(Photo credit J.D. for
3:42pm, Sunday, July 29.
‘Let’s GO, Let’s GO!! The train is here!’
We race down the subway stairs, hold the doors open and slip into the very first car. We all breathe a sigh of relief as the AC hits our necks and we realize that we are on our way. My friends and I are on the uptown 4 train, headed towards a perfect day of music, sun and dancing. Our pockets are filled with supplies, snacks, red bulls and a flask or two, amongst other things, that will power us through the day. The final destination is the inaugural Catalpa festival, a brand new NYC music event located on Randall’s Island.
Catalpa is not just any other music festival. They have created an experience of culture, creativity and energy through music, art, advertising and socializing. Catalpa has over 40 performers from many musical genres including Blues, Rock, Hip-Hop, Electronic, Reggae and Indie but they also add progressive ways for people to express themselves.
‘Who are you most exited to see?’
‘Oh ASAP, for sure. Whenever he plays they always crowd surf and go wild.’
‘What?! No, Snoop is gonna be so much better. Doggystyle!? You can’t compete with that.’
The debate goes on as we walk across the bridge towards the festival. A light rain comes down making the view of the island daunting and epic. We can hear the rumbles of bass slowly turn into booming kicks and as we get closer the melodies and lyrics start to make their way through. We start walking faster, almost to the point of a light jog, until we finally get through the gates. We’re here.
Being an all around experience, when we arrived at Catalpa, before the music even starts, we couldn’t help but explore. We walked into “The Church of Sham Marriages” where a pimp pastor conducted fake-marries within a giant blow-up church complete with a certificate and you’re picture taken, which sounds a lot better than real marriage if you ask me. Then we peeped into the Silent Disco tent, which without headphones is a bunch of people quietly stomping on the ground, but with them becomes a surreal dance floor. Heineken and Absolut Vodka installed specialized bars with Heineken’s acting as a walk in cooler and a club vibe inside, a perfect escape from the humidity. We checked out the Absolut’s Art Bar where artists designed original pieces using the signature Absolut bottle as a canvas. I mean we had the unbeatable New York skyline in front of us and we are completely surrounded by a world of excitement, and we haven’t even seen any music yet.
But the first thing you notice when you walk in is the ‘Jeep Power Amp Experience’, one of the many new ways the festival and progressive brands like Jeep were adding their creativity and making Catalpa more than just a music festival. You could take a ride in one of the new urban looking 2012 Jeep Wrangler Altitudes through an obstacle course of slalom, natural hill, wheel articulation, slide, water fording and an all around impressive show of Jeep power. There were prizes and backstage passes to be won but it was simply a great way for Jeep to relate to adventurous music lovers and the passionate people of Catalpa. Now its time for the music.
First up is Matisyahu. Everyone knows Matisyahu as the unorthodox rapper who mixes traditional Jewish themes with reggae, rock and hip hop beat boxing, but when you see him live, he is just a true performer. His songs are beautiful and his band is perfectly on point. His charisma is addictive and you are always left wanting to hear more and more. As we were listening, the clouds and rain seemed to disappear and the sun poured in. It was almost out of a movie as he sang his new single ‘Sunshine’ and we all rocked back and forth in a trance of rhythm. For his finale, he personally dragged up at least thirty fans from the crowd to dance and party with him on stage. We fought towards the front but couldn’t make it up. I was feeling was a mix of excitement and jealousy as Matisyahu belted out his last track with fans hugging him and singing through his microphone. What a way to start.
Next was the one and only AraabMUZIK. You know how people say in order to be an expert at something, you need to practice for 10,000 hours? Well, AraabMUZIK has been playing his MPC for 100,000 hours and counting. He’s already one of the most well known producers in hip-hop but taking his experience live was the cherry on top. He shred up the touch pads so hard, he was literally shaking water bottles off of the table he was playing on. He takes samples and drum sounds and chops them up into a million pieces until it’s an entirely organic and ridiculously dope. AraabMUZIK’s set was heavily dubstep influenced, rather than his usual hi hop style, but the crowd, me included, were tossing themselves left and right and just getting down so hard that the grass beneath us became a giant mud pool of mud. We were ankle deep in mud, and loving every minute of it.
After a brief visit to see Girl Talk mash up the top 40’s and rock anthems, my ears were already ringing and my body was aching from all my white boy dancing. But now it was time for my personal highlight of the festival, A$AP Rocky. Keep in mind that I am completely bias because, being a fellow New Yorker like A$AP and a huge fan of his, I thought his show was phenomenal. And he was playing minutes away from where he grew up. The crowd was surprisingly small which was great for us. We wedged right up close and as soon as he hit the stage people were crowd surfing and flipping out, it completely popped the lid off what I expected.
He played tracks off his groundbreaking mixtape like ‘Bass’, ‘Purple Swag’ and of course ‘Peso’, followed by new songs such as ‘Goldie’ and ‘Street Knock’.
But the reason why A$AP hit home for me was what he said during the middle of his show. ‘This isn’t a show, it’s a gathering. We are all regular people coming together to live life. I’m just a regular guy like y’all and I came here to party with you. Do y’all want to party with me?’ And then he leapt into the crowd and was jumping along side his fans. It’s nice to see a rapper who can really relate.
As the masses left the A$AP show we literally sprinted across the island to get a good view of the legendary Snoop Dogg. Snoop has had a lot of recent criticism for making sell out tracks with Katy Perry and Wiz Khalifa etc. But tonight he was playing his old skool ‘Doggystyle’ album, from start to finish.
At this point in the night we were tiered, we were covered in mud, every inch of my body was aching and we maybe had a little too much to drink… But the only way to end such an amazing day was with an amazing artist. Our reputation as music lovers was on the line, we had to stay. Snoop himself is 40 years old, probably the oldest active rapper and if we were tiered at 22-years-old, imagine how exhausted the Doggfather was? Don’t worry Snoop we stayed to the very end, just for you.
The Snoop show was insane to say the least. He brought on Korupt and Lady of Rage to complete the ensemble as well as an 80 year old man and a giant Dog mascot with an enormous fake joint in his hand. Who would do such a thing? Snoop would. The show was great and ended with, ‘Young Wild and Free’, maybe an overplayed choice, but was the right message that really resonated as a summary of the day at large.
I collapse in bed, my ears still in pain and my legs in knots. My head hits the pillow and flashes of lights and sounds from the day go by in my mind. Catalpa was a huge success and the start of something that can only be even greater in the future. But before I got a chance to fully gather my thoughts and take off my wristband, I was already asleep. Goodnight Catalpa and see you next year.