Disc Jam: A Grassroots Festival That Is Here To Stay [2015 Review]
The first festival of the summer always has this undeniable energy attached to it. It’s an even mix of anxiousness and excitement that fills the heart and mind with passion. It will always be there and it’ll never change; as the years go by, this feeling will remain the same. I don’t know if there’s a better festival than Disc Jam to ease fans into the season. The size, vibe, music, art and production are all top-notch for a festival of its size. Every year, the Disc Jam team impresses me more and more. Tony Scavone seriously has something special that continues to grow organically while staying utterly original. This year, the line-up was carefully crafted to suit most everyone’s taste of music, in one way or another. The new site was absolutely gorgeous and was radiating with unique beauty as soon as I stepped foot on the property. From the calm stream that outlines the western side of the property to the rolling hills that surround the perfectly flat plateau that the campsites sit on. Blissful vibrations echoed through the air as a cool breeze danced through the treetops. We were all exactly where we needed to be.
During the course of four days, a ton of bands performed solid sets but there are a handful of acts that seriously impressed me. When I arrived on Friday, I quickly set up my campsite along the shady bank of the relaxing stream. After that, I walked around the new festival grounds to absorb the surrounding and really take everything in. The site is seriously perfect for a music festival; I strongly believe that it should be the permanent home for Disc Jam. The first set of music that really stood out to me was Kung Fu. As everyone in the scene knows, the bands been going through a huge transitional period, or have they? I was surprised at how well their new keyboard player picked up on their songs and jams. He fit in with ease, and he’s definitely a player. Beau Sasser and Todd Stoops have very different styles but they’re both incredible musicians. Kung Fu got super spaced out and laid down some sick funk-tronica. Tim Palmieri was shredding as he always does. At some points in the set, they got very psychedelic which I loved. As a whole, I thought it was a great first set with their new keyboard player.
As lightning cut through the sky like jagged daggers, the crowd was given the best light show known to man. A storm was rolling in and everybody knew it, except nobody knew exactly when it was going to hit. Lettuce took the stage, feeding off the intense energy of the weather and crowd. The vibe was ridiculous; as their playing became synchronized with Mother Nature, the rain began to fall. It was a scene that I won’t forget anytime soon. The crack of Adam Deitch’s snare drum echoed and collided with the roar of thunder in the distance. I had my fingers crossed that they’d be able to finish the set before the sky completely broke open, but that wasn’t the case. After a few songs, Tony Scavone and the owner of the property stepped on stage to warn patrons of a tornado warning that the county had issued. They told everyone to take shelter in their cars instead of going back to their tents, some listened and some didn’t. I high-tailed it back to my canopy and buckled down the hatches for one of the most intense thunderstorms I’ve ever experienced at a festival. It was great. We blasted tunes from our huge boom box as the rain poured down in buckets; the county’s tornado siren began to scream through the air. It was sick - plain and simple, I loved it.
Eventually the rain stopped and patrons scurried back to their campsites. As I was about to go to bed around 4 in the morning I heard a familiar sound blasting from the late-night tent; it was the New Deal. Well, it was Broccoli Samurai covering the New Deal. I threw my shoes on, made my way across the puddle-filled field and slid into the back of the tent, I’m really glad I did. That band has the ability to be big one day, their fusion of sound and style is steady and strong. They went on to cover a Lettuce song on account of the fact that “the band wasn’t able to play a complete set earlier in the night”; I thought that it was an awesome move. Their set ended up being one of my absolute favorites of the weekend, hands down. It was my first time seeing them and it definitely won’t be the last.
The next day the sun dried everything up for Saturday’s festivities. It was a gorgeous afternoon and I had one thing on my mind, Electron. I rocked in my hammock and rested up for what was going to be a promising night of music and shenanigans. Electron had the sunset slot on Saturday evening and the weather was perfect. Marc Brownstein and the boys had played a sold out show at Brooklyn Bowl the night before and crushed it; they were definitely vibing hard off of it. As the main-stage area began to fill up, Electron took the stage and opened with the Disco Biscuits classic ‘M.E.M.P.H.I.S.’. Tommy Hamilton never fails to impress the shit out of me every single time I see him play, the man is one of the most talented and progressive musicians in the scene. They played two of Brownsteins’ new songs, which produced some massive jams and have potential. My highlight of the set would have to be the ‘Home Again’ sandwich with a solid ‘I Know You Rider’ in the center. An orange sun was slowly setting into a cotton candy sky, it was one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen, anywhere. Brownie reminded the crowd to turn away from the stage to embrace the natural beauty that was taking place. The band began playing the intro notes to ‘Home Again’ and I knew we were in for a treat. By no means is it my favorite song but it was one of those perfect moments that happen once in a blue moon, or in this case, a pink sunset. Another moment that I’ll remember for the rest of my life and I know many others will as well.
After the Electron set, I wasn’t sure if Dopapod would be able to impress me, boy was I wrong. I was so wrong. Dopapod probably played the best set that I’ve personally ever seen from them. To be honest, most of the past sets that I’ve seen can’t even compare to the set at Disc Jam. The band was undoubtedly still buzzing from playing in front of their biggest crowd yet at Bonnaroo. They got an enormous reception there and Rolling Stone even gave them a mention. Things are definitely going their way. The addition of drummer Scotty Zwang is a huge plus, he’s like a mix of Allen Aucoin and Mike Greenfield but with his own original style and swagger. The band was pumped to play for a hometown type crowd and the energy in the air was electric. Dopapod is a band that is original; they’re not trying to sound like Phish or the Disco Biscuits, they’re trying to sound like Dopapod. That’s something that I respect. Their mathematical precision and seemingly robotic improvisation stood out to me on Saturday like never before. It’s like everything just clicked, I got the familiar feeling that I’ve gotten at so many Biscuits’ and Lotus shows before. Dopapod has something special and when they’re locked in, they operate as a well-oiled machine that is constantly evolving. From their prog-rock type songwriting to their jammed out jazz-tronica grooves, they are a really talented band. I’m very excited to see what the future brings for them; it’s most definitely going to be bright.
Electron into Dopapod was incredible and the night didn’t stop there. A brand new act on the scene performed their debut set directly after Dopapod. Ross Jenssen is the definition of a power trio with each musician bringing an essential part to the project. Made up of a guitarist, bassist and drummer; Ross Jenssen labels themselves as ‘Heavy Future Groove’ and the music definitely holds up to that description. The theatrical soundscapes that this young band was laying down blew my mind. I’m not easily impressed but I give credit where credit is due; if a band blows me away the first time I see them, I’m not afraid to let the world know. The fact that it was their debut show even adds to how absurd it was. The trio covered so much ground and so many genres, all I could do was roll with the punches and try to keep my jaw off the ground. Maybe I was so astonished because I wasn’t expecting this band that I’d never heard of before to blow me away, or maybe the music was that unique. The set was mapped out like cinematic art with textured layers upon layers of sound and noise. Not to mention, the 3-D projection mapping and lights added to the experience in a huge way. Keep your eyes peeled for Ross Jenssen because you’ll definitely be hearing a lot more from them down the road.
Lespecial was up next; I hadn’t seen them in years so it was cool to check them out. They’re from the New England area and definitely have a solid following in the Disc Jam scene. They’re another band that has placed themselves outside the generic box of jambands; they are something extremely different. I could see them teaming up with Ross Jenssen in the future and doing an extensive tour. Both acts have the same type of vibe and probably similar views on music. Both bands are approaching the music scene in a way that Primus did so many years ago. In fact, Lespecial is actually doing a full Primus set later this month. But yeah, they crushed. Another example of a power trio, all three musicians are skilled in what they do. They took over that tent and made it theirs; it got dark and gritty, fast and furiously. Their set made me feel like I was at a tribal gathering in Lord of the Rings. They are definitely trailblazers in their own lane as well as being impressive musicians.
The night was deep and dark, as the creatures were lurking about the moon hid in a cloudy abyss. Two very different late-night sets took place, Schlang Worldwide Secret Band took the stage in the tent after Lespecial and Horizon Wireless threw down a dance-party in the woods. I caught a bit of both and they were each cool in their own ways. The whole Schlang crew definitely stepped their performance up since the last time I saw them; everything was a bit tighter. Horizon Wireless and his drummer turned the upstate New York woods into a Brooklyn rave; everybody was getting down. Although they had some technical difficulties in the beginning, once the music started, all the anxiousness in the crowd disappeared. Both late night acts have paved their own paths in the festival circuit. They will be throwing down late-night sets at northeast festivals for many years to come. There’s no doubt in my mind about it.
All in all, the fifth annual Disc Jam was a major success across the board. The music, art, disc golf, pricing, production, vendors and venue were all on point. It’s going to take a lot more than a wicked thunderstorm to ruin the hard work and dedication of the Disc Jam crew. They say it’s calm before the storm – well, it’s blissfully serene after it. Founder Tony Scavone has done an excellent job at building a brand that is going to last. He is highly respected by some of the top bands in the scene and is no stranger to getting his hands dirty when he needs to. In a world of corporate festivals that are ran by fat cats who have no idea about music, it’s refreshing to see an individual like Tony Scavone succeeding. The truth is, he deserves all the praise that he gets. In this saturated industry, he is the real deal - passionate, intelligent, positive and professional. It’s a beautiful thing to witness a grassroots festival evolve from the ground up. After last weekend, I know one thing for sure; Disc Jam will be an every year destination for me as long as I’m in the northeast and the same should go for you.