The Big Up 2013
On August 8-10, 2013 the Big Up music festival landed at Hemlock Hollow Farm in Claverack, NY. Artists at the festival included Escort, Beats Antique, Orchard Lounge and much more. The following is a detailed account of the event through the eyes of two Upstronauts:
Thursday & Friday — by Greg Sarafan
As I pulled into the Big Up it, was clear that the magic of 2011– the last time the festival was held– was present. Upon entering, festival-goers were greeted with a large “The Big Up” sign perched on top of a hill, modeled after the “Hollywood” sign in LA. Throughout the weekend, festival-goers walked up the hill, which overlooked the main stage area, and added their own personal touches with markers and paint until, on the third day, the letters were completely covered.
The first two days of the festival saw torrential downpours with intermittent periods of clear skies. While the festival grounds got muddy, as one would expect, the Big Up operations crew could be seen constantly traveling back and forth on the pathways making improvements, laying hay and even building a staircase into a muddy hill in the middle of some of the most intense rain of the weekend.
SOLARiS was one of Thursday’s highlights. High-energy electronica, they really brought the heat with fast-paced electronic grooves. During the middle of the set they slowed their roll to a smooth, dubby song, and drummer Dan Lyons stood up and played the e-drums. This slowed-down, dubby interlude was one of the many highlights of this set.
Setlist: Chapman, Lonewulf, Riverlide, SPD-SX>Deacon, 1231, Nostromo
The Big Up staff did a fantastic job decorating the Schwartz Woods Stage and camping area. Multicolored LEDs decorated the woods and lit up the trees in ever-changing colors. The colors danced on the nylon sheeting stretched across the expanses between the small groves of trees along the pathway through the woods.
One of the biggest surprises of the weekend was Mun. The Brooklyn-based quartet has gone through a number of lineup changes and they finally seem to have found their groove. Tight and on point, Mun is definitely a band to catch the next time they are in your town.
Setlist: Ufunko, Hustler, Iniquitous, Rapper’s Delight, Celestia
Dopapod was one of the most anticipated sets of the weekend and they did not disappoint. Particularly memorable was their cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Manic Depression” mid-way through the set. The band played well and there was a balanced quality to the band’s jams, which is always something you want to hear from a quartet.
Setlist: Psycho Nature, Onionhead > Cloud World, French Bowling*, Nuggy Jawson^ > Manic Depression# > Bahbi, Weird Charlie, Turnin’ Knobs, Trapper Keeper
* Scott Flynn (trombone) & Dan Africano (bass) of Elephant Wrecking Ball sat in on French Bowling (no Chuck).^ unfinished.# Jimi Hendrix cover; first time played.
The festival grounds were covered with small reminders that love and effort went into making the art just as important as the music. The stage set up next to the VIP tent overlooking the main stage was awash with creative vibes, hosting a number of live painters throughout the weekend. In addition to the live painters commissioned by the festival, several amateur artists could be seen throughout the weekend with their easels, live painting in the crowd.
Escort was also one of the highlights of the festival. I always love seeing Escort; this Brooklyn-based live disco orchestra always brings the party. Lead singer Adeline Michele is pure sex appeal with singing chops to match. The rest of the ensemble is a collection of extremely talented musicians who, you realize upon seeing them, really “know” disco music.
Setlist: Starlight, Get on Up (Roundtree cover), Indigo, Look Right Through (Storm Queen cover), Chameleon, Barbarians, Sailboat, Hollywood (RAQ w/ Penguin Prison cover), Cocaine, There But For The Grace of God (Machine cover), Makeover, Cabaret, Bright New Life, Why, Dance, On The Nest>Dancer (Gino Soccio cover>Musique cover)
Saturday — by Kristen Grennan
Saturday at the Big Up was a beautiful, sunny day, though as a result of two days of rain the ground was still saturated with mud. Despite the festival’s best efforts to put down hay to dry up the mud, once the sun set the cool earth was soaked again.
Because of the unfortunate weather for two days before, I think a good number of people showed up for just Saturday. Although the other two days’ lineups were great, Saturday featured some really special artists, including the unbeatable Beats Antique, Eskmo, and The EGG.
Blacklight Ruckus performed in the Dance Tent and they had a really fun, punk-band feel. The 4-piece band hails from New Hampshire and what made them unique was that the lead vocals didn’t use a microphone, but rather a megaphone, which definitely gave the band a raw, grungy feel. They finished off the set with their new single “Do It,” which you can check out and download for free here.
Setlist: (Sound check) Miss Jiffy, That’s the Way, Hey You, Know By Now, Lovely Vibes, Other Side Of The Rose, The Edge, Sexy Girl, Direction, No Respect, Moving On, Down + Out, Gods of the Funk, On and On, Do It
Afterwards, I was excited to see the Heavy Pets, who originate from south Florida but are currently doing a few shows around the Northeast and will be hitting up venues and festivals including Equifunk, Night Lights Music Festival, Brooklyn Bowl, Wescott, The Blockley, and more (before heading back down south!). The Heavy Pets are a much lighter, jazzier kind of band and I really liked that. It was the perfect midday vibe: the sun was high, people lounged on the hill or hooped at the foot of the hill, and everyone just enjoyed the moment. In the meantime, festival workers took this chance to throw down tons of hay to attempt to dry up all the mud that now lay thick on the flat ground inside the dance tent and in front of the main stage. You can listen to some Heavy Pets here:
Setlist: Dewpoint, Better, So Thank You Music, Keep Me Running, Last Babies, Holy Holy, The Day The Sun Forgot To Rise
Later on was the Kung Fu Tribute to Prince. This set had me dancing up a storm. I have to admit, I was a little skeptical. Don’t get me wrong, I love Prince. I just didn’t realize how fun it would be to listen to a whole set of Prince covers at a music festival. Kung Fu was joined by Jans Ingber from The Motet on lead vocals, Christine Tambakis on backing vocals, and Nick Biello on keyboard. The entire group was amazing– all were talented musicians and worked very well together. The bass and sax players had fabulous solos that I just have to mention because they really knocked my socks off. The lead singer was also electrifying. During Purple Rain, I think every soul in the whole festival was belting out their best notes. What a fun and clever idea!
Setlist: Let’s Go Crazy, I Would Die 4 U, Musicology, Raspberry Beret, Kiss, Darling Nikki, Take Me With U, D.M.S.R., Little Red Corvette, I Wanna Be Your Lover, Purple Rain, 1999
After Kung Fu, I needed a breather. I could hear Normal Instruments performing in the dance tent from my campsite. That was one great aspect to the festival– no matter where you camped, you could hear the music! I really enjoyed tuning the music in and out while I chatted with friends and chilled. The group has amazing chemistry and really work well together, plus they are gifted artists to boot. Their entire set was improvised, which I think really tells you about the skills of the musicians (Michael Carter from the Indobox on Guitar, Jules Jenssen from Higher Organix on Drums, Matt Beckett from Cosmic Dust Bunnies on Bass, and Jeff Bujak on Keys). The only complaint I have is that I would prefer if they stayed away from the heavy dubstep, but I know that some people go nuts for that, so I understand why they would continue to perform that style.
After taking a break, I was ready for Beats Antique. As one friend explained to another friend who had not experienced Beats Antique before, “Many of the artists here are very up and down. But Beats Antique is circular; they will bring you all around.” They most certainly did bring us around! As usual, the beats were very tight throughout the show and Zoe Jakes, the only female in the group who doubles and dancer and musician, brought the show to the next level. Her costumes were beautiful, her dancing was captivating, and her stage presence was enormous. I loved when she came out in a billowing dress, lights illuminating her face, and air was pushed up beneath her, filling the white dress and giving her the appearance of growing very suddenly. In another dance segment, she came out behind a screen and a light behind her projected her silhouette onto the screen, creating a very cool visual effect. Then at the end of their set, things got a little silly. The members of the group came out with their animal heads on and traipsed around, followed by a giant squid puffing up as the performers played with the tentacles or danced around it. Awesomely bizarre to say the least!
Beats Antique actually now has a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the 1000 Faces tour. They have great giveaways with each donation so be sure to check it out here!
Setlist: Overture, Egyptic, Beauty Beats, I Got, Alto, Stash, Pandora’s Box, Daze, Colony Collapse, Sky Talk, Get Lucky – Daft Punk (Beats Antique Cover), Dope Crunk, Crush, Hero, Satisfy My Soul (Bob Marley), Nesatovo | Encore: Voodoo – Bassnectar (Beats Antique remix), Catskills
Afterwards, was the very experimental Eskmo took off. He started his set with some eerie vocals that pierced the air. At one point, the vocals became a repetitive “Big Up Big Up Big Up Big Up,” which was really cool. The visuals during Eskmo’s set were also incredible. They were being projected both behind him and onto the ceiling. If you haven’t seen Eskmo, I would highly suggest checking him out. He uses very experimental methods to create his electro and this creates a very unique experience at every show. One time I saw him performing at Brooklyn Bowl and he was literally crinkling up pieces of paper and using that sound in his music. It is very artistic music. Here is just one short example:
The Egg was decidedly lackluster. I was pretty hyped to see them since we had done an interview with them before the festival, and I suppose that such excessive excitement might have been setting me up for my downfall. To be fair, Eskmo is a hard act to follow, especially with those eye-popping visuals and the vibrant and unique sounds he was making. There was nothing bad about The Egg, but they lacked that “Wow!” factor that I was expecting. It’s one of those sets that made me wonder if it was me, and I wish I could listen to it over again to figure out if it was just that my expectations were in the wrong place…
Setlist: You’re a good catch, she’s terrific (feat. psychemagik, wilderness, keep it simple stupid /early apples (feat orchard lounge), electric city, psyfunk, fire, bingo (over there)
After The Egg was An-Ten-Nae. I distinctly remember dancing my ass off for a bit and then sitting down, then dancing again and sitting again (a big group of us grabbed lawn chairs and made a sort of theater in the back of the dance tent). An-Ten-Nae is trap music and I think for this specific scene it is just not very popular. At other festivals in other states they have whole trap stages, but I’ve found in New York (at least in what I call the “grungy hippie scene”), trap has not caught on at all. If you’re curious, you can download a bunch of his tunes for free via his Facebook page.
Across the festival grounds on the woods stage Horizon Wireless closed out the stage by taking the crowd on a journey. While the crowd at the stage was significant almost the whole of the woods camping could hear this set crystal clear. The DJ/drummer duo start their sets with a minimal chilled out vibe. As they move through the set the songs increase in intensity until the end when anyone within earshot cannot help but move their feet to this House-edelica.*
Orchard Lounge closed out the night with a great late night set that ran until 6:45am. My feet were sore, but I still managed to drag myself over and dance quite a bit! Despite the quickly rising sun, there were still a number of people getting their jive on. I particularly enjoyed their “Get Lucky” jam, which was funky and fun. Most of their set was actually unreleased tracks, so it was definitely worth it to push yourself to get out there and dance.
At the end of their set I dragged myself over to my tent and decided I didn’t even want to lay down, just sit in the car and feel the sun again. I had so much fun despite the mud and was happy to have literally danced the night away. Overall, the festival was a really unique experience and I am so glad that the Big Up has returned, and I cannot wait for another great year!
*The review of Horizon Wireless’ set was written by Greg Sarafan