Let’s say, not-so-hypothetically speaking, that you’re running one of the most innovative music festivals in the country. You’re holding this festival in an amazing location – a beautiful, fully functional summer camp in the Pennsylvania Poconos. You’ve got possibly the best business model of any festival out there, in that yours is all-inclusive; as little as $185 buys your guests not just the price of admission, but food, beer, and a place to stay (a bunk in the aforementioned summer camp). You cap your ticket sales at 1,500, so there’s not only a feeling of exclusivity, but the smaller crowds allow the artists you book to mingle freely with festival attendees. And what artists they are; some of the biggest names in funk and R&B have played your festival and they’ve raved about the experience; many have come back for more. In short, you’ve already done everything right. And you’ve been doing it that way for five years, to continually improving reviews and exposure.
So what do you do? Coast on the goodwill you’ve accumulated, continue to put on a good show, but keep it simple? Don’t rock – or funk up, if you will – the boat?
Not if you’re Equifunk. Not even close.
The all-inclusive festival that has thrived – to an incredibly degree – on word-of-mouth and a refreshing DIY philosophy is doing exactly the opposite, kicking it up a notch for their 6th go-round, being held August 16-18.
As always, Equifunk is a veritable who’s-who of funk; bands like JJ Grey and Mofro, Marco Benevento, and the Revivalists are all on board. But this year the lineup is all about collaborations. Which is to say jaw-dropping I-can’t-believe-these-guys-are-playing-together-anywhere-much-less-a-summer-camp collaborations. Jack-of-all-trades blues man Anders Osborne plays a set with John Medeski, one of the greatest jazz keyboardists alive. English funksters New Mastersounds – who at times sound more like the Meters than the Meters – join up with saxophonist (and DC native) James Casey, best known for his recent work with the Trey Anastasio band. Another moon in the Phish orbit, Jon Fishman, will play with his band Pork Tornado, one of only two shows the band currently has scheduled. The always entertaining Soulive, who have done everything from blues to funk to a song-for-song jazz rendition of the Beatles’ Rubber Soul, will play with legendary James Brown and P-Funk saxophonist Maceo Parker. Finally, damn near everyone in the preceding paragraph will play as the M&M’s; Benvento, Medeski, and Parker will join Papa Mali and Stanton Moore (of Galactic, who ripped it up at last year’s Equifunk) for a bring-down-house jam session to close out the festival.
Galactic w/Corey Glover KILLING IT at last Equifunk 2012
So how do you fit so much damn amazing music into a Friday and Saturday? You don’t. At some point the Equifunk planners figured out there are three days in the weekend, so what had previously been a Friday-Saturday affair now stretches gloriously into Sunday.
In addition to the legends above, Equifunk is also a fantastic showcase for up-and-coming bands. Indiana funk five piece the Main Squeeze played two absolutely brilliant sets at last year’s festival, the second at nearly 3 a.m. in the camp’s dining hall. Their cover of “Bohemian Rhapsody” is a can’t-miss. Another Equifunk repeat, Brooklyn’s I’ll Be John Brown, play infectiously catchy Lynard Skynard-esque classic rock that couldn’t be more perfect for the beer-in-a-plastic-cup summer camp setting (their new three-song “The Wrong EP” is well worth a listen.)
The music is, of course, more than worth the price of admission. But what you also get with Equifunk (in addition to an absolutely beautiful five-hour drive from DC that goes much faster than you’d think) is a vibe. There’s a community feeling at this festival that other festivals that charge $8 for water and have lines 70 people deep for dilapidated port-o-potties simply can’t touch. Read our review of last year’s festival (part one and part two) for a glimpse of what we mean. More importantly, pack some sheets, throw your wallet and phone in the glove compartment, and come get funky in the Poconos.