Promoter Tony Scavone and his team did it again. The eighth year of the Disc Jam Music Festival, with four nights of music, camping, and disc golf, was held at the majestic and bucolic Gardner’s Farm in Stephentown, New York, from June 7th to 10th, and the festival delivered a premiere summer music experience.
Disc Jam Music Festival is centrally located only 30 minutes from Albany; 1.5 hours from Hartford; 2.5 hours from Boston, Providence, and New Haven; and 3 hours from New York City and Burlington, Vermont. Scavone proudly stated about the ideal location, “I truly believe that we have been blessed with the perfect festival grounds, beautiful grass beneath our feet, surrounded by rolling hills with picturesque views in all directions.”
Over 100 performers shared their magic, with the 2018 lineup being one of the deepest of the summer and featuring varied storied acts impressive both big and small. Headlined by jamtronica trailblazers, Lotus, the soiree also presented funk act The Motet, unique outfit Beats Antique, and New Orleans own Galactic. Supergroup Electron shared in the jams as well as Disco Biscuits guitarist, Jon “The Barber” Gutwillig, who performed an acoustic solo set. Jam musings were well represented by acts like Kung Fu, Aqueous, and Twiddle side project Gubbulidis—all booked to set the grooves straight.
The strength of the festival is the abundance of powerful and talented smaller ascending bands including Ghost Light, Cousin Earth, The Mushroom Cloud, Ghost Note, Moon Hooch, West End Blend, Floodwood, Soul Monde, The Nth Power, Yes Darling, and The Taz Band. Artists at large included the talented Honeycomb, the Turkuaz horns, and Turkuaz vocalist Shira Elias.
The festival experience was rounded out by craft vendors, live painting, a Disc Jam golf tournament, extremely gifted flow tribe dancers, extensive vending, yoga workshops, and an intense daily late-night silent disco. Through word of mouth, the festival has become such a destination location that this year sold out!
You can check out a listing of four of favorite sets plus highlights from Disc Jam below.
Thursday, June 7th – Cousin Earth – Innova Stage
Featuring, Joey Calfa (ukulele/vocals), Nate Searing (drums), Corey J. Feldman (ubass/vocals), Tara Lawton (vocals/melodica/keys), and Terry Brennan (vocals/percussion), Cousin Earth is unique because ukelele is the focus rather than a traditional guitar set up. Self-described by Calfa as a band that is “Wacky, fun and weird,” Brennan’s wide vocal range and Lawton’s fiery intensity are a complimentary package of soothing harmonies.
Playing in support of the recently dropped Human Music record, they are a special experience due to the eccentric and original style and flair, including unique time signatures and song structure. Feldman is a talented and versatile player who sometimes switches with Calfa and plays the ukulele. Calfa is an undeniable focal point—a master shredder who will make one’s draw drop. The highlight of the set was “Laser Beams”, a cut from the new album. It takes you on a trippy musical journey to unknown lands with a catchy trance that is inspiring. Cousin Earth is an ascending band that one should watch and expect great things from in the immediate future.
Setlist: Cousin Earth | Disc Jam 2018 | Stephentown, NY | 6/7/2018
Set: Womp (w/ Natalie Portman Rap), Alive, Super Fun Laser Beams, I Got This, Blisters
[Photo: Amanda Kaye Photography]
Thursday, June 7th – Gubbulidis – Innova Stage
Gubbulidis is a duo from Castleton, Vermont, that features Zdenek Gubb (bass/vocals) and Mihali Savoulidis (acoustic guitar/vocals) from the quickly ascending jam band Twiddle. Gubbulidis has been a successful Twiddle side project for years, and they have secured a long-running reesidence at Nectar’s in Burlington. They can play a vast array of exciting covers, but it is the bevy of selections covered from the Twiddle canon in stripped-down fashion that is the treat.
Performing one day after his 32nd bday, Mihali sang with clarity and purpose. Even though he has vocally projected these songs hundreds of times, he always has a knack that makes you feel like it’s the first. Gubb adds bombastic bass to the proceedings and a low-end that suitably matches Mihali’s noodling on his axe. Mihali is a master storyteller with rich and vital lyrics that have no rival currently in the jam scene.
Without questions, the highlight was the Twiddle song package, “Apples”, which was fast and punchy; the conscious-minded, “Syncopated Healing”; and the epic opus, “White Light”, which put Mihali’s words directly into view. Honeycomb sat in with the band on a tune and the uber-talented horn player, Lee Ross, also made an appearance. More than any other set, copious amounts of patrons screamed every word in unison—the rabid, fervent, Twiddle fans always in purview.
Setlist: Gubbulidis | Disc Jam 2018 | Stephentown, NY | 6/7/2018
Set: Lost In The Cold, Every Soul, Round Here, Subconscious Prelude, Be There, Apples, White Light, Syncopated Healing
Saturday, June 9th – Ghost Light – L4LM Stage
Tommy Hamilton (Guitar/Vocals) and Holly Bowling (keys), Steve Lyons, Raina Mullen and Scotty Zwang (drums)
Tom Hamilton is known as the guitarist and vocalist for Joe Russo’s Almost Dead and American Babies, while Holly Bowling has carved out her success seemingly overnight due to her mesmerizing reinterpretations of Grateful Dead and Phish songs for classical piano. Watching Ghost Light is watching experts in improvisation. The group is currently playing the festival circuit after recently completing an extensive and successful spring tour, and they have a new album in the works.
Days prior to the festival, Hamilton and Bowling performed a show together at The Capitol Theatre covering Grateful Dead tunes, and the two are no strangers to each other’s talents. They know each other’s tendencies well, which makes the music seem flawlessly created and free flowing.
The set was full of band originals and palpable moments with the highlight of final songs being buoyed by the Turkuaz horns, which added depth of sound. Bowling always knew the right time to solo and the right time to fill. The music was joyous, the grooves were tight, and improvisation jams fiery.
Setlist: Ghost Light | Disc Jam 2018 | Stephentown, NY | 6/9/2018
Set: Come Apart >untitled (D Riff) > Come Apart, Diamond Eyes > I Dare You > Diamond Eyes, If You Want It (Title Unconfirmed) *> untitled (D Riff) * *with Turkuaz horns
[Photo: Amanda Kaye Photography]
Saturday, June 9th – Lotus – L4LM Stage
Unlike their genre contemporaries, who they are consistently lumped in with, Lotus brings a more diverse and varied sound, as evidenced in the new repertoire of music released on the recent Eat the Light. A live touring juggernaut, formed in 1999 and hailing from their adopted home state of Colorado, they perform over 100 shows a year, complete with a stellar light show experience. With a beat and melody that is unpredictable and distinct, Lotus is jamtronica at its finest—a musical force known to pummel your senses and leave one gasping from air from the relentless euphoric grooves.
With an unpredictable pace and style, they share a unique sound with a slow build-up that ultimately leads to a monumental crescendo, which allows participants to bask in its afterglow. With sleek synth grooves and a multi-layered depth of sound, their unique musings are an experience all their own, and with no real band to adeptly compare them too.
Highlights included “Bellweather”, an exemplary opener as it demonstrated a band in full swing. The magical moment was unquestionably “Spiritualize”, which has become something of a band anthem. The hook is contagious, elevating, and ultra-euphori,c and they delivered a powerful one for the masses at the festival’s main stage. A mainstay at music festivals, they have appeared at a plethora including Bonnaroo, Outside Lands, Ultra, and Electric Forest. Lotus is the bonafide leader of the jamtronica scene and those in attendance saw indisputable evidence as to why.
Setlist: Lotus | Disc Jam 2018 | Stephentown, NY | 6/7/2018
Set: Bellwether > Hammerstrike, Space in Between > Bellwether, Bug Love, Inspector Norse > Contagion > Spiritualize, Pachyderm, Livingston Storm, Eats the Light, Sunrain
[Photo: Amanda Kaye Photography]
Other Festival Highlights
Dopapod’s Rob Compa joined Space Carnival for a take on Smashmouth’s “All Star”. Shwizz shared an intense set marking the end of fan favorite Frankie Coda’s (bassist) tenure with the band. CT’s The Mushroom Cloud (now a quartet) opened up the main stage on Thursday with relentless tasty jams. Honeycomb sat-in with Moon Hooch. Newcomers Cypher out of Buffalo made a statement with their tight Phish-inspired jams.
Representing the music of the Grateful Dead, the Bearly Dead played three flawless sets days in a row. Matt Richards tickled the ivories proper with jam outfit Formula 5. The Funky Dawgs delivered a poignant cover of Bill Wither’s “Lovely Day.” 15-year-old Brandon “Taz” Niderauer shared astonishing guitar chops with his band and a sat-in with Ghost Note.
Consider the Source shared an incendiary secret set at an RV on Friday night before their performance on Saturday. Aqueous showed the reasons why there are growing in popularity so rapidly and are the next generation of jam band to take cover. Will Hanza and Escaper welcomed Shira Elias for a sexy cover of Donna Summer’s “Love to Love You Baby. Dopapod’s wizard on the keys, Eli Winderman, joined Kung Fu and attacked a cover of Queen’s “We are the Champions”. Shira joined The Motet for an old-school Prince tribute that was pure fire and a rendition of Chaka Khan’s “I Feel For You.”
The secret set of the weekend was Octave Cat! Disco Biscuits fans were satiated by the inclusion of a late-night Barber acoustic set. West End Blend continued to win over new fans with a powerful funky set. Nikki Glaspie proved that she may be the best drummer in the scene with her appearance with The Nth Power. The DJs were rockin’ so hard in the woods that the sub-woofer on the monster Hennessey Sound System got blown! (It was immediately fixed.)
When all is said and done, what makes Disc Jam so special are the new friendships that are forged over a serving of an exquisite musical dish, with indelible memories created only to be remembered for years to come. Check out the full gallery below, courtesy of Scott Harris Photography.