoustic gypsy swing, let alone sound so great doing it. This group is an absolute gem and is delivering this antique sound to our scene with a twist as they cover modern songs amongst their new compositions.
Copper Tonic: Looks like we have another female voice to start paying attention to ladies and gentlemen. For a jamming scene cluttered with male musicians and rough voices, this group of musicians fires on all cylinders and is led by vocalist Michelle Sarah, the owner/head choreographers of Oh My Goddess Entertainment. Her soulful range drew to mind Susan Tedeschi and Grace Potter but her dance moves and connection with the audience made her more accessible. The guitarist, Andy Mowatt, was on fire and was easily my favorite new guitarist who hooked many over the weekend with his talent.
Jeff Bujak: Having first experienced Jeff Bujak at last year’s resort, I have watched him closely over the year and grown fonder of him with every performance. This classically trained keyboardist/producer/composer has no boundaries for his act and is invested in every aspect of it. From creating and maintaining his own beats, manipulating multiple contraptions with his hands on top of playing, working the lights and smoke effects with his feet and using every inch of his body to create a one-man full on solid electronic performance, Bujak is someone who is going to go far in our scene and is creating something our scene hasn’t seen before. He is the kind of artist that people find themselves stopping in their dancing tracks to watch perform. As my fellow Jam Cruise buddy said “I’ve never been interested in watching someone perform electronica, with this guy, I am entranced”Nephrox! Allstars: With a wild lead singer named Nephtaliem McCrary at the helm, this vocal-heavy Funk band is a real treat. Comprised of some of Boston’s most well-known musicians such as Aaron Bellamy on bass and renowned legend Jeff Lockhart on guitar, they touch on multiple genres, always falling back on James Brown for guidance. And with Amy Bowells (The Sam Kinninger Band) on keyboards, all is right with the world.
Primate Fiasco: I was checking out a handmade beaded purse in the lobby when my ear was caught by what sounded like a New Orleans second line with its instruments dipped in Texas. Psychedelic Dixieland or Dixie Funk...whichever way you slice it, this was my favorite new act of the weekend. They could be seen jumping on and off stages throughout the weekend in second line form with a tuba, clarinet, trumpet, and drums all being led by a banjo! It was an excellent collection of instruments being played by a very happy group of musicians.
Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds: The only thing about Arleigh Kincheloe that is small is her figure. Her powerful, seductive vocals that are backed by an even better band have placed this group in the forefront of soul/funk bands to be recognized. Housing a powerhouse horn section, rocking harmonica and shredding guitar, The Dirty Birds are a tight Brooklyn-based group that is plowing its way through our scene.
The weekend of music ended in the Zildijian Rock Room as CopperTonic hosted a Super Jam that lasted until the sun rose Monday. An unexpected treat, the jam rotated through members of The Royal Family such as Jesus Combes on bass, Nigel Hall and Eric Krasno on keys and Adam Detich on drums. Nephtaliem McCrary and Marc Coronado of Nephrok All-Stars brought the heavy hittin’ lyrics to the funk stage. Sauce members Christyn Brown (Trombone) and Chelsy Lau (vocals) owned a few songs and threw their girl power in our faces. The entire night was held down by CopperTonic guitarist Andy Mowatt who closed out the stage and I watched as he thanked each artist that had remained up there with him. Alexandre Goyette on keys and Michael Butler on vibraphone kept it raging while numerous other musicians such as Rafi Oso (The Tony Lee Thomas Band) and Squala Orphan exchanged spots spittin’ lyrics to the end. Even Shannon Plaquet himself, the man behind Wicked Cool Productions, the man(among many) who ran around all weekend making sure we were all happy with every inch of the event, got behind the drums and let out all his excitement from the weekend!
Rock & Roll Resort’s potential is limitless and it appears that with this competent and eager production company it will grow to be a gem of an event. The line up, regardless of if you have heard of the bands or not, was stellar. There was always somewhere to run with music that was worth listening to and a smile around every corner. The resort staff was upbeat and always helpful. And, when you just needed to get away, you had a soft bed and hot shower to relax in. Thank you Hudson Valley Resort and Spa and Wicked Cool Productions for taking a broken music event streak and doing so much more than showing the rest of the scene how it’s done properly. Thank you for establishing a new kind of musical adventure for eager music fans to experience. Thank you for listening to your guests and taking the time to support their concerns and helping grow this musical event for us to enjoy.
Last year I left the Hudson Valley Resort and Spa calling Rock the Resort, Wook the Resort. This year I left, with the largest smile, calling this wonderful new musical event Rage the Resort! You will most certainly be seeing this eager music fan again next year!