Last weekend, heavy disappointment and heartbreak fell upon Phish fans like a dark cloud as the band’s highly anticipated festival, Curveball, was canceled due to health concerns beyond the band’s control. With so many fans traveling to Watkins Glen, NY from near and far—not to mention months of planning by saving for tickets, time off from work, figuring out the best way to get to the venue, how to camp or where to stay, as well as a year of preparation by the band itself—it was shocking to learn the fate of the festival.
Once the cancellation announcement was made, fans were left figuring out their next move. Should they return home? Possibly camp in a nearby area since they’ve already got the gear and the time off? Should they just travel and see the local sights? The options were endless but one thing was for sure: most were starved for live music. Where there’s a need, there’s someone in motion trying to fill that void. Cue Tony Scavone, owner and founder of Disc Jam Music Festival, and property owner Joe Schenk. Together they jumped into action and worked tirelessly throughout the night to come up with a game plan to “save Curveball” and host a live music camping event within driving distance of Watkins Glen.
In the wee hours of the morning, the pop-up festival known as Knuckleball began to take shape. Working in tandem with Purple Pig Music Festival, Scavone and his team secured grounds in Naples, New York, for this last minute event to happen. With swift action, word of mouth spread quickly once this alternative festival was posted on social media sites, allowing stranded attendees an option to catch live music not far from the Curveball grounds.
One band in particular, The New Motif, based out of Cape Cod, MA, was put on high alert by Scavone’s staff member, Greg Visci, and advised to stay by the phone to await the green light and head out once grounds were secured. That call came the next morning. Like many other bands attending Curveball as fans, The New Motif was planning to do improvised sets within the festival campgrounds but that came to a crushing halt after the cancellation was announced. With a renewed sense of providing a release to music-starved fans, the band grabbed their gear, packed their vehicles and drove the eight hours, finally arriving around 1 am just as Character Zero was wrapping up. Headlining both nights, The New Motif was unstoppable as they reached new levels playing to a spirited crowd well into the wee hours.
Vendors, food trucks, fans, musicians, helping hands, kind folks, children and lovers of life made their way to the site to when the festival cancellation made a curveball but didn’t ground live music from happening that weekend. It goes to show that a terrible situation can be turned into a magical moment in time that will not be forgotten by attendees for years to come. Yet another reason that humans are downright awesome and can overcome when darkness appears to shut out the light.
On the second day of the festival, fans continued to pour in and were thankful to get their fill of live music after striking out with Curveball. Over 1,000 people made their way to the pop-up festival and danced the weekend away. In addition to The New Motif and Character Zero, the full line-up of music included the following bands: TNM, William Thompson Funk Experiment, Electro Politics, Acid Raindance, Shaba Duza, Stereo Nest, ILAS live, Mint Intelligence, Prop Lyds, and SolarPlexus. After the pop-up festival ended, fans took to social media to send out notes of praise and thanks:
You guys crushed Knuckleball with the fierceness! You made so many people happy. We all thank you from the bottom of our purple Phish hearts! — Haley Rotter
Words can’t even describe what happened this past weekend. The mood after the bad news was “we’re already here and packed with supplies, so let’s party!” How these people were able to pull something like this off I will never know, but I am so grateful that they did! The mood around the campsites was awesome and the vibes from the music were incredible. How we were able to witness such great musicians as Character Zero, The William Thompson Funk Experiment, and especially The New Motif is beyond me. So for all the sadness of missing out on something, I was one of a small group that was able to witness something truly amazing! Great job Tony and friends and I look forward to this again! — Paul Prisco
All these Magnaball posts showing up in my history feed the past couple days are not making the cancellation of Curveball last weekend any easier. Thankfully, there was Knuckleball (big ups to Tony Scavone & all the rest of the Disc Jam & Purple Pig krewes for their quick & responsive prowess), where the vibes to keep on keeping on were strong! Made quite a few new friends, discovered new bands (The New Motif needs to get they asses down here to show Philly what they got!), and basked in the kind, collective glory of a nomadic pop-up community that refused to be defeated. — Michael Kinsley
Knuckleball saved our souls. — Zoe Burghard
The New Motif – “Whirlwind” – Knuckleball 2018
[Video: The New Motif]
Words by Sarah Bourque.
Special thanks to Greg Myette for details regarding this story as well as 215Music for use of their photographs.