Rock and Roll Resort is small indoor festival just west of New Paltz, NY in the shell of a borscht-belt resort long past its prime. Think Dirty Dancing; there were dozens of these Catskill resorts that offered escape just 2-hour drive from the city. They offered golf, swimming, maybe skiing in the winter, nightly entertainment, and teenage shenanigans. I used to come to one of these resorts for new years in the 80s. Now Google Maps lists that place as a Historical Landmark. The resorts partly died out as air travel became more affordable and amusement parks became more interesting. So why not bring it all back to life with a music fest full of jam bands and wooks (i.e. dirty hippies)?!
The benefit to non-corporate shows is fast check-in but they also often lack structure. To be clear, I’m all for security but I hate the line especially when I know I’ve got nothing dangerous in my bags. Lee the jeweler and I walked into the lobby. Two people on staff looked through us till I asked where we check in. They directed us to a slow-moving line. Next stop was the check-in for the actual hotel. Back to the first line to buy meal tickets. Once the check-in process was complete, Lee ventured off across the street to a home where she was offered a bed. One of the bands was staying there and there was a cook on hand as well. Hard to pass up. I dropped my gear in my hotel room and caught up with Island Girl and Hair Tie.
I heard the first Golden Gate Wingmen set from the lobby as I stayed at the Wharf Rat table for anyone who happened by. That commitment was complete in time to hear one song by Jen Durkin and her current lineup before the second Wingmen set started. I’ve said it before but this lineup is amazing. Our cadre discussed the band between dancing bouts and I proposed that JRAD is to School of Rock students what GGW is to School of Rock faculty. They OWN this music and make it their own. Nothing against JRAD and their masterful, high energy sets of course but GGW brings forth the music from a deeper place closer to the source. I also think it is amazing that Jeff can play keys on Black Muddy River in Chicago for thousands (live and streaming) and in the NY mountains for hundreds.
That high brought me to the VIP room where I played an epic game of Jenga against Island Girl. We were cheered on by Cousin Earth and various passers-by. Later in the night, we caught part of the Kung Fu set but I quickly realized just how out of shape I was. Maybe it was the epic Jenga but I suspected not. I was weak and sleepy and not in prime festival form. It has been months since new years and I’ve been recovering from a month with no exercise.
The next morning faded in across the hotel lobby/ shakedown street. Breakfast in the ballroom then coffee in the VIP area. Wooks passed out in the hallways, scattered music both live and from small speakers welcomed the slow to rise. The lobby stage hosted a family friendly set by Cousin Earth which included some video game soundtracks and high energy funk. I got a Flo and Eddie vibe from them which would play out in their second set later that night when they mixed Zappa, Bach fugues, and R2D2 samples together. They are certainly the geekiest band in the jam scene; their album is called Human Music and if you don’t get the reference you should be watching more cartoons.
Later that night was Melvin Seals and JGB. Of course, due to the small space we all shared, we saw the bands wandering the halls throughout the night. I got a nice hello from Melvin when he saw me at the Wharf Rat table and I told him to have a great show. This JGB lineup is amazing and features a stellar young guitarist who has nailed that Jerry sound (equipment and playing) perfect for the JGB vibe. At the set break the Wharf Rat table was approached by a woman saying it was, “the first place I thought of to find a responsible person.” We were asked if we could help find Peter (the JGB drummer) a ride to the Albany airport by 7 am. Within minutes it was all confirmed and Peter met his driver in person. I called early the next morning to check in and was told Peter got there on time, they had great conversation, and our friend the driver was offered guest passes to the next show.
Sunday morning’s theme was pajamas. The previous nights were 80’s jungle,and cowboy. I strolled through the parking lot to drop my bags and a little girl said, “Look a kitty cat! Hi kitty cat!” I realized I was wearing my Totoro onesie since the night before. It made her day and she followed me around for a while. As people started to move out I helped break down the VIP area which I feel is a fine payment considering the amount of time I spent there without the credentials. Next stop was the house across the street to collect Lee. The scene was a typical hippie-morning. Bong passed by people singing in pjs, scattered food remnants, and groups smoking cigarettes outside.
We stopped to say goodbye to Hair tie at a scenic overlook on the far side of the mountains. Lee slept the rest of the way home as I listened to JGB.0 likes