Big Up Music and Arts Festival 2011 – Photos, Video, and Review
Words by Lauren Howland
Photos by Keith Foote and Lauren Howland
There was something unique about last weekend’s Big Up musical gathering that’s hard to place. While the summer months have flown by with the wind zipping through our ears, time seemed to slow and meander through during the festival, held in the grassy farmlands of Ghent, NY.
The direct explanation of why the production went so smoothly is hard to put a finger on. Was it the wonderful placement of the campgrounds? With most tents set comfortably in between trees in the wooded lot there was no need to search endlessly for shade in the mid-afternoon heat. Could it have been the lack of cell phone necessity within the grounds? No matter how crowded the arena was, by doing a full circle, most friends could be spotted relativity quickly. Or perhaps it was utter feeling of community around the tall burning campfire that was well maintained all weekend by the same girl that worked so hard to keep it going last year.
Whatever it was, Big Up, hands down, was one of the most vibrant and personal festivals of the summer. It’s hard to feel left out, or like all your doing is moving from one stage to the next, when everyone around you is bound together with infectious excitement and the motive of having a great time.
Big Up didn’t carry the same magnitude that some of this summer’s most notable productions did, but unlike the rumors, size isn’t everything. A major benefit of the smaller festival was the close proximity of everywhere you wanted to go. The main state, second stage, silent disco, late night barn stage, and most vendors (including beer tent) were within eyesight making it an absolute no-hassle maneuver to venture forth from one place to the next. Another positive note to the Big Up philosophy was the large amount of artwork scattered around the festival grounds. Volunteer artist worked all weekend to create masterpieces with many that attendees could take part in making. Fire dancers and staged hula-hoopers worked magic in between sets, while all kinds of entertainment took part on stage adjacent to the music that was being created.
New additions to the festival grounds this year included a ‘woods stage’, along with an updated farmers market, facilitating fresh produce intake for festival-goers. Local company, Chatham Brew, brought with it two limited-addition beers, including a ‘Higher Organix double Indian Pale Ale’ and the ‘Big Up Brew’ a lighter, blonde ale for those interested.
Beyond the cheery atmosphere, the festival came through this year with a solid line up of artist, including the esteemed highly technical improv group, Higher Organix, all three nights. With a musical fusion of dubstep, jam, rock, electronic, jazz, and indie selections to choose from, the concrete variety of additional bands helped make each night one to remember—long into the wee hours of the morning.
Thursday’s line-up was highlighted with the talented, Marco Beneveto, who rocked the crowd with his stylistic and heightened sense of proper effects on the keyboard. Other great sets included electronic dance party, Papadosio, followed by Outlet, the first set of Higher Organix, and beat machine masters, Polish Ambassador.
Friday was drenched with rain showers, but that didn’t stop people from dancing the day (and night) away. Highlights included an impressive set by Connecticut based band, the Breakfast, the second set of Higher Organix, and a highly energetic set by Big Gigantic. While Big Gigantic has been running this summer’s festival scene, Dominic Lalli and Jeremy Salken, did nothing less than blow the heads off anyone listening. In addition to popular favorites, Jamforums caught their newest song, which will be up later this week in HD video. Electronic group Digital Tape Machine also played a great late night set. With members of the esteemed Umphreys Mcgee, Strange Arrangement, Liguid Soul, Land of Atlantis, and the Hue, it’s hard to resist the dance frenzy that’s naturally produced while they play.
As Saturday rolled in, so did sunny skies, leaving the last day of the festival as one of the most enjoyable. With a constant head bang of Consider the Source, Higher Organix, Kung Fu, RAQ, Dopapod, and EOTO, attendees wore the soles of their shoes out faster than bands could set up. Kung Fu used its interesting fusion of jazz and rock to give the audience a splash of colorful renditions. RAQ killed it, and Dopapod, according to many, played one of the best sets of the weekend.
Members of String Cheese, Michael Travis and Jason Hann, brought with them a completely separate sound to make up EOTO. While the two are trying their luck on new instruments within the project, it’s hard to tell, and in little time the two have managed to go from small venues to headlining great festivals. As the side project has grown so has their skill, making the completely improvised set of dubset/breakbeat/house/drum mash, an almost unfathomable masterpiece.
Whether you’re looking for a weekend of uncontrollable dance parties, mind expanding art projects, or just a genuine good time, Big Up had it all. With such a positive experience it’s hard to say that the festival will go anywhere but ‘up’ from here on out.