Dear Mom & Dad, Sending Love From Camp Equifunk!
**For full setlists click here**
Dear Mom and Dad,
Hi! I miss you a bunch, but I’m having a great time here at Camp Equinunk. The staff is so nice and helpful — they give us beer, food and water whenever we want it! I’m in a bunk with all of my best friends and have seen so much amazing music. I can’t believe this is only the first day of my adventure and am so looking forward to the rest of the weekend. Check out all the fun I’ve been having:
When I arrived back at Equifunk for my sophomore year, I was greeted with open arms by faces old and new. That feeling of “ahhh, it’s good to be back” swept over me like a warm blanket as I was directed to my home for the next three days, which turned out to be the CIT bunk: a 24-person castle located just next to the pool and main stage. This realization just set the tone for a consistently epic weekend at our home base filled with unreplicable encounters with passers-by and constant shenanigans. There were even scooters and basketballs in the bunk when we arrived, just begging to be played with. Never a dull moment here!
Remember last year when I told you about that up-and-coming band I had discovered, The Main Squeeze? It’s amazing how much they’ve grown over the last year. Whereas previously their following was strong but limited to an intimate group of friends from camp, college and extended circles, this year the excitement throughout the camp grounds was palpable, and we all enthusiastically relocated to the gymnasium — I mean, the main stage — to see what the first big act of the weekend had in store for us.
Unsurprisingly, they killed it, making Equifunk alums feel back at home while enlightening newbs to the greatness that is The Squeeze. The set was sprinkled with fan favorites such as “Dr. Funk” and “I’ll Take Another,” and even had a Led Zeppelin cover thrown in (“No Quarter”). “Artist At Large” Arleigh Klinchoe (otherwise known as Sister Sparrow) lent her boombastic voice for a powerful rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground.” In a conversation with Corey, the lead singer, later in the weekend, we discussed the nature of their fan base in-depth. Corey explained how cool it is to look out into the crowd and see his music resonating equally with old friends who have been a part of it from day one and those just stumbling upon the stage and discovering it for the first time. I asked him where he sees himself in 5 years and he replied, wholeheartedly, “here, at Equifunk.” “But you guys have been blowing up over the last year,” I retorted, “playing with The Meters and Page McConnell? Come on, it doesn’t get much better than that! You know you’re on the up-and-up.” “Yeah,” he said, pensive, “I definitely see us going places and playing much bigger festivals, but I always wanna be able to come back to my home base of Equifunk and look out in the crowd and see my homies who have been there from day one. That’s what it’s all about. Keeping it real.”
The tone was set for a funky, upbeat weekend as the Squeeze departed the stage to make room for JJ Grey & Mofro. These soulful, blues-y, Southern rockers were an interesting and welcome twist from the rest of the lineup, and anyone who has seen them knows their live performance far exceeds their studio work. Also, you know you’re at Equifunk when a performer discusses the basketball game he had played earlier that day. This intimacy between the performers and attendees is one of the things that makes Equifunk so special.
Downtime at Equifunk is incomparable to that of any other festival. It truly feels like you are away at summer camp (well, technically, we were), bopping around with the friends you came with, schmoozing with new ones and running into old friends from high school/camp/your mom’s best friend’s son’s girlfriend’s friend (read: Jewish Geography). For some, I could certainly see how this is not the ideal festival crowd. If your intentions are to escape reality, branch out and just do you, Equifunk might not be for you. It is a very tight-knit group that grew organically from its beginnings as a bachelor party into what it is today. However, at 1,500 people, this was by far the most attendees they’ve experienced (double that of last year!) and thus the scene was certainly expanded beyond just the friends-of-friends-of-friends community. This made it easy to float between the crews who have been coming for years (read: Camps Baco and Equinunk) and those who were actually there for the music, completely ignorant to this community’s existence. Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed having both of these options, and felt that no matter which crew you were a part of, if you were down to have a good time and check out some great music, the boundaries vanished.
Back to the music we went, just in time for the headliner of the evening, The New Mastersounds. If ever there was a time
for the funk to be brought, this was it, and the 4-piece British funk powerhouse cranked the energy up to a 12 for a wild ride. If you’ve ever gotten the chance to catch NMS in action, you understand what goes into one of their shows. It’s a little bit of British rock and roll mixed with a whole lotta NOLA jazz/funk, topped off with their own signature high-pitched, extremely energetic style. When Joe Tatton wiles out on those keys, pushing the limits harder and harder, it feels like a higher power is lifting you up out of your body and into their control. It’s a spiritual experience the likes of — dare I say — Phish? If any band is the Phish of funk it is certainly them. What’s more is they were joined for this set by James Casey (Trey Anastasio Band, Lettuce, Shady Horns and more), Equifunk’s other “Artist at Large,” to step it up another notch with some saxaphone lovin’. This was indisputably the most crowd-engaging set of the day, with EVERYONE funkin’ it up. Check out the full setlist here.
Next up was BoomBox, feeding off the energy from the previous set to deliver a killer late-night rager. The eclectic duo is one-half descendent of the Grateful Dead and 100% groovy. This funkadelic team combines classic guitar with old-school sequencers and turn-tables to create their unique sound of psychedelic rock and roll. And rock and roll we did — everyone was vibin,’ movin’ and groovin,’ pumped that the weekend was still oh, so young.
What a first day it has been! Time to go to bed and rest up for all that is to come. I miss you and will write again tomorrow!
Dear Mom and Dad,
Wow. I didn’t think this camp could possibly outdo itself, but indeed it has! Today was one of the craziest days of the summer, beginning at a pool party and ending at a campfire sing-a-long with my new friend Marco.
The morning was a bit rough, but eventually we mosied on over to the infamous Equifunk pool party for a day of nothing but good music, good vibes and a whole lotta fun. I will say that I found it to be significantly more chill and less of a rager than the previous year, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. One reason for this may have been the different setup, which placed the pool stage away from the pool rather than facing it. Many people would take turns going down the waterslide and hanging by the pool, but home base was generally centered around the grassy area in front of the stage, which made for a more laid-back environment.
Our first poolside set of the day was Brooklyn-based Superhuman Happiness. This collective of talented and fun individuals from bands such as Antibalas, Iron & Wine and TV on the Radio is relatively new on the scene and has been getting lots of street cred lately. Each talented individual contributes to a delicious musical gumbo that is largely fueled by lead singer Stuart Bogie’s signature swoon-worthy voice and spiced up with various horns, keys and other instruments to create a happy and enlightening experience that doesn’t deserve to be confined to a genre.
Next up the Monophonics phunked it up, covering a whole slew of legendary old school songs with a modern feel and accompanied by a horn section.
The day raged on with Keller Williams up next, but unlike the Keller you know, no bluegrass was to be heard. Backed by his side project “More Than a Little,” this was a far funkier and more upbeat set than he typically dabbles in — but then again, if there is a genre, Keller has probably tapped into it. The set involved familiar covers from the Talking Heads and Grateful Dead, along with some noteworthy originals. Check out the full setlist here.
Moving on, a highlight of the day was definitely The Heavy Pets, who really pushed boundaries this set into what I’d classify as “post-jam.” Opening strong with a 15-minute jazzy version of their “Help Me Help You” with a little help from James Casey on sax, the set proceeded with all originals with a funky twist while still incorporating their more intricate vocal harmonies. For instance, a new one called “Last Babies” was a game changer for them, stylistically very different than much of what I heard all weekend and certainly different than anything they had done before. The set varied between huge rock songs like “Xylophone,” psychedelic reggae, and post-jam on the newer ones. The last song, “3 AM,” began with a sort of post-jam intro and settled into a reggae groove before heading back into a trippy rock outro. Their tendency to switch it up and reinvent the wheel proves that they are not your average jam band.
Next, Marco Benevento took the stage in the outlandish American flag pants he had been wearing and would continue
to wear throughout the duration of the weekend. Of notable interest was a giant Tiger Face making rounds amongst the band members. They jammed out hard, as always, and mixed it up between old and new songs, like one notable finale called “If I Get to See You Again.”
The poolside stage dwindled down as everyone prepared for the night ahead, though we were completely clueless as to what was in store. A jam-packed night of top-notch artists and weird shenanigans began with a soulful performance by the Nigel Hall Band on the main stage. Nigel was recently affected by the tragic death of long-time friend and jazz icon George Duke, which made for an extremely passionate and emotional performance.
This was an interesting contrast to the bluesy, Southern rock of New Orleans guitarist Anders Osborne that was to follow. Joined by John Medeski, Scott Metzger and more, Anders fluctuated between covers and originals, and killed it as usual. Some notable highlights included Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35” and the Grateful Dead’s “Going Down the Road Feeling Bad.”
The night was still so young as the first headliner, Soulive, took the stage, joined by frequent backers The Shady Horns, as well as “legendary guest” Maceo Parker. And legendary guest he was — Maceo, who boasts an impressive roster of extensive work with James Brown and Parliament-Funkadelic back in the 60s and 70s, absolutely stole the show, but not before Soulive & The Shady Horns had the chance to jam out funk-style to everything from Jimi Hendrix to The Beatles. It was a high-energy, upbeat and powerful show that fit the environment to a tee. Things were taken up even a notch further when Sister Sparrow joined on to bring down the house. I was first exposed to Arleigh at last year’s Equifunk, where I gained a great respect for her, and it was so cool to see how far she’s come professionally over the last year. Towards the end, Nigel jumped back on stage to complete this all-star, funkadelic team.
Then came the indisputable highlight of the weekend: a campfire jam with Marco, scheduled for 1:45-2:30, that lasted until … wait for it … 9 AM! I wish I could say I was there for the full experience, as the crowd gradually whittled down from a few hundred to 20 or so, everyone singing along and jamming out. A massive “Bennie and the Jets” sing-along would be spoken of for days to come. Nigel Hall even joined in on the end, with various other performers dancing and singing along. It was certainly an experience that you had to be there for, but I highly recommend you check out the full loaded setlist here.
Simultaneously, The New Mastersounds were getting funky on the main stage, joined by various guests such as Maceo Parker. Unfortunately for them, their set was severely undermined by the history Marco was making over at the campfire, but luckily they had various other chances throughout the weekend to shine.
Whew, gotta try to fit some sleep in before my Equifunk 2013 experience comes to an end! Have a good night!
Dear Mom and Dad,
After a jam-packed weekend filled with incredible music and crazy times, I am sad to leave my second home and go back to reality. Today was by far the best day, as I made tons of new friends. I hope I stay in touch with my new friend Jon Fishman!
This newly implemented “Sunday Series” was simultaneously a hit and a miss. The morning was fun and chill, everyone hanging out by the pool stage and taking in the final sets of the weekend before heading back to reality. Having some extra time to gather your brain cells and belongings was definitely a huge plus and a game-changer. Throw some of the most notable names in funk and you’ve got yourself a solid ending to an unforgettable (well…maybe SOME of it is a little fuzzy) weekend.
Mike Dillon Band took the pool stage around midday, attempting to hype up the gradually dwindling crowd (mentally and physically) to mixed reactions. I felt that overall they were a very talented bunch, and lots of fun, but Dillon’s screaming just doesn’t do it for me. I found it to be a little too aggressive and harsh for my taste, as well as out of place. Regardless, it was an enjoyable segue out of the weekend for those who were destined to head home in the coming hours, and beginning to a ridiculous night for the rest of us who stuck it out for the full 72 hours.
The London Souls were up next, bringing their soulful, funky, upbeat rock and roll to the pool stage to raise the energy level up and get everyone moving. I was first exposed to these guys at Brooklyn Bowl during this year’s Bowlive, and could not stop talking about them. They are such a talented trio with a different sound and natural ability to move an audience. Definitely a band that you should watch out for.
What came next was nothing less than a superstorm of funk. The Equifunk All-Stars, an aptly named crew comprised of
some of the greatest names in funk, made their grand debut on the Equifunk pool stage for one of the most memorable sets of the weekend. This rare and legendary appearance featured Eddie Roberts (New Mastersounds), Stanton Moore (Galactic), Nigel Hall (Lettuce, Warren Haynes Band), Pete Shand (New Mastersounds), James Casey (Shady Horns, Lettuce, Trey Anastasio Band), Mike Dillon, Carly Meyers (Mike Dillon Band), Tash Neal (London Souls), and Joe Tatton (New Mastersounds). This group of talented and passionate individuals came together so naturally to provide an hour of seamless improv and funky jams. Eddie, who had broken his ankle earlier that day playing tennis with a festival attendee (again, an experience only Equifunk could provide) hobbled on stage on crutches, yet still managed to crush the set like a boss.
The Main Squeeze were up next to deliver round 2 of their signature sweet, soul-soothing funk. A cover of “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” stood out as a highlight and made it clear that these guys are stepping up their game and can tackle a highly revered cover flawlessly. However, the group never forgets their roots, making sure to stick to some of their classics such as “Where Do We Go” and the older “Mixed Up.” This final poolside set left a happy taste on all of our tongues and gave those heading out for the weekend that final dose of the funk we all craved and would savor during the work week ahead.
As it turned out (and not so surprisingly), many of those who remained prior to the Squeeze’s set had done so just for that purpose. Immediately after, as I prepared to head over to the Revivalists on the main stage, I noticed hoards of people beginning to gather their belongings and make moves from their bunks to their cars. This was largely reflected in the nearly non-existent crowd at the Revivalists. A favorite of mine from New Orleans, it pained me to see how hard lead singer Dave Shaw, a natural energizer bunny known for getting the crowd going crazy, struggled to pump up the few who remained — even when Mike Dillon joined on and the two stripped off their shirts. It simply was not the right set time for them, with many fleeing back to the real world and the remaining appearing zombified at this point in their Equifunk adventure. Regardless, I love me some Dave Shaw and always enjoy seeing these New Orleans rockers do their thing. Some personal favorites that they dropped were “Criminal” and “Not Turn Away.”
Next up was the highly anticipated Pork Tornado featuring none other than Phish drummer Jon Fishman. This was an interesting set, to say the least. While they are undoubtedly a talented bunch, and chock full of silly antics, the obvious hype here for myself as well as many others I’m sure was Fishman. I found it to be more resemblant of a comedy show than a concert, with a giant creepy pig head propped up on a stick amongst the group, and Fishman proclaiming to the crowd to “kiss [his] black ass” (to which someone complied). The group was just full of shenanigans as well as a slew of songs all over the map, most notably “I Touch Myself.” Check out the full setlist here.
As the weekend continued to wind down, we were presented with one final supergroup that made those remaining pity those who had departed for the weekend. The M&Ms, a roster of some of the biggest “M” names on the scene, brought together John Medeski, Marco Benevento, Stanton Moore, Maceo Parker, Rob Mercurio, Papa Mali, and Mike Dillon for a closing set full of everything from dirty south funk to Neil Young to Led Zeppelin. A notable cover was a rendition of The Who’s “Eminence Front,” a jam that seemed to go on forever and really allowed each member to shine. It was a mixed batch of wonderful, talented individuals who came together naturally to close out an incredible weekend.
For the remainder of the evening, those who stuck around seemed to congregate wherever the music was, taking advantage of the remaining hours at Camp Equinunk. As we got ready to call it a night and wrap up an already epic weekend, my friend had the genius idea to follow the music for just a little longer (always the right move). This resulted in us stumbling upon a bunk porch party that consisted of Dave Shaw and other members of the Revivalists, Stanton Moore & Rob Mercucio (Galactic), Jeff Lloyd (The Heavy Pets), Jon Fishman (Phish, of course), Marco Benevento, members of The Main Squeeze, and so many others who we mingled with for the remainder (and arguably highlight) of our Equifunk experience. Fishman is a funny dude, to say the least, and we had a blast exchanging ridiculous jokes and anecdotes. (As you can imagine, nothing specific that comes out of a 5 am porch sesh with Fishman is all that appropriate to share).
Overall, I’ve got nothing but love for the way the festival is run. It’s simply a group of young entrepreneurs, music lovers and friends who are in it for the right reasons and can always be spotted around for any sort of assistance (while usually jamming out to whatever is happening on stage). They’ve created the foundation for a well-loved festival full of good people, good music and good vibes that will only continue to improve and grow as it has over these last five years.
However, I hope to some extent that it remains a hidden gem. I believe the key for the festival organizers will be finding that balance between booking bigger acts that draw in larger crowds of true music lovers while maintaining that sense of intimacy that makes this “anti-festival” so special.
I miss you guys and can’t wait to see you, but expect me to be sleeping for the next week. Will you please send me back to camp next year?!?
All known setlists can be found here