With THE HUDSON PROJECT set to debut this week, festival organizers MCP PRESENTS sat down to talk about the inaugural event with MICHAEL LANG, one of the founders of the original Woodstock festival who’s serving as ambassador for the landowners for the festival. In planning THE HUDSON PROJECT, festival organizers set out to develop a sense of community for everyone who will be traveling to Winston Farm in Saugerties, New York this weekend (July 11, 12 and 13).
Q: How was the decision made to partner up now on THE HUDSON PROJECT?
A: MCP: This festival has been a long time coming. We’ve had the desire to bring a large scale, multi-genre, camping festival to the region as we believed that the area was perfect for this style of an event. When the opportunity arose to check out a piece of land in the heart of the Hudson Valley, we were instantly enthusiastic about the opportunity–when we learned that the property was the same as ’94 Woodstock and that Michael Lang (the Godfather of American music festivals) was involved, we became ecstatic. After seeing the land with our own eyes we knew we were on to something. Now, here we are–this week we’re seeing our dreams come to fruition and it’s really exciting!
Michael Lang (ML): I met Jonathan and Brett a year or two ago when they were considering starting a new festival. Their goal was a North Eastern event space to sort of build a festival over time into something that would be the Bonnaroo or Coachella of the North East and Winston Farms is really an ideal location for that. It’s probably the best festival site in the state and hasn’t really been used since we did Woodstock 25, the 25th Anniversary in 1994. They came to look at the site, then they came again when the snow had melted and fell in love with it, so we decided to put our heads together.
Q: THE HUDSON PROJECT will take place in an area that’s beloved in music festival lore. Tell us more about the site.
A: MCP: To many, this site and the region as a whole is a pivotal space in the birthplace of music festivals and Winston Farm represents this so well as an absolutely pristine, beautiful piece of land set against the Catskill Mountains. From the festival grounds, you can see the mountains peaking out in the background. Because the location is so iconic and authentically beautiful, we’re looking to amplify the natural character of the 600 usable acres by carving out a unique festival site and bringing in art and other elements that enhance what the land already has to offer.
ML: You know it’s very bucolic. There are huge fields, mountain backdrops and it’s got very few neighbors on its perimeter, and it just seems like an ideal place to hold festivals. It certainly has the capacity to grow over time and it really gives you the feeling of being out in beautiful surroundings and out in nature.
Q: As you’ve been developing THE HUDSON PROJECT, what kind of local support have you received? Were there any hurdles to overcome?
A: ML: I think we pretty much have 100 percent support from people in town, people in the business community of Saugerties and the surrounding towns seem very positive about it. It will bring commerce into the area, it will bring notoriety to the area, and it will bring culture to the area. They see it as a win-win. The county–because they haven’t had to deal with permitting this kind of event for so long–is being very cautious. They’re making sure that everything is done properly and all the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed, which I think is a good thing because it’ll become easier in future years. For this first time it’s really essential for everyone to have that level of confidence–it’s important that everything is being done properly for a safe and pleasurable event. It’s very important we all work together, because it will give confidence to the county and the town and the people in the surrounding areas. They had a really good experience in ‘94, so they were sort of open–to the idea in any case–of us bringing music events back to the farm.
MCP: The local community has been beyond accommodating. With an event of this size there are a lot of rules, regulations and permitting processes that you have to go through in order to make all parties involved feel comfortable that the event and all patrons will be safe throughout the long weekend. As we’ve developed The Hudson Project, we’ve worked with local officials to create something the local community wants to see grow into an annual event that supports the area as a whole year round. The Hudson Valley has become a hot bed for tourism and an event of this magnitude really shines a light on the area and allows the visibility to expand beyond New Yorkers coming up for the weekend. We’re hoping that this event will put this area back on the musical map on the national level and expand the regions lore to a new audience.
Q: There was a definite decision to limit the number of tickets sold for THE HUDSON PROJECT, let’s talk a little about that.
A: MCP: The intention with The Hudson Project was to create something homegrown and organic, but also something that made sense specifically in the Hudson Valley. From the beginning, the plan always was to start small and ultimately grow it slowly and organically. This is where the “PROJECT” portion of the name comes from–the desire to build something great and continue to build upon the previous event from year to year. We never want to settle and will always strive to stay at the forefront of the times and provide the absolute best fan experience for everyone who attends. In doing that, we wanted to limit the number of tickets this first year so we can gauge how many people the site could safely and comfortably accommodate.
ML: Scaling it back this first year just gives everybody a comfort level to begin this sort of new life of the site–a new musical life–and it will give everyone the confidence to let it grow over time.
Q: THE HUDSON PROJECT’s line-up is an eclectic one, much like the original Woodstock. Was that a deliberate move in an era when genre-specific festivals seem to be increasing?
A: MCP: In our experience, we’ve seen that most people listen to a wide variety of music and not only one particular style. On a personal level, we listen to a wide range of music–indie, hip hop and electronic–and we try to build a diverse lineup that gives every fan a wide variety of experiences while they’re on site. We want to give everyone a chance to check out a lot of different bands that they may not have seen before and to expose them to new and different things that they may not come across at one of these genre specific events.
ML: Yes, it has, and diversity I think is a good thing. There are so many single genre festivals, which also are great experiences for fans of those particular types of music, but I think something that is diverse and exposes people to different kinds of musical experiences and expressions, is a great thing.
Q: Having watched the festival market develop to the point where there seems to be a festival every weekend, what can concert-goers expect that will make THE HUDSON PROJECT stand out?
A: MCP: With The Hudson Project, we have a fresh slate to work with, giving us the ability to craft the festival into what we believe a music festival should be. We are creating a unique atmosphere based on music, art, activity and community where all festival goers can feel that they are a part of the PROJECT. Our goal as we grow the festival is to work with our audience and build it into something they want to continue to be a part of, as opposed to joining something that is already well established. As with any of our events, we look to create a small city for a weekend on a beautiful piece of land. We believe that this temporary city is a quick glimpse into a utopian society built upon the concepts of togetherness, free enterprise, entertainment and creativity. Everything we do in the conceptualization of this festival is based around these ideals and we believe it will show this month.
ML: Well, I think first of all, it’s in upstate New York which will bring a New York-based crowd, as well as upstate New York and maybe even Boston, certainly Albany. So it will be a different audience, but I think what sets it apart in a way is where it’s located–that it’s out in this beautiful countryside. I think a lot of these festivals that are happening around are in fixed facilities in the city in stadiums and Randalls Island, for example, which is a great facility, for sort of a one-day event.
Q: The Winston Farm site is a tranquil and beautiful setting–were there any concerns about bringing THE HUDSON PROJECT into the location? What considerations have been given to the preservation of the site?
A: ML: It’s being treated very carefully. Everything is being laid out in a way that will limit the impact that it has on the land. And afterward, it will be cleaned and whatever damage to the fields will be dealt with, though they’re pretty resilient. These are fields that have been growing for decades.
MCP: We have a professional team in place and everything that we do as we prepare for the weekend is built around the preservation of this site. It’s one of the most beautiful sites we’ve ever seen and we want to make sure it’s preserved and restored to its former beauty so that we can all come back here and continue to enjoy it for years to come.
Q: Music festivals inherently create a sense of community and also one of discovery. Each of you has a unique perspective based on your own personal festival experiences. How will those influence what has gone into developing THE HUDSON PROJECT?
A: MCP: We’ve built this festival ideal on a sense of community. We really try to build out on experience from the moment that the fans step into the festival grounds to the moment they leave, and that goes way beyond music. Of course we want them to remember when their favorite band played their favorite song, or the moment they discovered their new favorite band, but we also want people to walk away with memories of the food the ate, the art they participated in, the feel of grass under their feet and sun on their bodies, the new friends they made and of the collective experiences that we are all about to embark upon. In the end we want everyone to walk away feeling that they were a part of something special.
ML: Winston Farm gives THE HUDSON PROJECT a unique opportunity for a big camping experience and a big sort of community being formed for a number of days and because it’s diverse and because it’s going to include all of the arts, it becomes a very enriching experience. Especially when it’s out in nature like this one is because you lose those restricted feelings that you have when you’re in an inner city and you start to relate to the nature and the setting around you, and it sort of opens you up to connecting with people. I think that really is the biggest contributing factor to why festivals have become so popular because you get an opportunity to really spend a chunk of time connecting with people.
Q: Because the plan is to pay homage to the Hudson Valley, how were the selections made on which artisans would be invited to participate? What unique local attributes can attendees expect at THE HUDSON PROJECT?
A: MCP: It was really important as we created The Hudson Project that we really showcase what the Hudson Valley is about. We’re doing that through regional breweries, local food venders, restaurants, and food trucks, artisanal craft venders and much more.
ML: The plan is to bring a lot of local foods and products in for the weekend from food trucks to local restaurants and the like and to have a pretty diverse selection of food. I’ve always sort of treasured that at the Jazz & Heritage Fest in New Orleans. In fact, food is almost as big a part of the experience as the music is and it’s kind of a relief not to have just the typical hot dogs and hamburgers. The Hudson Valley has a lot to offer in that regard. There are a lot of great farms and organic suppliers and great chefs, and I think that will be a big part of the experience.
Q: Let’s talk about THE HUDSON PROJECT’s line-up, which acts are you all looking forward to at THE HUDSON PROJECT? (Feel free to talk here about the local stage and what that element will bring to the festival.)
A: MCP: There are so many phenomenal acts on this lineup that it is hard to list off, but let’s hit some highlights. Kendrick Lamar is one of the most explosive Hip Hop performers in the business, Modest Mouse is a time tested classic who we’ve never been able to book and who play very few festivals, Matt & Kim just kill it, Bonobo live band is always a special performance, The New Deal are performing for the first time in over four years, Nightmares on Wax (who we have been listening to for over 20 years now) put on a classic performance, The Soul Rebels will be bringing some New Orleans flair with them. Kygo and Odesza are new comers to the scene and have quickly become favorites, along the same musical lines the entire French Express Crew (Moon Boots, Perseus, Jonas Rathsman and Isaac Tichauer) really know how to throw down the grooves, Majical Cloudz and STRFKR are fantastic indie bands, Marco Benevento is one of the best keyboard players of our generation and WoodysProduce (a personal friend of ours) produces some really unique and absolutely outstanding remixes. Outside of the headliners we have stocked our New York Stage with some really cool workshops and classes (Kung Fu, Qui Gong, Yoga) in the early afternoons, along with really amazing local bands and DJs in the evenings and into the wee hours of the morning. This is a special stage to us as it adds a component that speaks to the “Project” element of what we are trying to do here…a work in progress and a place where we’re willing to go out on a limb and try new things. We want everyone to do the same throughout the weekend and check something out they never have before. This is what makes music festivals so special.
ML: A lot of the bands are bands I’m not familiar with. I’m kind of excited about discovering something. I mean it happens every time you go to a music event. For example, Mountain Jam was just this weekend, and I caught Damien Marley’s set and I had never heard or really seen him before, and I was really impressed by him. If you spend time at these shows and really try to see a lot of things, you’ll always discover something that you hadn’t experienced that becomes a nice surprise.
Q: When people walk away from THE HUDSON PROJECT, what do you want them to remember?
A: ML: I’d just like them to walk away with the feeling that they’ve had a great experience, they’ve made some new friends, they were part of something that was very special and something that they’re looking forward to returning to year after year. I think that is what these things have to offer, this sort of opportunity to have a completely different kind of experience with people who are like minded.
MCP: We love the festival experience as it creates memories that last forever for many who attend. This is our goal beyond anything else, to create an atmosphere where people have the time of their lives and create stories that they will tell as long as they live. If we do our jobs right, they won’t remember anything we do and only the amazing times they had, the friends they made, experiences they created, the fun in the sun and dancing under the stars.
MCP Presents (www.mcppresents.com)
MCP Presents is a national production, promotion and event management company with 12 years of festival promotion experience. Known for producing world-class events such as: CounterPoint Music & Arts Festival in Atlanta, GA; Camp Bisco Music + Arts Festival in Upstate New York; Lights All Night in Dallas, Texas; The Buku Project in New Orleans, Louisiana; and The Echo Project in Fairburn, Georgia, MCP also manages elements of internationally renowned events such as TomorrowWorld, and more.