Catalpa Festival 2012 Recap

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Catalpa Festival 2012 Recap

In the summer of 2012, Randall’s Island suddenly became the place to be in NYC.  First Governors Ball (QRO recap) moved there from Governors Island (without changing the name of that fest…), and then came the brand-new Catalpa Festival, Saturday & Sunday, July 28th & 29th.  Catalpa didn’t enjoy the picture-perfect weather of Governors Ball (though it could have been much, much worse), but had a more diverse line-up.

There were supposed to be four stages, but almost all of the action was focused on the two main stages, Catalpa & Jeep, which alternated acts.  There was also a Reggae Tent, which seemingly had no schedule – but what do you expect for reggae sponsored by High Times?  There was also supposed to be an evening Arcadia Stage for electronic acts & DJs, but apparently the fire marshal didn’t clear it or something (Arcadia would-have-been headliner Felix da Housecat was bumped down to a poorly-lit DJ set late night at the Reggae Tent).

 

 

 

SATURDAY, JULY 28TH

Shinobi Ninja

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The first slot on the first day on the Catalpa Stage was officially reserved for ‘Q104.3 Winner’, and that winner was apparently Shinobi Ninja .  It’s always surprising when the radio contest winner is a band that you’ve actually heard of – and they did insert stickers in the guide that otherwise didn’t have their name (or the location of wherever the Arcadia Stage would have been…).

The still-local group was rap-rock with male & female singers, plus longhaired, head banging guitarist & bassist.  Of course, rap-rock in general sucks, though it could be said that Shinobi Ninja did it better than most – but with a lot of covers…

Shinobi Ninja

 

My Pet Dragon

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Near the end of Shinobi Ninja’s set, there was the downpour of rain that you had been worrying about all day, but it thankfully was short-lived (even if the media tent filled with non-media people, trying to stay dry…)My Pet Dragon still had an unenviable time slot, even without direct rain.  They were a little emo in their electro-rock – but at least not rap-rock…

My Pet Dragon

 

The Aviation Orange

The Aviation Orange

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Prettier indie-rock came from The Aviation Orange, who had a new full-length coming out right after Catalpa.  Good, if not too distinct – kind of in the vein of Brooklyn’s The Pains of Being Pure at Heart (QRO live review), though not yet at that band’s admittedly high level.

The Aviation Orange

 

The Demos

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“We’re from Rochester, New York.”  “Are you from Rochester?”  “Fuck yeah!  I mean, I’m not a fan, but whatever…”  If you were from Upstate New York like The Demos, and were getting to perform in the Big Apple, maybe you’d be as un-into your hometown as they were, as they played some catchy near-pop/punk.

The Demos

 

Zola Jesus

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The skies appropriately darkened for the goth-haunt of Zola Jesus – though that did mean more rain.  All the hipsters (especially in the media) were there for this highly-hyped act, who garnered serious praise with last year’s Conatus (QRO review) and, truth be told, many did stick it out in the crowd as it rained.  Admittedly a bit of an outlier even for the diverse Catalpa, they did actual sort of benefit from at least the darker skies, as they’re not a band to see in the sunlight… (QRO photos outdoors in the daylight)

Zola Jesus

 

The Sheepdogs

The Sheepdogs

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The rain got worse & worse by the end of Zola Jesus’ set, so The Sheepdogs waited it out – a wise move, as they were able to start with dry skies only fifteen minutes late, as the Jeep Tent (where you could apparently test-drive a Jeep – did you have to take a breathalyzer test first?…) which was near the Jeep Stage, emptied out the many, many people underneath it who were also waiting out the rain.

The Sheepdogs came to prominence almost exactly a year ago, when they won a Rolling Stone contest to put an unsigned band on the cover the venerable music magazine (QRO photos two days before that happened).  Of course, the Suthron rock outfit is not the most original of bands (there are probably fifty better ones just across the river in Brooklyn), and was mostly unsigned because they were from the distant backwoods of Saskatoon, Canada.  Still, the rockin’ outfit from north of the border was a good fit for those there for the headliner, the also-not-Southern Black Keys (see below).

The Sheepdogs

 

Hercules & Love Affair

Hercules & Love Affair

Love AffairClick image for full gallery

The sun finally poked its head out as Hercules and Love Affair took the stage (and jokingly took credit).  Sexy & dancetronica, one might have expected more of a light show, but that was limited by the still early-hour, and got more impressive as the sun dipped later into the set.  And not only did they get the crowd dancing (with an engaging frontwoman reminiscent of YACHT’s great Claire L. Evans – QRO interview), but even snapping.  “Thanks for letting us do what we do…”

Hercules & Love Affair

 

Umphrey’s McGee

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Well, Umphrey’s McGee played – twice.  They were slotted for back-to-back sets on the Jeep Stage, and though that reeked of ‘unable to get another band to play,’ if you’re gonna jam, might as well jam with Umphrey’s McGee.  They were enjoyable, once you get past everything, even if Catalpa didn’t need two sets of them.

Umphrey's McGee

 

TV On the Radio

David Sitek on the windchimeClick image for full gallery

The reason you came to Catalpa – a reason for anyone to come to Catalpa – was TV On the Radio.  Of course, Brooklyn hipsters probably didn’t buy tickets, because they liked the local group better way back when, even though TVOTR are still putting out great albums, like last year’s Nine Types of Light (QRO review).

And damn if TV On the Radio don’t have great music that somehow is both complex enough to be accomplished, yet accessible to anyone.  Plus they play their old hits with the same fury as ever (even if you couldn’t actually be “Staring at the Sun”…).  They also dedicated one song to the late, great, Adam Yauch of The Beastie Boys, because if it weren’t for him, “I wouldn’t be in New York…”

TV On the Radio

 

The Black Keys

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The Black Keys did as The Black Keys does – kick-ass blues-rock, like you wanted, like you needed.  The two-person outfit (admittedly now with some back-up touring members) still rocks as hard as the old days, even after their monumental success (they fought Vampire Weekend on The Colbert Report!…), and even the rain couldn’t stop them or their fans.  Catch the act as they hit up a bunch of festivals this summer.

The Black Keys

 

 

SUNDAY, JULY 29TH

Aunt Martha

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Thankfully, it was way sunnier to start the second day of Catalpa with Aunt Martha.  A cheery act, if not super-special, they were kinda country and even reggae-indie.  It is hard to get into a band where three-quarters of the act are sitting while playing… (though it was a little funny, their backdrop in front of the much-larger backdrop for headliner Snoop Dogg’s Doggy Style – see below)

Aunt Martha

 

The Big Pink

the pantsClick image for full gallery

The Big Pink had some early tech problems, but fixed them relatively quickly.  They were more electro than you might have expected, less rock, but they did catch the ear of those there to hear them (admittedly an early slot for them).  But what were those pants the singer was wearing?…

The Big Pink

 

City and Colour

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The crowd at the Catalpa Stage was huddled on the pavement in front of the stage, off the mud and in the shade, for City and Colour.  However, there were definitely some fans there specifically for the solo project of Dallas Green (of the recently reunited Alexisonfire), singing along.

City in Colour

 

The Dirty Heads

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Neo-reggae, Sublime-style, came to Catalpa in the form of The Dirty Heads.  They even had their own ‘anthem’, about mixing reggae & hip-hop.  The group was obviously a band for the bros & their girls (some of whom were in the photo pit & the side of the stage – especially the girls…), but they weren’t pretending not to be.  And they got hands in the air – even from security.

The Dirty Heads

 

Cold War Kids

Cold War KidClick image for full gallery

Unfortunately, the rain started just before Cold War Kids did, though it never got too bad.  They mixed new & more recent material with older hits – obviously got a bigger audience response to old hits like “Audience of One”, but the group seemed more energized playing the new stuff.  “Hang Me Out To Dry” did have a nice added irony (and the rain did clear up), and the group’s old hits like that or “We Used To Vacation” are still great.

[note: also still great?  Free beer, which Magic Hat suddenly decided to provide in the media tent…]

Cold War Kids

 

Matisyahu

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“We ain’t at no beach, so why the beach ball?…”  Hasidic rapper Matisyahu might not like getting hit in the back of the head by beach balls at a festival, but he still played on Tish’a B’Av, a high Jewish holiday (though he never plays on a Friday).  Perhaps the holiday didn’t start until sundown?  That would explain the well-known, successful artist playing an earlier slot than you might have expected.  There was also more rock in his set than you might have expected – though one has to admit, he’s a little less special without the beard (QRO photos at a festival with the beard)…

a clean-shaven Matisyahu

 

Matt & Kim

I'm Matt...Click image for full gallery

Playing their first show in over six months, and their first of 2012 (QRO live review of their last show), Matt & Kim returned in force!  To keep from getting rusty, Kim  Schifino (QRO interview) has been doing kegel exercises, “‘Cause I want to fuck the shit out of you!…”

Matt & Kim brought both new & old.  There was “Let’s Go”, the new single from this fall’s upcoming Lightning (indeed, it was the first time they played it live in front of an audience).  Matt Johnson (QRO interview) also ...and this is Kimname-checked Snoop Dogg’s Doggy Style, talked about buying it when he was ten years old – though had to hide it from his parents…

But Matt & Kim also had their ‘standard’ confetti, balloons (handed out to the crowd to blow up and throw in the air), and Kim’s crowd-surf booty dance, which is always a favorite.  Oh yeah, and they also rocked with their songs, new & old.  Matt & Kim are back!

Kim's kegel-aided booty-dance crowd-surf

 

AraabMUZIK

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If you’re a DJ and are gonna play a set at a festival, have a hype-man like AraabMUZIK did.  AM also seriously knows his beats & his spins, earning the acclaim he’s been getting.

AraabMUSIK

 

Girl Talk

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Matt & Kim (see above) also talked about them being excited for Girl Talk (though were actually seen in the media tent during the set, doing some high-profile press…), and you could see why, as the famed mash-up DJ brought confetti, streamers (shot out of a toilet paper-streamer gun), and, of course, the crowd up on stage to dance like mad.

However, Greg Gillis (a.k.a. Girl Talk) is just a mash-up DJ (albeit a top one) – one still wonders how he got people to go so crazy in the first place, to the point now where it’s expected…

crowd-surfing streamer-shooter

 

A$AP Rocky

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“It’s A$AP Rocky, bitches!”  Do you really need to know anything else?…

A$AP Rocky

 

Snoop Dogg

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The entire media tent cleared for Day Two headliner Snoop Dogg, who was doing his seminal Doggy Style album – even security at the media tent were taking photos with their phones.  But that also meant that the actual photo pit was full of ‘friends-of-the-Dogg’, limiting what actual photographers could shoot (or even enter the pit).  Photographers at Catalpa had been complaining about non-photogs in the pit the entire day, but it came to a head with the headliner – but aren’t photogs always complaining about something?…

Doggy StyleBesides, it’s Doggy Style, bitches!  It’s interesting that rap music has matured to the point where ‘veteran’ artists are doing top-to-bottom shows of a certain seminal album, like Public Enemy has done with Fear of a Black Planet, GZA did with Wu-Tang Clan’s Liquid Swords, and now Snoop Doggy Style.  The D-O-double-G has become something of a festival favorite, as he appeals to a wide audience, from gangsta to white-boy, underground to mainstream – ‘cause can’t we all get behind smokin’ endo, sippin’ on gin & juice?…

Snoop Dogg

 

 

Catalpa

Catalpa billed itself as ‘New York’s Festival’, and while that’s too hard a task for any fest to pull off, it did deliver a wide variety of acts – maybe too wide, as perhaps ticket sales suffered from too many people only wanting to see a few acts, even if everyone in NYC/the world would have wanted to see somebody at Catalpa.  And, of course, the weather didn’t help.

But the Big Apple is playing catch up in terms of festivals, and is well on its way to dominating that – just as it dominates everything else…

-words: Ted Chase
-photos: Chris Becker
Catalpa

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