Tag Archives: the breakfast

My First Festival: Berkfest 2001

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In the Summer of 2001, I had just graduated high school and had started seeing various jambands locally and was excited to break my festival hymen at the Berkshire Mountain Music Festival.  Since Phish had played it’s last show the Fall before that, I had been spending the early half of 2001 branching out seeing all and any jambands that came to the area.  I had seen Trey Anastasio’s first non-Phish show at the Orpheum in Boston and a week later, saw my first moe. concert at the same venue.  I had also seen Gov’t Mule at Lupo’s in Providence and an aftershow featuring the Psychedelic Breakfast at the Met Cafe next door.  Yet, none of these shows would totally prepare me for my first festival experience.

My brother had gone to the Gathering of the Vibes earlier that summer and he was nice enough to call the house and leave messages on my answering machine of the Disco Biscuits and Les Claypool’s Frog Brigade sets.  Those minute long snippets on my answering machine had me as excited I can be to finally arrive at my first music festival.  Unfortunately,  the day that would happen, we were way behind schedule due to waiting to stockpile various substances, so we got there late on Friday.

We got to the festival grounds as it was getting dark and scampered to find a place in the back of a tent filled field to pitch our own tents.  We could hear Soulive on the main-stage, but duty called and we waited to finish setting everything up before venturing out to see music.  Fortunately for us, our first band we got to actually see was Leftover Salmon’s late-night set in one of the ski lodges.  Now, I did not know that at the time, but since then I’ve grown to find out that Vince Herman of Leftover Salmon is basically the Festival Master General in the jamband scene.  He got us pumped up for the music left to come for the rest of the weekend and supplied us with a late-night hootenanny get down.

Come the morning and the sunlight, I finally got to see the seedy underbelly that belied Berkfest.  Now Berkfest was put on by Gamelan Productions, the same company that brought us High-Sierra Music Festival, but if there are two things in common between these festivals, its that they are festivals and they have absolutely nothing else in common.  I made my way out to “Shakedown Street” to hear nothing but nitrous tanks running every hour of the day, people selling bags of cocaine out in the open, and even a camping area we affectionately referred to as the Heroin Woods.  People openly doing cocaine, heroin, and other drugs like “dust” was completely foreign to me.  Usually you had to do that kinda stuff on the down low, but not at Berkfest.  There were cops there, but honestly they didn’t do a damn thing so long as you didn’t get in the way of their horses.  I even saw someone I had met at a post-party for that summer’s Trey Anastasio Band show smashed over the head with a Captain Morgan bottle, but come to find out he was found stealing stuff from someone’s tent, so hippy martial law came into affect.

Now back to the music.  Luckily a friend of ours had his tent set up at the very top of the hill where the stage was at the very bottom.  So we mostly spent our afternoons, chilling out by our friend’s tent listening to the bands way down below.  This is essentially how I listened to my first Sound Tribe Sector Nine,  Spearhead and Yonder Mountain String Band sets.  I would make my way down the hill for various sets throughout the weekend including Strangefolk, The Word and Robert Randolph’s Family Band.  Occasionally we would make our way into the ski lodges to see sets from bands like the Psychedelic Breakfast and the Slip.

The highlight of the weekend was moe.’s 3 hour set on Saturday night.  We had set ourselves up a couple heads away from the stage during Strangefolk’s set and found a group of other moe.rons to get mentally ready for the headlining set with.  moe. took the stage and the mountainside seemed to be at capacity.  They led us off with a Plane Crash to get the crowd riled up, what would follow would end up being one of my favorite festival sets from any band, ever.  They were all business that night and didn’t stop for what seemed like forever.  Actually, the second half of the set consisted of a 4 song Moth sandwich that took over an hour and a half for them to finish.  By the time they had finished, I was dead tired, so we and our new moe. fan friends headed back to camp where we joked and consumed various goodies for the remainder of the night.

The highlight of Sunday’s lineup was Les Claypool’s Frog Brigade’s headlining set.  He came out in a giant green monster costume that had been patrolling festival grounds all weekend urging fans to clean up after themselves.  His set was they typical 2001 Claypool set starting with Thela Hun Ginjeet and including favorites like Highball with the Devil and covers like David Bowie’s Space Oddity and the B-52’s Planet Claire.  As the Berkfest Allstar Jam started(which included John Medseki and various other well known musicians): we packed up camp and made a run for it, so we could sleep cleanly and dry in our own bed’s that night, but forever that festival would leave a huge impact on me.

Berkfest only lasted a couple more years before being shut down by locals who complained of the seedy environment it brought.  They were right, even as an attendee, Berkfest could be a scary place, but the music made that all better.  It was a year before Bonnaroo started and didn’t have any giant sponsors, but the fans still came out in droves and the annual music lineups there were always top notch.  It certainly wasn’t for the weak at heart and the event t-shirt calling it “Berkfest of Champions” was more true than the designer probably assumed.  If you could survive that August weekend in the Berkshire Mountains, you truly were a champion.

Since, its already mid January and I haven’t blogged yet this year, I’m gonna start off with my list of favorite concerts of 2011.  Simple enough.

#5 Phish- Great Woods, Mansfield MA

#4 Kermit Ruffins and the Barbecue Swingers- The Spot, Providence RI

#3 moe.- Lowell MA

#2 The Breakfast- Daniel Street (Founghoulish Freakout XII), Millford CT

#1 Erasure- House of Blues, Boston MA

This makes it two consecutive years that a foreign act(and 3 of the past 5) has taken top place.  The other two being Air in 2010 and Daft Punk in 2007.

Summer Festival Guide: The Big Up

Hidden in the rural pastures of Ghent, New York lies one of the best smaller festivals to hit the Northeast in the past few years.  The Big Up originated two years ago as The Let It Roll festival and has built momentum since then to be a powerhouse lineup of music the last weekend of July.  The festival grounds lie on a beautiful old farm that has hosted legends like John Lennon in the past and now is a perfect place to spend a weekend cut off from the rest of the world.  Let’s break down the highlights of this gem of a festival:

EOTO headlines the Big Up 2011

Raq– I’ve been lucky to see Raq for almost 10 years now and with their rare touring these days, it’s a special occasion when the fearsome foursome from Vermont get together to do what they do best.  Led by the fierce keyboard playing from Todd Stoops and the guitar attack from Chris Michetti, Raq have found their niche with a sound that is in your face and funked out to the max.

Marco Benevento– Speaking of keyboardists, Marco is always a treat to see no matter who he’s playing with.  His work w/ Joe Russo made him a much sought after musician on the scene and has since played with pretty much anyone who’s anyone in the world of acid jazz jam.  Seriously, this guy is a beast on keys, the likes of which I couldn’t classify and he’s been a mainstay at The Big Up since it’s inception.

The Breakfast– While we’re on the topic of Big Up mainstays, the Breakfast have played at Ghent every year and will be continuing their streak this year.  Led by the brutal guitarmaggedon style of Tim Palmeiri and the animalistic drum rage of Adrian Tramantano, the Breakfast have been constantly honing their sound to outdo themselves night after night.  With original keyboardist Jordan Giangreco and newest bass player Chris D’Angelis, they are on their best lineup to date and the energy of their shows are hard to match on a night to night basis.

But this is just scratching the surface.  If you like electronic music, then you’re in luck because the deemster barn will be kicking all weekend with the likes of Ott, Orchard Lounge, Abakus, and headliners EOTO featuring members of String Cheese Incident.  Not to mention Digital Tape Machine featuring members of Umphrey’s McGee and Big Gigantic.  Then the influx of local Northeast jambandia continues all weekend with Indobox, Dopapod, Kung Fu, Jimkata and Higher Organix.  Seriously, if you live anywhere within 5 hours of Albany, NY and don’t want to miss the most happening event of the summer, then be sure not to miss the Big Up.

For all you summer Phish fans:

BRANCH OUT!  I know you guys wait all year for their schedule to be announced, and then stock up on as many tickets as possible via PTBM and Ticketbastard, well guess what?  There’s other bands out there you can see in the meantime.  So why put all your eggs in one basket when you can spread those eggs and get much more bang for your buck.  Tonight, I will help show you where to spread your jamband dollars.  Here’s my top 3 list of how to get more bang for your buck when it comes to the summer concert series:

#3 The Disco Biscuits

The Undisputed Kings of the jamtronica scene may not have too many solo shows this summer, but they make up for it in the festival department.  They’re starting off their summer, just like last year, with a couple shows in Denver and their one day electronic fest Bisco Inferno at the coveted Red Rocks Ampitheatre.  The main event is in July with their annual Camp Bisco in Mariaville, NY.  This year’s lineup includes Cut Copy, Bassnectar, Yeasayer and a long list more as music runs all day and night for 3 straight days.  Anyone who has been to Camp Bisco can easily dispell all the horror stories and assure you that it is as fun a time as a music festival will grant you.

http://www.discobiscuits.com

#2 The Breakfast

These crafty New England vets leave it all on the stage everynight and remain the best bang for your buck in the jamband scene.  A lot of great small festivals coming up for these guys and a trip to any of them is a guaranteed great time.  Starting off with the Positive Mental Trip Festival in Northville, NY in May, they follow right up with JAM-boree in Ellicottville, NY in June.  Then pulling double duty in July at their very own festival Breakfest in Goshen, NH and ending it on a good note at the Big Up in Ghent, NY.  I was lucky enough to go to Ghent when it was just the Let It Roll festival and it is a beautiful spot to spend the weekend and their lineup is always top notch.

http://www.thebreakfast.org

#1 moe.

Who would I be to leave off these guys?  They really shine in the summer as they lighten up a bit and let it fly.  As usual their summer begins with Summercamp on Memorial Day weekend and ends with moe.down on Labor Day weekend, but the hardest working band in show business isn’t done with that alone.  They’ll also be playing major sets at the All Good Festival and The Gathering of the Vibes.  If that wasn’t enough they have two shows in Virginia in June and shows in Bethlehem, PA, Newport, RI, Asbury Park, NJ and Lowell, MA in July.  There just isn’t any rest for the wicked fivesome led by Chuck “Satan” Garvey.

http://www.moe.org

Well, there you have it folks.  More summertime music to cure your summertime blues.  If you were expecting any other bands to be mentioned, I’m sorry to disappoint, but who knows, maybe I’ll give you more options if those 3 plus Phish isn’t enough to quench your summertime music thirst.

BONUS!  for reading through all that, I grant you the second half of Mooboo’s Voodoo: