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Hudson Project Recap: A Hellish Nightmare of Mud and Mess

The first time festival's total disorganization left many hungry and tired attendees stranded in mud for days. Reports indicate some are still stuck there.
Photo by Kamil Tyebally for NY Is Killing Me

In perhaps a sign that there is a higher power looking down upon us, the third and final day of the mudfest hippie shitshow known as the Hudson Project was cancelled due to inclement weather—ending a weekend best described as, as one concertgoer put it, "if Hot Topic and Mountain Dew merged and threw a festival in a wet ditch."

Following several heavy thunderstorms, the rolling green pastures of Winston Farm—much-hyped as the same site that hosted Woodstock '94—turned into a treacherously muddy swamp, leaving many festivalgoers stranded on the campsite or holed up in their cars for more than 12 hours. Many are still stuck there, awaiting rescue. According to one source, "cars are stuck everywhere (with) no tow trucks in sight." This morning, the event's Facebook page was updated with the folllowing post:

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This update seems to have done little to assuage the worries of distraught, tired and hungry attendees, who have flooded the festival's Facebook page, begging for food and water while complaining about extreme delays due to limited numbers of tow trucks. "I'm legit about to pass out and fucking cry I just want to go home," one festivalgoer posted. "Your staff was telling me they would only jump my car if we gave them 50 bucks… there are attendees who invested more time and money into going to this festival than I did and ended up in much worse situations at the end," wrote another. "My friends have been in their cars over 14 hours now, getting ignored by the guys pulling cars because they've already been bribed by too many people. Apologies are weak, ACTION is what all these good folks need right now," said a third.

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Post by The Festive Owl.

This glaring lack of weather preparation is just one of many instances of bad planning and disorganization that tainted the first-time festival's debut. Sunday evening's show, which included anticipated sets by longhaired bass god Bassnectar, Infected Mushroom, and Paper Diamond, was suspended, then cancelled following warnings of a severe thunderstorm. Guests were advised to evacuate the grounds and return to their cars. Campers who did not have a vehicle, or were parked off-site, were (somewhat ridiculously) encouraged to "find space in a nearby vehicle"—which resulted, of course, in even more confusion and delays.

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A spokesperson from MCP Presents, the promoter behind The Hudson Project, has not yet confirmed whether partial refunds will be issued for ticketholders, who have already created a Facebook page called "The Mudson Refund Project."

In its defense, the festival had plenty of promise, boasting a diverse lineup with a flavor for every kind of taste—including indie rock stalwarts Modest Mouse and The Flaming Lips, long haired bass god Bassnectar, Israeli psychedelic trance duo Infected Mushroom, LA Beat originator Flying Lotus, MPC virtuoso Araabmuzik, and many more.

But it was hard to ignore the roving packs of drug-addled minors—the festival was 18+, although the average age seemed to be about 16. Many attendees seemed to be the tie-dye-devoted strays from Camp Bisco, a festival also organized by MCP Events. Typically held around this time of year in upstate New York, Bisco was cancelled this year following a slew of arrests and drug-related hospitalizations.

Photo by Kamil Tyebally for NY Is Killing Me

As such, rhythm-less guitar-drum-saxophone circles proliferated, as did frenzied hula hooping to dubstep drops, random shouts of "I fucking love you, man!" to complete strangers, and triumphant declarations of "I just scored some crystal!" With a number of uniformed law enforcement officials roaming around festival grounds and hovering around the gates, it's no surprise that a whopping 51 people were arrested on drug charges.

Bad weather plagued the Project starting on Saturday evening, when a torrential downpour interrupted the bleating saxophones of the EDM jam band Big Gigantic, and threatened to wash away the merchandise stands full of bongs and tie-dye T-shirts. Festivalgoers scattered, many running into the Catskill Cave, a stark white tent where rising R&B singer-songwriter SZA was midway through a set full of new material, delivering raw emotion in spades while endearingly appealing to the audience's obvious drug of choice by declaring, "I didn't smoke any weed before I came here, I feel so weird." SZA was followed by Jon Hopkins, whose one-hour set of taut, driving techno programmed to blooming shards of abstract visuals proved to be a high point, eliciting close-eyed thrashing from concertgoers still escaping the thundering rain outside.

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Photo by Kamil Tyeball for NY Is Killing Me

When the skies finally cleared, the grounds were left a slippery, slushy mess, rivaling the mud bath that defined Governor's Ball in 2013. But there was no escape—shuttles to the nearby trains or back to cities like New York, Albany, and Boston didn't leave until 2:30 AM, leaving drenched and mud-soaked revelers no choice but to stick it out till the end. "This is horrible," muttered one poncho-ed guest, as she slipped and slid her way back to the campsite.

Another glaring misstep was the clear lack of training by the festival's staff, who often seemed completely clueless about anything related to the festival logistics. "Just follow the signs," said one traffic attendant when asked how to get from the parking area to the entrance. There were none. A question about the transportation options out of the festival grounds was answered by a 30-minute guessing game, as the young staffers behind the information booth struggled to decipher the instructions on their pamphlets. "What's an Amtrak?" asked one. "Do trains even come up here? What's the name of the town we're in—Poo-keep-sigh?" wondered another. With tens of thousands of tripping ravers unfamiliar with the surrounding area roaming around the grounds, the info booth's inability to answer basic questions borderlined on dangerous.

This cluelessness could perhaps be blamed on the fact that the festival failed to hire many local residents to staff the event—despite claims that efforts would be taken to engage the local community—instead relying on contracted out-of-towners from everywhere except Saugerties.

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But these missteps did not overshadow the Project's robust lineup, which seamlessly whirled together the commercial and underground, the analog and digital, the emotive and cerebral—a true reflection of this generation's eclectic yet peacefully cohabitating tastes. On Saturday, you could go from crowd favorite Kendrick Lamar belting out his stable of hits like "Sing About Me, I'm Dying of Thirst" and "Bitch Don't Kill My Vibe" with limitless swagger to Four Tet's dazzling set that chopped up bouncy beats with jazzy breakdowns, long stretches of improvisation, and even a bit of bhangra.

The New York tent, hosted by local promoting outfit BangOn!, also proved to be reliably outstanding, with grooving house and techno sets by homegrown talents Julian Banger of Night Vision, The Golden Pony, and Sean Glass—all embellished by tatted-up shirtless firebreathers.

Photo by Kamil Tyeball for NY Is Killing Me

Closing out Saturday's festivities was the (still!) wildly popular Moby, who mixed together a rave salad of EDM bangers, upbeat electro and floor-stomping house, sprinkling some of his own classic tunes as garnish. While some ravers complained that the set was too similar to the one he brought to the recent Electric Forest festival, most were too busy dancing, or being struck dumb by the high-powered lasers, fire extinguisher-strength fog machines, and animations of the infamous Dancing Baby rounding out his face-melting show to care.

With its impressive, something-for-everyone lineup, history-steeped stomping grounds, and close proximity to the communities of upstate New York and Manhattan, The Hudson Project had immense potential to make its mark on the East Coast's booming dance scene. But with its dangerous lack of a bad weather plan, rampant disorganization and untrained staffers, it seems unlikely that its core crowd of bush league baby Burners—many of whom are still trapped in that muddy hellhole—will be back for more.

Other misadventures:
What I Learned About Humanity While Trapped on Holy Ship!!!
Electric Forest 2014 Recap: Anything is Possible

Michelle Lhooq is coping with PTSD from this hellish weekend - @MichelleLhooq