Review by Satellite Man, Dizzasta, & Patrice Noelle | Photos by Ranchsauce & Hernan Matamoros
After last year’s hiatus, excitement for The Big Up was brewing with a plethora of heady condiments. A solid lineup and a new location exponentially multiplied by the attendance of some OG Use Your Head characters (including LiS founders Dizzasta and Ranchsauce) all equated to a fine recipe for the weekend. Not to mention Dyaphanoize‘s cross country trip strapped with all the Renegade Rage Stage equipment – this was shaping up to be an old school Lost in Sound throwdown. Upon arrival, real estate was at a premium to say the least. We opted to camp in the woods for obvious purposes, but holy shit did we ever have to work for it. Multiple heavy and humid journeys to the car got me worn out before the first set of toe drags had even begun. Once we got our little slice of paradise (more like a small corner of rocky, twiggy earth), the set up ensued and our weekend had officially begun.
Once the campsites were set, the stress was subdued, and the excitement took hold, we were blessed with a lovely little surprise to kick off the weekend’s debaucherous music marathon. A last minute cancellation gave Lost in Sound’s homie Supersillyus the chance to melt some faces. We had a strong inkling that he would find his way behind the decks at some point, but we were beyond ecstatic for our first set to be in the upper echelon of weirdness. Other than the missing element of flippin’ flapajcks (due to last minuteness), Rob hit the spot downside up, upside backwards, and right side out – crushing the boundaries of IDM. He left the crowd salivating for his next appearance playing guitar in Space Jesus’ Live Band during Saturday’s late night extravaganza!
With a rainbow umbrella, 5lb bag of Willy Wonka sweets, a ninja-ed in bottle of prosecco, and the likes of six lovely ladies, we floated on over to lespecial who were all set to blow up the Main Stage and make their third Big Up appearance, proceeding Dopapod (also veteran Upstronauts). I have seen lespecial – a lot – and time after time the trio has delivered fresh, live and improv-heavy performances (especially in regards to their familiar hits), with a unique blend of sound combining everything from experimental glitch funk to beat driven world fusion to no rules rock. lespecial crushed track after track, including personal favorite/popular set list pick, “Gypsy Joint,” and by that point the the candy was flowing freely from the rainbow umbrella for all the sweet peas in attendance to enjoy. lespecial also rocked a new original, “Thought Police,” and “Southbound Pachyderm” by Primus. By the time the set was drawing to a close with “Sweet Pea,” the trio was joined on stage by Rob Compa, the guitarist from Dopapod and the only band member from which lespecial had never jammed with live before. It was definitely a (le)special treat to watch these musicians happily jam out together, and it was really fulfilling to dance around so many other people getting down to one of our favorite bands at such a prime time at a festival; it felt right.
Subsequently, Dopapod threw down an ill funk-rock set, and the crowd continued to rock out at the Main Stage.
Some highlights from the first night’s dance tent obviously include Higher Organix, their first set of many considering it’s their festival! (And once again a huge thanks to the gang for putting on such a fantastic weekend!!!) Sometimes I am baffled at the energy they display, raging through multiple sets in between working their asses off putting on the festival for our pleasure and enjoyment! And Higher Organix music is anything but a performance you can take a break during. All improv jam music with roots in metal, jam bands, classical, and electronic – these guys rip it tight. Extremely cohesive for the fury Jules and Brian spin up, concocting a rhythm section that is impossible to ignore.
Providing our late night set breaks was Ian Stewart, who originally started at The Big Up as a helping hand the first year, and has now become a staple musical performer, as himself and with other acts such as Eitch (set to appear this weekend of course). There were repeat acts all over the weekend’s schedule, and Thursday definitely felt like a warm up homage to what has become a special weekend to many. After a year’s hiatus, Thursday’s selected acts tickled the attendees hearts and toes just enough to get them tingling, amping us up for a smashing weekend and incredible Friday to boot.
A noteworthy shout-out to a very special act hailing from north of the border, these guys never cease to amaze when it comes to their wild, entertaining, and sometimes creepy stage attire! Morphing themselves from humans into personas they call Dynamo and Bad Nut Beats, the crew was ecstatic when we found ourselves dancing the Main Stage field during their daytime set. For these guys to earn Main Stage Friday at 2:30pm honors what was huge for them and ultimately gave them some much needed recognition and notoriety amongst new and old fans alike! The turnout was great, and we couldn’t be happier for these two awesome guys, Brad and Ben. Whether you were there or not, make sure to look into their recent album release, In Dog We Trust – Ep 1!
Friday was quickly and effortlessly turning into the silliest day for many of the Use Your Head crew. Chameglio the inflatable Chameleon had to be put on a leash for our journey to the car where food and rage gear awaited. We made a pit-stop to see Spundose at the Woods Stage, where his psy-glitch-tribal bass had the weirdness churning in the crowd. Of course, we kicked it up a few thousand notches when Bignick performed a sacred ritualistic sacrifice. Pulling Chameglio to the very front of the crowd, right in front of Spundose, he drew a sacred geometric shape, and dumped a whole bottle of Dark Tanning Oil on Chameglios head. The crowd erupted in a joyous mixture of applause and laughter, so we inevitably had no choice but to PUT-IT-UP!
We finally made it to the car nearly forgetting the purpose of this journey in the first place… AH, captain-edition Use Your Head Shpongloid font pins!! The hot humidity did not make searching for a small bag of pins in a fully packed car an easy task for Sir McSamuelsauce. Once they were in hand, it took us an hour and a half to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. A lot of laughs, a lot of smokes, and a few apologies later, we realized we had to get back to the music – Chameglio was getting antsy. We kept calm however, constantly reminding each other that we could rest legs until the epic Gaudi > Thriftworks.
To prevent cramping and to keep the weekend festivities versatile, live disco orchestra was just what the dancing Dr. ordered! Brooklyn based seventeen piece band, Escort, had a large portion of the crowd getting down to the boogie woogie!! The current disco (and all the subgenres thereof, ie: nu-disco, disco-house, etc.) wave seems to be picking up steam like a tsunami. And the people who matter most – the fans – are riding it as if they were Kelly Slater in his final surfing championship contest! It doesn’t contain the “drops” that we so consistently crave, however it’s extremely happy and groovy electronic music. What stuck out in my mind was the wild, racy, fantastic and beautiful singer, Adeline Michele. Dressed like a character out of Star Trek Deep Space Nine, her voice was spot on and fit perfectly with the tunes. The multi-talented front woman also rocked out on a bass guitar. The vibes were cheerful and the crowd was satisfied, however it was time for one last preparation time before the segue of the month!
Gaudi, the eccentric and ageless producer, who has gained quite the following at a number of west coast festivals, was probably the LiS crew’s most anticipated act of the weekend. With his eyes shaded and his unruly hair pulled back by a headband, the energized Italian native played the music he was feeling without much worry to how the crowd would react. He made sure we were well informed that there was no computer accompanying him on stage. While this may have seemed less impressive to the uninformed, those of us with a distinguished auditory palette were mesmerized by the performance. To say Gaudi is an accomplished producer/dj doesn’t scratch the surface of what this Italian Rasta Don does on stage. A true magician behind the decks, he went from strumming his air guitar to dancing on the table, to showing off his Godliness by doing a couple two-three karate chops on a Theremin. After a super heavy take of “Jah No Partial,” Gaudi dropped an expected yet sublimely on point Bob Marley track, got back on the table, pulled out a joint and threw it blindly into the crowd to close his set.
There was an overload of anticipation to see Thriftworks, especially for us east coast LiS’ers. I am normally a big fan of his creep-step west coast bass crunch, and while the music itself was great as expected, there were a few elements of his set that made it exceptionally average. The first drawback was the volume – TURN IT UP! This seemed to be an issue for the Woods Stage as well. Secondly, the tent was drastically over lit for the majority of the festival. When you have someone like Thriftworks playing a late night set, the venue has to be as dark, intimate, and as creepy as possible to obtain optimal thrift-ness. I still managed to crouch low, put the hood up, and do the shady dance through the crowd. A few of our favorites he played where “Terry – D,” “Smokey the Bear,” and a personal favorite (which he did play if I am not mistaken) “Greenie Beanies.”
Hanging out in the main field, as this was our last day to participate in such shenanigans (and for some of us, last day of summer), we got down to rock and jam music of all styles. However, for the LiS crew these times are usually reserved for silly made up games, pranks on passerby’s, bonding with our loved ones a.k.a. blowup animals (please welcome Chameglio to the family with Big Up 2013 as his birthright), and show-and-tell time with the crowd, because as of this point we all should be at our pinnacle point of weird! In this instance, we even played with the Hemlock Hollow Farm OG, the billy goat! The one time we made our way from the relaxing trading post we had established towards the back of the field, to the stage (Spaceball City Tent) was for Arpetrio. Sort of a stripped down STS9 sound, this trio is from Tennessee. About half of the crew had heard of them, and the other half had not. Based on that set, that other half will now be paying more attention if they see that name again. An overall good performance, it was nice to getUP front and dance!
Once the night fell, you could tell that the energy had kicked into overdrive, which is a relatively normal occurrence on the last night of a festival. Oprah’s spaceship to the moon was in full flight, as the freaks were out and ready to get down to what we thought was the best late night run of the weekend. We warmed up to Eitch at the Woods Stage, where a beautiful Hannah Smith laid down some fairytale vocals with the impressive support of Ian Stewart behind the decks. We kept it moving to the catch the end of Normal Instruments, where the hodge podge of superstar talent tore that tent to shreds. I knew the gathering of such folk would produce a good product, but even as an indifferent fan to jam bands. They threw it down heavy and proper, a perfect closing set for Jules Jensen, the mastermind behind The Big Up who raised a glass and dedicated a toast to all the peeps that made it happen.
It took a few minutes for me to gather my wits after Normal Instruments; I wasn’t quite ready for the Beats Anitque‘ing that was about to ensue. We’ve all seen them a couple two-three times so we decided to grab our signature piece of real-estate on the hill and catch the show from there. It didn’t take long until that gypsy bass got my tired legs gyrating again. I spotted the “Put it Up” sign, front and center as expected, and weaved through a sea of freaks to get up close and personal with Zoe Jakes. My first Beats Antique set was at Camp 9 with the entire Use Your Head crew raging the sunny 1pm set in full effect. I have always been a fan of their live show and even after watching it progress over the years, part of me thought I had seen all there was to see. Not only was Zoe’s performance off the charts, but I finally got an answer as to why Beats Antique had been headlining so many festivals lately. They embraced the spotlight and put on by far the best performance of theirs I have seen in my days. I was anticipating the Zebra and Horse head routine, yet when it came out, it was still as bizarre as ever. They kept Gaudi’s Bob Marley tribute going as well, encoring with their take of “Satisfy my Soul,” a track on the very dope, very worthwhile Legends Remixed album.
After Eskmo‘s set, An-Ten-Nae was ready to take control. Some of us were indifferent to the west coast “Acid Crunk” sound while others had been gearing up all weekend. I was in the latter group, eager to see what this dude was all about. Being on the east coast all my life, anytime that west coast bass comes around, I’m down for rowdytown. The energy level went through the roof when he dropped one of his newest releases, “Raindrops on Roses,” which starts as a trippy as faux lyrical mashup of The Beatles and The Sound of Music. An-Ten-Nae’s swag was impossible to ignore with his handheld controller mixing tracks, leather jacket strapped, and his long curly hair with his hat down low. It fit quite well when he dropped his version of “Suavemente,” which really had us busting out the toe drags and Earth stomps – can’t say enough about how hot that track was – Put it Up!!!
As the sun began to dip up beneath the tree line, two of Lost in Sound’s musical family members and 2/3’s of Orchard Lounge, Bethany Briscoe Lokken and Spencer Lokken arrived backstage. It is always refreshing to be in the presence of Orchard Lounge, one of the most genuine and loved musical acts in America today. OL are often the most fashionable people in a room and at 5AM Sunday at the Big Up, Spencer and Bethany rocked matching blue business jackets and white tees, while Bethany sported the usual aviators and some funky pants resembling trippy wallpaper. The couple was halfway through a four day run which included Whippersnap Festival (IL), Summerset Festival (WI), The Big Up (NY), and finally a boat cruise set in Boston the following night. “Last night we played between Big Boi and Big Gigantic at Summerset Festival in Wisconsin,” a jetlagged but grinning Bethany said to Ranchsauce.
The sunrise set that followed was undoubtedly the most playful and positive energy emitting set of The Big Up Festival. The festival production staff had been working throughout the night to not only produce the late night tent, but to also begin the process of breaking down. It was great to see many of them taking in the morning sun and relaxing beats with a sense of accomplishment in their eyes. The Egg, An–ten–nae, ConnetICON and a number the other acts that played that weekend traversed the crowd, greeting their friends and fans. Bethany and Spencer were swapping time running solo on the decks and dumping nu-disco, house, easy listening, and a mixture of chilled out remixes. Despite OL’s lack of instruments, their set had one of the most full sounds all weekend. It was inspiring watching them dance around the stage together, stealing kisses and providing each other with support. “So we were supposed to stop at 6:30, but we will play til 6:45 if that’s alright with you,” Spencer said nonchalantly, already knowing our answer. It was a beautiful way to round out the Big Up 2013.
It was really refreshing to see far less trash strewn across the ground this year. The greening initiatives were a hit; I saw a couple of individuals scouring the grounds at various times picking up cigarette butts and garbage, resulting in much cleaner grounds. Some drawbacks included the food venders, which were sub-par, with limited vegetarian choices and an overabundance of fried, unhealthy options. And although the stages looked great (especially the Woods Stage), I was disappointed by the lack of visual art, as well as live artists present this year. Even though the rain was largely responsible at the start of the weekend for the absence of set-ups, few were spotted by the end (especially in the woods camping, which provided a perfect blank canvas for VJ’s and proper inspiration for live artists). After traveling to many “boutique” festivals where an emphasis is placed on visual art, it would have been nice to see the trend continue more so at Big Up. But overall, the Big Up remains one of our favorite festivals on the east coast, with incredible music and true family vibes. An exceptionally awesome time was had by all who gathered from near and far to make the Big Up a highlight of the summer, which it without a doubt was.