Last weekend a crew of Brooklynites hoofed it approximately 2.5 hours up the river to mingle with their upstate counterparts in Hudson, NY for Basilica Soundscape, a festival that is truly unlike any other. Basilica Hudson, a one-time glue factory in an industrial park turned arts-and-cultural center along the MetroNorth train tracks, hosted the sold out gathering—about 800 people of all ages and similar backgrounds. Now in its third year, Basilica Soundscape has earned its reputation as an alternative festival for curious music lovers who want to expand their listening palette, featuring a diverse lineup with highlights from scenic metal band Deafheaven, Balinese xylophone orchestra Gamelan Dharma Swara, Lorde tourmates Majical Cloudz, electronic wavemaker Tim Hecker, and more.
Many city folk took the MetroNorth, which stops literally across the street from the factory, just for Friday or Saturday evening. It was likely Hudson’s biggest Air b’n’b weekend, and a few inns sprinkled through the historic town also provided beds for musicians and fans alike. I opted for camping with a diverse group of about 100 others, an expensive but satisfactory crashpad at a campsite on the fringe of a golfcourse about 8 miles away. They took the liability out of the experience and offered free shuttles to and from the site all night. Temperatures dipped into the low 50s in the wet evenings and the crowd wore a mixed wardrobe of fall and winter garb while I opted for many layers that would keep me warm within the basilica and while gathered around the campfire at our site, where I met many other adventurous Brooklynites, enjoying the spark of the firewood and the novelty of partial-wildness camping.
Scenes from Basilica Soundscape
Julia Holter Crooned the Blues
LA’s Julia Holter was among Friday’s first performers and warmed the festival with a hypnotic solo set at dusk, pouring her emotionally-charged vocals into a numbers from her 3 albums as well as an elegant Jacques Brel cover.
Gamelan Dharma Swara = The Highlight of My Festival
The bookers of this festival get endless props for bringing one major international influence to the Basilica. Gamelan Dharma Swara is a traditonal Balinese outfit with 18+ members channeling incredible energy through their intricate xylophone melodies, clashing choral harmonies, and unpredictable rhythms. Unlike anything I’ve ever seen or heard—check out the video below for a glimpse.
Extracurriculars at the Fest Included Art Exhibits, Book + Record Sales, and Silly Faces…
Favored Snack of the festival? Spacey Tracy’s Garlic Dog!
Arcade Fire’s Richard Reed Perry Led a Stethocope Orchestra
Based on his recent album Music for Heart and Breath, which “turns musicians into metronomes,” the collective soared through a classical performance, featuring trumpet, flute, keys, strings, breath and whistling, each song based on the heartbeat of a different musician in the band.
The Afterparty featured Blazer SS and DJ 6e (Brian DeGraw from Gang Gang Dance)
Once the Basilica closed down, those still vibing meandered over to one of the oldest bars in Hudson, the Half Moon, which we learned from locals has undergone many phases in its time as a watering hole, having been a gay bar, biker bar, and finally, a cozy dive bar. From 1 am til 4 the dance floor was one big sweatpit, featuring one of the best DJs I’ve ever seen from DJ 6e (Brian DeGraw from Gang Gang Dance) and a roster of characters you can only find in a small town as diverse as Hudson.
The 2nd Night of The Festival Kicked Off Around Dusk on a Gloomy Saturday
Guardian Alien Graced Us with Snaking Rounds of Rhythms & Delicious Glitches
Majical Cloudz Surprised the Crowd by Performing in Total Darkness
Canadian duo Majical Cloudz graced the festival with the most straightforward and accessible set of the weekend. Using only the basilica’s exterior lights for their performance, they breezed through intellectual, lyrical pop songs from their excellent 201 album Impersonator. Singer Devon Welsh got pumped up between slow numbers by leaping into the air, delighting the crowd with charmingly awkward stage banter, several times expressing sincere affection for the crowd.
White Lung Represented Women!
Noticeably lacking in women, Basilica was enhanced by White Lung‘s rip-roaring pop-punk vibe. Before the performance, Mish Way of White Lung participated in a poetry reading alongside Mira Gonzalez and Perfect Pussy frontwoman Meredith Graves. Unfortunately each of their proses revolved around the negative influence of men in their lives, something that felt slightly unnecessarily to the (mostly male, mostly forward-thinking) crowd.
Guardian Alien & Liturgy Drummer Greg Fox Did a Surprise Set Above the Action
Finally, Deafheaven Roared Magnificently
Around this time an influx of peach-fuzzed faces started balancing out the mostly older crowd, as a large portion of Saturday’s crowd was there solely for Deafheaven, a black metal band from San Francisco that infuses intensity with sensibility in beautifully crafted metal ballads. Seeing them in a basilica was legendary, as their colossal sound reached the highest peak of the building and vibrated through each body in the crowd.
Swans Bursted Eardrums for Two full hours, Closing Soundscape With a Bang
Swans, legendary no wave band from the eighties and early nineties, took the stage for the loudest set I’ve ever heard. Blaring through distortedly long versions of their songs, they whipped the audience into a meditative state that most stuck out for the longest set of the weekend.
Goodnight, Basilica. You’ll be in our dreams…
With that, ears aching, the crowd disbanded, some heading to the afterparty and others wandering off into the fog blanketing the waterfront’s industrial area. Basilica fulfilled its ideal as a “declaration and a creative act, in which a lot of different kinds of musical and literary sensibilities, low-key or oblique or confrontational, barely out of the egg or middle-aged and experienced, can be made memorable by juxtaposition and setting” as set forth by The New York Times, and definitely redeemed itself as our #1 Epic Fall Festival in/around NYC. Until next year!