By: Chelsea Wright
Backwoods Pondfest is truly a one-of-a-kind, genuine music festival experience. Peru, New York is the home of Pondfest, just a few minutes away from Interstate 87. Peru is nestled conveniently near Lake Champlain, a few hours away from both Saranac Lake, NY and Burlington, VT. The festival grounds are beautiful, with flat, wide-open areas, as well as shaded wooded areas-both making for ample camping options. The overall feeling of the festival is a laid-back vibe with a low key atmosphere. Each band has a unique, distinct sound which is something that sets Pondfest apart from most other music festivals.
The lineup for Backwoods Pondfest 2014 is outstanding. It consists of a perfectly eclectic mix of genres, ranging from jam fusion, to bluegrass, funk and much more, which is what makes this festival so special-you won’t find a shortage of unique, distinct styles. This year, we’ll be seeing the likes of Chali 2na & House of Vibe, Twiddle, Spiritual Rez, Turkuaz, Cabinet, Alan Evans’ Playonbrother, The Garcia Project, Lucid (2 Sets: Friday Acoustic, Saturday Electric), The Manhatten Project, Hot Day at the Zoo, Sophistafunk, The Blind Owl Band, Aqueous, Conehead Buddha, FiKus, Big Mean Sound Machine, Gubbilidis (Twiddle Duo), Mister F, Capital Zen, The Big Takeover, Doomfxck, Formula 5, & North Funktree.
Chali 2na, previously the founding member of the rap groups Jurassic 5 and Ozomatli, describes himself as an “MC, painter, actor, renaissance man”. He’s a multi-talented musician, and has collaborated with the likes of Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Damian & Stephen Marley, Beanie Man, The Black Eyed Peas and many others. He has a lot to bring to the table, and has added an interesting element to the feel of Pondfest the past three years that he’s performed. Chali 2na will be accompanied by The House of Vibe. The House of Vibe does exactly as its name portrays, it creates and manipulates a specific vibe for the crowd. They are described as “A group composed of talented producers, limitless lyricists, and gifted musicians whose combined talents lay a foundation, for nothing short, of musical excellence. Their frequent live shows are always electrifying and genre-less. Complete with horn section, non-stop rhythmic sounds and hard-hitting beats, House of Vibe, journey’s through rock, jazz, hip-hop and R&B with creative ease” (houseofvibe.com). Their performance is sure to be nothing short of fresh.
Twiddle will be returning to jam the late night set, but this year on the main-stage friday night. They’ve played Pondfest 3 years in a row, and never cease to please the large crowd they draw. Twiddle is made up of Mihali Savoulidis (guitar/vocals), Ryan Dempsey (keyboard/piano/organ), Zdenek Gubb (bass), and Brook Jordan (drums/vocals). They’re currently making their way up the rows on festival bills, and playing all over the east coast. After touring out west and signing with Madison House, they’ve truly spread far and wide. This inspiring quartet is considered Vermont’s up and coming jam band, but are so much more than just a jam band-their music is a mix of genres, including a blended sound of reggae funk, classical, rock, bluegrass, electronica and jazz-combining all the best worlds of music, into a specific sound of their own. These guys have a way of carrying on a tight jam, then quickly switching it up to a whole other sound and back again, in a very controlled manner-all the while maintaining a synchronized flow. What more could you ask for? If you haven’t seen them, you certainly should-and if you have, then chances are you’re already stoked for whats to come.
Cabinet is a bluegrass band from Scranton, PA. They’re currently exploding on the scene-they will be playing at major festivals such as Peach Music Fest and Lock’n. Cabinet is a combination of six, Pappy Biondo (vocals & banjo), Todd Kopec (fiddle/vocals), Mickey Coviello (guitar/vocals), JP Biondo (mandolin/vocals), Dylan Skursky (bass), and Jami Novak (drums/percussion). They’re definitely genre bending, being a modern string band but combining the elements of traditional bluegrass with the modern contemporary styles of bands such as Greensky Bluegrass or Yonder Mountain String Band, while holding their own unique sound. They’re highly charismatic individuals, that deliver a high energy performance. This band is so easy to fall in love with, and will leave you wanting for more.
Switching it up to a progressive groove-rock band with an extremely tight and precise sound, we’ll be seeing the likes of Aqueous, from Buffalo, NY. They’re comparable to Umphrey’s McGee with the way that they execute changes throughout their jams. They have strong communication and an infectious persona on stage, with swift improvisation skills. Although they play mostly original music, they have a specific niche to them in that when they do play covers, they play them really well-but only a few times, and then move on to new ones. They are also blowing up on the scene, having recently played at major festivals such as Summer Camp & The Frendly Gathering. They’re also playing all over the east coast, and coming up you’ll find them playing at Peach Fest, Catskill Chill & Moe.Down. For being a young band, their performance’s are quite impressive, having already landed them in Relix Magazine’s list of “On the Verge” artists. Be sure to check them out!
Like Aqueous, Mister F is fairly young, having formed in 2013-but they surely aren’t new to the music scene as a whole, consisting of former members of Timbre Coup (Matt, Andrew & Ben) and Capital Zen (Scott). Their sound is so distinct, its as if they’ve been together for years. They whip up a funky electronica sound that is like none other that is super high-energy, keeping your feet moving. In the year that they’ve been together, they’ve already released their first studio album, “The F Stands Four”. Their sound is certainly eclectic, leading you down a path of tumultuous electric goodness. They have already landed festivals such as The Hudson Project and Disc Jam, as well as Rock and Roll Music Resort and coming up, Catskill Chill, Mantrabash and Rootenanny. The Misters are Matt Pickering (drums/vocals), Scott Hannay (keyboards/guitar/bass/vocals), Ben Pickering (guitar/bass/vocals), and Andrew Chamberlaine (guitar/vocals). These guys are masterminds of sound manipulation-they are putting out a new type of music that is nothing short of spectacular. They will be sure to please at Pondfest, for their first year!
The Blind Owl Band, a bluegrass group from Saranac Lake, NY consisting of Eric Munley (mandolin/vocals), Arthur Buezo (guitar/vocals), Christian Cardiello (bass/vocals), and James Ford (banjo/vocals), will be playing for their 3rd year. Their music is described as ‘Adirondack Freight Train String Music’-they certainly have a way of creating a deep rooted bluegrass sound, that makes for a boot-stomping, rowdy and fun atmosphere. They’re well-known all over New York, Vermont, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, and have shared the stage with the likes of Railroad Earth, Trampled By Turtles, Hot Day at the Zoo, Lucid, Eastbound Jesus and many more. In the two short years that they’ve been a quartet, they have released two albums of all original music: ‘Rabble Rousing’ and ‘This Train We Ride is Made of Wood and Steel‘. These albums very clearly show the continuing development of their unique style. These guys speak very highly of Pondfest for the excellence of their festival, “The backstage area on the main-stage is awesome, theres couches and a hangout area for the artists. There’s Saranac craft beers, good food and a perfect view of the stage from the couches to watch the music. The location is great, the grounds are beautiful and the vibe of the whole weekend is so laid back. From the perspective of a busy band that books every weekend as solid as we can, this is the only weekend of the year that we leave completely open to be able to enjoy the whole festival. Being from the area, I can say Pondfest is the local festival that continues to please more and more each year. The lineup for this year is amazing and I can’t wait” (Christian Cardiello, Bass). The up-close and personal perspective says a lot about the overall feeling of an event. The Blind Owl boys have recently done a 21 day southern tour, and played some solid bluegrass festivals such as The Spring Pickin’ Bluegrass Fest, The Susquehanna Breakdown, The Still Meadows Revue II, The 9th Annual Bears Picnic and Jerry Jam 2014. They will soon be found at The Sterling String Fling, The Cooperage Project and The Purple Pig Music Fest.
Trying to describe Turkuaz’ sound isn’t an easy one, because they have such vast dynamics-they are known as a “funk army of multi-instrumentals and singers that is part freight train and part tyrannosaurus rex, who—even on an off night—can blow away a room on the basis of sheer physics alone.” That’s one way to describe Turkuaz, but it doesn’t address the music. In this regard, as with any band, influences are everything. One cannot escape them as one seeks to carve out a unique sound for themselves. Still, there are so many benefits to having Sly & The Family Stone, Rick James, Parliament and Bohannon in your record collection. With this as the basis for a recipe, Turkuaz adds healthy doses of jittery, world-pop-power groove—reminiscent of Remain In Light era Talking Heads—and a passion for Motown and R&B, resulting in a refreshing twist on the funk idiom.” This big band has a variety of sounds, including brass instruments. They’re made up of Dave Brandwein (guitar/vocals), Taylor Shell (bass), Craig Brodhead (guitar/synths), Michelangelo Carubba (drums/percussion), Greg Sanderson (tenor sax), Josh Schwartz (baritone sax/vocals), Chris Brouwers (trumpet/keyboard), Geneva Williams (vocals), and Sammi Garett (vocals). They’ve recently done a west coast tour, playing as far out as San Diego, CA. They will be seen at upcoming festivals such as Bella Terra, Catskill Chill and Night Lights Music Fest. This is another band that you don’t want to miss if you haven’t seen them, for their rich sound and delivery.
Lucid, from Plattsburgh, NY will be hosting Pondfest for their 8th consecutive year, playing on both Friday and Saturday. Lucid is described as “…the hardest working band in the North Country (Upstate NY and VT), careens across the musical spectrum as a V8 blend of genres emerge from jazz to rock, honky-tonk blues to reggae.” (www.rulucid.com). Having seen Lucid several times, and being an avid listener of six years, I can say that these guys never cease to amaze the crowd. The music keeps you wondering what’s coming next, always leading you through a tumultuous wave of sounds. Lucid has been evolving for nearly a decade, consisting of Lowell Wurster (vocals/percussion/harp), Jamie Armstrong (vocals/saxophone/clarinet), Kevin Sabourin (vocals/guitar), Andrew Dellar (vocals/ keyboards/accordion), Chris Shacklett (vocals/bass/trombone), and the new addition of Chris “Hollywood” English on drums. They are sounding fresher then ever & have developed a very tight, new feel with Hollywood.
What really makes Pondfest special, is the family feel that Lucid creates for everyone-a warm, welcoming vibe that pulls you in for a two day venture from one great band to the next. Lucid plays a major role in the success of Pondfest: “Being the host band at Backwoods Pondfest, Lucid doesn’t just perform; they participate in every aspect of production from the planning during the months leading up to it, to the clean up for weeks afterwards. From hiring a stage and security crew, preparing the campground, building stages, participating in production, and managing staff, a member of Lucid is there. This experience has groomed them to be an ideal festival band, and their past two summer festival tours have proved it. This year’s festival tour is looking even more promising.” (www.rulucid.com). A must see!
To go along with all of the amazing music, there will be fire-dancers, hula hoop sessions by Small Tribe Hoops on friday and saturday, a disc golf tournament including 3 classes on saturday, at 10 am (pre-registration required) with a variety of great prizes, and a saturday yoga class with Sam Jo in the concert area. Strangers Helping Strangers, a non-profit organization that collects non-perishable goods will be on site all weekend so don’t forget to bring something to donate to the great cause that they continue to support! There will also be EMT’s on site for an medical needs. And of course, as with any festival you’ll surely find plenty of friends, old & new!
You can buy your tickets for Pondfest at www.backwoodspondfest.com, at the festival, or at one of the outlets listed below: Chuck Wagon (Brinkerhoff St. Plattsburgh), State of Mind (319 Cornella St. Plattsburgh), Smoke Signals (Lake Placid), The Waterhole (Downtown Saranac Lake), Pasquale’s Restaurant (2931 Main St. Peru), 42 Degrees (Glens Falls NY), or at a show by one of the following bands; Lucid, The Garcia Project, Capital Zen & North Funktree.
The location of Pondfest can be found on Google Maps: 224 Fuller Road, Peru, NY 12972
Friday August 8th
2:00pm-3:00pm: NORTH FUNKTREE (T)
3:00pm-4:00pm: THE BIG TAKEOVER (M)
4:00pm-5:00pm: GUBBILIDIS (Twiddle Duo) (T)
5:00pm-6:15pm: BIG MEAN SOUND MACHINE (M)
6:15pm-7:30pm: THE BLIND OWL BAND (T)
7:30pm-9:00pm: ALAN EVANS’ PLAYONBROTHER (M)
9:00pm-10:15pm: LUCID (Acoustic) (T)
10:15pm-11:45pm: CHALI 2NA & HOUSE OF VIBE (M)
11:45pm-1:00am: THE GARCIA PROJECT (T)
1:00am-2:30am: TWIDDLE (M)
2:30am-3:45am: THE MANHATTAN PROJECT (T)
Saturday August 9th
11:00am-12:00pm: DOOMF*CK (T)
12:00pm-1:15pm: CAPITAL ZEN (M)
1:15pm-2:15pm: FORMULA FIVE (T)
2:15pm-3:30pm: HOT DAY AT THE ZOO (M)
3:30pm-4:45pm: FIKUS (T)
4:45pm-6:15pm: CABINET (M)
6:15pm-7:30pm: CONEHEAD BUDDHA (T)
7:30pm-9:00pm: TURKUAZ (M)
9:00pm-10:15pm: SOPHISTAFUNK (T)
10:15pm-11:45pm: SPIRITUAL REZ (M)
11:45pm-1:00am: AQUEOUS (T)
1:00am-2:30am: LUCID (Electric) (M)
2:30am-3:45am: MISTER F (T)