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Black Keys, Snoop Dogg Rule New York’s Catalpa Festival

Onstage snapshots of Matt and Kim, TV on the Radio and more

catalpa dance party

Griffin Lotz for RollingStone.com

The inaugural Catalpa Festival – the latest in a long line of events vying to gain traction in New York's notoriously fickle festival scene – encountered a wet and muddy Randall's Island over the weekend of July 28th and 29th. But despite the occasional downpour, the fest launched in fine form, with blistering sets from the Black Keys, Umphrey's McGee, the Sheepdogs, and Matt and Kim all leading up to a climactic closer from Snoop Dogg, whose latest alter-ego Snoop Lion didn't make an appearance. Here are some highlights from the fest.

By Dan Rys

shinobi ninja

Griffin Lotz for RollingStone.com

Sure Shot

Brooklyn rockers Shinobi Ninja won the Q104.3 "Your Shot to Rock" competition to earn a spot on Catalpa's main stage Saturday afternoon. The band made the most of the opportunity with a set that ran the gamut from Linkin Park to the Headbanger's Ball, with a little dash of Beastie Boys influence mixed in.

zola jesus catalpa

Griffin Lotz for RollingStone.com

Second Thoughts

Just as Zola Jesus hit the stage, the clouds started opening up, turning an already muddy field into a gigantic slip-and-slide. At one point, the singer-songwriter began to climb the scaffolding on the side of the stage, then appeared to get a look at the oncoming clouds and reconsider.

zola jesus catalpa

Griffin Lotz for RollingStone.com

Hiding Out

After an extended period of touring, Zola Jesus will head to Washington state in the fall to record her next album. "It's really hard for me to write on the road, because your mind is so chaotic with all your responsibilities," she told Rolling Stone backstage. "So I'm just gonna hide away and write the next record."

the sheepdogs

Griffin Lotz for RollingStone.com

Soul Men

"We just try to make music like the music we listen to. We try to make soulful white guy music," said singer-guitarist Ewan Currie of the Sheepdogs, who will embark on a headlining tour this fall. "We're trying to make the music that we like to drink beers and party in the backyard to, or barbecue to, or listen to when you're at a late night party and you put your iPod on."

umphrey's mcgee

Griffin Lotz for RollingStone.com

Double Duty

Umphrey's McGee played two sets (with TV on the Radio sandwiched in between) and delivered classic rock covers during each one, morphing "All in Time" into "The Song Remains the Same" and ending the night with a rendition of "Baba O'Riley."

umphreys mcgee catalpa

Griffin Lotz for RollingStone.com

Back to the Studio

According to keyboardist Joel Cummins, Umphrey's McGee plan to carve out some time in October to begin working on their next album, although an official release is still "18-24 months away."

Matisyahu

Griffin Lotz for RollingStone.com

Clean Shaven

Reaction has varied in the eight months since Matisyahu dropped his trademark beard, he told Rolling Stone backstage at the fest. "The main difference has been the split in terms of fans," he said. "The fans who were not fans based on the fact that I represented a certain path, religion, or idea, versus fans who were fans for the reason that I made them cool, or they felt represented by somebody for the first time in mainstream culture."

matt and kim catalpa

Griffin Lotz for RollingStone.com

Party for Two

Matt and Kim's Catalpa set was their first show of the year in their hometown of New York, and they let their excitement be known: the duo made a grand entrance with help from the opening sample of Nas' "The Don" and 500 balloons.

Matisyahu catalpa

Griffin Lotz for RollingStone.com

Letting Loose

Matisyahu hooked up with producer Kool Kojack for his most recent album Spark Seeker, which came out on July 17th. "Sometimes in this profession it becomes too serious, it becomes too much, the drive to be the best, to be the biggest," he said. "It gets in the way of remembering to enjoy yourself and have a good time. Kojak brought that out of me."

cold war kids

Griffin Lotz for RollingStone.com

Slippery When Wet

A light drizzle helped cool down Catalpa festivalgoers who had started to bake under the sun on Saturday, then turned the fields back into mud just in time for Cold War Kids, who nonetheless stuck it out and delivered.

Matisyahu catalpa

Griffin Lotz for RollingStone.com

Smokin’ With Willie

"One of my memories of Randall's Island was smoking a joint with Willie Nelson at Farm Aid in 2007," Matisyahu said to Rolling Stone. "I hopped on his tour bus, and Daryl Hannah was there, and the three of us just smoked a joint together right there."

araabmuzik catalpa

Griffin Lotz for RollingStone.com

No Words, Just Muzik

Araabmuzik's slot was the first of back-to-back DJ sets, as he hit the Jeep stage before Girl Talk tackled the Catalpa stage. He barely looked up at all during his hour-long performance, so he must have been the only one who missed the dance party he created.

girl talk catalpa

Griffin Lotz for RollingStone.com

One-Man Bash

As he so often does, Girl Talk brought a full party with him onstage, busting straight into "Play Your Part (Pt. 1)" amid a torrent of toilet-paper guns and an inflatable zebra that made its way over the heads of fans. The crowd popped most for his "Smash Your Head" mashup, which brushes the Notorious B.I.G. up against Elton John.

asap rocky catalpa

Griffin Lotz for RollingStone.com

Purple Swag

Chants of "ASAP!" rang out as A$AP Rocky's A$AP Mob warmed up the stage and before Rocky himself bounded out, wearing all white and leading  an extensive crew that made sure he was accompanied by at least eight people at all times. "Everything is purple" said Rocky before launching into "Wassup" – even the lighting.

girl talk catalpa mud

Griffin Lotz for RollingStone.com

The Storm Is Gone

After a rainy Saturday that produced two separate downpours and a muddy start to Sunday, Catalpa avoided any other brushes with the elements and the fields were able to dry out by the time the sun set, making Sunday night a far easier field to navigate than it had been before.

asap rocky catalpa

Griffin Lotz for RollingStone.com

Flash Mob

Rocky and his A$AP Mob expertly executed two-fingered snap handshakes (which were immediately imitated by many in the crowd) while running through tracks such as "Thuggin Noise," an unreleased track from the Harlem MC. His set faded toward the end, though as the crowd drifted over to catch the beginning of Snoop Dogg's performance.

snoop dogg catalpa

Griffin Lotz for RollingStone.com

All Hail Tha Doggfather

Sunday felt like one giant build-up to Snoop Dogg – Matt and Kim, Aunt Martha and City and Colour all had to perform in front of a large banner of his Doggystyle cover art, and just about every artist mentioned that it was the set they were most looking forward to.

snoop dogg catalpa

Griffin Lotz for RollingStone.com

Absent Lion

Snoop's set actually started early – an almost unheard-of feat for any music festival – and he opened with the familiar sounds of "Gin and Juice" before moving through Doggystyle tracks "Murder Was The Case," "Serial Killer," "G'z and Hustlas" and, of course, "Doggy Dogg World." The set list was all hip-hop classics, and "Snoop Lion" never wound up making an appearance.

snoop dogg catalpa

Griffin Lotz for RollingStone.com

Wild and Free

"I ain't stopping, I'm like the bunny, I keep going and going," Snoop told the crowd before his two encores, his Pharrell-assisted "Drop It Like It's Hot" and an extended take on "Young Wild and Free," which he transformed from its erstwhile but tepid version on record into a thousand-strong sing-a-long, the undoubted highlight of Sunday.

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