Meltasia is a two-day mushroom- and acid-laced music festival in upstate New York. In its Ninth year, the rock & roll festival attracted swarms of tattooed, vintage-wearing, mulleted campers to enjoy electric sets by bands Shannon and the Clams, Gnarcissists, Nude Party, Surfbort, Thelma and the Sleaze, the Brooklyn Bluebirds, and the Black Lips
Originally started as a birthday celebration for infamous NYC partier and creator, Andy Animal, the weekend of boozing and bands has become a tradition, with this being its ninth year. The name Meltasia is a mix of ‘Melt’ (an acid reference) and Fantasia, the Walt Disney movie that has been a favorite with acidheads for decades. Past performers at Meltasia have included UK’s Fat White Family, Mungo Jerry, and the legendary Roky Erickson.
My favorite Gemini lady friend, Kat, wanted to get the fuck out of NYC’s sweltering streets and clear her head. So I asked two Aussie tourists who I barely knew if they’d drive us upstate. These boys had bought an ‘80s RV camper and fixed it up to drive across America. Luckily, they were musicians who jumped at the idea. So we jumped in where I felt the rushing wind tossing my dark hair around abusively five seconds into our drive. Spiritualized was playing as we cracked open sodas from the couch in back.
After some frustrating traffic, we finally ascended upon Uncle Pete’s campgrounds in Phoenicia, NY, just three miles from Woodstock. We checked in, parked, and walked toward some white tents in a clearing. Under these tents we found a stage, a merch table, a rack of vintage for sale, a hot food dealer, and a few artist-crafted T-shirts. One local NYC artist, James Concannon, was selling his tongue-in-cheek shirts, which featured such puns as ‘Max’s Kansas Shitty,’ and ‘Kurt Cocaine.’ His long list of supporters include Lady Gaga and other celebs.
Most festival attendees camped in tents bordering the river. We were warned not to swim in the river due to rough rapids. I was told more than one drunk rafter died by being sucked under the current that year. I noticed a janky wooden sign nailed to a tree which had ‘Swim Hole’ painted on it with an arrow. Campers took advantage of the murky pond water, but I didn’t have the guts. Instead, I just dipped my legs into the river.
Campers were without cell phone service for the entire weekend. It was a nice break from our electronic slavery—although I did panic a little that I wouldn’t even be able to text a friend, if necessary. At one point, I bribed a long-haired, shirtless stoner with a sick 1970s van to drive me into town so I could try and get phone reception to make a call to my boss. The wood paneling and shabby bed in the back whispered to me that he would only need a slice of pizza as payment for his good deed. I was right.
The first night, the Bay Area’s Shannon and the Clams headlined. This group is made up of charming, wacky characters whose look screams “John Waters’ flick”. The synth player even used a pair of neon green mannequin legs as his stand.
The handsome young boys who make up the band Gnarcissists played earlier in the evening. A gaggle of short-haired female musicians and models were pogoing up front to the blistering garage-y punk rock tunes. I zoomed my camera in on the shirtless, young drummer in a creepy, old woman way. These young guys are killing it, opening up for the Dead Boys at the Bowery Electric in September and playing Oct. 8 at Elsewhere and Oct. 27 at Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn. Check out their song, “We All Just Wanna,” on iTunes.
Who isn’t in the Nude Party? These psych rockers from Boone, N.C. have at least six or seven dudes onstage playing at once. With keyboards, tambourines, a few guitars, bass, drums, etc.. There is a cool sense that they are all having the time of their lives while playing. Apparently, the tight friends of the Nude Party migrated to the Catskills to live with Oakley Munson, the drummer of the Black Lips. Oakley has been a mentor to these up and coming rock stars whose songs, “One More Mile,” and “Time To Go” are the tits.
I prefer the tin guitar sounds of their 2016 EP Hot Tub, although I’m sure many people will dig the more twangy, backwoods tracks of their 2018 eponymous LP. I love how two of the shaggy-haired guitarists would share the microphone to sing back-up vocals which was reminiscent of mid-1960s groups like the Beatles.
There was even a children’s choir of kids who sang all David Bowie covers. They were outstanding. One little boy was definitely under ten, yet he pulled off a slick guitar solo with the confidence of an adult. I took a video like a proud mom.
In the evening, when all the bands were finished, partners traveled from one bonfire to another looking for the perfect company and/or substance. My friend and I waded through pockets of mud to get to the best parties. It was pitch black so forward thinkers brought miner’s headbands for light. We walked up to a circle of kids around a bonfire who were silently smoking cigs and watching a naked man with a (cough) large package being wrestled by a clothed friend. Did we just stumble upon a live sex act?
This weekend has turned out to be many firsts for me. Turns out this guy took something that wasn’t mixing well with his gray matter. The bad tripper was trying to throw himself in the fire. Finally, a girl put out the fire with a gallon of water. Everyone disappointedly got up and went to another bonfire.
The next morning, I woke up in the RV to serene, classical music. Thank god! I don’t think anyone’s hangover could have handled anything more. I found Andy sitting on his Harley. He commented, “I would.” “You would what?” I asked. He pointed to the patch on back of my short shorts that said, “Eat Shit.” Ha! I jumped on back of his Harley and we rode around the campgrounds. A kid passed out in the grass got an early shout from Andy, “Wake up!!!” We sped by two girls doing yoga poses on mats, “Yoga class!!” Then over to his bandmate Joey, who sneered, “You’re sooo cool Andy,” busting his balls.
Back at the stage, free-spirited lead singer of Surfbort, Dani, showed up and immediately started dancing with one of the friendly old rednecks who run the campground. Surfbort’s set was a fun-filled mosh pit of songs about selfies and trash. Rocker mullet babe singer Dani, has the cutest missing tooth and seems to be having the time of her life. She climbed a pole, gave her microphone to a fan to sing into while she moshed in the crowd and dragged her mic wire out past the tents to serenade the kids sitting in the grass who weren’t watching the show. “Hey, you guys like music?” She stated cutely, followed up with, “I like music,” and then finished her song to a roaring applause. After their set, Surfbort drummer Sean sold T-shirts with a drawing of a woman giving head to a guy with the words “ Jesus Saves,” scrawled underneath. They were being snatched up like hotcakes by eager fans.
Nashville girl group, Thelma and the Sleaze, slayed. They are literally, the best new band I know of. I’m a super fan of singer/guitarist LG. She sings like Janis Joplin and shreds on her guitar like Jimi Hendrix. Serious talent in this group. As Patty Schemel says, “LG’s guitar is an extension of her.” LG usually makes tons of jokes between songs about being white trash and masturbation, but during this set she wore no shirt and spoke about how society has made her feel a certain way about her body, but that we should all be free. Titties swaying in the wind!! Hell yeah!! Do yourself a huge favor and look these gals up.
Andy Animal and other nightlife guys formed a doo-wop group called the Brooklyn Bluebirds. I didn’t know what to think about this new group, but they were awesome. They sang classic ‘50s and ‘60s hits. Joey Capote’s high falsetto vocals was a show stopper on songs like Frankie Valli’s, “Sheri,” and Beach Boys hit, “Barbara Ann.” Andy added the deep vocal moments. Hopefully, they will play around NYC again soon.
The Black Lips headlined the last night and the crowd was huge. I think people drove in just for them. A gigantic panda head appeared out of nowhere and suddenly you just saw its head banging along with the audience. Damn, I wish I was on psychedelics… The beautiful sax player Zumi, stood out to me since she was wearing a thong, tights, boots, a leather belt with chains and a leather halter top. The lovely musician has a perfectly svelte body and the most interesting face and hair. She looks like the long-lost sister of Surfbort’s singer, which is perfect since they are pals.
After it was all over we walked over to the moonlit river and took photos of the mirrored light in the water, a tree gently hanging down, its leaves hoping to touch the water. I love how all these fashionable kids turned into loving neighbors during this trip. Every stranger I walked past would say hello. That would not be happening in the confines of the four walls of a music venue in Manhattan. The peaceful surroundings brought out the best in all of us.
I overheard a member of the Black Lips say that this year is so crowded compared to past Melts. I couldn’t believe it! As a person who dry heaves at the mention of the words, ‘music festival,’ I only came because it was a tiny scene. No way in hell would I attend a Lollapalooza-scale festival. The absolute coolest thing about Meltasia is the fact that you can drink with the band around a bonfire after watching them onstage. No V.I.P., just a free community.
A utopia, if only for a weekend.
A short conversation with Meltasia organizer Andy Animal:
PKM: What was your best experience at this years Meltasia?
Andy: It might have been when Schooly D showed up unannounced and did a short set.
PKM: Is this the ninth festival? What performer was the best out of those years?
Andy: I think so. Well it was the 4th public one. So many good ones. I always love the rappers. Raekwon and Kool Keith killed it. Shannon & The Clams, The Black Lips, Daddy Long Legs, Bloodshot Bill & Birdcloud are acts that I’m always happy to have back. That’s my family!
PKM: What rock documentary were you telling me to watch?
Andy: Was it Super Duper Alice Cooper? That’s the best of the best.
PKM: What performer did you have drama with in years past? Why?
Andy: Mungo Jerry! The reason is boring but I have no problem letting people know that me and him have a problem. He called us out on Twitter so it’s fair game. If he wants to apologize, I will accept it. He put on some amazing shows for me. If anyone else has caused any problems, that’s between us. I can’t think of anyone else, though. Everything is usually beautiful.
PKM: Are you gonna play with your doo-wop group, Brooklyn Bluebirds, in NYC anytime soon?
Andy: The Brooklyn Bluebirds play November 7th at Williamsburg Hall of Music with Shannon & The Clams + Dirty Fences.
PKM: I love the intimacy of this smallish fest. Have you made any love or music connections that you are proud of?
Andy: I’ve made my fair share of love at the fest. I’m proudest to have become good buddies with Black Oak Arkansas. Those guys are legends. The Southern Stooges. Did I answer that right?
PKM: What’s the craziest thing you’ve laid eyes on at the festival?
Andy: A naked woman riding around on a motorcycle, a group of people riding down the creek on an air mattress, goats, Kool Keith in a ball pit, my mom hanging out with Vockah Redu.
PKM: What’s in the future for Meltasia?
Andy: Gonna keep it just like we did this year. Small stage, budget setup, great bands.