Last weekend, hoards of Brooklynites (alongside a healthy sprinkling of Tri-Staters) carpooled, camped, Amtrak’ed and Airbnb’ed to the charmingly industrial town of Hudson, NY, the perfect backdrop for Basilica Soundscape. The festival, which took place in an 1880s glue factory-turned-performance space, and produced by Hole bassist Melissa Auf der Maurr and her husband Tony Stone, marked its fifth anniversary this year and sold out its 1200 person capacity. With musicians like Perfume Genius, The Haxan Cloak, Health, Lydia Ainsworth and Actress, festival co-curators Brandon Stosuy (Pitchfork) and Brian DeRan (Leg Up! Management’s) set the stage for innovate musicians to feel at home aside cultural contemporaries.
Hailed as “the anti festival,” the consensus is that Basilica is a much-needed alternative to commercial music festivals and EDM marathons, instead providing a unique, nurturing environment for non-traditional groups to showcase their art.
Other non-traditional but much appreciated festival offerings included farm-to-table food trucks; large-scale artworks by Dan Colen and Harmony Korine; poetry readings; craft beer on tap (and at reasonable prices); pop up bookstore and zine fair; after parties at nearby dive bar Half Moon; and solar and greening standards. Inside the basilica – a pagan gathering hall in its own way – all elements combined to create an intellectual and accessible backbone from which listening to music feels more like connecting with a movement.
This year, the lineup was back-to-back with music that pushed all the right boundaries, yet remained pop-laced and accessible to all. My favorite of the festival, Lydia Ainsworth, seduced the crowd into silence with her vocals, with cellist and violinist’s bows racing alongside her electronic undertones. Actress puzzled and delighted fans who might have expected a more beat-heavy rendition of his dark electronic tunes, instead pursuing a minimal sonic journey. And Health, the Los Angeles psychedelic noise rock band, provided a show worth risking your eardrums for, shifting through their rhythms of their set with mastery.
Saturday night brought rain, making the basilica feel cozy and still not-too-crowded, but also limiting areas to escape the heavier tone of the evening. The offerings fell on the experimental end of the spectrum, featuring a deep metal rapture from Sannhet, performance art alongside riddled verses from Norwegian singer Jenny Hval, a “metal trip” set that seemed like one deep, cyclical drone pattern from Wolf Eyes, a percussive pulsation from Triangle Trio, and one long gorgeous-yet-draining lullaby from Perfume Genius. After the hypnotically-crafted powerhouse night that was Friday, Saturday didn’t wow me, even if most of the crowd seemed to revel in its exotic sound. And while the artists’ avant-garde nature felt true to Basilica Soundscape, the night’s acts felt forced and didn’t play off each other’s strengths.
While Basilica is no longer a hidden gem, it still has work to do before hitting perfection. Once they can balance their lineup to make the entire experience truly equivalent in sonic offering should they consider the opportunity they have with their unique vision and influence. I’d hope they’d take their show on the road, bringing hand-crafted micro music festival experience to repurposed and unique spaces beyond their homestead in Hudson. Who knows how pushing beyond their own physical boundaries could benefit a generation of offbeat music fans, not just the Brooklynites who are lucky to have such music close to home.