Music lover and festival enthusiast, Jonathan Scoblionko takes us behind the scenes of Catskill Chill music festival, which has been held the first weekend of September for five years and hosted 6,000 people.
Small music festivals have become a cornerstone experience for any festival lover. They provide inclusive, intimate, and unforgettable musical and social experiences. Catskill Chill, now five years old, is known as one of the premier intimate music festivals in the country. Held over the first weekend in September and located on the magical grounds of Camp Minglewood summer camp in Hancock, NY, the Chill—as fans call it—featured a superb lineup this year, with acts spanning from bluegrass to funk to psytrance. Among the 74 acts were Shpongle, Electron, Yonder Mountain String Band, Dopapod, Turkuaz, The New Deal, Marco Benevento, and Lettuce. The festival brought in a crowd of around 6000 attendees, all with an unquenchable thirst for tasty jams and positive vibes. All members of the Chill Family were invited to take part in what can only be described as a summer camp for big kids.
My favorite sets of the weekend were Electron, Turkuaz, the New Deal, and Lettuce. Electron, headlining the final night of the weekend, featured Marc Brownstein (bass) and Aaron Magner (keyboards) from the Disco Biscuits, Tommy “T-Ham” Hamilton (guitar) from American Babies, and Mike Greenfield (drums) from Lotus. The set featured some jazzy, jammed out renditions of Disco Biscuits’ songs, such as “Home Again” and “Shelby Rose,” as well as covers of “Shakedown Street” by the Grateful Dead, and Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb.” Turkuaz was an amazing thrust of big band funk. The Brooklyn-based group dazzled the afternoon audience with their extremely tight rhythms and soulful grooves. The New Deal provided the main stage with an absolute rage-fest; the nonstop dance party featured a completely improvised set with palpable energy. Finally, the modern-day funkmasters of Lettuce provided a funktastic late-night, booty-shakin’ throw down. Their set rattled the Earth, with the highlight being a brain-quaking “Madison Square.”
But there was far more to the weekend than the great music. This past Chill, I also had the pleasure of working the festival in the Hospitality and Artist Relations department. Working a festival is an experience unlike anything else in the world; the feeling you get when you know that you played a distinct role in making an experience amazing for a fellow festivalgoer is beyond words. I have worked multiple festivals, but the Chill certainly felt closest to home. In fact, the reason that the Chill means so much to me is because I have spent my summers at Camp Minglewood since I was 13 years old—as a camper, counselor, and most recently an administrator.
You may be thinking “why would someone ever choose to work during a festival, wouldn’t that be less fun?” Well, because the Chill has such personal significance, I really felt a need to be involved. Plus the people and the staff are really what make the Chill so magical, and I wanted to help provide that magic for others. Furthermore, I strive to one day work in the hospitality industry, so I jumped at the opportunity to work in the department—I was ecstatic. There is a distinct connection I feel from being involved in events and festivals. When my favorite artists and musicians thank me for making them feel at home, I realize my role in making it all happen–and few things in the world make me happier. I like to think of my work as my own contribution to making the music and weekend all the more enjoyable, for everyone. This is why working festivals brings me so much joy, especially in an environment jam-packed (pun intended) with awesome music, wonderful people, and beautiful nature. If you consider yourself a lover of music, good people, and good times (pretty much anyone reading this), I highly recommend finding a festival you feel connected to and figuring out what your role may be in perpetuating the good times.