Rock n Roll Resort is a Perfect Success!
This was my first Rock n Roll Resort and I was in no way disappointed. I had heard initially mixed reviews online and from friends, so I decided to check it out for myself — and I don’t think I have ever had such an intimate music festival experience in my life. This is one of those festivals that didn’t fly by in a blink of an eye, as I savored every moment and remained care-free the entire time. The fact that the festival took place inside a resort made the usual festival worries nonexistent. Many times when I go to a festival, there is some stress along with the expected fun. Not once did I worry about a long walk to a stage, carrying gear, setting up a tent, cooking meals, and I never waited in single line all weekend. There was even food included, which the crowds said was much better than last year. Magic Hat was the beer sponsor and they kept it flowing! Along with the scheduled breakfast, lunch, and dinners, there was a food vendor outside 24/7 busting their butts to keep everyone’s tummies full of creative, overstuffed sandwiches and irresistible pizza combinations. Shout out to Phatboyz and the Gouda Boys for keeping the food grinding out all weekend. There was also a general store with anything anyone could have possibly forgotten at home, and I always had a comfy place to lay my head at night (although I did not sleep much). Music of every genre was around every corner throughout the weekend, and there was always something to do to occupy any down-time. There was a mini-golf tournament, disc-golf tournament, art gallery, yoga, and even an indoor pool! Checking into the venue and the room was probably one of the easiest festival arrivals I have ever experienced; no lines, no confusion, and everyone was super friendly.
The festival started with a bang as the opening band Scooter Dude brought down the house with a reggae groove that pulled everyone within hearing distance to the grand ballroom stage. Magnificent chandeliers hung from the ceiling and lasers beamed refracting in all directions. This reggae groove does not define their eclectic funky sound though, as they followed up the rasta tune with funky originals that jammed far and hard with teasers and creative originals. Within their set I heard Pink Floyd’s “Breathe” and a mash up of both Kool and The Gang’s “Ladies Night” and The Grateful Dead’s “Feel Like a Stranger.”
Their set also had hand-drum sit-ins by Luke Weiler of Positive Mental Trip (who also played a killer set this weekend), and the bass player switched out to the electric drum pad while they keyboardist kept that bass groove underneath them. They kept the crowd enticed and entertained, and really started off the festival on the right foot (as well as the left foot!) because everyone was dancing.
After the opening set I went and checked out guitar prodigy Bobby Paltauf and Jen Durkin of Deep Banana Blackout perform at the Acoustic Stage. His talent at such a young age always blows my mind, and her voice always sends chills down my spine. I had heard them perform together at the Capitol Theater a few weeks before RNRR so when I heard they were doing an acoustic set, I was more than thrilled! This stage was right in the lobby and everyday you could find a little dance party there that grew and grew every time someone passed by it. Even Jordan Simms of The Everyone Orchestra lead an all-star jam right there in the lobby!
Since I had arrived, dropped my belongings, and went straight to the music, I decided to run up and check out the room and decompress a bit. When I got there I was informed that the music would be going until 7am each night/morning/whatever you want to call it. I wanted to be rested up for the nights of music and dancing ahead. Our room was huge, very clean, and with a big queen bed and a scenic view of the Catskill Mountains and the River. In no way did I think it would be a romantic weekend but to my surprise it was!
The Manhattan Theater at RNRR was such a cool room. It had a huge stage with screened visuals to the left and right of it, where crazy overlapping projections of the performance and trippy images were displayed. There was a huge dance floor up at the front and the back of the theater was seated with conference-like table seating which made chilling with a drink appealing. The stage was visible from all angles, and the room had a doorway to another stage, The Empire Lounge which made switching from music set to music set super easy. The Empire Lounge had a decent sized dance floor with a bar lining the back wall. The last room was the Grand Ballroom which had a breathtaking chandelier and the perimeter was surrounded by comfy couches you could sink your body into when your dancing feet gave out. The layout of the entire event was one of the highlights: you couldn’t really lose your friends unless they were up in the room somewhere. The Shakedown Street filled with unique vendors was right in the center of it all. The hotel even featured a cigar lounge where you could find people playing pool and getting in a good chill session. One of the vendors you should totally check out is Third Eye Pinecones. These one-of-a-kind pieces of art and nature are otherworldly. I personally own one myself and have never received more compliments on a piece of jewelry in my life.
The first night I saw BRYAC Funk Allstars, featuring members of Kung Fu and Deep Banana Blackout hit the Manhattan Ballroom. I then ran to catch a glimpse of Peter Prince & The Trama Unit and boy did they know how to hit the high notes with ease! Dumpstaphunk followed up and they really brought the heavy bass line that night. I was sitting next to Jen Durkin and she was explaining to me that the impressive female drummer and vocalist had toured with Beyonce in her all-female band. After she had finished her sentence, the drink she was drinking actually vibrated off the table and into her lap from the bass in the room. I was blown away by what she had told me and what had just happened. Dumpstaphunks set incorporated some crowd hand clapping and they dedicated a song to “those who don’t know what they have till its gone.” They really engaged the audience. They closed the set with a cover of “Vivrant Thing” by Q-Tip mashed up with “Immigrant Song” which got me hot and ready to check out TAUK in the other room. I have been hearing a lot lately about this NY-based band and was eager to check them out. I found their guitar jamming to be super danceable. If I had to pick a trippy wedding band, I would want them. They played a Beatles cover of “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” which I fell in love with.
Cosmic Karma Fire performed outside the front doors of the hotel every night. Honestly, they are part of the reason I decided to attend this festival. I have seen them perform numerous times at festivals such as Gathering of the Vibes and Mountain Jam, and every time I see them I am thoroughly blown away! They don’t just play with fire; they eat it, spit it, breath it, spin it, throw it, and even bike it?! You can really tell when they are performing that this is their passion and they are truly dedicated to this art. On every occasion, they put on such organized performances where they put their safety at risk but never ignore the importance of the crowd’s safety. I never thought I wouldn’t be afraid when people are throwing balls of fire in my direction. Cosmic Greg does an excellent job in leading and organizing this amazingly talented band of fire freaks! When asking Greg, “What’s the worst part about being a fire dancer?” he comically replied “Telling your dad you’re a flamer!” I uncontrollably snorted with laughter.
After a night of partying and dancing, Saturday’s wake-up was pretty hard but I just had to get down and see some more music. I took it easy in the beginning and took a seat on the floor at the acoustic stage listening to Leroy Justice with a Bloody Mary in one hand and a coffee in the other. After that I started to hear something kind of “phishy” coming from the Manhattan Theater. It just so happened to be 7 Below a Phish tribute band who helped kick start my day and get me dancing again. Every night at RNRR had a theme; the first night was time eras, the last night was a pajama party, and Saturday night (my favorite) was superhero/villain themed. The costumes were crazy as well as the people that were inside them. There was even a vendor doing some of the most intricate face painting I’ve ever seen.
I found myself wandering into the Political Animals in the Grand Ballroom where they were spitting rhymes and a lovely female bassist was slapping it hard. They seemed to grab a little hip-hop feel from every time period. Solaris was up after in the Grand Ballroom and they are a personal favorite of mine. They are one of the few fully instrumental bands that I enjoy and are a super talented bunch. I got to check them out at last year’s Catskill Chill and was thoroughly impressed. My favorite type of music lately has been jam-tronica, so the Cosmic Dust Bunnies (I love their name) really filled that void for me. Adding some keys and synthesizers into the classic instruments really gets a crowd moving. Roots of Creation was a band that reminded me of a mix of Sublime and Rage Against the Machine with a unique synthy sound. They had great vocal harmonies and an awesome horns section.
I was super stoked for Everyone Orchestra that night. I had never seen them before and was bummed that I missed their show at BK Bowl the week before. This orchestra conducted by Matt Butler featured Steve Kimock, John Morgan Kimock, Reed Mathis, Jennifer Hartswick, Natalie Cressman and other surprise guests. Jen Durkin belted it out with the chorus for a few songs. This set was an improvisational journey of epic proportions to say the least. I love how this group deeply encourages audience interaction, and everyone in the Manhattan Theater participated in the fun. I flowed to the next few rooms to take a listen to Business Casual Disco and Cabinet before the highly anticipated two sets from The Motet. I had never seen both the Empire Lounge and Grand Ballroom this packed all weekend. Partying was in full force, both rooms super dance-partied out but each having a totally different feel. At Cabinet some hyped-up bluegrass dancing was taking place and at BCD a house disco party was the main event. The Motets’ two sets in the Manhattan theater was where I finally realized this wasn’t your ordinary music festival. I looked around and saw a crowd of people and realized how intimate this weekend could be. I saw so many familiar faces dancing in the crowd. I didn’t personally know the majority of them but spending a weekend together everyone developed a bond of smiles, waves to say hello, and dancing.
Sunday morning I slept in and woke up for the brunch which was really tasty! The day was filled with much warmer weather and a lot of sunshine. It seemed like everyone was outside exploring the hotel grounds and taking in the rays. I was saving my last bit of energy for the two Turkuaz sets later that day. Turkuaz has become one of my favorite acts to see live. They really know how to command the stage and keep the attention of the audience. Synchronized dance moves and hand gestures, smoking hot back up singers who can shake the hell out of a tambourine, and talented musicians make up this funky musical army. They have a stage presence like no other and serious charisma. Unfortunately I did not get to stay for the Super Jam at the end of the night. I talked to a bunch of my friends who were there and they told me it was awesome!
I can without a doubt say that this past weekend will go down in history as one of the greatest musical experiences of my life! Serious round of applause for the staff, venue, and all the people it took to make Rock n Roll Resort happen! I’m already looking forward to the next round of fun!
CHECK OUT ALL THE PHOTOS FROM THIS WEEKEND FROM PATRICK HUGHES PHOTOGRAPHY