Can’t Fake The Equifunk!

Photos by Alicia Savoly

When you enter a festival and the first thing you see is a group of at least 20 people standing in a circle, stretching in unison, you know there’s an automatic sense of community in the air.

Equifunk, the “all-inclusive festival,” is far different than any festival you’ve ever experienced. In fact, I hesitate to even call it a festival—more like a raging weekend getaway amongst friends, old and new. Capped off at 1,000 people, the intimacy of the place made it a very special experience. Moreover, for the price of your ticket, you were provided unlimited, easily accessible beer, water and food, which made everything incredibly stress-free. What made it most unique, however, was that it was held at a sleep-away camp. The environment already in place from the camp setting was inherently easy, organized, and most importantly, fun.

When we arrived, we were directed to our assigned cabin and immediately greeted by
hoards of people hanging out on bunk porches—playing beer pong, chatting, formulating game plans. There was an undeniable hype in the air and friendly vibes all around.

One major difference between Equifunk and any other festival is the specific mix of people in attendance. There were certainly many of your typical festival-goers, strictly there for the music, but they constituted a relatively small percentage. The majority were 20-somethings from all over the Northeast, connected by a minimum one degree of separation, pumped to be back at camp and party with old friends while running into high school acquaintances/old camp friends/sorority bigs/that girl from your teen tour who you never expected to see at a festival. It was Jewish geography on steroids. However everyone was just down for a good time and most were there for the music as well. The different types of people balanced each other out and created a great vibe.

After getting settled, my lovely photographer, Alicia, and I set off in search of the backstage VIP area where we were instructed to meet up with some of the artists for interviews. This ultra-exclusive, super-swanky “Bacardi Lounge” turned out to be a workout room located behind the main stage, complete with a makeshift bar, various snacks, and leftover Equinunk camp counselors playing bartender. This was perhaps the most intimate aspect of the festival; kickin’ it with all the artists amongst treadmills and weight lifting machines.

The first group we interviewed was Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk, though I
hesitate to even call it an interview. For several hours, we hung out with these New
Orleans
natives and BS’ed about everything from favorite NOLA food spots, to weird band names (what’s a Pimp of Joytime?), to movies that make us cry every time (Forrest Gump, of course). Having attended Tulane University in New Orleans for the past four years, a mutual love for the best city in the world gave us plenty to talk about and made the conversation incredibly down-to-earth and relaxed.

Finally we said our goodbyes and “WHO DAT”s and watched them take the stage for an incredibly high-energy performance. While I was in the minority of people there affiliated with NOLA and largely there to see them, EVERYONE was into it from beginning to end. From bros donning ray-bans and camp shirts to…more bros donning ray-bans and camp shirts, there wasn’t a person standing still in the crowd. Great, phunky vibes filled the “E-rena” and set the mood for an amazing weekend.

The next notable act was the much-anticipated return of Sucker Punch on the Live for Live Music late night stage. This super group comprised of Marc Brownstein, Aron Magner (both from the Disco Biscuits and Conspirator), Jamie Shields from The New Deal, and Mike Greenfield from Lotus, had not played together in almost ten years. The guys came together as if no time had passed and jammed out hard to many of their individual bands’ songs, including The New Deal’s “Home” and the Biscuits’ “Lunar Pursuit.” Though most attendees probably had no idea who any of them were, or the gravity of the situation, everyone was raging hard and still going strong through the wee hours of the morning.

The music came to a close for the night and what followed was quite possibly my personal favorite aspect of the weekend—bunk parties! If you went to camp, you remember those crazy nights when you would raid the opposite sex’s bunk at 10 PM and think you were SUCH a bad ass. Well this was nothing like that. Just a bunch of rowdy kids pretending they’re back in college and getting weird. In the interest of discretion I’ll just leave it at that.

Imagine waking up from a night of partying, at a music festival, with all your friends, in a camp cabin. This was my Saturday morning and it was wonderful, as well as incomparable to any other festival out there (Tents? Psh). We slowly rose from our comas, recapped the funnier occurrences of the night, and eventually headed out to the pool for the infamous annual Equifunk pool party.

Apparently the Equifunk gods were looking down on us on that glorious morning, as we were blessed with beautiful, sunny skies throughout the day despite iffy forecasts. The pool was raging, the beer was flowing, and fun was had by all. I mean, come on, there was even a giant water slide. Whether you had arrived with a crew of 2 or 50, everyone became fast friends, engaging in a water volleyball game or just kicking it poolside.

As if that wasn’t enough, various performers took the poolside stage throughout the day to keep the party bumpin’. Sister Sparrow and The Dirty Birds, who I was entirely unfamiliar with beforehand, absolutely blew me away. Sparrow AKA Arleigh Kincheloe leads a pack of eight “dirty birds,” one of whom is her brother Jackson, in a powerful performance that combines aspects of rock, blues, soul, and funk to create an entirely unique sound. Only in her mid-twenties, Arleigh has had her gut-busting voice compared to Aretha Franklin. That booming sound coming out of such a little person literally gave me chills. Not to mention we kicked it with them later on and they were awesome; Arleigh might just be my newest girl crush.

Orgone took the daytime poolside stage next, maintaining the upbeat vibe with 1970s-inspired funk and soul tunes.

What followed was without a doubt a highlight of the weekend. The Main Squeeze is a lesser-known band based out of Indiana that recently had the opportunity to play Bonnaroo and won’t remain under the radar for long. Their music has a sort of jazzy, funky base that incorporates elements of everything from hip-hop to electro to create a totally unique, fun, upbeat sound. However, it’s really all about the live experience with these guys. I’d go as far as to say it was comparable to a mini Phish show; they even dropped “2001” during their surprise late night set later that went until six in the morning. They have a bit of a cult following that began with mostly camp and college friends (I spoke to at least 20 people who proclaimed to be “best friends” with them) and has since greatly expanded. Even before the music began there was an undeniable sense of excitement in the air. Hundreds of balloons and beach balls bearing smiley faces were tossed around in honor of a band member nicknamed Smiley. The Camp Baco crew, close friends of the band who compromised the majority of the crowd and a large portion of festival attendees overall, got pumped to support their boys. Finally the band took the stage and absolutely killed it. Easily one of the most overall fun shows I’ve ever experienced.

Meanwhile, sometime while this was going down I spotted Corey Henry from Rebirth Brass Band and Ben Ellman from Galactic hanging out on the sidelines and approached them. Despite the fact that they happen to belong to some of my favorite bands in the world, I didn’t feel star struck for one second. They couldn’t have been more approachable and down-to-earth. Ben had to run off but Corey hung around and chatted for nearly an hour about everything from our love for New Orleans to the concept of Jewish geography (try explaining THAT to a black musician from the South—he got a kick out of it).

After The Main Squeeze wrapped up, everyone headed back to their bunks to regroup. While this made sense given the long night ahead, it was an unfortunate circumstance for Turkuaz, the next band up on the lineup, who opened to a nearly nonexistent crowd. I was at least happy that I had stuck around because they put on an awesome performance. Their sound is just as unique as their name, and I’d definitely recommend checking them out sometime.

We went back to gear up for the night and reassemble the crew, then headed back to the main stage to catch Bustle In Your Hedgerow, the Led Zepplin cover band made up of Joe Russo and Marco Benevento of the Benevento/Russo Duo, Dave Dreiwitz of Ween, and guitarist Scott Metzger. These jam band legends put on an incredible performance that successfully pumped everyone up for the night.

After their set, Alicia and I decided to go hang out in the VIP Bacardi workout room lounge and watch some of the performances from there. Suddenly Joe Russo and Marco Benevento burst in, all hyped from having just ended a kickass performance. They started running around like maniacs, then proceeded to hop on a couple of workout machines and casually do some chest presses. Naturally this lead to a competition of who could do more as we all cheered them on. Again, Equifunk’s intimacy is just one of the many things that makes it so special.

Finally, it was time for the number one band I had come all this way to see—my boys from the dirty South, Galactic. Of course they did not disappoint. Whether or not you are familiar with the New Orleans jazz/funk/hip-hop band, if you don’t enjoy the hell out of a Galactic show, you must not have a soul. From the second the band members, along with guest acts Corey Henry (of Rebirth Brass Band) and Corey Glover (of Living Colour) took the stage, the energy in the room completely exploded. For me and my fellow Tulane alum, this instantly felt like home. For everyone else it was time to step it up a notch and go hard for the last big performance of the weekend. As always, the Coreys stole the show on the trombone and vocals, but Galactic wouldn’t be what it is without Ben Ellman, Stanton Moore, Rob Mercurio, Jeff Raines, and Rich Vogel. They put on an absolutely incredible performance that had every person going nuts. When I was standing directly in front of Corey Glover as he belted out “Heart of Steel,” close enough to touch him, I felt like a thirteen year old at a Justin Bieber concert. They played a perfect mix of old and new material and looked genuinely pumped to be there. One highlight was definitely when Dave Dreiwitz jumped in on the bass and Joe Russo took Moore’s place on drums—particularly because Russo happened to be in a full-out dog costume. The lights were done perfectly as well, making the entire experience nearly magical.

All in all, my Equifunk experience was definitely one for the books. Good people, good music, great times. This festival and its community are a very unique thing, and while I anticipate it will continue to blow up each year, I hope it will maintain that sense of intimacy that makes it so special. One thing is for sure—I’ll be back for another great funkin’ time next year.

Photos by Alicia Savoly

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