During the past summer, I’ve had the unique opportunity to cover several major festivals in the NYC area including the Northside Festival, the New Music Seminar NYC Festival, the Afro-Punk Festival and of course, the Catalpa Festival. Although I was excited to catch some of the eclectic bands and artists performing during the first day, including the Black Keys, TV on the Radio (who I’ve admired for some time now), the Sheepdogs and others, I was admittedly even more excited to catch Snoop Dogg. And it wasn’t just a regular performance – Snoop was slated to perform his eponymous (and legendary) full-length debut, Doggystyle in it’s entirety.
But as it turned out, there were a few other highlights and a couple of lowlights to the second day of the festival.
- Although Dallas Green, and his backing band were all tatted up and had the appearance of being badasses, their set of twangy indie rock/alt country was for the most part kind of dull. Their ballads struck me as being plodding and uninteresting and until late in their set, the material seemed to lack teeth and muscle. Most of the people who were there for City and Colour were fans – they stood about in rapt attention, and I couldn’t figure out why.
- The Dirty Heads struck me as one of those “my first reggae band” sort of bands. In other words, one of the bands who played reggae for suburban kids who got the feel good vibes of a lot of reggae and enjoyed smoking weed – but missed the point altogether. They’d fail to comprehend the spiritual, personal, socioeconomic and cultural issues that inspire the work of artists like Bob Marley, Lee “Scratch” Perry, and others.
- After the festival I had learned that late last year Matisyahu had publicly renounced Hasidic Judaism so seeing with some 5:00 shadow, in a denim jacket, jeans and short hair without the beard, locks, hat and dark clothing was initially kind of shocking and bizarre – especially for an artist known for his religion. In some way, it leaves several pointed questions as to who the real Matisyahu, a.k.a. Matthew Miller really is, and I suspect that he’ll be dealing with those questions for the rest of his career. Granted, as a performer Matisyahu is incredibly charismatic presence who manages to make everyone in an audience feel as though they’re connected directly to him. And it helps that the songs do come from a sincere, very personal place – in some sense, his fans relate to him so deeply because his struggles to find faith and be faithful in a difficult world.
- I had heard a lot about Girl Talk and live his sets are an incredible dance party. His mashups of songs from various genres and periods are just fucking genius, and him and some random group of dancers and others have the crowd going at a ridiculous high level.
- A colleague told me that I should catch A$AP Rocky’s set as he was one of hip hop’s up-and-coming emcees. But honestly, his set was disappointing and annoying – his set started late and the first 15 minutes of set was of his crew rapping, not him. I later heard that he got a bit snippy when he saw the majority of the crowd running across the park to make sure that they didn’t miss any of Snoop Dogg’s set. Well, dude, it’s Snoop Dogg. If you had your act together, played a great set and ended in a bit early it would have been memorable for everyone. I can’t say that I felt sorry for him. (It was also one of the most difficult sets that I’ve shot in recent memory – it was too dark and everyone moved around way too much. I should have just put my camera away at that point.)
- What made Snoop Dogg’s set incredible was that he literally pulled out every living person he could who performed on the album. So the Lady of Rage, RBX and others were there and it blew my mind. Snoop is not only charismatic, he’s a larger than life personality. And of course, everyone sang along to every single one of his songs.
City and Colour
The Dirty Heads
See, there are my friends again. I wound up running into them a couple of times during the festival and it seemed that Sunday we pretty much hung out when I wasn’t actively covering things.
Matisyahu as he was crowd surfing. This was a pretty cool moment, and maybe two of my favorite photos of the festival.
Matisyahu with members of the crowd. This was another very cool moment.
This dude worked at the beer tent next to the press tent, and they were happily hooking bloggers and other members of the press with free beer. He was a godsend!
Before Girl Talk’s set, I spent my time chatting with festival-goers and snapping pictures. I think these lovely, smiling women were the best embodiments of the spirit of the 2012 Catalpa Festival attendee – sweet and generous of spirit.
This young woman really enjoyed showing the photographers and the rest of the crowd in streams of toilet paper. A number of my fellow photographers were pissed, and I just thought it was hilarious.
The young woman’s monkey balloon became quite popular and at one point he was bouncing around the crowd.
Oh yeah, this was another one of my favorite photos. Everyone had been dancing, jumping around and shouting and then there was confetti!
This woman and her boyfriend were cool and were photography nuts. We wound up taking some rather interesting photos of each other.
I caught this couple in the crowd, sharing an intimate moment. To be young, and in love!
This was a particularly funny moment. And I can’t figure out why he was doing that for the camera but we all were drinking a lot.
Simply one of the best t-shirts I’ve ever seen.
For these photos from the last day of a fantastic festival, check out the Flickr set here: