The inaugural Catalpa NYC festival had some highs and lows due to circumstances beyond the control of the promoters. Torrential downpours mired a promising start to the festival, but by the end, the rain was a distant memory, with the mud on the ground being the only reminder.
Full review of the day including photos from The Black Keys, TV on the Radio, Hercules and Love Affair, Umphrey’s McGee and more after the jump.
For Day 1 at Catalpa, the festival seemed a tad top-heavy and it seemed like the dismal forecast kept some people away. While My Pet Dragon and Aviation were serviceable, nothing felt like a must-see until Zola Jesus.
Zola Jesus put on her typically strong performance. Sometimes minimalism is best and with just a drummer, violinist and a backing track, Zola’s strong vocals battled against the oncoming rain.
Luckily the rain never decided to stay, and while it took over the last 20 minutes of Zola’s set, the rain subsided enough to check out The Sheepdogs. This was the first band that pleasantly surprised me.
The Sheepdogs had a great southern rock backbone with a no-frills approach to rock. A festival is about exploration, and finding a band that you want to revisit afterward is the best return on the price of admission.
The great sets continued with Hercules and Love Affair. Taking the gloomy skies and dampened spirits of the festival-goers as a challenge, the band delivered music that you could and would want to dance to. The bass was refreshing and helped transport you to a much sweatier and raunchier place.
The second half of Catalpa Day 1 held a lot of promise and the good streak continued on through the night.
TV on the Radio are a tricky festival band. They can really hit great heights in songs like “Wolf Like Me,” but are just as great delivering a soulful and introspective jam like “Second Song.” They found the right balance at Catalpa bringing festival goers to a calm and reflective place but never forgetting to pick them back up.
Umphrey’s McGee comes across as a jam band with a metal mentality. The band has obvious chops and those ripping guitar lines and solos were more than just noodling, which can be an unfair slight that gets put on to too many jam bands, as they were pretty shred-friendly.
Finally, the moment fans were waiting for. After battling the torrential rain, fans greeted the first notes of “Howlin’ for You” with a roar. The Black Keys have a killer catalog and while it’s always going to feature a lot of the newer material, it’s great to see “I’ll Be Your Man” next to “Your Touch.”
Unfortunately, if you’ve seen The Black Keys in 2012, chances are you saw this set list. At their MSG dates, the only difference was the additional songs “Chop and Change” and “She’s Long Gone” that were not played at Catalpa. It’s still a compelling set that would leave fans happy if they had not seen The Black Keys recently.
The Black Keys
TV on the Radio
Hercules and Love Affair
The Aviation Orange
My Pet Dragon