The sky was bleak and drizzling Saturday afternoon as I boarded the Ferry and set sail for the inaugural Catalpa Music Festival at Randall’s Island.
Hoping this rain would pass I donned my poncho and got on the boat. Surprised by the lack of crowd upon the vessel, it was emptier than I had imagined. I wasn’t sure if it was because it was so early in the day. Maybe all the kids would be coming later for the main act.
As we reached the dock the sky stopped raining, but the grey clouds were still overhead. I found my way to the entrance and got in line to enter the show. Walking into the festival you heard the soothing rhythmic guitars and beats at the “High Times” stage. The area featured various reggae acts throughout the day for any concert goers who wasn’t into listening to the other bands on the line up.
Down the hill and before me laid a field of green with a typical music festival set up. Each side lined concessions of food, alcohol, and sponsor activations including yelp, got2b, and Berroca. In the center laid an artistic dome shaped bar/lounge sponsored by Absolut Vodka.
To the right of the entrance was the medium size stage sponsored by Jeep which was filled with only roadies setting up for the next act.
The far end of the island held another stage. I heard music and started to head towards it to see the first band of the day. On my way over I caught a glimpse of the House of Sham, a blow up church where they were performing fake marriages to anyone who wanted one. A few festival goers were already starting their nuptials.
This was the main stage according to the festival map and had the words “Dance Bitches” printed on top. To the left was the VIP for concert goers who wanted a more comfortable festival experience. The area featured real bathrooms, a private bar, and premium view of the main stage. For those who really wanted to go out in style, you could rent your own private raised cabana and hot tub.
On stage was The Aviation Orange. Thanks to the sign in the background you didn’t even have to look up on the schedule to see who was playing. The Brooklyn based indie/pop quintet featured guy/girl lead vocalists Mike Nesci and Cherie Hannouche who had a fun, popping, electric/synth vibe. It was a great sound for a live performance. Watching the everyone dance along to the music you could tell they were a hit with the crowd.
I caught The Demos on the Jeep Stage. I was interested in seeing their live show after listening to a few of their songs on their Bandcamp page. The set was more mellow than I had imagined, but the crowd was liking their vibe. They amped things up with the last few songs in their set and ended on a high note.
Next up was singer/songwriter Zola Jesus and a lot of rain. During her set the skies opened and poured out on the crowd. Despite the down pour, Zola’s goth inspired, industrial electronica and powerful, hypnotic vocals drew a large audience at the main stage.
It looked like it wasn’t going to let up until finally the rain slowed down for the right before Canadian groovers, The Sheepdogs the sun had finally come out to shine on the crowd.
The weather continued to cooperate, but the festival grounds were left with huge mud puddles causing people to get stuck as they walked back and forth from stage to stage.
The crowd started to grow as the day when on. Hercules and Love Affair pumped up the show with their 90’s esque dance party featuring dancers that looked like they walked out of a Madonna video. It was a neo-disco party and everyone was moving and grooving along.
Next up was Umphrey’s McGee offered some the concert goers an eclectic musical experience with their progressive rock, funk, jazz, blues, metal, electronic, and bluegrass sound.
Before the headliner took the stage, we were treated with the exciting performance by TV on the Radio. I have seen this band a few times this year, and each time gets better and better. The Brooklyn quintet never fail to entertain with their soulful rocking electro, post-punk.
Aside from the ambiguous weather, the day was great and ended with a stellar performance by The Black Keys. The duo brought the house down and washed away the rain with their raw, sultry rock and roll.
Returning Sunday early afternoon, the show seemed to be empty again which was a disappointment. We caught the set of The Airplane Boys who got the crowd moving and shaking with their popping hip hop beats.
For those who were more into the rock genre could check out bands like Aunt Martha and Cold War Kids. Aunt Martha was made up a bunch of guys who played some nice ambient rock. Cold War Kids drew a large audience with their sexy, sweet indie rock. They played fan favorites “Hang Me Out to Dry” and “Audience.”
The Big Pink offered fans a mix of rock and electronica on the Jeep stage. Fans were delighted when they played the song “Domino.”
There was even some dubstep mixed in by the stylings of AraabMusik. The crowd was going wild to the funky beats, even though after awhile to me it all sounded the same.
Out of all the bands on Sunday, Girl Talk had the most fun set. The mash up of hip hop with dance jams is most fun live. That along with the balloon send off and toilet paper shooting all over the crowd.
As night fell and Snoop Dogg took the stage the crowd was twice as wide as the night before. Most concerts people don’t show up until the headliner is about to perform. It seems that this was the case for Catalpa too. The main stage was swarming with fans. Snoop played hits from the 90’s and his whole career with small movie snippets in between songs that foreshadowed what he was going to sing next. The crowd was filled with all ages waving their hands in the air.
Despite the rain, it turned out to be a fun filled weekend with a ton of stuff for concert goers to do in between music sets. Whether it was getting face painted at the yelp tent, taking fun pictures with blow up animals at the Berroca tent, or running obstacle courses at the Jeep tent; there was a lot to see and do at Catalpa Music Festival.