The Big Up Music and Arts Festival, Claverack, NY- 8/8-10
By Saturday, it was clear that a fair amount of the artists this weekend – Dopapod, The Heavy Pets, Solaris, Higher Organix, among others – were enjoying the full weekend at the festival and taking the opportunity to watch new musical acts and enjoy not having to shuffle from this festival to the next. Some were found near the Woods Stage, where known and unknown bands alike had fans filtering in and out of woods to and from their camps, before returning to the main field.
Blacklight Ruckus, a high intensity rock act with a Flea-like bassist were a great start to the day, as were Consider the Source who with their Middle-Eastern meet Sci-fi sounds, were early highlights as fans started to circulate around the grounds that were now drying out. The Heavy Pets, hailing from Miami and likely the band that traveled the farthest to play The Big Up, broke out of the reggae-tinged “So Thank You Music” into a deep and exploratory jam that evacuated the original song for 10 solid minutes, then returned to earth and were showered with cheers from the audience. The final tune, “The Day the Sun Forgot to Rise” had a distinct Tom Petty sound, a commonality among the musical Floridians.
Higher Organix, an all instrumental jamband built from organic jamming for their entire set, much to the approval of the audience who were enthralled as the set progressed. The only song of note that was played was John Lennon’s “Imagine,” which paced and explored as the sun set opposite the Main Stage and gave a powerful cap to their second set of the weekend. In the woods, Jahman Brahman from Asheville, NC, on their first trip through New York State on a tour dubbed ‘Tearin down the Walls,’ wowed the crowd with Casey Chanatry giving some Trey licks on his guitar, and coupled with drummer Rowdy Keelor, it becomes very tough to not get into their brand of funky jamming; you simply succumb to their music and the luscious arbor arrangements on stage.
A highlight of the weekend many were anticipating was the Kung Fu Prince tribute set, with Jans Ingber from The Motet as Prince. Taking their time and venturing through the classics – “Little Red Corvette,” “1999,” “Raspberry Beret” and a rocked out “D.M.S.R.”, Ingber and Kung Fu were accompanied by Christine Tambakis, whose sultry voice brought the crowd to Paisley Park for an all too short 75 minute set. It was then, after sundown, that most of the crowd became prevalent in the field, having opted to avoid the sunny day and enjoy their campsites while they prepared for Night 3 of The Big Up.
Another highly anticipated act that performs infrequently, much to the chagrin of fans looking for tourdates, was Normal Instruments. This jamtronica supergroup features Jules Jenssen of The Indobox and Higher Organix, Matt Beckett from Cosmic Dust Bunnies, Michael Carter of The Indobox and Jeff Bujak, who culminate in one of the best kept secrets in New England, playing forceful EDM with jam improv throughout.
Beats Antique were the headliner of the weekend, and rightly so – once you hear the ear rattling bass and drums, you understand why: the bass player does so much more than pluck bass strings, as he is on computers, turntables, mixing and building uniquely layered dance numbers, which lead to their resident goddess, Zoe, donning elaborate costumes, one after the other, dancing in a spooky and mystical manner, both entrancing and arousing onlookers at the same times. Her dances complement the music and make for a truly unique style of music, one best described as Gypsy meets Bass and Drums, although the banjo-laden cover of “Get Lucky” wasn’t just a cover for the sake of it – the tune had a layered beat underneath to propel the song and made the banjo sound bounce off the stage and into the crowd. This is by far the most unique band playing the festival circuit today and finding out where their current tour is taking them should be priority for those who have not seen them.
The night was capped off with Richmond, VA’s Former Champions, who perform a Bloc Party style of live electronica but found the right spots to build back up into a jam, rather than dissipate. Back in the Tent Stage, Eskmo was intense and elevating, An-Ten-Nae was a bit mellower than Eskmo and most DJs this weekend, while The Egg, a sick trio of trance, showed why they make perfect posterboys for using instruments, not just computers, to make EDM.
With roughly the same turnout as the 2011 edition, and a new site that is perfect for the music festival to expand, The Big Up showed staying power for the brand name, and with the response from the crowd and smiling faces throughout the music, The Big Up organizers have planted the right seeds to continue to grow and establish themselves as their own brand of music festival in Upstate New York.