Music Reviews — 30 July 2012
Catalpa NYC Music Festival at Randalls Island: A LocalBozo.com Concert Review

Catalpa NYC Music Festival
Randalls Island, New York, NY
July 28th, 2012 (Day 1 Coverage)

Concert Review: Catalpa NYC Music Festival at Randalls Island

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Anyone who tells you that the best music festivals eminate in Europe or in California isn’t necessarily the most credible source. New York City is quickly catching up to these popular fest destinations with its own take on the weekend long celebration of music, art, self-expression, and of course fun. Enter the inaugural Catalpa NYC Music Festival, two days packed with some of the hottest names in rock, funk, hip-hop, and experimentation. All of the action took place on the much beloved urban oasis turned music venue that is Randalls Island. The LocalBozo.com crew made our way to the island for the Saturday portion of the festival, where rock music dominated the day.

It’s true that heavy rain fell steadily throughout a good portion of the afternoon, yet with nasty weather looming over at all times it barely impacted the crowd on hand’s enthusiasm. The sprawling “Catalpa” grounds were filled with innovative and unique ways for concert goers to truly experience the day. “The Church of Sham Marriages” saw a pimp pastor conducted tons of sham marriages throughout the weekend inside of an ornate blow up church. The timing was perfect for us to walk over just in time to see two smiling and laughing Irish woman tie the knot under the blow up church’s archway. After the wedding, group photos were taken and as a cherry on top the woman threw the bouquet to a group of equally excited woman. Heineken and Absolut Vodka stepped up as sponsors with specialized bars selling their boozy drinks. Heinkein’s doubled as a walk in cooler, with a club like vibe inside equipped with plush couches and chairs providing not only a perfect respite for the humidity, but a green glowing venue to dance and imbibe. Meanwhile, Absolut’s Art Bar featured an outdoorsy art theme allowing guests to sip on vodka cranberry drinks, they could also watch as artists designed original pieces using the signature Absolut bottle as a canvas. After taking in the sites and some adult beverages, it was time to get down on the music which was Catalpa’s true drawing card.

 

With a two day festival, the organizers would have been better served evening out the lineups of both days. Much of a top heavy Saturday featured the likes of virtual unknown artists alternating between the three stages, while Sunday’s lineup was stacked from top to bottom- which might help explain the rather underwhelming attendence during the afternoon of Day 1. But just as quickly as the rain began, it subsided and said act of nature gave us the official thumbs up that it was time to get our rocking on. Our first notable treat for the ears came in the form of the Chicago-based jam band, Umphrey’s McGee during the first of the band’s two hour long sets on the Jeep stage. The boys from the windy city are cult favorites on the jam scene, hence they drew a loyal crowd with their signature two handed horns signal raised proudly into the sky. Lead singer and guitarist Jake Cinninger took his front and center stage position greeted the crowd not by a verbal welcome but a balls-out jam to kick off their lengthy performance. Bassist, Ryan Stasik donning a olde timey mustache and pseudo-mullet caught the groove synching up to Cinninger with ease rounding it all out.

The first set packed in the jams as well as a lion’s share of the band’s signature tunes. In other words, these guys were really working for their supper. Tracks like “Walletsworth,” “Comma Later,” and “Nemo,” gave fans of the band exactly what they came to this rainy island for, recieving the gift of a true full length performance without letting festival time constraints get in the way. It would be nearly impossible for these guys to play only for an hour, when they are known for spacey jams infused with a little hard rock experimentation. Along with their rich combination of originals, we were treated to exciting covers of Led Zeppelin’s “The Song Remains the Same” and The Who’s “Baba O’Riley,” a feast for the ears of non-fans checking out Umphrey’s McGee for the very first time.

 

Concert Review: TV On The Radio at Catalpa NYC Music Festival

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Across the now very muddy field sandwiched between Umphrey’s’ two jam heavy sets, we would see the first of two major acts headlining the Catalpa main stage. Shortly after whatever was left of the Saturday afternoon sun descended, Brooklyn indie rockers TV On The Radio took the stage. The hometown boys didn’t waste a moment to get the wet, yet packed crowd moving with their signature sound combination of punk, rock, and R&B grooves. Lead singer Tunde Adebimpe used the huge stage to show off his impressive pipes, while rhythmically jumping with hands raised high to the smorgasbord of melody. On the other hand, guitarist Kyp Malone kept a cool focus parking himself in front of the mic and his intricate set of pedals to cast sonic riffs and other level loops out into the sea of humanity, using his pink six string axe.

TVOTR could have easily played for hours without objection as the crowd wildly rocked right along with them. The tight duration of their setlist however did nothing to hinder the band’s performance, as they seamlessly rotated cuts between their four studio albums, eventually closing it all out with “Wolf Like Me” from their breakout album, “Return To Cookie Mountain.” Catalpa was our first time seeing these eclectic rockers live, but we were blown away by their musicianship; a band finally worthy of the lofty praise heaped upon them.

Concert Review: The Black Keys at Catalpa NYC Music Festival

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At precisely 9:30pm, immensely popular band The Black Keys hit the Catalpa main stage as the day’s headliners. Before the first riff or drum beat was invoked the packed crowd provided the audio with insanely loud cheers and a raucous level volume of applause. The garage rock revivalist duo lead by guitarist and vocalist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney humbly took their stage position launching directly into “Howlin’ for You.” Hearing these guys kick off the set with this mega-hit was a highly pleasant surprise. While touring, The Black Keys utilize a backing band in order to round out their sound for large settings such as Catalpa, but we can honestly say that two men with two instruments provided the brunt of the evening’s rocking riffs. Each track was played with laser-like precision replicating the band’s successful studio releases. 

Just when we thought the rain had stopped for the day, it started falling yet again. But this time no one seemed to care. The nasty weather acted as a backdrop, simply providing everyone in attendance with a wet and wild platform for dancing. The “Keys” provided a killer soundtrack for getting soaked and loving it. Auerbach, dressed in a Canadian Tuxedo (Denim head to toe) used his guitar like a sword, battling it out like a Rock N’ Roll knight. His expressions were other worldly, almost playing the riffs along with his mouth. The band’s most recent album and certified popular juggernaut “El Camino” got plenty of love as the boys busted out major league hits like “Dead and Gone” and “Gold on the Ceiling.” From our viewing perspective it didn’t appear that Auerbach and Carney signaled each other much throughout the set- rather the artists were clearly capable of feeling each other out throughout the duration of each song, knowing just the right moment to bust out something sick or to ultimately wrap it altogether. Once the last drum was smashed and string plucked it was time to head off into the night to the waiting fleet of buses. We may have been wringing out our socks, but that could never take away from the sonic ringing of pure rock fury in our brains and memories.

- Jay Rubin &  Jane Van Arsdale

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