WE WENT TO CATALPA NYC AND ALL WE GOT WAS THIS AWFUL HANGOVER
Most music festivals have been have been happening for years and years, it’s rare that you have a chance to get in on the ground floor. But this year was the inaugural Catalpa NYC music festival and The Culture Whore was there in the trenches and it was fucking brilliant.
The festival took place on Randall’s Island, just a hop, skip and some used condoms from 125th St. When we arrived Saturday afternoon the sky was alarmingly grey but the masses were prepared with ponchos and rain boots. While the journey there was long and wearisome the sight of the tents and pink leopard print signs were invigorating. Catalpa had the right attitude as banners over the stages commanded the audience to “DANCE BITCHES!”
Zola Jesus was the first show we saw on Catalpa’s mainstage and she gave an incredible, powerhouse performance. Zola’s music is moody and dark synth-pop, and when you hear her sing on a track don’t be fooled by the electronic manipulation, it is ALL HER. Zola’s voice is incredibly powerful and full of intense emotion, she really fucking killed it. It started to rain torrentially during her set but the real Zola fans didn’t care, sticking it out and getting soaked. “You guys must fucking love music,” the blonde chanteuse cried, drifting around the stage ethereally. The rain got so insane that halfway through her set someone off stage asked Zola to stop, but she asked if she could do one more song…and just kept going. THEN she jumped off stage and ran into the crowd, getting soaked and dancing as she crooned (I gave her a high five).
Next up was Hercules and Love Affair, a disco-house project created by Andrew Butler. Their set was fun and sexy and Hercules collaborator DJ Whitney Fierce was WORKING IT. Their set was pure disco magic and we were all (and by all I mean the 50 or so people who stuck around after the rain) dancing like maniacs.
I’d never listened to TV on the Radio before seeing them at Catalpa but they were pretty fantastic. No two songs in their set were alike, ranging from post-punk to soul. Frontman Tunde Adebimpe’s voice soared above the crowd as the drums and guitars (one had wind chimes on it!) wove an elaborate rock symphony. There was even a Beastie Boys shout out before “Second Song” as Adebimpe explained, “This next song is dedicated to a dear-departed inspiration, Mr. Adam Yauch. I would not be in New York City without the words of that man.” Plus, how often do you an almost-all-black rock band? Coolness factor right there. Their lighting was killer too.
Everyone lost their shit when the boys from Akron, Ohio took the stage Saturday night, me DEFINITELY included. The Black Keys have proven that rock and roll is still alive with their massive success and they continued proving it with their incredible show at Catalpa. The Keys mostly played songs from their latest record, El Camino (which I found somewhat overproduced but is siiiiiiiick live), but also rocked the house (though as we were outside there was no literal house) with hits from Brothers and Strange Times. Dan Auerbach is a mother fucking guitar god, playing a menagerie of axes with the ease of a true rock star. Patrick Carney was a demon on the drums, sweat flying off of him as he pounded away during “Tighten Up”, “Thickfreakness”, “I Got Mine” and “Gold on the Ceiling”. While their newer tunes tend to be very polished when they play live The Black Keys are raw and dirty, just how we like them. Dan and Patrick had their supporting musicians leave the stage for a few songs which was great as, let’s face it, they are who we were all really their to see. The best song of their set was El Camino’s “Little Black Submarines”, a bombastic number that starts off slow and soulful and turns into an incendiary explosion of musical genius.
Cold War Kids took the stage early Sunday afternoon and their set was a bit disappointing. While they played very well and Nathan Willett bleated out ‘Hang Me Up to Dry”, the consummate summer anthem, the whole performance felt a bit flat. Unlike so many of the other great acts at Catalpa this band just wasn’t engaging with the audience. “Hospital Beds” was great, though.
Matt and Kim played their first show of 2012 at Catalpa and they were so fucking happy to be there it was infectious. They both had huge cheeseball smiles on their faces as they played tracks from Grand and Sidewalks, as well as the first live performance of “Let’s Go”, the single off their forthcoming (and as of yet untitled) album. The Brooklyn duo brought tremendous energy to their set, jumping up on top of their instruments several times to incite the crowd into revelry. Matt and Kim had the all the energy of a full band, playing with a spastic intensity. They had plenty to talk about between songs, Kim saying that she’d been doing her kegel exercises and “squeezing every fucking day because I want to fuck the shit out of you tonight.” During their closing number, “Daylight”, they had to start over when Kim had a drumming snafu, apologetically explaining, “That was my fault, I get crazy with the sticks and I just want to fuckin’ hit shit.” We understand Kim, and as Matt pointed out it meant that Catalpa was the first place to ever hear “Daylight” twice in one set. Making history, bitches.
(Check back for our EXCLUSIVE interview with Matt and Kim!)
Girl Talk is probably the most dancable music ever. Gregg Michael Gillis
samples pop music, rock, rap and everything in between, turning them into crowd pleasing dance hits. During his spectacle of a set Gillis mashed-up Rihanna, Adele, Ramones, Bruce Springsteen, Jay-Z, Elton John, M83, M.I.A. and Kelly Clarkson. If you think that a bunch of New Yorkers won’t dance to a remix of “Since U Been Gone” you are dead fucking wrong.
Snoop Dogg was, possibly even more than The Black Keys, the most anticipated act of Catalpa. Not only was it Snoop but it was Snoop playing MOTHER FUCKING Doggystyle, the album that defined hip-hop in the early 90s and helped shape what it is now. Snoop took the stage to overwhelming cheers and made his way through his debut album with his trademark flow as video clips between each track linked the show together in a display of hilariously grandiose hip-hop theatricality. Snoop is an absolute showman, commanding the crowd as effortlessly as he raps. We were transformed into an ecstatically dancing mass of limbs with an atom-bomb sized cloud of pot-smoke hanging over it. It’s Snoop, duh.
Besides the amazing music, Catalpa had plenty else to offer. There was food aplenty, from falafels and gyros to pizza and Little Muenster’s unbelievable grilled cheeses. Beer was provided by Magic Hat and Heineken, (thank for all the free booze, Magic Hat!) and Heineken even had a cool-down dome complete with a bar, A/C and tunes. Old lovers and new friends had the chance to enter into pseudo-matrimony at The Church of Sham Marriages (until the inflatable church collapsed during Saturday’s storm…but it was up again by Sunday) and Jeep had an obstacle course for anyone who wasn’t too wasted to drive…or so drunk that they thought driving in an obstacle course at a festival was a good idea.
Now it’s Monday and we Culture Whores are feeling pretty strung out from such a great weekend. We will definitely be at Catalpa again next year…as long as the Porta Potty situation is improved. Who shits in a Porta Potty?
Make sure you check out our galleries for tons more photos!
- MARK DOMMU
- Photos by APNEET KAUR