Photos by Malcolm Donaldson
It was a weekend filled with (mostly) good music, good food, and rampant product placement at the first annual Catalpa Music Festival on New York City's Randall's Island, where three stages, dozens of funnel cakes, and one stand of mellowed-out, glass-blowin' "tobacco" bowl makers delivered the laid-back vibe that has come to characterize the summer music festival.
An all-day Reggae Stage kept a solid loop of island flavor going, even when the crowd of NYC twenty-somethings dressed in urban flower-child garb ignored them for the showier acts.
And there were plenty. The early afternoon gave us the sweethearts of "The Demos," and the mellow rockers of "The Aviation Orange." Some of the best moments of Catalpa was watching these lesser-known artists get a chance to show their stuff. Or at least, I told myself that every time the over-saturation of free Jeep swag became too much to bear.
Unfortunately, an unsponsored rainstorm took center stage while Zola Jesus sweetly crooned. A few fought on bravely, and were congratulated by the band, "You guys must really love music." The rest of us, in a sea of yellow ponchos, flocked to the futuristic Heineken "Beer Dome," where the atmosphere resembled a poor man's night club. Those with enough $9 beers (!) in their system made an admirable, ultimately tragic, attempt to dance. Those of us too cheap or soggy to care stared up at the rounded ceiling, which boasted enormous, moving image Heineken advertising/hypnosis.
Luckily, the rainstorm passed more quickly then my sanity, and it was back to the concert pits. The Sheepdogs cut the nonsense with some frill-free rock. They had a retro vibe, which is always a relief on the hipper-than-thou indie scene.
That said, there was no subtlety about the vampish Hercules and Love Affair, who purred and strutted across the main stage. They may be attention-whores, but they've got the chops to back it up, and this lively set called quits on the lazy afternoon.
A few hours later, TV on the Radio and The Black Keys killed it with a one-two punch of indie rock at its finest. Thus concluded the first day of torrential downpour, beer-can litter, and indie excellence.
Hercules and Love Affair
TV On The Radio
The Black Keys