Rock N Roll Resort: A Review
Rock and Roll Resort was set in a the Hudson Valley Resort & Spa, a hotel in a small town not too far from New Paltz known as Kerhunkson. The history of the resort is actually pretty interesting. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Catskill region was already known as a serene getaway spot for New Yorkers. The 1950s saw a host of famous grand hotels pop up, such as The Concord, Grossingers, The Granit, and the Tamarack Lodge that housed many of the elite from the New York City region looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city during the summer. In fact, my mom tells me that these hotels weren’t just great for lodging, but they housed musicians, comedians, shows etc. When my mom was younger, she babysat for a family that had a home in the Catskills and at night the parents would ditch the kids with my mom and head to these grand hotels at night for food, shows, and drinks.
The Hudson Valley Resort and Spa is actually where The Granit used to be. This rich history of the arts and escape really added something to the Rock and Roll Resort experience. You could immediately tell that this hotel was once a grand hotel. Massive crystal chandeliers are found in every room and there are many great halls and ballrooms. In the Empire Lounge was a beautiful, long wooden bar—at least 50ft long—as well as an elevated dining area. I could just see the room transformed before my eyes: in place of Normal Instruments on the small stage, there would be a small orchestra or band; in lieu of Jeff Bujak on keyboard, a pianist on a Baby Grand; instead of dancers dressed in neon and crazy costumes, there would be women wearing elegant dresses and men wearing suits dancing while those wining and dining the tables would look on. It was all very majestic really.
Besides the elegant ballrooms, it was also the outdoors that would draw people to this hotel over half a century ago. Though most of the time I was there it was terribly cloudy, for an instant the clouds parted and the sky shone blue. I ran outside to catch a glimpse of the view and my was it spectacular. The hotel is perched on the top of a high hill (or a little mountain) so you can see a small lake and then the great valley and then more mountains in the distance. It was simply breath taking.
While the hotel might be in need of a minor face- lift, its size made up for that; Hudson Valley Resort & Spa wasbig enough to hold an entire festival. When you walk in you are taken aback by the massive size of the grand foyer which held dozens of vendors selling art, crystals, clothes, and more. The whole time I was just shocked by the number of vendors they could fit in the room. While there were lots of hard good vendors, one of the only disappointing parts of the festival was the lack of food vendors. Since meals were only served at certain times, and the last serving was only until 8 pm, I worried that some less prepared festival goers were probably starving by the time the music was over.
The stages were also very elaborately decorated. A small stage off to the side of the vendors area was the “Blingin Beads Digital Underground.” This stage had some really cool lighting that brought me back to the 60s and 70s (or at least let me imagine that that was what it was like). The lights were really like “Blingin Beads” meaning that the spotlights were broken up into smaller oval lights, creating a underwater effect that was very cool. There was a chandelier in the room as well that when they projected the lights onto it would have a very cool effect, similar to that of a disco ball. There were also these stretched out fabric art installations (they’re really popular at festivals now and at Rock N Roll Resort they were everywhere) and images and lights were projected onto the fabric, which was pretty cool, I had never seen them used that way.
It was at this stage that I caught Cosmal, Digital Dharma, and Mun. This stage was the perfect setting for all of these artists, who played great, fun sets and who’s fun, quirky mood was reflected in the lighting. The crowds in this room were always a bit smaller, but it had the positive effect of giving you lots of room to dance, as well as for attendees to bring out their fun toys like LED juggling balls and setting up live painting.
Another stage was the Empire Lounge, where I caught Cosmic Dust Bunnies and Normal Instruments. As mentioned before, this was a very grand cocktail/bar room. The décor for this room was really fascinating: behind the artists were these three pillars that, with the light shining on them, looked like giant crystals. I think that they really were from a wiry tool-like fabric that held its form and were pushed out a little so that when the light shone on it, it appeared to have a rocky surface. They really illuminated in the light as well, adding to the crystal-like appearance.
Finally, the main stage was known as the Manhattan Theatre. This stage was really unbelievable. On the stage where the actual performers were playing there were great spot lights. Then there were two big projector screens both to the left and right of the stage (so four big screens total) and then there was a third screen that was really a few screens chopped up, which I imagine was pretty expensive and difficult to do. Everything that was projected onto these screens was the definition of trippy: turtles flying through space, bright kaleidoscopic images, projections of the performers with a filter over it, etc. I really was in amazement of the whole thing. Each pair of screens was like a movie and it went in line with the performances going on.
It was at this stage that the Alan Evans Trio, Kung Fu, The Ryan Montbleau Band, Soulive, and UV Hippo performed. All of these artists did an amazing job and I loved all of their sets. Soulive was really fabulous to the point that I didn’t want it to end. Their cover of the Beatles “Something” really had me going. I think was really sets Rock and Roll Resort are the artists that are their man acts. Even though I would really define the music as “rock and roll,” the festival seems to try and find a modern context for this classic sound by drawing artists that fuse electronic, funk, jazz, country, bluegrass, and more. There were very few DJs; all were live bands (at least from the artists I saw, with the exception of Cosmal, who does his own live loops on guitar, an electric drum, and DJ equipment). Funk was the strongest common denominator in terms of style of music and it created a really funky, fun atmosphere.
The festival was a really intimate setting for artists and fans to mingle as well. There was a meet and greet table where you could come and chat with artists, have photos taken with the band, etc. There also wasn’t really any VIP area, so artists would walk among the crowed, giving you the chance to rub shoulders with some of your favorite acts without even realizing it! All of the artists who came were very down to earth, making them easily approachable and creating a really cool atmosphere of mutual appreciation and friendliness.
Overall, what set this festival apart from other fests was the production quality and the “no VIP” mentality. Every stage had a cool visualizers and art and even the main area where the vendors were had art installations overhead. Getting to hang with artists was also a pretty cool aspect to the festival and gave it a really chilled out vibe. I would really suggest this festival to friends, but I would encourage them to bring lots of water and snacks with them!
Photos By Adam Scott
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