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The Festival Experience for a Newbie - Amazing Vibes at Disc Jam Part 1

The festival concept was not one that I was ever familiar with on a personal level.

Let me correct that - I was brought up in a home where we watched Woodstock as a family. My parents had gone to see it on a date when it was originally in the theaters and whenever PBS was doing a telethon and had it on, we would actually all sit down and watch it. I pretty much have the film memorized. My parents are the reason for my love (slight obsession) with folk music of that time. They named their dog after Arlo Guthrie who they still go see whenever he comes through New Jersey. This is my background. So for me, the idea of the music festival was always that. The ultimate festival. Woodstock.
Then some greedy people stupidly tried to replicate it in the 90's and people set shit on fire and ruined it. I thought that was it. The modern era ruined this beautiful concept with commercialized violence and nonsense. Good job, guys.

I had NO idea that there were still magical festivals happening the whole time. Not like that, anyway. Either did most of the people I knew. To us, experiencing music meant one night out at a time. You drove to the venue, you lost your mind in the sounds you loved, then you got in your car and went home. I went to day long "festivals" plenty of time over the years, but never took off for a weekend and more or less lived among other fans and the artists.

When I met my jam bassist husband, he reintroduced me to this concept of a festival. He was playing them all the time and being the closed-minded indoor girl that I was, I wasn't at all interested in attending despite his repeated requests for me to do so. I was writing about music I experienced in dark New York City clubs and the occasional boat around the East River and I felt content there. It's what I knew. It's what I loved. Over time, I went for quick jaunts to see my husband play at a festival and I would leave as soon as he was done. I honestly just didn't get it.

Over the last two years, I have had the chance to really let my mind and soul evolve within the jam scene, and I have been so incredibly surprised by the welcome I have received from both artists and readers there. I have been nurturing my curiosity about the bridge between the music I know and the music I continually discover and its been not just gratifying personally but it's also been a massive growth experience for myself as a journalist. It was only natural that I take the next logical step in this journey.

I wanted to finally go to a festival.

I was ready to have the experience that everyone talks about. Not just show up for a band and leave when they were finished, but go, camp, rage. I wanted to feel the environment. I wanted to experience the sense of community that I had heard so much about. I was ready to breathe it all in and find out just how wrong I was about this entire concept for so long. I won't lie. I had my reservations and there were fears and concerns that the experience would not live up to what people had built it up as.

It was difficult at this point because now I had to decide where I was going to go. There are a ton of great lineups at festivals this year and I had been eyeing up quite a few of them and debating pulling the lever on purchasing those tickets. I just didn't know which one to pick. I put out some inquiries and was thrilled to receive an invitation from the folks at Disc Jam to come and experience the festival they throw every year. Coincidentally, this was the festival I most wanted to attend. There was an incredible lineup of artists every single day and it was less than three hours away in New York.

So, with my trusty assistant (husband) by my side, I set out for my first festival experience covering the 7th Annual Disc Jam Festival!

Honestly, I was floored by this entire experience. First of all, the folks at Disc Jam put on a fantastic event. They have a wonderful mass of volunteers who were incredibly helpful the whole weekend. The location was both functional and incredibly beautiful. I would imagine this sort of stellar organization doesn't happen overnight and I am sure seven years of putting these on has worked a lot of the bugs out, but I honestly have to give a sincere round of applause. This was probably one of the most amazing experiences not only as a music writer but as a fan that I have ever had in all my 38 (shut up) years on this planet.

First of all, we camped. Now, I was a girl scout about thirty years ago. We camped in mostly platform tents and cabins so this was not something I have done a whole lot of. Thank you to the inventor of the INSTANT TENT and the air mattress. Our site was directly across a small lake of sorts from the Tent Stage. This made for evenings of incredible music heard clear as day as we sat and watched the sun go down. Like...seriously? Yes. It was that lovely. The weather was great. It definitely got a bit hot as the weekend rolled on, but it's June. It was expected and we dressed for it.

My husband and I felt pretty accomplished after we had everything set up. Check out that sky...

I caught this picture as The Motet played in the tent stage at the suggestion of Beau Sasser from Kung Fu as we strolled to our site for some grilled shrimp tacos and beer. More on that later...

The two main stages were set in such a way that they created a general oasis of awesome smack dab in the middle of all the camping and vending that was happening. There were two stages set right next to one another, A and B, at the end of two long lines of food, beverage, and general apparel and other vendors to create a somewhat contained open air venue. This concept was, in my opinion, nothing short of brilliant. Bands were staggered on the schedule so that when a band on A stage ended, the band right next to them on B stage was set and ready to go. No lag time between sets. No stages cluttered with the equipment of pending artists. Back-lining didn't seem to be necessary because as one band played, the previous band broke down their set while the next set theirs up. It was a well oiled machine and if there were ever snags in the system during the festival, it was not at all evident to the outsider looking in. Again, well done, Disc Jam folks.

Across the meadow was the Tent Stage that I mentioned before. Back in the woods, there was The Woods Stage. There was a steady stream of music on these four stages for the entire weekend. There was always something for everyone happening somewhere on the site. In addition, the event site was set up in such a way that one stage's music didn't interfere with another's. The entire site was also set with literal blank canvases for artists to create images of magic on and we were able to watch as they did. It was really neat. That is such a lame word to use, but it's the truth. It was really neat!

I am sure that everyone who attended the festival will have a different opinion of what their highlights were, so please understand these are just my personal highlights. As a fan, as a journalist, and as someone who prior to this past weekend had never experienced a real festival before.

1. Our neighbors.
We had some wonderful people camped around us. We shared food, we shared beer, we shared stories, and we made genuine friends. I love that. I never felt unsafe. I never worried that things would be stolen. Obviously this is not some sort of universal festival truth and I am sure there were bad apples and always will be...but we had some great people camping near us. We had to leave a little earlier than expected and had plenty of food left. Rather than take it home, we handed it to the folks camping next to us who promised to use it to feed others. That's really what it's all about, isn't it?

2. The Festival Site
It was laid out extremely smartly. Is smartly a word? It works here. The layout of the entire festival on the grounds was very intelligently done. Music from the four stages didn't taint the sounds of one another even though bands were occasionally playing simultaneously. The vendors lined the sides of the two main stages creating a perfect grassy open air venue with everything you might need in easy reach. The festival was HUGE. We found this out the hard way when we arrived at about 4:30am Friday morning and were informed that there was no more car-side camping available in VIP. We parked in the parking lot and it took about four trips to get everything to our campsite. Four trips of heavy, heavy things. Next year, we arrive on Thursday.

3. Giant Panda Guerrilla Dub Squad
They have quickly become one of my favorite bands. Their music is such an inner peace on a cloudy day for me. I had not yet been able to catch them so I was REALLY looking forward to their set. In addition, I had the absolute pleasure to speak to the guys in the band when they arrived. It was a total fan girl moment for me and despite that, they are some of the most genuinely kind people I ever met. (and they liked my review!) They allowed me to pull their ears about how much I loved their music and pepper them with questions about how they came to play the style the reggae that they do. More on that in a later article. I was so incredibly appreciative that they took the time to meet with me.

4. Swift Technique
Good golly. What a funk powerhouse this Philly band is! I was blown away. At some point standing there in front of the stage, my husband and I turned to one another and mouthed the words "holy shit" to one another. Their sound was so clean. The vocals were OUSTANDING. The bass lines were straight up amazing. The horns were stellar. They did a great cover of Psycho Killer. I was very honestly floored and felt rather stupid that these folks were not more on my radar. But...they are now so be expecting something in coming months from me on them. In the meantime, if you can, go see them.

5. Kung Fu
One of the most outstanding bands happening right now. This is not an exaggeration. There is not a single weak link in this chain. Every single link is made of it's own kind of unbreakable space age funk groove. They put on a powerhouse of a set and even had a guest appearance from Hayley Jane doing some Joan Jett. The crowd went nuts. They played Joyride which is my absolute favorite song and I had never seen it done live. They also did Speedbump of Your Love and really blew me away. I was floored by the whole set. This festival marked the two year anniversary of keyboardist Beau Sasser being in the band. He gave me the opportunity to pick his brain in exchange for grilled shrimp tacos. Stay tuned for more on that.

6. Humble Digs
Wow. These guys are a funky folk rock trip that we happened to catch playing the tent stage. Coincidentally, they wound up camped right across from us as well. Super fresh folky sound and incredibly nice guys. Check them out ASAP. I will have a review up soon.

7. The Weather!
It was chilly in the evenings and warm during the day. It was windy for a bit on Friday and we did watch the wind actually pick up a tent and carry it away before depositing it in the river where it floated away. I never did find out if it's owners ever retrieved it. But TENT STAKES! You need those. But yeah, great weather, epic sunsets, perfect temps for music in the sunshine.

8. Strangers Helping Strangers
These folks set up a booth at festivals all over the place and collect food and necessary items for organizations in those areas who help those in need. It's a beautiful, selfless group of folks. If you see them at your next festival, bring them some goods.

All in all, I was honestly converted this weekend. We have plans to come back next year already in the works. I want to extend a huge thank you to the folks at Disc Jam for putting together such an outstanding event. You changed my perspective for the best on a lot of aspects regarding what it is to be a part of the festival experience. Next year I need to actually play disc golf too...

Stay tuned for more on the weekend at Disc Jam!


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