The Inaugural Hudson Music Project: Big Sounds, Big Lights, and a Bigger Storm

Photo Credit: Kevin Earle

Hudson or Mudson?

The three day music festival hosted at Winston Farm, the same 800 acre property as Woodstock ’94, was an experience defined by big sound, big lights and a huge storm.  Organized by MCP Presents and SFX Entertainment, The Hudson Project started out strong with the first of the 20,000 attendees arriving late on Thursday in high spirits.  Concertgoers flooded into the grounds throughout Thursday evening, creativity rampant among the campsites as the tent cities that had popped up overnight fostered a strong sense of community. When Friday morning rolled around, the festival was in full swing.

The festival organizers had the ambitious goal of making a lasting impression on crowds at the inaugural Hudson Project. They booked over 85 performances, spread them across five unique stages, and timed them to start early in the afternoon and continue late into the night. Sustainably sourced food, clothing vendors, a ferris wheel and live art exhibitions at the “Artagon” were designed to keep patrons’ senses stimulated.

Attendees watching the live art performances at the Artagon.  Photo Credit: Kevin Earle

Each day boasted an iconic headliner. On Friday, it was Wayne Coyne and the psych-rock legends, the Flaming Lips. Their use of strobe lights was so brilliantly intense that one attendee became overwhelmed during the last song of their set. Upon realizing what had happened, Coyne stopped the show and quieted his thousands of fans to allow medical personnel to reach the person in distress. He rather regretfully explained that such reactions to the lightshow were commonplace at Flaming Lips concerts. After keeping the peace for over twenty minutes, they finished with a heart-wrenching rendition of The Beatles’, “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”.

flaming lips dancing mushrooms
The Flaming Lips performing with dancing mushrooms at the Empire Stage.  Photo Credit: Brian Harkin

Saturday’s headliner was Compton-based MC Kendrick Lamar who was accompanied by a live band. Face-melting guitar solos from the band complemented lyrics from Good Kid M.A.A.D. City that erupted from the mainstage speakers.

Kendrick Lamar performing at the Empire Stage.  Photo Credit: Kevin Earle

The most highly anticipated performance was arguably Sunday’s lead act, Bassnectar. The intense anticipation for his show was evidenced by the frequency of the bass drop logos on his fans’ homemade clothing and totems throughout the festival.  Bassnectar fans were heart broken when the festival was cancelled due to inclement weather just hours before he was scheduled to perform.

There was an incredible range of talent on display Friday.  Smaller names, such as Moon Hooch, with their so-called “cave music” that inspires dancing and primal revelry, and Tauk, with their beat-heavy dirty funk complete with stank faces, packed a serious punch.  We were lucky to be able to speak with both groups briefly in the media tent and learned that Tauk is having a release show on July 19th at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn for their new album, Collisions, out July 22nd.  One band member mentioned that they were surprised to have drawn such a large crowd, especially a crowd that was so engaged in their music but it was no surprise, these talented guys are a must see.

Moon Hooch drew an equally impressive crowd and spoke with us about their opinions on The Hudson Project. Wenzl McGowen, one of the two saxophonists in the trio, discussed his concerns with the environmental aspect of the festival.  Although it was the inaugural year, he felt that the organizers of THP could have done much more with regards to sustainability. The noticeably excessive use of confetti and streamers in many performances was seemingly hypocritical considering the presence of the Clean Vibes organization and green efforts the festival promoted.

We received a refreshing perspective on the saturated genre of EDM from Tony Mendez, a DC based artist whose stage name is Lindsay Lowend.  In a short but humble conversation, Mendez shared with us that he felt lucky to have been “born at the right time” and that the constant demand artists face to produce golden musical nuggets quickly separates the men from the boys.

Friday continued with stellar performances from Robert Delong, STS9 and Flying Lotus.  Delong was the best one man show of the weekend, layering instrument after instrument on top of one another all while creating his own vocals.  It was experimental almost, as though he was using a joystick to develop certain sounds.  STS9’s new bassist Alana Rocklin proved to be a phenomenal replacement for Murphy; she played a steady and exciting bass line while the group managed to flow flawlessly between dance, funk and psychedelic sounds.  They were in sync musically and artistically throughout their set and were by far the most fine-tuned set of the weekend.

STS9 performing at the Explorer Stage.  Photo Credit: Brian Harkin

Excision and Flying Lotus ended the night with tight sounds in the dirty Circus Tent. After only a day into the festival, the ground at the Circus Tent was entirely mud. That didn’t prevent a single person from raging to Excision’s monstrous dubstep beats, which were complete with a light show that could easily demand sunglasses.  Flying Lotus’ distinct visual performances are what have always made him individual within his experimental electronic genre.  His stage presence and rapping abilities, which were just as distinct, have grown stronger within the last year.  FlyLo now interacts with his audience in a more intimate way, teasing them and building excitement.  He makes sure that he parties just as hard as the audience and he did not disappoint on Friday.

Twiddle, the ever funky crowd pleaser, and ZZ Ward’s bluesy harmonica sounds eased everyone into Saturday before the bass heavy sounds of Exmag and Luminox came around.  Bonobo started off the evening with a live band and two singers, an unusual setup for an artist who generally works as a DJ. Big Gigantic took the reins from there, beginning his performance as the first rainstorm hit, at which point the crowd danced even harder and Big G brought more and more energy.  Matt & Kim followed with their hugely engaging concert routine.  Kim’s never ending store of energy kept the audience fired up and she exclaimed that she wanted the “Whole F**KING campground to hear us!” during a raucous cover of Alice Deejay’s “Better Off Alone.”

ZZ Ward performing at the Empire Stage.  Photo Credit: Kevin Earle

GRiZ and Moby closed out the night with spectacular DJ sets.  GRiZ was supremely aggressive with numerous explosions of confetti and smoke.  His impressive mixing skills were showcased when he pulled together sounds ranging from funk to reggae to create an evolving sound. Like Flying Lotus, GRiZ knows how to throw a party; people were scaling the rafters during both artists sets.  Even Moby gave a surprising performance with a live set that stood apart from the records he’s produced in the past, living up to his reputation of being a 90’s club scene legend.

Sunday was cut short after only a few performances.  The announcement cancelling the festival came through the loudspeakers around 4:45pm, right in the middle of Isaiah Rashad’s set.  Both Rashad and the audience were clearly put off by the interruption and were upset that the performance would not continue.  At first, the remainder of the performances were simply put on hold, but after the organizers received more information from the National Weather Service, attendees were instructed to seek shelter in their cars if they had driven and had they not, they were told to make friends.

Considering the circumstances, the festival organizers did the best they could with the resources they had. Surely they will work towards solving the infrastructure and evacuation route shortcomings. MCP Presents and SFX Entertainment have a five-year contract with Winston Farm, offering great hope for the festival’s future prospects.  Assuming MCP Presents and SFX Entertainment can book a lineup as equally diverse and talented as 2014’s, weather-permitting, next year’s event at Winston Farm will be worth making the trek to.


–Jeanette van Dorsten & Sam Martin

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