The Big Up 2011: Day Two

Word & Photos By Jon Irvin

We awoke somewhat early to the sound of birds chirping and the whomp whomp being blasted by a nearby camp that served as our daily alarm clock. The day would be filled with some of the most anticipated sets of the weekend, the first being the super group Normal Instruments holding court on the woods stage. Jeff Bujak along with guitarist Michael Carter (The Indobox), drummer Jules Jenssen (Higher Organix), and bassist Matt Beckett (Cosmic Dust Bunnies) got the Friday party started right away with an upbeat, reckless jam out. Between Bujak trippin’ out on the keys and Jenssen’s high-speed drumming, the set was filled with some of the most experimental jams heard during the weekend.
After being jacked up by Normal Instruments, we were on our way to the main festival grounds. With a brief walk through the row of vendors filled with your standard hemp necklaces, blown glass, and heady crystals, the next band Jimkata was about to take the main stage. I had seen Jimkata years ago at a local establishment so I was curious to hear the boys from Ithaca’s progression since the last time I heard them. Their jams are seamless and flow perfectly, but similar to other bands on the jam circuit, vocals aren’t Jimkata’s strong point. I enjoyed their set but was left with a feeling that it could’ve been that much better.
One of my favorite acts from last year, Wobblesauce, was ready on the side stage immediately after the last few rifts from Jimkata. I could see that this year I would be wobbling along with a power trio instead of a quartet they sported last year. I later found out that the guitarist had left the band, embarking on a new venture. Wobblesauce was good, but I fear that losing a member may have knocked these guys down a step. With their synth-based jams, fat bass lines, and technical e-drumming, Wobblesauce kept the crowd grooving through several tunes including “Rubadub Dub”, a song that has frequented my mp3 playlist since the inaugural Big Up. Hopefully they’ll start to venture down to PA more so I don’t have to wait a full year to check them out again.
The cool thing about this festival is its size. Even though the attendance seemed to have doubled since the previous year, you never felt like you were crowded in the main field area. We took a seat, relaxed, and did some people watching. I love to people watch, especially on the boardwalk. You see some interesting cats, but it’s no match to the sights you see at any festival; whether it’s a random furry, the chick dressed like the girl from the 5th Element, or Waldo, you’re always bound to see something interesting. We continued to chill on the lawn for The Breakfast. After the wobble had worn off, The Breakfast was exactly what the afternoon called for. Led by guitarist Tim Palmieri, The Breakfast is one of the best psychedelic jazz rock bands that I have ever seen. Their sound is filled with a mix of funky jazz, hard rock drums, and mind bending guitar solos. It was the perfect change of pace and gave listeners a brief respite from all the electronic acts that would dominate the evening hours.

It looked like rain was on the agenda so we headed back to camp to stay dry, grab a bite to eat, and recharge the batteries. Big Gigantic was set to go onstage around 10:30 PM; unfortunately the rain was relentless enough to force me to keep the camera back at camp. This would be the 4th time seeing these guys and first with their own light equipment. Man, do I regret leaving my camera. Sax master / beat dropper Dominic Lalli and drummer Jeremy Salken threw it down GIGANTIC style! With jams like “Limelight” and “Sky High”, it was hard not to dance. Not only does Big Gigantic have amazing original material, they also have several sick remixes as well led by Aloe Blacc’s “I Need a Doller” and Wiz Khalifa’s “Black and Yellow”. Somehow the music was coinciding with the weather. In the midst of all the madness there was a time when the rain subsided only to magically start again as soon as some hardcore dubstep was dropped. Maybe it was their own lighting equipment, led by massive ‘light boxes’, but whatever it was, this was the best set I have seen from Big Gigantic. It’s amazing how BIG these guys have gotten in such little time. This is one band that I will continue to search for on festival bills. After Big Gigantic shut down the main stage for the night, it was time to check out the late night barn activities.

I didn’t really venture too much into the barn Thursday night, so I took the time during OTT to check out the sites. Note on OTT:  not my cup of tea. ’m not a huge solo DJ fan unless its more hip-hop based. He wasn’t bad but the music seemed redundant after awhile. To each their own. I was glad to see that the people at Shireworks had decided to open up the barn more than last year. Instead of just the dance floor area, the side barn doors had been opened and several lounges had been set up. It was such a perfect idea to provide chill rooms with couches so tired patrons could catch their breath. Ingenious! I waited until most of the OTT crowd diminished and took my place right in front of the stage. After what seemed to be an eternity, Digital Tape Machine was about to kick off. How can you describe Digital Tape Machine other than fast-paced mindmelting annihilation brought to you by members of Umphrey’s McGee and Strange Arrangement. Sometimes overshadowed by his UM counterparts, Kris Myers clearly stole the show tonight. Usually when I see UM, my attention barely ventures back to the drums, so I was glad I gave myself the chance to really appreciate the talent that laid mere feet in front of me. As soon as the lights dropped it was game on as people swarmed from everywhere and the barn soon became too crowded.  I skipped back to my regular perch across the path in the adjacent barn to enjoy the music in a much more spacious place. Between the laser show, the incredible jams coming from Digital Tape Machine, and the obviously E’d out kids making out against the wall, I found myself lost in time. Before I knew it, the set was over.
What an amazing day of music! I once again shuffled back to the camp dodging wookies and the dubstep coming at me from all directions. The woods stage was still rocking so I prepared myself for little sleep.  Day 2 in the books!
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