Solstice Shenanigans at Summer Sequence (Festival Review)

Solstice Shenanigans at Summer Sequence (Festival Review)

summer sequence

For thousands of years, human beings have gathered to celebrate the longest day of the year. For many, the solstice is a time of cosmic awareness; for others, it’s a time of shenanigans and liberation. Whichever way your pleasure tends, this is a time to celebrate life, light, renewal, and growth with family and friends.

Since 2017, Papadosio has been the host of their own celebration, for friends (many of whom refer to each other as “family”) to gather, dance, and play, in various forms, but always with a top-tier lineup and always in a space that quickly feels like home. This year marked a huge shift, moving not only across state lines, from their home base in Asheville, but across four state lines to LaFayette, NY, and while some of the faces changed, the vibes remained the same. River Beats was thrilled to be on the grounds to see this new iteration blossom.

Day One

Bring on the Heat

Driving up in the thick of a heat wave, the sky was a healthy blend of sunshine and ominous clouds. The temperature was over ninety for the third day in a row, but the cooler was packed with cold drinks and our spirits were high as we pulled into the pastoral farmlands of Wonderland Forest an hour after gates.

So what if there was a high chance of storms? “Weather be weathering,” as one fan put it, and we’d already decided: If it stormed, so be it. You’re only in control of the good time you choose to have.

As we parked to plot our venture into the grounds, a welcomed breeze moved across the hills. A silhouette waved through a windshield, and I smiled as I recognized a friend. Nothing is quite like a familiar face first thing through the gates. Without even setting up camp, I felt right at home.

Being a two-day fest at a new venue, we hoped to arrive as early as possible to secure a spot in the shade before music at 1pm (I’d caught 3420 at last year’s Submersion, and I couldn’t wait to hear them kick off the weekend). The humidity had us sluggish, but we found a nook, set up camp to the scattered reverberations of soundcheck, and hurried up to catch the bulk of the first set.

PC: Andrew Lawrence

3420 opened the afternoon with their signature blend of instrumental bass jams that seemed to channel the muggy air while also providing drafts of release. We watched from under some pines in the back as early arrivals gathered around picnic tables to mingle with strangers and friends.

With music on one stage till midnight, fans were able to bring their chairs and post up without the stress of chasing a schedule. There was also plenty of space on the hill to hook up hammocks and while away the longest days of the year (and hottest so far) without missing a single sound.

PC: Brian Ferguson

Next up was Solar Circuit, another jamtronica act with a penchant for space funk and soothing noodle jams. 

After vibing a bit, we walked back to camp to eat some watermelon and make sure everything was strapped down in case it stormed. Along the way, staff handed us print-out maps, marking off the “secret” late-night stage in the woods, and gave us helpful tips to get to the swimming holes.

We could hear the music perfectly from our camp, so we settled down to fill our bellies with cold fruit and cherish some respite from the sun before returning to the stage for the rest of the day.

Hit the Decks

By the time I strolled back for Benji Robot, the pit was freckled with patterned umbrellas and flow artists twirling staffs, spinning hoops, and juggling pins against the inferno. Conversations and laughter crackled through the air like popcorn in a microwave as new friends arrived every few minutes.

Testing the system, Benji kicked off his set with a heavy resonance before shifting into scratchy swerves and froggy squibbles. While most of the crowd was still hanging back near the picnic tables, tentative traipsing began to grow playful and organic. Despite the heat, the party was finding its feet.

PC: Mary Turk

As if to lighten the boil, Entangled Mind opened with “A Sunny Spot” from their new album Lucid Living before shifting into a delectable scramble of psybient/trance tracks and closing with a smooth rain of liquid drum and bass.

Clouds rolled in and Humandala came out blazing with a high energy set of slurpy low-end bass mixed with chunky glitch-hop slammers.

Ranging from sultry neuro to tribal glitch, ambient to full-blown crunch, Somatoast’s set was rife with IDs and had me twisting in the gravel, soaked in sweat. Definitely a day one highlight. Even when the sound kicked out (plugs overheating in the sun), everyone lurched forward with ears honed in on the stage monitors to keep our circuits flooded with his inimitable sound till the very end.

PC: Mary Turk
Night Moves

With Ott, the sun began to fall at last. It felt like the end of a day-long battle as twilight grew pale and cosmic above the stage.

After inciting laughs with his witty banter, Ott took us bouncing through a fun house of whimsical space dub. He started light and loopy, layered with whispers and trickles of electro-rivulets. At one point, the British trickster beckoned a fan to toss their stuffed Pikachu on stage. Placing it atop his head, Ott proceeded to work the decks while the Pokémon’s ears flopped above his own.

To everyone’s delight, nightfall brought out the greased wubs of his heavier side, and by the end, as he announced the “sexually potent” Papadosio to more laughs, we were all primed to dance until sunrise.

PC: Mary Turk

This marked the first break since music began. Fans scrambled to camp to prepare themselves for the host and headliner to close out the main stage.

PC: Mary Turk

By 10pm, drinks imbibed, bowls cherried, the crowd was back and ready to boogie. Like a spotlight in the distance, a vibrant marmalade orb could be seen sneaking its way through the pine needles.

PC: Noah Beers

Opening with an XL version of “Bionic Man Meets His Past,” Papadosio went on to play a set of face-melters like “Paradigm Shift” and “The Eyes Have Eyes” with funkier tracks like “Everyone is Cool” and “Geoglyph.”

PC: Brian Ferguson

One highlight for me was the buttery transition from “Xanadu” into the first drop of a “Geoglyph” that sent the whole pit shucking and jiving on high. Another highlight was when the Strawberry Moon rose above the stage. Many looked up in awe as the band played on. A friend turned to me with glassy eyes and said, “The amount of moons I’ve shared with this band….” Trailing off, we hugged and I knew these are the moments that can’t be repeated; this is why we keep coming back.

PC: Mary Turk

Ending the set with a ferocious “Cubensis,” fans were freed into the night. While some went to hunt down the takeover stage, I made a trip to camp to gather my pieces and link up with friends.

PC: Noah Beers

As happens, mischief reigned, and it was 2am by the time we all set off to find the stage. Along the way we discovered it to be a much longer trek than we thought, and rumor was spreading that it might’ve been shut down.

Beat from the day, we turned back, opting to goof about the logistics of transporting kangaroos until the first birds sang from the treetops, then I dragged myself to my own camp for some needed rest.

PC: Brian Ferguson

Day Two

No Better Way to Start the Day

It felt like I had just closed my eyes when the sharp patter of a passing rain hit my tent. Normally I would have groaned, but the air felt light and refreshing so I rose to welcome the day. With the rest of camp asleep, I chugged some coffee and set off on a solo trek to find the swimming hole.

Along the way, I met some folks in hammocks who filled me in on the late night situation. At 2am, calls from police had forced the venue to shut down the stage due to sound complaints, but the crew was hoping to set up the Funktions tonight in an undisclosed location for Soundz OrGanic’s takeover.

After a steep incline, I popped onto the creek. The water was turquoise in the morning sun and glimmering with fossils of horn coral and trilobites. Research back home told me this watershed is teeming with fossils from the Devonian era (380 million years ago!), when New York was submerged in a tropical sea.

As trail markers disappeared, finger holds in the crumbling shale were my only recourse to keep from slipping on the limestone. This seemed a little more treacherous than the description I’d received (apparently I was supposed to turn RIGHT at the creek *slaps forehead*), but I held course and eventually came to the top of a glorious waterfall overlooking Apple Valley. I scrambled down the side and emerged on the rush and burble of two spectral pools tucked into the base of the falls.

I spent the next hour swimming alone in the sun. Talk about setting your head on straight! Clean and crisp, I hoofed it back to the stage just in time to catch EarthCry’s modular journey set. This segue was easily one of the highest points of my weekend.

After setting up his modular synth, EarthCry addressed the crowd: “You’re basically going to see a guy panic up here,” he laughed. What followed was an experimental throwdown, shaping sound from plucks and plugs that ran from woodland fae loops to brain-scrambling IDM, noise torrents to ambient nebulae, his ode to “the farmer down the road who has absolutely no idea what’s going on.”

During this set, I had a chance to talk with the sound crew and learn about the system in use, which I had never encountered: 1 SOUND. Developed in 2019 by Lou Mannarino, designer of audio systems for prestigious venues like The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Lincoln Center, 1 SOUND is made in NJ and packs the clean punch of beloved systems like Funktion Ones and HSD. After this weekend, I have no doubt we will start seeing this name pop up more and more in our scene.

PC: Mary Turk
The Prodigal Sun Returns

Apollo at his zenith, it was time for me to get back to camp for some sustenance. Pineapple, a change of clothes, the rocket jams of Vaporeyes and Microcave wending through the woods, and I was back at the stage, a chair in the shade, refreshed and invigorated. But I didn’t stay seated for long.

PC: Brian Ferguson

Hoopla has been hot on my radar since TnF 2023. The evolution of his sound design this past year has been astounding. Crafting a journey of crystalline downtempo layered with ripples of aquatic intricacies, his set (the day after releasing Beacon, his debut album on Colony Productions) was a complex mind massage, a deep dive into benthic depths that erased all sense of self and spat us back onto land feeling both fresh and fuzzy.

IG: @planestation_music

This blended seamlessly into the neuro soundscape of surprising tempo shifts and oneiric glitch twists delivered by prolific producer EOS before Cualli took the stage for an hour of full-blown squanch and totter.

PC: Brian Ferguson

With Supersillyus, dark clouds were moving into the valley and chatter in the crowd bemoaned impending storms. But this didn’t stop the pit from evolving into a carnivalesque dance fest of jugglers and freewheeling footwork as the ringleader laid down his unique sound of psycho circus trance.

PC: Brian Ferguson
A Little Bit of Thunder, A Little Bit of Lightning

Ott opened his set with a track that has always been the epitome of peace for me: “One Day I Wish to Have This Kind of Time.” It felt like a landing pad from the energy of Supersillyus as the crowd swayed to its blissful buildup and rain began to fall. Some rushed to hide their gear under overhangs, but most reveled in the pressure drop and cool drizzle as Ott increased tempo and darkness settled in. 

Unfortunately, his set was cut when lightning struck. Thunder took the stage for its own set of rumbling bass, and the pit was evacuated as fans rushed to shelter. We reached a friend’s camp just in time to watch a torrential burst backed by yellow clouds move across the hillside and beset us. A double blow came when we found out the late night stage had been canceled altogether.

PC: Brian Ferguson

As quick as it came, the rain moved on. Lightning rent the sky but its sonic aftermath seemed to be passing into the distance. People emerged from EZ ups and took to the wet grass to mingle and goof away the evening. Trust me: You don’t really know bubbles until you’ve seen them illuminated by a 1,500 lumen flashlight, erupting by the thousands from the blowhole of a plastic narwhal.

A little after 10pm, staff came ripping camp to camp on a fourwheeler to herald the stage reopening. As the first notes of “Versicolor” spread through the venue and fans gathered their pieces to rush to the stage, I was reminded of the exodus to Tipper’s post-storm set at Secret Dreams 2022.

PC: Brian Ferguson

Channeling the storm, Papadosio crushed a heavy-hitting “Monochrome” before venturing into a jazzy, expansive “Unparalyzer.” A launch-off from “Each and Every Wave” had keyboardist Sam Brouse standing up to work his Behringer MS-1 to its brink, and an XL version of “Distress Signal” locked my funk face in place as I grooved in the wood chips.

Closing out with an old favorite, “Polygons,” the crowd was released, with all the time missed more than recompensed.

PC: Mary Turk

We spent the rest of the night at a friend’s camp. Flow artists spun fire in the dewy grass. With storms due in the morning, I moseyed back to my own camp to pack what I could before the sun came up. By the time I hit my pillow, a smile seared to my face, I was ready to catch some Z’s and welcome the day of departure.

Sometimes a two-day fest can feel like a tease; other times, it’s just what you need to recharge your battery and return to the workaday world teeming with the energy we’ve all learned to cherish from these special weekends of music and art. I, for one, found exactly what I needed in the hills of Wonderland Forest, and I hope to see this event blossom here for many years to come.

Summer in full swing, Papadosio has just announced its fall tour with festival slots and tour dates through the rest of the warm months. Stay up to date with everything you need to know at the links below.

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