Hudson Project Recap

So I’m sitting here on Monday morning and struggling to recap the last 72 (ish?) hours. It’s a lot to sum up in a blog post, and I’m beat.

I wasn’t in shape before, and three nights of sleeping on hard ground at Winston Farm after hours of dancing my ass off have taken their toll. A lot has been and will be said about The Hudson Project, but it was definitely an experience felt nowhere else.

Thursday: Midnight Drive
Peter (of Hear Hear Mix), Kirsten (of The Cat’s Pajamas), and I all drove up from Philadelphia Thursday evening. The drive was mostly uneventful, other than being in a huge hurry because our press contact told us that we wouldn’t be able to get access after midnight.

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There’s a reason this picture was of Peter and not the speedometer.

Direct quote from PR person: “If it was a more reasonable time, we would have been able to make arrangements.”
Midnight!? Really? As if anyone in Saugerties was going to sleep all weekend. Their petulant inability to “make arrangements” really freaked us out, but we ended up getting access just fine.

This miscommunication would not be the last. Security didn’t let anyone into the festival grounds until 4AM, and it wasn’t clear why. We set up camp and crashed, hard.

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DJ Kirsten was very asleep. Also note Peter’s cardboard sleeping pad.

 

Friday: Waiting For The Drop

Highlights of Friday’s sets: Lindsay Lowend was great. Moon Hooch laid down a whole lotta echo on their funky dueling sax setup, making their live show a lot more dubby than I expected. I briefly caught up with the power trio of Wenzl McGowen, Mike Wilbur, and James Muschler backstage. The interview was short – here’s the 30-second version:

WKDU: Your instrumentation features drums and dueling saxophones. If you were to have another band featuring dueling instruments, what would they be?
WM: Dueling rottweilers.
MW: Probably not the most [PETA]-friendly answer, but yeah. Rottweilers.
JM: More drums.
WKDU: Awesome.
Dr. Dog played a perfect set. Later, Emancipator, Bro Safari, and the Flaming Lips closed out my night of diverse tunes. I missed Flying Lotus, but apparently his set was foggy and spaced-out; a propos for his midnight to 2am slot.

Saturday: Bass Cave

We didn’t make it in the venue until 4, to see Flatbush Zombies. After that, Peter and I hunkered down with some chicken wings at the Catskill Cave tent for Bit Funk, Jacques Green, and Tokimonsta. Afterwards, we met back up with Shannen (of Rock Bottom), Kirsten, and some others for Big Gigantic.

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Big Gigantic overlooks the massive main stage crowd. Courtesy Kevin Earle – MCP Presents

The rain came first in the middle of Big Gigantic’s set. A truly euphoric moment. The rain poured as Big G tore into drops with saxophonic ferocity. It really was a sight to see.

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Kendrick Lamar during his set at the Hudson Project. Photo courtesy of Kevin Earle – MCP Presents

Kendrick Lamar played all his usual hits, but there was something missing from his set. It didn’t help that he ended twenty minutes early, but his attempts at audience participation didn’t seem well received. I dunno, it might have just been me. Gold Panda was chillen’ as usual. I closed out the night with a healthy portion of Four Tet.

 

Sunday: The Floodson Project
The majority of Sunday was spent doing two things: waking up, and packing up. After that was all done, we managed to catch most of Chrome Sparks, which was awesome. They played a significant amount of new material, and returned for a surprise encore. “We’ve never played this song before” is definitely one of the most exciting things a performing artist can say.

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Chillen to Chromesparks. Photo courtesy Peter Liu

Peter and I were throwing it down in Catskill Cave to Issac Tichauer. We decided to go for a food break, when all acts stopped playing and a voice came over the soundsystem announcing an evacuation and delay. Holy crap! We met up with Shannen and Kirsten, and made friends with the crew who set up one of the stage tents. Security kicked everyone out of the campgrounds, and we waited out the storm in the tent crew’s box truck.

 

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Party in the Penske.

These guys were awesome. I’m reminded of the Henry Rollins quote – “They were there hours before you building the stage, and they will be there hours after you leave tearing it down.” Super down to earth.

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Mudslide disco!

What followed was total anarchy. Nobody, even staff, was sure if the festival was still on. On hills between campgrounds, mudslides started to break out. Generators and portable soundsystems brought by campers, vendors, and whoever else ensured the party would go on. Security lines were broken. Fences were getting torn down. It was clear that nobody was gonna turn down for Mother Nature.

We were getting ready to leave when we stumbled upon an impromptu dance party in the middle of the RV camping area. The occupants of a purple school bus (The Quetzal Bus, @thequetzalbus on twitter) were burnin’ it down with fat beats. In particular, I was able to track down this remix that made it into the set. Butts were shakin’. The party was not over.

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The Quetzal Bus.

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Revelers lower a makeshift shelter over the DJ booth at the Quetzal Bus.

 

We headed home once it started raining again. Our car didn’t get stuck in the muddy parking lot, but many, many others did. Reports came back on Monday of local farmers pulling out cars with tractors. As of Tuesday morning, there were still people stuck on Winston Farm. Damn.

The Hudson Project’s inaugural year was a rough one, but nearly everyone I talked to had fun. With a stacked lineup, decent amenities, and a beautiful venue, The Hudson Project had a lot to offer. Cancelling the last day was probably a smart move, considering the safety implications. It was also just announced that ticket holders will be getting refunded for the last day. Very appropriate, considering the huge amount of artists who were cancelled.
How was your time at the Hudson Project? Let us know.

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An Interview with Nashville funk nonet Dynamo

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Wil Schade: I’m here in the studio with a very special band Dynamo, who just killed an in-studio performance at WKDU. I am joined by Kevin [Gift Jr.] and Ryan [Connors], the bassist and pianist of Dynamo.

Ryan Connors: Thanks for having us.

Wil Schade: You guys are from Nashville, Tennessee. You’ve been on tour for two weeks now. How has it been?

Ryan: It’s been great man, a lot of different types of venues. One of the cool things we’ve been doing on the road is giving clinics and master classes at high schools and middle schools. Those have been really fun too. We usually do those in the mornings on weekdays. Those have been a blast, and once again different scenarios at every one of them. You never know what to expect.

Wil: So what has been the craziest moment of tour so far? I have to ask that question.

Ryan: Craziest moment of tour? Man, that’s a tough one…

Kevin: That we can say on radio, or..? [Laughs]

Ryan: Well, one story that comes to mind actually happened right before the tour. The night before we left, our drummer’s van, like a utility van, basically broke down and couldn’t start. And this was the night before we had to leave for the tour. So we basically towed it away that night, took it to the shop, and then got it two hours after we’d planned to leave that day. So we were running late to a gig in Columbus, ran into three hours of traffic, so we got there literally right before we had to play. Everyone was really stressed out but everyone played really well because they had a lot of aggression that they had to get out. [Laughs]

Wil: You’re a large group. So, what are all of your different musical backgrounds and how did you guys meet, at first?

Ryan: Seven of the nine members went to Belmont University down in Nashville Tennessee. Four of us that went there actually got our Masters in Music. We graduated just last week or two weeks ago. So that’s sort of the story there. We come from all over the map, like Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey, Illinois, and upstate New York. Our keyboard player/trombone player is the only one actually from Nashville Tennessee. So we all just kinda came together from really different backgrounds like you were just saying. Kevin, our bass player, plays in churches. Some of the guys are just straight ahead jazz players. The guitarist can play, like, a country gig if he needs to. We’re all kind of well rounded, but we all enjoy this style of music I think the most. Everyone’s on board with making really great music.

Wil: You guys just released Live at Ocean Way, a live in-studio album for an audience of forty members?

Ryan: Yeah. We did three shows that day, December 8th 2013. We had three shows so that we could each have three different live takes to choose from. Each show had forty different people in each audience, so a total of 120 people attended that concert that day, and we did eight tunes at each show. Actually the album is a compilation of the last show, the 8 o clock show. So that’s what you hear on the album, that’s what you’re getting.

Wil: So how was the recording process? Was it difficult with the live aspect and getting the perfect take?

Ryan: It was extremely difficult. We didn’t make it any easier on ourselves because we actually brought in a lot of outside musicians. If you listen to the album, that’s actually 24 musicians taking part. There’s a string quartet, we beefed up our horn section so there’s a baritone, tenor, alto [saxophones], trombone, trumpet.

Wil: There’s an EVI [Electronic valve instrument] on one of the tunes I heard.

Ryan: Yeah the trumpet player also plays EVI so he took a solo on one of the tunes, which was awesome. Actually that’s Joe Anderson from Philly. He just graduated from U Arts. So two of those horn players, including Joe and Ben Ford our trombone player, showed up basically that morning and sight read the charts all day. We’re already trying to get a lot of people together to play somewhat difficult music and that didn’t make it any easier [laughs].

Wil: Speaking of difficult music, you write most of the tunes. What are some of your influences? I know when I watched the YouTube videos it looks a lot like Snarky Puppy to me.

Ryan: For sure. I think everyone in the group is a very big Snarky [Puppy] fans, myself included. I actually had a chance to go to Snarky Puppy’s live recording session for GroundUP.

Wil: ….I recognize your face now.

(Ryan’s face is the thumbnail photo for Snarky Puppy’s “Thing of Gold” video)

Ryan: [Laughs] Yeah, so I had a chance to talk with Michael League [Bassist and frontman of Snarky Puppy] and some of the guys in the band. Ever since then at live shows they’ll see me and recognize me. Their music was a big influence, but also the way that they carry themselves as a group. They’re really positive, really into music education. So that to me was a wake up call on doing things independently. Like understanding that you don’t need a tour manager and you don’t need to be signed to a record label to make good music. So that’s more of what I got out of seeing those guys, and that was their influence on us.

Wil: What has been the hardest part of being such a large band? Do you have side projects, or stuff you do other than Dynamo?

Ryan: Yeah. We’re all freelance musicians, but I think overall we pretty much make time for this group. When we’re down in Nashville we play a couple times a week at some of the venues down there, and so far we haven’t had any conflicts. I mean, if someone can’t make a gig it’s more like all or nothing. But if there are guest musicians that want to sit in that’s always something that’s cool for us to do.

Wil: I guess you guys have a large network of musicians. I mean, all the musicians you brought in on Live at Ocean Way plus if you’re in a crunch on the road and you need an extra musician.

Ryan: Yeah totally. And actually these are areas that we’re revisiting. I did my undergrad at West Chester University and so did Kevin. So while we’re in this area we’re probably going to meet some musicians that we went to school with and we’ll have them sit in, like Joe Anderson and Ben Fords. He’s out in Harrisburg so he’s going to play with us on Saturday night. So just letting people know that we’re coming through. Then if they want to come and play then by all means please do.

Wil: You guys are a fairly new band, coming together in late 2012. What was your strategy for getting yourself out there? It seems like you’re well on your way, but did you go in with any preconceived notions of how you were going to go about things?

Ryan: No. Basically my mentality was just write as much music as possible, play as many gigs as possible, and put ourselves in situations where we’re uncomfortable as much as possible. So that way we just keep growing constantly and we’re always writing new material, always trying to book a tour, and just basically challenge ourselves over and over again.

Wil: This is your first tour?

Ryan: Yeah. We did a short run-out last May, where we did one clinic up in Oswego, as well as two shows. But in terms of a fully booked tour, this is the first one.

Wil: So what’s next for you guys?

Ryan: June and July we’re actually taking a break, so you won’t hear anything from us then. But when we get back in August we have some gigs in Nashville. We’re hoping to do some run-outs in September through the fall. So run-outs to any area that’s close to Nashville like Chicago, New Orleans, North Carolina, Atlanta, any cities that we can get to and that it makes sense to go to. And then we’re probably looking at recording another album at the end of the year.

Wil: So you guys have been making new material. Have you been recording consistently? Are you guys in the works of a new album?

Ryan: Yeah, I would say we’re about halfway through getting some new material for a new album. But along the way we’ve been recording on the side with singers that we love to feature in our live shows. So the aspect there is doing covers and their arrangements of different covers. We just went in the studio right before we hit the road with Abby York and Ariel McFall. They did a version of “Rolling in the Deep” and “Sunny”, the jazz standard.

Wil: Awesome. Do you guys accept social media followers?

Ryan: Yes sir, we do.

Follow Dynamo on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube. 

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Concert Review: Disclosure at Union Transfer (6/6/2014)

When A Fire Starts To Burn — Disclosure

When A Fire Starts To Burn — Disclosure

By Jonathan Plotkin

Wow okay so this is mad late but whatever. I saw Disclosure like a month ago and due to a combination of being super busy at work and super lazy when I’m not at work, it’s taken me this long to get this review out. I know you’ve been on the edge of your seats wondering how I enjoyed the Disclosure show at the Union Transfer last month and now you’re finally going to find out.

Full disclosure (pun fully intended because punz rool): I’m not “the biggest fan” of Disclosure. I’ve heard their album Settle, thought it was really cool, and then kind of forgot about it. I haven’t heard their early stuff, but I thought that album was dope and figured their show would be pretty fun. I honestly didn’t even plan on see them- I was supposed to see Kishi Bashi but then a fellow DJ at the station handed me a pair of free tickets to the thrice sold out show, so I couldn’t really say no. Not knowing what to expect, I finally rolled up some time after 9 PM, just in time for that awkward transition after the opener to the main act. I met up with my friend Chris (@CrispyChrisX) who proceeded to tell me all about house music until Disclosure got on. A good primer for the coming act, considering I missed Broadzilla since I got there late.

When Disclosure finally got to the stage, I didn’t really know what they had so many instruments set up. They had a drum kit, keyboards, bass guitar… I thought these guys were just DJs? Turns out one of the reasons their work sounds so rich and full is because they play real instruments! Of course, everyone reading this probably thinks I’m a total noob but WHATEVER man I think learning new things is great and I just wanted to share that excitement with you guys.

Anyway.

The crowd was super pumped, and since the show was super sold out, the Union Transfer was more packed than I’d ever seen it. Disclosure used that to their advantage though and got the jams pumping right away, forcing the close-packed crowd to dance with “F For You”, leading into “When A Fire Starts To Burn.” After that, they played some stuff that I didn’t recognize, but Chris told me was some of their old stuff updated with new twists (I later looked it up- I remember at least one of their old songs they played was “Flow” which sounds good on YouTube, but was incredible live). This whole time, the brothers are singing, playing live drums, and doodling around on the bass. If there’s anything I love in house music, it’s a good bassline and watching it being pulled live from an instrument is just too cool.

The duo moved back to more famous stuff from their album, which due to their excessive touring schedule was incredibly tight and well rehearsed. They kept it fresh though, adding all sorts of new elements to songs that undoubtedly were getting a little old for them. At one point, Chris turned to me and complained that he didn’t think they sounded “big enough” and that one of the drops should have gotten more of a reaction. Luckily, their next song was crowd favorite (or at least MY favorite) “Grab Her” and they had it turned up to 11 the whole time.

I especially liked how professional their light set up was. For two brothers who are barely old enough to drink at some of the shows that play in the USA, they had laser effects and projections rivaling well established bands like Chromeo and and Emancipator. The Disclosure mask made quite a few appearances, floating around the brothers’ heads and (somewhat creepily) singing along the last few tracks. From a projection display that reminded me of the video for Simian Mobile Disco song “Cerulean” to lighting the whole stage red during “When A Fire Starts To Burn”, the show was just as visually stimulating as could be (speaking of which, when they played “Stimulation” the crowd went wild with how pumped up the sound was).

Finishing the track “Help Me Lose My Mind” with plenty of audience help on the vocals, the brothers walked off stage. The crowd started chanting “Latch! Latch” and when Disclosure finally walked back on stage I thought the roof was going to fly off. Closing with a soul splitting rendition of “Latch” in which everyone sang (even me, despite only learning the lyrics after the first verse). It was a beautiful show and the vibes during it the whole time were just fantastic. If you haven’t yet, I highly recommend taking the time to see Disclosure live if you get the chance. No matter if you’re feeling happy or sad, tryna dance or tryna chill, Disclosure put on one hell of a show.

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Reggae Marathon Re-Cap: Sweet Daddy Fish & Duprex Snape Break Down the History of Reggae on WKDU

By Chris Burrell

If you listen to WKDU regularly, you know that we don’t take reggae lightly – we currently have eight reggae shows on our schedule for the summer term. The only way that kind of support for one specific genre can exist is through cultivating a grassroots and dedicated listener base over many years.

The reggae marathon, which takes place every Memorial Day weekend, was instrumental in forming such a strong reggae listener base and connection with the Caribbean community in West Philly. Now in its 31st year, the reggae marathon is still going strong, as over 30 DJ’s from West Philly and beyond came out and fundraised in support of WKDU and the Red Cross Jamaica to be a part of the 100+ hour marathon.

On Saturday afternoon of the marathon, I was able to catch up with Clinton Fishley (aka Sweet Daddy Fish) to chat about the history of the event. Fishley has been involved with the marathon for 29 of its 31 years, and is heavily entrenched in the reggae scenes in West Philly and Germantown.

The reggae marathon started in 1983, when Hopeton Brown, General Manager of the station at the time, gathered DJ’s from Boston, Virginia, New York, Maryland, and beyond to connect through good reggae music and a charitable cause. The success of initial marathons was influential in establishing a large and dedicated listener base that has continued on today, where we still have numerous streams from Jamaican IP addresses each week. I phoned up my friend Duprex Snape of Jamcity Rock, who I go back to back with on Thursday nights, to get the scoop as to how reggae became such a big thing at the station.

“Once reggae was on the air, it just took off, and it was a way to stay connected to people – down in Jamaica and all over.”

Duprex has had his show, Jamcity Rock, on Thursdays from 6-9 PM for 14 years, and keeps a musical focus on the local scene and undisputed classics in the genre. One of the artists Duprex has supported on his show, who was also in the studio on Saturday, was Germantown artist Danny Roots.

Roots was born in Jamaica, grew up in East Flatbush Brooklyn, and made his way to Philly some years ago. He opened up on his musical upbringing to me, and recalled buying his first record, Dr. No Go, in Jamaica for 13 shillings and 6 pence.

This short blog post doesn’t come close to doing justice to the amazing work that these DJ’s have put in connecting the Caribbean community of West Philly through the thousands of hours they’ve logged on-air. If you’re ever looking to learn more about the genre, check out our summer schedule, tune into a reggae show, and call our studio to send BIGUPS to our amazing selectors.

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Concert Review/Interview: tUnE-yArDs with Sylvan Esso @ Union Transfer (June 15, 2014)

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By Esmail Hamidi

On Sunday, June 15th, I was given the incredible opportunity to see tUnE-yArDs and Sylvan Esso at Union Transfer. While it was not the only musical endeavor I had involved myself in that weekend -the previous night had been defined by an excursion to the Great Indoors in West Philly to see PILE and others, and the afternoon I helped out Nick Myers with putting Tweens on our airwaves – it was tUnE-yArDs! Nobody can beat the bizarre reputation of Merrill Garbus and her merry band. Since 2009, Garbus has been making music and touring relentlessly. The consensus among my friends was that it kind of had to be seen to be believed.

Before the show, I was also invited to interview Sylvan Esso, who were opening on this tour. The first listen won me over. Despite being almost entirely electronic, Sylvan Esso’s music sounds human to me. From a more technical standpoint, the production value is high. Amelia’s soprano is layered and complemented by the high level of deep bass in all of their songs. I struggle to pick out a structure in their songs, but that’s not a bad thing. They ebb and flow organically. The lyrics are conversational, and definitely have a stream-of-consciousness feel to them.

When I first met them, it was clear that Nick and Amelia make an extraordinary creative team. They welcomed me into their dressing room with smiles. There were moments during the interview where I definitely thought they were messing with me, the strapping young music journalist, but I was so okay with that. It was a pleasure to get to know their creative sides.

I’ll shut up now. Here’s the best chunks of the interview:

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Concert Review: Needle Points @ Golden Tea House (May 22, 2014)

By Esmail Hamidi

If you’re a punk kid from Philadelphia, chances are you know of the Golden Tea House. Several nights a week, people from far and wide flock to this oasis of good times and cheap, all-ages, relateable music. The kitchen is where it all goes down. Bands set up opposite the stove, the refrigerator, the microwave, and the audience. Bring earplugs, because the PA is terrible. If you by chance forget them, the door guy probably has some spares, but be chill about it.

The illustrious House has been holding shows since at least 2012, which is grandfatherly in punk years. That whole time, it’s been cursed by terrible, oblivious writings about it (the article about DIY venues on Myspace is a glaring example). That said, here’s my shot.

Last Thursday, I went out to see Pujol, Needle Points,  Ruby Buff, and The No-No’s. It was a curious bill, for sure. The No-No’s were first on for their first show ever- trading virtuosity for attitude and energy. The pint-sized girl lead singer yelled about all kinds of things. The drummer was loose and liberal with tempo and the dual guitars sounded like unhealthy chainsaws, but watching them was the most punk thing I did all week. They played a song called “I Wanna Hit My Head On The Radio,” which kinda rules. Seeing them made me want to start a band like them.

Ruby Buff took the form of a power trio taking cues from powerpop, post-punk, and other twinkly guitar music. They were really tight, and they had a singing drummer who got the job done.  Their guitarist looks a lot like the guitarist from another great band, The Joint Chiefs of Math. They might be the same person, but my cursory internet research appears to indicate otherwise.

Needle Points appeared in the kitchen dressed in full psychedelic garb, to the delight of the modest Thursday night crowd. There was glitter, leopard print, eyeliner, and tribal paint. They truly pulled out all the stops. As an ensemble, they are an experience – two standing drummers playing a hodgepodge of random drums and cymbals, fuzz bass, slapback guitar, and a howling, possessed lead singer evoking equal parts Iggy Pop,  Peter Zaremba, Syd Barrett, and Sky Saxon. All of this stews together into something that will make you dance your ass off.

They aren’t just some imitation revival act – I find that they bring an addictive energy and originality to live psychedelic garage music. I don’t know how these beautiful people found each other, but they did, and the results, in the form of Needle Points, are exquisite. I hate to attach something so immaterial as the beauty of Needle Points to material goods, but you should get their self-released record on your turntable soon because it rips. If you’re too cheap for that, get a very solid approximation of their live set and “studio” work from their live set on WKDU (see below).

Now, full disclosure, I had to leave before Pujol played, but they are worth mentioning. To me, their recordings sound like Wavves’ second record and Diarrhea Planet – straight ahead rock’n’roll out of Nashville with hipster tendencies and a rough, self-deprecating voice. Their new record, titled Kludge, is worth checking out.

Sorry for no pictures. I was too busy rockin’ out.

Be sure to check out our live in-studio set with Needle Points!

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Needle Points Live In-studio

Click below to hear a live session we did with Philly-based psychedelic experience Needle Points in April!

“Let the boogie lick your lips. Let the jangle, shake your soul. Let the light shine on your third eye. And may your visions bring you back to love. Love which is…. Needle Points.” 

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by | May 28, 2014 · 10:56 am