Festivals

How To Handle Bad Luck: A Recap of The Inaugural Hudson Music Project



July 30th, 2014

by

Growing up, my father would constantly tell me how life presents good people shitty situations. He didn’t try to sugar-coat it; he told me how the world works and made sure that I understood there was nothing I could do about it. He also told me, however, that it’s my responsibility to “make the best out of my shitty situations.” I’ve always tried to follow this advice: when I lost my wallet at an Adventure Club show two years ago, I refused to let it ruin my night. At a Savoy show this past February, I lost my car key and had to wait outside in the cold for 2 hours, but I tried my hardest to turn it into an adventure.
The Hudson Music Project was a true test of how well one person can make the best of an unfortunate situation.

 

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The weeks leading up to the HMP were full of anticipation and speculation. The set times caused headaches for some and excitement for others. I, for one, researched social media night and day looking for information about the GriZ/Exmag/Big Gigantic possibilities, grasping for hints that they might join forces for a supergroup-esque performance. My friends and I brushed up on new albums that were being released and unknown artists that might have sets worth exploring. We stocked up on granola bars, pop tarts, baby wipes, and cigarettes, preparing for the 4 day marathon ahead.
Once we finally reached Saugerties on Thursday night, most of our planning proved to be for naught. Before heading to Winston Farms, we had to deal with Will Call. We had prepared well and got there early to calculate for problems. We weren’t prepared to have the volunteers kept in the dark as to where to pick up parking passes (the answer turned out to be “at the parking lot”…go figure.) But this was just a minor hiccup; this was nothing to be upset about at all. Getting into the festival itself proved to be a little more difficult. Thousands of people trying to enter the camping grounds from the north lot, lugging all of their gear and coolers in the sticky humidity, anxious and ready to set up… stuck behind each other and barely moving. Again, another minor inconvenience to be expected from a fledgling festival. Eventually, after maybe an hour of waiting in line and meeting new friends, we got to the front. Security gave us a brief pat-down, checked coolers, and let us through, into the “Bronx” (They separated the camping areas into 4 different ‘boroughs’…I thought that was pretty awesome).

 

Once my group of roughly 25 to 30 people were set up, the party began. It didn’t matter that it was 1 AM and it didn’t matter that we were all exhausted – we felt the need to meet our neighbors, who were all following our lead. This seemed to be a theme of the weekend: finding new friends and going as hard as possible. Bass music blasted through tiny portable speakers as people wandered the grounds like nomads, exploring the nooks and crannies of the place we would be calling home for the next three days. A friend and I actually managed to walk into the festival itself; most of the security personnel had been called to assist in getting the hundreds of people still left in parking lots through checkpoints, so the entrance to the festival itself was left open and unoccupied. I gotta say: seeing the tents and main stage at 3 in the morning before any acts had gone on was both eerie and ominous.
When Friday morning finally arrived, I woke up before most of my campsite had (around 8 AM). I decided to try to sneak in a shower before anyone woke up, being the clever man I am. As it turned out, there were no showers in the Bronx. I had to walk all the way to Queens (again, another minor inconvenience) to shower. By the time I got there, the line was, well, way too long. How does one make the best of this situation? By being smart! I walked back to the campsite, emptied one cooler into another, brought it up the hill to the water refill station, and brought the cooler full of fresh water back to the campsite to wash off! #HudsonProjectGenius.
Eventually the time came to finally enter the festival. We went in a little late due to the exhaustion from the night before, but we made sure not to miss Lindsay Lowend. I had personally never heard Lindsay Lowend’s music, but one of my goals of the weekend was to discover some new music. My goodness, was I missing out; the interesting blend of smooth and chill beats couldn’t have been a more perfect set to start the day with.

 

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Over the course of the day, I checked out a few more artists that I had never seen before. I checked out Audrey Napoleon at the Circus Tent as well as a small taste of Marco Benevito. Both sets were well done, keeping me moving for a few hours. I also squeezed in a main stage set by jam band Lettuce and a filthy trap tutorial from Keys N’ Krates before moving into the meat of my evening. I had never seen either Emancipator or Bro Safari before THP, so much of my day was spent with butterflies in my stomach and a desire to have the clock move just a little quicker. When I made my way to check out Emancipator at the Catskill Tent, a few of my friends went into fan-girl mode and rushed to the front of the stage while I hung back and grooved out. It was a solid set, but once again I had to migrate to the main stage for the Modest Mouse set. I expected more out of this set; their energy was very high, but there was something missing that I can’t quite put my finger on. It might be that the crowd was very energetic, but it might also be that they didn’t play their biggest songs for the first 45 minutes. I would’ve loved to stay and hear “Dashboard,” but my first Bro Safari set was waiting for me back at the Circus Tent.

 

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After meeting up with all the factions of my crew that had split up over the course of the day, we ventured into the tent. The bass punched me right in the face. The energy was tangible and the crowd was loving every drop, dancing and running the trap. Bro Safari played songs of his newest LP collaboration with UFO!, ‘Animal’, as well as dropping the heaviest and grimiest tracks in modern trap. I must say, when he dropped ‘Burn The Block’, I lost my shit. I had trap elbows banging left and right with no shame. The best part about the set? I knew the entire time that my favorite act of the entire weekend was on next: Savoy. Though I wrote a preview of their “Get Lazrd” tour this winter and saw them at the Irving Plaza show in February, their set at Hudson was just…so much better. Every song they played, every laser that pierced my face, every rib-breaking drop rocked me to my core. They played every track I wanted to hear, and more importantly, every track I wanted my friends who had never heard their material to hear. I couldn’t have asked for anything more perfect. Oh: Excision played right afterwards. That made it a little more perfect. Ending my day with Bro Safari, Savoy, and Excision was certainly a heavy way to end my Friday.

 

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Saturday morning I decided to stick to the plan: I woke up early, took a cold cooler shower, and ate a bunch of pop tarts to help my body recover from the hours of head banging I put myself through the previous day. I did, however, relax a little longer. I realized how expensive drinks were inside the festival grounds and, to save money, wanted to rock a better buzz before going in. So I sacrificed a few artists I had wanted to explore (including Twiddle and !!!) and entered just in time for another one of my most anticipated acts of the weekend, ExMag. When they came on stage, I kept my eyes open for either GriZ or Dom from Big Gigantic to come on stage. Sure enough, GriZ came on stage to rock the sax, accompanied by the sexy vocals of surprise guest Gibbz, who came front and center to add soul to what (I believe) was the most surprising set of the weekend. The rest of the day was a bit of a drunken blur leading up to the evening. I remember randomly ending up at the Catskill Tent to watch a bit of the Kap Slap set with a new friend and rocking out to a little of Rebelutions set, but none of it compares to what went down at the main stage for Big Gigantic.

 

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Every so often, you come across a set that transcends reality. It’s never just the music that creates a moment like this, but a combination of all the positive elements of a festival. The first thing you need is great music. Big G delivered with a funky, dank set full of new, unreleased music and old classics. You also need atmosphere to create the perfect moment. Dancing in an open field with your best crew surrounding you, looking over a sea of people with dozens upon dozens of totems bouncing to the beat definitely suffices as the perfect atmosphere for any electronic music fan. The final element is what transforms a great set into a legendary one, but rarely comes: magic. Something spontaneous and beautiful needs to happen to create the perfect moment. In my case, the magic happened when I locked eyes with my good friend, who I hadn’t seen in maybe 8 months and who took me to my first show, paired with a perfectly timed rain shower. The emotions that washed over me in the form of sheets of rain is, sadly, indescribable. I only wish that every music fan is privileged enough to experience an instant like I did.

 

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After Big G, our groups separated again. Many of my friends traveled to check out Matt & Kim, while others broke off to Conspirator. I, however, went with four friends to check out Jon Hopkins. His mystical set, filled with minimal progressive grooves & paired with flowing psychedelic visuals on stage created one trippy set. We left after a while to explore the fifth, unadvertised stage, the “New York” stage. It was a tent that was mostly empty for the weekend (from what I saw), but had broadcasted bits and pieces of the Brazil/Netherlands world cup match earlier in the day. There, we saw another new artist: DJ Dirty Looks. Although the crowd was small (no more than 50 people), he played a dope set, having future house and dark electro lock hands and bring us down the rabbit hole. Definitely give this guy a listen; the deep/future house sound is on the rise and this artist knows whats up.

 

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Then GRiZ came. As a precursor, it should be said that GRiZ was again, in my opinion, the best set of the weekend. Call me a sucker for saxophone, call me a fan-boy, call me whatever you want, but if a DJ can play Aerosmith’s ‘Dream On’ and the Isley Brothers’ ‘Shout,’ you’re doing something right. I don’t know how exactly to describe the magic of GRiZ’s set, but luckily, I don’t have to. A fan managed to catch much of the set on a mounted camera. Just keep your eyes out for the jellyfish. They were incredible.

 

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How does one follow-up a set like that? Ask Moby. He’s one of the godfathers of electronic music and knows his audience better than any artist I’ve seen. Although his set was entirely progressive house, it was a refined version of the commercial big room experiences many of us have grown tired of. After listening to his set, I was reminded of what progressive house is supposed to sound like. (It also brought back the fondest memories of his Mysteryland set from Memorial Day weekend this year).

 

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Then came Sunday. It started off very normal: me and a friend went into the festival early to catch The Floozies perform at the Circus Tent. They played some new music, including a teaser of a song they just made, temporarily dubbed ‘Outtie 550’ (let’s see if it stays that way). Then I went back to campsite to reconvene with my group, to find a birthday cake lit and my friends singing happy birthday to me. The feels were real; I may have secretly shed a tear of gratitude.

 

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Then it all went downhill. At this point, many of you readers have heard about the storm that occurred July 13th. Being there was a sobering experience. Between the announcement telling all visitors of the festival to evacuate to their vehicles that scared people into leaving, to the image of tents, canopies, and umbrellas being turned to waste by the relentless, aggressive downpour, to the petrified looks on campers faces as their belongings were ruined by rain and mud is something I hope none of you will have to witness. We tried to make the best of it as group; we huddled in wet chairs under drooping canopies drinking and telling jokes to pass the time as we waited for the storm to pass. But as the hours ticked by, the storm stayed strong and only ceased for an hour. My tent was destroyed. Water and mud found every opening my tent offered and seeped its way in, ruining my clothes, air mattress, and my beloved totem “Ooga Booga.” I tried to salvage what I could by taking what remained of my dry clothes and belongings and balance them on top of my air mattress so that it wouldn’t get wet. Around 6 o’clock, I packed up my canopy and walked back to the parking lot to put some dry things away, when I saw the horror that was the North lot. People had tried to follow the warnings of THP management and leave the venue, but were stuck in the mud and blocking exit lanes. I didn’t attempt to move my car because there was no way up the mudslide, and because I was beyond drunk at this point, so I went back to the campsite with my hopes crushed and my spirits down.
When I got back, however, I found my friends smiling and laughing. I realized that the universe had thrown this storm at us and, whether we liked it or not, we were stuck here. I took my father’s advice, and I tried to make the best of it. We drank and told stories. We wandered the campgrounds and made new friends who were sharing in the same, wet misery that we were. We played in the mud and let the rain have its way with us, but we refused to let the lost day bring us down. Within a few hours, we had forgotten that 50% or our groups tents were destroyed and that we wouldn’t be seeing Bassnectar, Infected Mushroom, Tipper, or Oliver that night. Instead, we strengthened our friendships and shared a night that no one could have predicted.

 

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Monday sucked. It was really, really hot and the reality of our plight had set in. We packed up what we could and got to our cars early only to find that there was no escape. The cars that had fled the night before had made it impossible for the stragglers to drive up the hill to freedom, so industrial tractors from the neighboring towns had to tow us up the mudslide, one by one, in a painfully slow ordeal. Tempers were already high, but we all shared in the agony. At times, some cars would brave the mud with help from strangers, pushing on trunks and sacrificing even more clothes to help a friend in need. Some of the cars made it through, but most ended up entrenched just yards away. Eventually my car got towed out after waiting for 6 hours, but my front bumper was ripped off by the mud and my back tire exploded on the drive home (awesome, right?).
But at the end of the day, I was alive. I had seen some of my favorite artists perform on elaborate stages with my good friends. I had eaten healthy and I had enough beer cans in my hand over 3 days to make anyone satisfied. I laughed with girls and cried with boys, I hugged strangers and kissed my friends, and at the end of the weekend, all I had lost was stuff. I had dealt with a laundry list of inconveniences, but they were nothing more than hiccups on a road paved with priceless memories. I’ve been reading about people calling the event a “failure,” but I would argue the opposite: the festival gave us two days of magic in the woods with a most of a third day cruelly taken away by the weather. Sure, management could’ve handled the storm better, and it’s marginally possible that it could have been avoided, but the experiences of those stuck at the festival were beautiful. My birthday weekend didn’t go exactly as I had planned it, and I’m really, really, really bummed that I missed Oliver (I love Oliver and my friends know I love Oliver), but this is a weekend I can’t forget. Many thanks to the bass god for giving me this opportunity, and hopefully next year, the Mudson Project will return and Bassnectar will play the set we had all hoped for.

 

See more photos from The Hudson Project 2014 here

 

 

 

 

Written by contributor Matt Reynolds. Find him on Twitter here. Photos by Chorale Miles Photography.



Matt Reynolds is a music enthusiast on a mission to share his musical knowledge with the masses. Born and raised on the hard streets of suburban North Jersey, Matt was diagnosed with an irreversible addiction to electronic music in 2009. Since then, he’s pledged to discover and share his experiences with clubs, festivals, and the world of electronic music. Situated minutes from NYC, Matt has traveled from Massachusetts to Miami and everywhere between chasing music and making memories. When he isn’t writing for MASS EDMC, he’s either reading, writing fiction, or (most likely) booty-shaking on the dance floor.