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Catalpa: There's nothing like it

article & photography by Tori McCarthy

"Through rain, sleet or snow, we deliver,” is no longer the motto of the postal service alone. In its inaugural year CatalpaNYC 2012, which took place July 28-29th on Randall's Island and faced at-times torrential downpours to deliver its promise to festival goers nation wide.

The festival, consisting of three stages, bountiful food, endless product placements, a silent disco, and an inflatable chapel, certainty splashed onto the New York music scene. Just ask Zola Jesus, whose entire set was engulfed by hurricane-grade rains. But that didn't stop fans from following the rather in-your-face moniker hanging above the main stage commanding them to “Dance Bitches”.

Though the turnout for Catalpa was meager compared to big name festivals like Bonnaroo and Coachella, the grounds were a-buzz with energy and with acts like indie- pop duo Matt&Kim (who hiccuped on “Daylight” but recovered with a discussion of kegel exercises), mashup extraordinaire Girl Talk, and electro-disco sirens Hercules and Love Affair, the fans who faced the weather were duly rewarded with some of the hippest sets I've seen in quite some time. With confetti guns and inflatable zebras galore, the small crowd certainty made a big roar.

Despite its small scale and troubles with inclement weather, Catalpa must be applauded for one thing: a diversity that almost mirrored that of the city its was rocking. Almost every genre of music had a representative at this, shall we say, eclectic gathering. For the rockers out there, Catalpa offered not one but two sets by jam band Umphreys Mcgee, the throwback styling of The Sheepdogs, and SoCal indie rockers Cold War Kids.

If ripping guitar solos aren't your style, the festival also featured rappers and hip-hop artist such as A$AP Rocky (who to didn't actually join his mob onstage until his set was three songs deep) and of course headliner Snoop Dogg, whose laid back set featuring music from Doggiestyle was amped up by video-dramatization of the rapper (turned reggae star?) yet still ended 30 minutes early. And speaking of reggae, one can't forget the High Times reggae stage, which featured a revolving door of bands and DJ's.

However the hands-down highlight of the fest was undoubtedly the soulful, full throttle performance by the Black Keys. Though they can't take the prize for most energetic performance (a title which must go to Kim Schifino, her crowd surfing booty bounce, and prolific use of expletives), musically the duo was spot on, totally in sync, with an chemistry that electrified the whole crowd as their name rose triumphantly in lights.

Other highlights included TV on the Radio, (a beard-less) Matisyahu, AraabMusik, and Brooklyn locals Aunt Martha.


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