Disc Jam 2015: Bigger’s Not Always Better

From the second I entered the beautiful Gardner’s Farm in Stephentown, NY, I felt a weight had lifted off my shoulders. While people gathered from all over the country to sweat in Tennessee for Bonaroo, the northeast was blessed with a festival on the complete other side of the spectrum.  I am sure people of all walks of life had the weekend of their lives at Bonnaroo, unthinkable fun; but bigger is NOT always better. The intimacy of Disc Jam was unimaginable as once again people from all walks of life met on a farm to let loose and embrace the beauty of this experience that is life but in a much, much smaller fashion. In a fashion where you meet your neighbors and have them quickly turn into friends, in a fashion where you felt safe to let the worries of your life melt, however temporarily, with each and every note.

In size these festivals are complete opposite and in experience as well. At Disc Jam there’s no running from stage to stage or planning what artist you’d catch and others you’d miss; rather, the smaller fest lets you enjoy all of the acts as the two main stages stand right beside one another, playing back to back, all day, long… until 11 o’clock. After the Live 4 Live Music and Grassroots California stages closed, a large tent at the back of the main stages, The Innova Delirium Tent, and a unique Mirkwood Forest Stage simultaneously held different DJs and late-night acts well into sunrise.

With a lineup stacked with headliners such as Twiddle, Dopapod, Lettuce, Electron and Kung Fu, Disc Jam had big shoes to fill, and this little fest delivered.

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A beautiful location — filled with life as festival lovers moved in for the weekend. Surrounded by mountains and trees lies a flat piece of land with plenty of room to accommodate. The festival offered car camping as well as regular tent camping, and it filled out perfectly, full yet spacious.  The backdrop spoke of tree-covered mountains as far as the eye could see in all directions.

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Thursday night’s buzz focused mainly on Pink Talking Fish‘s 9 PM set on the Live 4 Live Music Stage. But the night was young, and there was no need to rush. Before we got to that, The Cosmic Dust Bunnies kicked off the festival, followed by 5-piece Teddy Midnight from NYC to warm everyone up. Aqueous‘ hour-long set at 8 PM on the Grassroots California Stage filled in beautifully as the sun sank and anticipation rose for Pink Talking Fish, a cover band that far exceeds its definition. PTF is a dream for most any music lover, as they cover strictly Pink Floyd, The Talking Heads, and Phish. Could it get much better than that?

Only when they brought on former Kung Fu member Todd Stoops to rip the keys, sending the crowd into overdrive.

Thursday night went late in the excitement of the weekend to come as crowds became accustomed the Innova Delirium Tent for the remainder of day one.

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The music started early and couldn’t have been a nicer start to the day, as Wiley Griffin & Friends kicked off the main stage Friday at midday. Although many festival-goers are familiar with Wiley from his sit-ins with various bands or time spend with MUN, this festival was special, as it displayed tons of up-and-coming artist who are extremely talented. I was truly blown away by the most important thing at a festival, the music, all weekend long at Disc Jam’s main stages. Back and forth the Live 4 Live Music Stage and Grassroots California Stage battled between great funk and jam acts that are guaranteed to be seen on bills soon to come.

Hometown favorites stole Friday afternoon as Lucid, Mister F and The Relative Souls played to familiar faces as the sun shined bright on a hot, humid late spring day. Roots of Creation, who I have heard much about but never had gotten to see, threw down their masterful reggae vibes before festival veterans Consider the Source took the L4LM Stage for the first 90-minute set of the day. Kung Fu debuted their newest addition to the band, keyboardist Beau Sasser, and rocked the Grassroots California Stage for a solid two hours of uninterrupted fun. Fu’s sound was a bit different than with Stoops, not much; but the set blended as if they have been playing with Sasser for years.

Just as Kung Fu’s set came to a close, the skies began to close on the Gardner’s Farm, and continuous lightning surrounded from a distance. Lettuce, who was a perfect fit for this festival, tried their best before being cut after 30-40 minutes. The sky fell, and it got nasty for a bit, throwing the festival off for an hour or so before the horn sounded and the festival resumed.

Muddy? Yes, but the Disc Jam crew served well, getting the late-night music back on after a decently vicious storm. The Mirkwood Forest Stage wasn’t the prettiest as festie goers got their first look Friday night for Icaro, Subset and the Fractle Bros, but that didn’t stop the party. All the while, the Innova Delirium Tent held performances from Blueboy, Phutureprimitive, the very impressive Hornitz and a late night Broccoli Samurai set.

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Saturday got funky right from the start! Hayley Jane and the Primates stunned crowds as the beautiful Hayley Jane belted powerful lyrics on top of some serious upbeat soul, leaving quite an impression on Disc Jam. HJ and the Primates did have a little help when they brought out the extremely talented horn duo The Hornitz to get down on a few songs. It worked almost too perfectly and was one of my favorite sets of the festival.

One of the most unusual bands of the weekend came to follow, Viva La Hop. This hip hop, funk, jazz band drew a crowd and loved every second of it as they spit positive lyrics over fast paced funk. They fit so flawlessly that I don’t believe even THEY thought it would go so very smooth as one of the MCs laughed with the crowd “This is my first festival.”

Spiritual Rez brought their vivacity, and you could feel the energy rise in anticipation for Electron’s 7 PM set. A spin-off of The Disco Biscuits with original members Marc Brownstein and Aron Magner, Electron adds Lotus drummer Mike Greenfield and the extremely talented Brothers Past/American Babies guitarist Tommy Hamilton to play various Biscuits and originals as well as select covers. The quartet had the festival in a frenzy and stole one of the greatest moments of the weekend as the last hour of their 2 hour set was engulfed by a breathtaking sunset.

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Coming off a musical high in their careers, Dopapod drove directly from another festival, a pretty big one if you remember me mentioning it, BONNAROO. 18 hours in a bus coming from one of their biggest musical accomplishments, and without a hiccup 9 PM on the L4LM Stage stood Dopapod, ready for work. And work they did. The northeastern quartet felt right at home as they threw down one of the hardest, most energized sets I have ever seen them play… so much for a let-up!

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Florida-based duo Bells & Robes took the Mirkwood Forest Stage by storm directly following Dopapod, welcoming new fans with their trance beats and live drumming, while Lespecial made The Innova Delirium Tent home as the unique sound and visuals of the trio sent listeners into hysteria.

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The weekend was coming to a close as tired bodies rose for yet one more epic day of music. Twiddle, the next big thing in the jam scene, was set to take the stage for 3 solid hours and the perfect cap to Disc Jam’s main stage at 7 PM. Before the much-anticipated Twiddle set, crowds enjoyed newest Kung Fu member Beau Sasser once again with Beau Sasser’s Escape Plan. Bluegrass favorites Cabinet forced crowds out of their tents and onto the dance floor before Soule Monde took over with their shredding, all before fan favorite Twiddle.

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Twiddle, a Vermont-based foursome that is truly on fire this past year or so, took the stage for the longest time slot of the weekend, playing 2 sets, with a very minor set break, from 7-10PM. Twiddle fans from all around piled in throughout Sunday filling the Live 4 Live Music Stage just one last time. Like Dopapod, Twiddle came directly from their Friday set at Bonnaroo to make it home to the northeast and spend Sunday night with their die-hard following. The first set began beautifully, as they played melodic instrumentals from their early days such as “Blueberry Tumble,” “The Catapillar” and “Wasabi Erruption.” The up-and-coming quartet, criticized by ignorant jam fans for being “poppy” (which they are not), silenced haters as they played almost the entire first set of instrumentals. They went out, for an hour plus, and jammed, simple as that. Lead singer Mihali Savolidis didn’t sing a lyric until the final song of set one, “Beehop,” a jazz/reggae-infused song that displays their versatility.

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Twiddle’s second set was filled with fan favorites such as “Apples,” “Polluted Beauty” and “Frankenfoote,” giving the audience what the first set lacked, lyrical content. Throughout two sets Twiddle had a number of sit-ins, including but not limited to: Todd Stoops, Wiley Griffin, Craig Brodhead from Turkuaz, Scott Hannay of Mister F, Russ Lawton from Soule Monde, and guitarist Joe Davis and bassist James Wood from Formula 5. At one point during their instrumental jam “Latin Tang,” not one member of Twiddle was actually playing, a complete swap before they slowly, one by one, took back their respective positions.

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The sun sank early into the second set, and eventually the set was over, the fest was just about over, and reflection set in. What a beautiful weekend filled with amazing individuals. Individuals coming together to create this one-of-a-kind weekend. Whether an individual who came and played on stage or an individual who came to enjoy the talent, everyone at Disc Jam came together as one to create amazing, lifetime memories. Disc Jam 5 was a complete and utter success and has this guy marking his calendar for a return trip in 2016.

7 comments

    1. I will take responsibility for missing that in proofreading. Similar to “If only he’s spelled..” rather than “If only he’D spelled…”

  1. Great article and pictures. If the opportunity arises, I look forward to seeing some of these bands for the first time.

  2. I have been to all of the disk jams and several events by these guys. I’m a festival enthusiast. I don’t know how they pulled it off, but this one did it! They finally did it! You all who were there know what I’m talking about. Now don’t screw it up!

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