photos by Chelsea Valente
Let’s be honest, by the end of August we’re already missing the festival season: the pounding music at all hours of the night while you’re trying to squeeze in what little sleep you can, the endless rows of vendors and the food that by day two is swamped with melted ice in your cooler. Enter Autumation. While it is rare to see this many good bands in one place in the cold of Upstate New York, the stages for this festival were thankfully inside. Not only were they inside but each stage was elaborately decorated with an Autumnal/Futuristic feel that turned each performance into not just a show, but an experience. The hotel was nice, in fact maybe too nice considering the crowd they were welcoming in for a long weekend. I am pretty sure there was a security guard watching over the lobby furniture (which looked like it was straight out of a Victorian era foyer) to ensure no one turned them into a public sleeping area. The main stage was directly across the lawn from our hotel room making it much easier to avoid the cold.
One serious qualm I had with the festival is that I could not find a list of set times anywhere. When I asked the volunteers at the check-in table they looked at me like I had six heads. Thankfully, one of our friends working the festival scored us an official list of the set times. Due to technical issues most of the acts were pushed back by at least an hour. This definitely added a sense of confusion to the entire weekend. The first show I saw Friday night was The Manhattan Project. The band consists of two guys, Shawn Drogan on drums and electronics and Charles Lindner on keyboards and synths. This duo never ceases to amaze me with the energy they draw in every show they perform. The second they take stage the crowd is moving and the energy is non-stop. For a band that only emerged onto the scene two years ago, they have moved light years ahead of their genre. The one thing I loved most about their set at Autumation is that they kept the crowd guessing throughout every song. Often times they’ll take long exaggerated stalls and pauses throughout songs that leaves you dancing like an idiot while they are frozen on stage.
The next band I traveled into the cold to see was Higher Organix, playing at a separate stage attached to the main hotel building. The decorations were amazing throughout every stage in the venue. The band was delayed by some time so I kicked around the bar (which had surprisingly cheap drinks for a festival) and watched Last Fair Deal blow glass outside the hotel. The surrounding areas of the festival were strewn with debauchery. At one point I actually watched one individual climb into the freezing cold fountain stationed outside of the hotel patio. Finally Higher Organix came on bursting into a drum centered jam. Drummer Jules Jenssen is always a pleasure to watch perform. He stays consistent with his energy level and vehemence throughout every song, keeping the tempo hot and the crowd hotter. Clayton Squire on guitar takes it to the next level with impressive riffs that spiral the entire band into amazing jams.
Unfortunately we had to leave early in order to catch the Cosmic Dust Bunnieson the main stage. This was actually the first time I ever got the chance to catch CDB and I am truly happy I got the opportunity. With a name as farcical as “Cosmic Dust Bunnies” you don’t really know what to expect. I don’t know if it was the time of night (3:30 am) or the intense decorations at main stage but the crowd seemed to make a large shift right around when these guys took stage. This was certainly the perfect band to take on the late night crowd with their stellar jams. By this point of the night my friends and I were all too tired to stand so we sat in plastic Adirondack chairs and let the crowd “happen” around us. The crowd thickened almost immediately and it seemed like not a single person stood still throughout the entire set. The keyboardist used intricate breakdowns to feed into the build ups wavering on the line of electronic and jam. I was seriously impressed with the show these guys put on. By the end of their set we all dragged ourselves back our hotel room to retire until the next day of music began.
My friends and I woke up Saturday morning (afternoon) starving only to find that EVERYTHING in Lake George was closed until the Spring (go figure). We ate a healthy breakfast of mozzarella sticks and French fries from a local Diner and got ready for another long night of music. The first show we saw was Lucid, hailing from the north country of Plattsburgh. Right off the bat their music broke into a bluesy jam accompanied by both a harmonica and a saxophone. Often times with a band as talented as this I get distracted by a singer but in this case I think he is one of the key components of why this band is so good. His raspy voice adds a melancholy level to their upbeat tempos and bluesy guitar riffs. Half way through their set the lead singer gave a shout out to the Tree Shurts table where my friends and I were stationed. They dedicated their next song “All I need is a Spliff,” and burst into a funky, satirical tune about the finer things in life. It is rare to see this combination of instruments on stage these days, especially with the increasingly more popular electronic music which requires little more than a lap top and some speakers. It was truly refreshing to see a band so passionate about keeping the music alive, and pumping out some good tunes while doing so.
Next on main stage was lespecial,the decor of which got more and more intricate every night and by LeSpecial’s set they had girls cascading down the ceiling from ribbon, neon clad hula hoopers dancing on pillars surrounding the stage and neon face painters sending people back into the crowd looking otherworldly. I had heard great things about LeSpecial at previous festivals but never actually had the chance to stay for a whole set. They are a jamtronic three- piece band made up of guitar, drum, bass and some keys and synth on the side. When they hit the stage the crowd was immediately electrified. I often do not find myself blown away by a drummer, especially in a band with heavy bass, but I was pleasantly surprised at how intricate and in-depth the drum beats made each song. This band is definitely very in tune with each other and has a great time on stage.
Viral Sound was a highly anticipated set of the night. The four piece band took stage and broke into a heavy electronic jam consisting of intense guitar solos and spacey drum beats. Jordan Giangreco, formerly of The Breakfast, kept the crowd guessing with funky buildups on the keys and synth. They covered a range of different songs, including a cover of the Grateful Dead’s “Help on the Way”. It’s always nice to be brought back to reality by a song or two that you know, especially with a band like this that takes you to as many different musical territories as they can grasp within an hour-long set. With a first year festival you expect as many things to go wrong as possible. Most first year festivals I have encountered have been an absolute mess and this includes a lot of the larger East coast festivals of today. It takes a lot of time to perfect something that large with that amount of people in attendance. I was actually very surprised at how smoothly things ran all weekend. It is to be expected that there will be some bumps along the way, but for the most part I think Autumation could make a great home for itself as an annual, autumn festival in Upstate New York. If they let us back