We live in a time where music festivals seem to be forming out of thin air. These big festivals have popular bands, DJs, vendors, and high quality light shows. With time each festival seems to lose intimacy, as the separation between artist and attendees grows larger. After going to many festivals, they seemed too similar and I lost that sense of community I came to love about the scene…that was until I went to Milestone.
Milestone XXV was held August 16th to the 18th in Harpersfield, NY. I was invited to attend through a network of friends and musicians who shared a comparable love for music and the outdoors. After driving on steep back roads, we took at left turn on Easy Street and found ourselves in an open field with one small stage plopped in the middle. Woods lined the area and looked over the green hilly landscape of the Catskills. $15 to camp, we set our tents up deep in the forest.
The host of the event, Miles Spillane (25, Brooklyn), provided a back-story on the event:
“Milestone was started by my parents when I was born. It was just a party for my dad’s band and his friends bands to play, and it worked out that it was around my birthday so they could pretty much kill two birds with one stone.” Miles continued this tradition each year for his birthday.
The difference between Milestone and contemporary music festivals is that everyone attending contributes towards the entertainment. With less than 200 people at the event, both performers and fans are critical elements to making this mini-festie fun.
“My favorite aspect is the communal vibe,” Spillane commented, “whether it’s someone who has been to ten milestones or if it’s their first, everyone kind of gels together…It’s a small family that grows throughout the weekend.”
Bands are invited to play by friends and word of mouth. Majority of the bands were from the New York area and have yet to gain the recognition they deserve. Every performer was very professional and played incredibly well. Live acts included Val Lloyd, Libricide, Mr. Bighead, The Bella Boys, Pseudotwin, Sun Voyager, Buy the Sky, and King Holiday.
Acoustic guitarist and vocalist Dan Melnick of the band Buy the Sky said, “This was my third milestone. It has always been the most inviting of festivals because it’s easy to make new friends and everyone is there for truly the same reason…to appreciate music and celebrate each other. It’s a mom/pop operation but it really delivers on soul. The acts may not be selling out Madison Square Garden but they have the ability to truly get into the hearts and hips of the audience.”
Miles played drums on two sets with his soulful rock band called King Holiday. King Holiday’s front man Leslie Kujo’s energy on stage was mesmerizing. The other musicians playing in the band were extremely talented and played in a variety of interesting side projects. “Musicians play with other musicians, people make new friends, and everyone just lets loose and has a blast… people scream throughout the weekend for no reason other than the fact that they’re totally elated about being alive,” Miles said.
Milestone XXV proved that music festivals do not have to be some massive disarray of people, vendors, and stages to be enjoyable. The experience was refreshing and eye opening to see everyone come together to make this warm, intimate event memorable.
So what is to come from future Milestones? “I don’t see milestone as growing into something bigger,” Miles explained, “I like the fact that it’s small. It makes it special for the people who are there…not to say I don’t want more bands and more people to come, I just don’t want it to become about money, headlining bands, and sponsors. We’ve had the ability to do that the past two years but it just doesn’t feel right. It’s about friends and family and I’d like to keep it that way.”
Check out the recap video!