The economy? Well, it’s waiting for its segue: an interminably dragging jam that’s lacked fire or much in the way of invention for a while now.
The jamband festival scene? Plenty saturated, especially here in the soggy Northeast. Dave Marzollo would be the first to admit that because of those reasons – and plenty of others — it just isn’t as easy to get people out anymore, let alone for more than a night.
So it’s that much more remarkable that the festival Marzollo co-founded, Catskill Chill, not only survived its first year intact but is expecting nearly triple the number of attendees in its second installment – 1,200 a year ago, and more than 3,000 this year – and can also boast nearly 100 percent returning vendors and nearly 100 percent returning staff.
In year two, it’s already grown from well-regarded curiosity to admirably buzzed-about weekend: a newer entrant to the mid-range weight class of jam-friendly festivals that’s going to more than hold its own in a year of festival fatigue in the Northeast and plenty – Langerado, anyone? – of industry uncertainty.
READ ON for more on Catskill Chill 2011…
Formally known as the Catskill Chill Music, Camping & Arts Festival, the three-day event returns to Camp Minglewood in Hancock, N.Y. this Friday through Sunday, Sept. 9-11. It’s a stacked bill of fare: 35 bands across three stages – rain or shine, as those stages are all comfortably covered – and starring 7 Walkers, Umphrey’s McGee and Conspirator as headliners. Filling out the roster is a range of fest-friendlys: a little Dumpstaphunk there, some Particle here, a dose of The Heavy Pets there, some Big Sam up in there. It has some heavy hitters on the production side, too: Vermont-based Atomic Professional Audio is handling sound and BML Blackbird has lights.
“We sort of pride ourselves on being the festival in the middle,” Catskill Chill executive producer Marzollo told Hidden Track this week. “We’re not the small festival where you go down to the show, and it’s a plywood stage, minimal lights, mediocre sound and you’re standing in a small field. We try to have the production of a big festival but also be smaller in size. You’re standing there watching the show and not fighting off 25,000 people, but you feel like you’re at one of the big festivals.”
Another big advantage, Marzollo contends, is that Camp Minglewood is just that: a camp. There are pristinely maintained grounds and defined car paths – not dirt and sunken field. Attendees can camp on the grounds, but there’s also the option to rent cabins on the festival site, and after booking 60 percent of Minglewood’s cabins in 2010, Marzollo said, they’re sold out in advance this year. Roughly one thousand attendees, comfortably slept, in other words.
“What sets us apart is that we have this enormous summer camp infrastructure,” he explained. “We have a pavilion, and we have the [site of] the largest outdoor circus program in the world. And you have these cabins if you want. You can have electricity and a roof over your head and you’re right here on site if you want. I feel like a campus effect goes a long way.”
Other comforts are in place. There’s a round-trip bus that departs New York City and bridges the 140-or-so miles to the campsite for $50. There’s a D.J. stage, morning yoga classes, a fire show and free parking and camping with admission.
Lovers of late-night sets have plenty to look forward to, Marzollo adds. Rather than install a DJ and create some wee-hour ambience for stragglers, Catskill Chill has [HT contributor] Wyllys with Brock Butler one night, and Break Science with Chali 2na the other. Both sets are scheduled for the 3AM to 5AM block. It takes a little extra to be a circle on the jam fan’s calendar, Marzollo said, but so far, it seems to be working.
“You’ve got to have the mindset of a gambler and the stick-to-it-iveness of a business man,” he said. “It’s going to take a couple of years to get it off the ground, but that’s one of the most fun parts. My business partner, Josh Cohen, and I end up going to most of the major festivals to peddle the product, and we know going in it’s not going to be easy. But we chose to do this, and you’ve got to embrace that mindset.”