This past weekend, thousands of music lovers descended on Saugerties, NY to be a part of the first ever Hudson Music Project, the sister festival of the now-defunct Camp Bisco put on by festival promoter MCP Presents, the company who is also behind festival season staples such as Counterpoint Music Festival, TomorrowWorld, Lights All Night, The Buku Project and more. For the duration of the event, I sat stone sober at the intersection of the real world and the fantasy of the festival near south entrance to the venue and what I saw unfold over the course of the weekend leaves the most sour of tastes in my mouth as it pertains to the current landscape of festival culture. My review below not only serves as a recap of events that occurred at Winston Farm, but also as an open letter to MCP Presents that I encourage all to share so that events like this never happen again. Regardless, the people that came together to revel in the music made it all worth and and with that I bid much love to all of the beautiful people who attended #Mudson2014. In order to receive your refund for the third day, be sure to email firstname.lastname@example.org and provide them with your first and last name as well as the last 4 digits of the credit card you purchased the ticket with.
All photos credit The Hudson Project, since the powers that be botched my media application and dragged our photographer Julian Cassady over 100 miles from his home with expensive camera equipment to deny him entry and fall short of the agreement we reached to promote the festival.
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In all cases the music comes first and despite the laundry list of issues that The Hudson Project had, the music was not one of them. My time at the south entrance limited my visibility to mainly watching the Empire Stage and listening to the Circus Tent although I did make a point to take a stroll around the venue during my breaks and check out all of the stages when I could. The Flaming Lips
put on a full blown spectacle to close out the first night with whimsical stage production including dancing mushrooms and cascading LED strings
that left the entire crowd awestruck. A Big Gigantic Family turned out in droves as Big Gigantic
unleashed an onslaught of drum and sax similar to what we saw at Mysteryland USA
, covered Tell Me
by What So Not
& RL Grime
, and even debuting a new song as fireworks went off in the rain, a scene that people will soon not forget. Other favorites included Kendrick Lamar
, Bit Funk
, and ZZ Ward
absolutely crushed the early mainstage crowd at the Empire Stage early on Saturday. I will probably tell you that in terms of the absolute nuttiness that ensued during someone’s tent, I’ve never ever seen a liver tent than when GRiZ
put on Shout by The Isley Brothers and the entirety of the crowd lost their collective minds jamming to a classic.
It should come as with special mention however that the Bassnectar family came out real hard to support Lorin and this in and of itself should be no surprise. The feverish following that Bassnectar has garnered is absolutely deserved and I can’t even begin to tell you how many people I saw with his logo tattooed or painted on peoples body or on flags or totems or shirts throughout the festival and especially on the early potions of Sunday. Lorin has always been a huge part of the Camp Bisco culture that traveled to The Hudson Project and I can’t express how inspiring it was to see the sincere disappointment from people who weren’t able to see their hero. Having seen him 2 years ago at Camp Bisco and keeping up with him on social media, I can absolutely understand how and why he garners such a dedicated fan base and am absolutely convinced that he will find a way to make it up to his fans that deserve it so badly after a weekend like this.
The informational pamphlet (which was nearly impossible to be found by festival attendees) set the stage for the weekend by welcoming attendees to The Hudson Project with this greeting:
We’re so honored to have you among the first music lovers to share in the experience of our inaugural year! The Hudson Project is something we’ve been developing for years. It’s an event we want to continue to evolve and grow with input from you — the ones who took a chance and came out to be a part of this special weekend at Winston Farm!
By the end of the weekend, this sentiment would be nearly laughable as constant miscommunication and misinformation between festival organizers and staff, festival organizers and attendees, and staff and attendees made it apparent that even if there were “years of development”, this festival was far from a well-oiled machine. I spent nearly as much time troubleshooting people’s RFID chips at the south gate as I did acting as an information booth or telling people how to get to one – which begs the question as to why they didn’t just have an information booth at the south gate – but that’s a question for another day.
There were numerous accounts of campers waiting from midnight to sunrise to get themselves set up at their campsite due to slow staffing help, wrong directions in the media contact email that almost resulted in him missing his set, and a general lack of knowledge of almost everything event-related by the staff hired by MCP Presents to basic questions such as, “How do I get to Brooklyn?” or “Where can I fill up my water bottle?”. For the record, by the second day of the festival..I still don’t know where Brooklyn was.
General disorganization set in early with rushes of attendees looking to see the acts they paid good money for being held in line for as long as 30 minutes due to poor allocation of security personnel that left 2 female security to search all the female attendees in a timely fashion while 4 lanes of checks for males found them getting through quickly and then waiting for the friends they came with anyway.
Even the artists were subjected to the mass confusion of the staff in all different ways. Tweets that have since been taken down showed an exchange between Bit Funk and THP in which he posted screenshots of the directions he was given in his artist contact email that specifically told him the wrong directions and almost resulted in him missing his set had event staff not rushed him to the Catskill Cave once he got there. On Saturday night after the venue portion of the site had been closed to the public, I happened upon an irate SZA talking to one of the event staff responsible for traffic control explaining that she had been waiting outside for 45 minutes for a golf cart to get her out of there. She had a recording session in NYC that night and was in danger of missing the entirety of it because she had been waiting so long to simply exit the festival grounds.
For those that were not there or do not recall, the main medical tent was located directly next to the south venue entrance, right where I was stationed for the entire weekend. The most common complaint of the weekend went to the treatment of attendees by the festival security staff and being in eyesight of the gate for the entirety of the festival afforded me the opportunity to be see much of what happened. Much of the issues stemmed from attempting to keep festival attendees safe and in the interest of full disclosure, the traffic of medical transports bringing kids having seizures and other drug-related issues to the medical tent by Friday night looked like the LIE in rush hour and is absolutely inexcusable if we are looking to progress this beautiful culture we are a part of.
That said, security was RUTHLESS by night time on Saturday due to what appeared to be a knee jerk reaction from festival officials that resulted in the arrests of over 50 people on charges stemming from marijuana violations to possession and intent to sell of the usual assortment of controlled substances. Festival attendees were turned inside out upon entry to the venue area, with their hats being taken off, wallets searched, bags sniffed by K9 units, cigarettes being confiscated (and then taken by festival workers) and other potentially questionable practices. In a report and first-hand account of the procedures via DoAndroidsDance:
the officers were state troopers and most of the arrests were happening at the gates. they had two security points, one at the main entrance to the whole thing and then another from that area into the music zone. they actually had a judge on site, so what they were doing. was arresting people for minor possession charges, taking them to the judge, having their little case heard and paying the fine and then they were released
Although there were over 50 arrests on-site due to these practices, the reaction from local officials was a refreshing point of level-headedness from Police Chief Joseph Sinagra going so far as to say,
We found that a lot of these attendees to be extremely polite, even those that were arrested by our officers, they’ve come in the processing center and some have actually apologized because they’ve made us do some work and I thought that’s pretty unique,” he said. “Just a good group of people that are here.
On Sunday morning, I spoke to one of the security officials employed by MCP Presents and he said they were told to turn it down and really just focus on keeping controlled substances out but the damage was already done as far as numbers were concerned. Rifling through peoples wallets and turning people inside out might seem like a good step towards keeping attendees safe, but as soon as I started to empathize with festival officials, I watched a security guard and state trooper take an attendee’s Research Chemical Testing Kit because he didnt know what it was. This lapse in knowledge is INEXECUSABLE and if authorities can learn one thing moving forward, it is to embrace the concept of pragmatic harm-reduction and educating their staff (especially security staff) of these things so that attendees could have a happy and safe experience. And for anyone that may forget, the single most important thing to take away from this weekend was that THERE WERE NO DEATHS AT THE HUDSON PROJECT. Good job JAMFam.
As with almost every festival, there were the usual assortment of set cancellations due to artist travel issues
specifically) and time changes but the general public was left completely in the dark for the most part on all portions of The Hudson Project social media. The names of artists were cut out of the scheduling board which gave people the day by day set break down and a fury of confusion swept across the festival early Sunday when no one knew the status of sets for both Tipper
and Infected Mushroom
, including the lead festival official who barked at me when I asked for clarification so that I may further help festival-goers.
It’s no secret that the star of The Hudson Project was the rain and the cartoonish accumulation of water around the campgrounds that caused MCP Presents to cancel the festival officially around 7:30pm on Sunday. To be 100% clear, festival officials made the right call here, as the health and safety of its patrons comes first.
That is where the praise ends however, because from that point on, conditions and aide deteriorated quickly with hundreds of festival-goers stuck in the mud with their car had to wait hours to get their cars free of the muddy grounds. A report stated that the American Red Cross came in to provide shelter for the attendees that could still not get out even 16 hours after the event was officially cancelled. There are countless reports of festival organizers not allowing cars with AAA to use the service they paid for, traktors and towing crews taking bribes and charging patrons up to $300 to get their car out early or wait on the over 12 hour waiting list to get their car out of the mud. Although the Hudson Project social media channels boasted of food and water and shelter for concert-goers, many were unable to find anything that resembled help from the already-unhelpful event staff.
Regardless of the countless organizational issues that came with The Hudson Project, the redeeming quality of the festival as with all others are the people that came and #Mudson2014 was no exception. I sincerely want to thank all of the awesome people that I got to meet this past weekend and urge everyone to cherish on the positive moments from the festival and laugh at the struggles. To MCP Presents, I sincerely hope there is a lesson to be learned from this for future events; respect your patrons, respect your environment, respect your staff and most importantly respect the culture that you are supposedly helping to promote and maybe, just maybe, they might respect you again too.
Photo Credit: @_ballen
Written by: @randymcrandell | @thatnewjam