The Mudson Project: A Beautiful Catastrophe

Storm rolling in over Big Gigantic, Saturday Night

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So much has been said about The Hudson Project already; hell, it even made national news. So when I sat down to write this wrap-up, I wanted to give everyone a first-hand experience of my time at THP. What follows is not a slanderous piece, rather it is a personal and honest account of the events that occurred the weekend of July 11th-13th, 2014 in Saugerties, NY.

My saga started with the arduous journey to the festival grounds. As aggravated as I was that the off-site parking was so far removed, forcing us to schlep all our shelter and sustenance well over a mile on foot, I was relieved to find later in the weekend that our decision to opt out of on-site parking was probably the luckiest one of my festival-going life.

Day 1 Mud
Friday Afternoon Mud

Entering into the camping scene of the Bronx, I felt a not-so-fresh whiff of thick dust pollute my nostrils and throat, immediately calling to mind the horrific conditions of my Camp Bisco experience. The camping situation was already dismal in this particular borough, with nearly every tent and pop-up planted on a 30-45 degree angle and slouching downhill as a result of it. I had my first taste of mud trying to find what little dry camping ground remained, settling on a position straddling mud, horse manure and somebody else’s tent. We ended up dubbing the Bronx “Ghana.”

The first day turned out to be rather uneventful, in retrospect. Savoy stole the show, but strong performances were seen from Bro Safari, Araabmuzik and Odesza. Many of the tents on Friday were already in desperate need of wood chips, plywood, or any form of mud control but alas saw no attention.

Saturday turned out to be a nice day and the general hope was that things would dry out. People were already becoming weary of having to trudge through mud, considering half the campgrounds and tents were covered in it. Letting go of common hygiene is hard enough when faced with a camping festival, but increasingly inhospitable conditions and overpriced showers at the venue were not helping. Perhaps, we thought, we can bathe in the mud.

Big Gigantic‘s terrific sunset performance seemingly led the crowd into a rain dance, which, although none of us knew it at the time, was the beginning of the end for THP. The refreshment it offered quickly wore off when most of those at Big G made the exodus to the then downright swampy Circus Tent for Griz. The right side of the tent looked like a zombie invasion thwarted by wet-but-quickly-drying cement. Those attempting to break free soon gave up but luckily had one of the best sets of the night for entertainment. Griz was on point, delivering his blend of live saxophone, edgy dub and powerful, soulful samples.

Griz in Circus Tent, Saturday Night

Looking back on the first two days, it’s hard to even remember where things went wrong. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a good time – I did. But for many around me, much of the fun was derived from a collective frustration with the worsening situation and that we had all gotten a few good chuckles over the festival’s newly dubbed name “The Mudson Project.”

On Sunday, the day I was must excited for, I remember laying in my tent around 10:30 am waking to a voice telling us that a massive storm was coming and to “be prepared.” Of course, armed with little more than a cooler with a quickly dwindling cache of beers and a few tent poles, I was unsure what exactly we were expected to do. So, naturally, we equipped ourselves with a few beers.

Several hours later, in an appropriate concentration camp fashion, we heard the loudspeaker announce that all music was cancelled, followed quickly by a disoriented volunteer telling us we had to evacuate. Her explanation for why, how and where to is too hilarious for me to write without bursting into full-on laughter. What I will say is that I certainly was not planning to get into my car to “wait out this storm” while already quite lubricated and completely devoid of energy. I feel bad for those that did listen, however, as anyone who saw the national news following the event now knows.

I should be very clear here that The Hudson Project obviously did not cause the rain, want the storm or delight in seeing us suffer through it. At no point do I mean to imply any of these things. But the fact of the matter is – they never prepared for rain. At all. Never, at any point, did they think of what would happen if even an inch of rain fell on the ground (or any inclement weather occurred, for that matter). I have probably been to over 10 such camping festivals, even ones with bigger storms than THP’s, and seen exacting, well-thought-out procedures in place to mitigate weather.

Sunday Night
Sunday Night, Knee Deep Mud

Instead, at THP, the procedure seemed to be evacuate. Which, in and of itself, is not a procedure at all. It seems the only people with the willingness (read: sobriety) or means to do so were staff, as the presence of onsite volunteers, medical professionals, police and vendors dwindled almost immediately to the point where it felt as if we were on our own. (In fact, we were. No more water fill-ups, no more food. I didn’t eat for over 14 hours). Perhaps one of my best interactions of that evening was encountering one of the straggling staff members around 11:30pm in the RV park, telling us all to leave immediately. We were much drunker than before and, more importantly, standing next to an on-site lot with at least 50 cars stuck in the mud with no help in sight. It was impossible to respect this particular individual at that point.

It’s probably clear by now from my story that the music was not the most memorable thing about The Hudson Project, unfortunate for a festival that had such a great, diverse lineup and what seemed like lots of potential. Instead, it suffered from a severe lack of planning and coordination but, more importantly, a blatant disregard for its attendees, both for their festival experience and their health and safety.

When we all left the festival Monday morning (those of us lucky enough to not be still waiting in our cars for rescue, that is), I have never seen a more beaten and dejected crew of individuals who, only a few days before, had been looking forward to a weekend of fun and relaxation with friends. The chant, rather, as we all trudged through six inches of standing mud and, at one point, a waist-deep pool of water, seemed to be collective. “Fuck Hudson.”

P.S. For those of you who made it out to the RV park Sunday night to hear our boy Chris Culnane of The Oxford Group spin, you can check out a video of the madness in the mud below.