Stars of the Pit
City Sirens

Three Days of Music (and all that other stuff)


"I'm going up the country, baby, don't you wanna go
I'm going up the country, baby, don't you wanna go
I'm going to some place where I've never been before"
(Canned Heat, "Going Up the Country")
Picture this: an alpine meadow high in the Catskills, filled with wildflowers and sloping down to a flat patch where, under a geodesic dome, generator-powered music plays throughout the night. At the top of the hill, a village of tents each hold anywhere from one to four people, with a panoramic view of the green valley to the west. Over the three days people spend onsite, it rains at least half-a-dozen times which, instead of dampening spirits, releases a delirious mix of joy and camaraderie. A communal kitchen provides coffee, vegetarian chili and other goodies for anyone that asks. And, across the street, everyone goes swimming in a rushing mountain stream, wearing a heterogeneous mix of bathing and birthday suits. 

No, this isn't Woodstock (even if by the third day it looked a lot like it from all the cars trying to climb the muddy hill.) This was this past weekend's Frog King and Butterflies Summer Camp: an invite-only weekend of music and camping I discovered through some newly-minted friends from Issue Project Room's Sunday night Share. Instead of Jimi Hendrix, Joe Cocker and The Who, people with names like o.blaat and ( ) played extended jams that mixed traditional instruments like guitar and flute with laptops and circuit boards. Down at the base of the hill, a tent pulled straight from the Silk Road offered singer-songwriters, cabaret and live electronics while just outside, folks huddled around a campfire, oblivious to the steadily falling rain. In between, a third stage had DJ's playing a mix of techno, jungle and dub well into the morning. You almost didn't want to go to bed for fear you'd miss out on something unique and unforgettable. 

By the time the sun came up on Sunday, though, I realized that music was only part of what this weekend was all about. It was about waking up to the sound of ambient beats and the sunlight streaming through your tent, rather than some blaring alarm clock. It was about eating shared meals over portable stoves and splitting your last bit of bourbon with the folks who helped feed you. It was about losing your friend's car keys in the river and learning to live with the consequences. (Fortunately, we had a spare.) More than anything, though, it was about meeting an extraordinary mix of creative, open-minded people who've discovered that the true joy in life comes not from the pursuit of material success, but in following your dreams, no matter how childlike. 

"I used to be an architect," one new friend told me early Sunday in the dome. "Now, I make paper dolls." We should all be so lucky. Hope you get invited next year. (More pics below.)DSC08969

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