From July 11-13, the inaugural Hudson Project kicked off in Saugerties, NY, a temporary tent city that wreaked havoc on the Catskill Mountains just miles from Woodstock, NY, where music festivals were famously born decades ago. A long-in-the-works project from MCP Presents and one of the original Woodstock organizers, Michael Lang, the festival featured a lineup both diverse and drool-inducing, offering top names from all over the musical map. While the weather brought the music to an end by Sunday afternoon, that didn't stop the party; the entire site was turned into a water park, with slip 'n' slides and swimming pools rising up where there had been dry land. To those that were there, it will forever be known as Mudson Project. Here's a day-by-day review of my most epic Hudson Project moments:
STS9's evening set
I haven't really listened to jam bands in the last few years, so it's been a while since I've seen Sound Tribe Sector 9. I found myself at the Explorer Stage after Modest Mouse, so I decided to give them a try for old times sake. They completely blew me away. The first thing I noticed was new bass player Alana Rocklin, who just joined the band and seems to supply them with a ferocious energy. For the rest of the weekend everyone was talking about how it was maybe the best Tribe set they had ever seen, and let's face it, when it comes to hippies, who see their favorite bands dozens of times, that statement should not be taken lightly.
The psychedelic theatrics of The Flaming Lips
Once The Flaming Lips are on a festival lineup, they're practically guaranteed to be the most over-the-top performance of the weekend. Last time I saw them they emerged from a giant vagina, this time around their set featured giant mushroom costumes, as well as something that looked like a cross between a huge butterfly and the Michelin Man. Their setlist was perfect, including "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots," "Race for the Prize," and a mind-blowing "In the Morning of the Magicians" that put the album version to absolute shame. After basking in the confetti and making sure not to miss Wayne Coyne's hamster-ball crowd surfing, I eventually left to check out Excision, but I paid a heavy price; they ended their set with "Do You Realize??" and a cover of "Lucy In the Sky with Diamonds."
Flying Lotus's late night set in the Circus Tent
As far as I'm concerned, Flying Lotus is king right now. Nobody else is pushing boundaries like him without making any sacrifices in terms of dopeness. His set was delayed, but as he finally emerged on stage, he announced how incredibly high he was and proceeded to annihilate the tent, delivering an onslaught of his own material as well as tracks like Hudson Mohawke's "Structure" and Clams Casino's "I'm God" (which I will never, ever get tired of). I was a little disappointed that FlyLo didn't drop Danny Brown's "Handstand" like I'd heard he did at Electric Forest – that would have been the highlight of my weekend without a doubt. Still, he ended the night on a high note. Check out a brief clip below, with Flying Lotus rapping as his alter ego, Captain Murphy.
Big Gigantic's rain-soaked dance party
Rain is often a bummer during music festivals, but after a hot, sunny day, Big Gigantic conjured a brief storm that was basically a free shower and excuse to get extra funky. If you don't know them, the band is a brilliant combination of saxophone, jam band, hip-hop, and of course, plenty of trappy goodness. When the rain subsided Big Gigantic was still going strong, with a fireworks display suddenly going off behind them that easily topped what I saw on July 4th. When they were finally done, we all looked around at each other, a little amazed by what we had just been a part of. Without a doubt the highlight of the weekend.
Matt & Kim's awe-inspiring energy
I don't listen to a whole lot of Matt & Kim, but after the insanity of Big Gigantic they were an obvious choice. They quickly confirmed that they may very well be the coolest people on Earth, Kim in particular seemed like she was on about twice as much molly as everyone else judging by the huge and permanent smile on her face. While she wasn't destroying her drum set she was walking on the crowd's hands, twerking on stage, and generally being one of the most entertaining performers I've ever witnessed. Their set combined their own hits with more trap and hip-hop, with covers of classic songs like Biz Markie's "Just a Friend" and Dr. Dre's "The Next Episode" in no short supply.
Kendrick Lamar rocking the main stage
Hudson Project's hip-hop selection was deep, with not one but three artists from Top Dawg Entertainment in attendance, as well as Action Bronson, Flatbush Zombies, and Atmosphere, who for the record killed it on Friday. Nobody could outdo Kendrick Lamar though, who brought his album good kid, m.A.A.d city to the main stage with a full band. The album is just stacked with great songs that were even greater live, like "Money Trees," "Backseat Freestyle," "Poetic Justice," and a bangin' "m.A.A.d city."
Moby's DJ set in the circus tent
After hearing Griz throw down hard in the circus tent, I stuck around for Moby. I'd seen him before at Moogfest, where his set concentrated more on his pop hits, so it was nice to see him DJ for a change. His set was comprised mostly of stuff like old school electro, a nice bump up in BPM from all of the bass music and trap I'd been hearing all weekend. Standing just outside the tent, which at that point had become a mud pit, I watched Moby close out the night in beautiful fashion, his light show's pyrotechnics illuminating other onlookers around the giant purple tent like moths around a lamp.
More Mud, Thunderstorms, Evacuation, Anarchy
The last day of Hudson started normally enough, but a tension hung in the air; people were tired, and we also knew that much more rain was expected. Just as I headed into the venue to catch Action Bronson around 5 p.m., the announcement came: severe weather was on its way, the music was cancelled, and we were to evacuate to our cars. Most people did not comply, to say the least. Our cars were parked five miles away, and packing up a tent and getting there before the already-nearby storm hit was simply impossible. While the music truly wasn't happening, people made their own fun. Hills became water slides, and people were throwing themselves down them with reckless abandon. People were making mud angels. It was all very unsanitary and more than a few people reported minor injuries, but hey, the music was cancelled. Get a glimpse of the muddy madness below:
I was a little sad to see how many people completely turned on the Hudson Project organizers when the music was cancelled. I heard lots of people complaining about how they wanted a full refund and blah blah blah, when really the people in charge were being responsible and making a tough call, and yes, if you haven't heard they're refunding 1/3 of the ticket prices. Rain is one thing, but close proximity lightning and potential tornadoes aren't things you just cross your fingers and hope for the best about. Nobody died at Hudson, and that's getting to be an accomplishment for a festival heavy on EDM. While I do think the festival had some organizational kinks to work out (being parked so far from your vehicle causes problems), overall it was a blast, and will hopefully return next year as one of the most anticipated three-day parties on the east coast. See you next year Hudson.
The Hudson Project
July 11-13, Saugerties, NY