Make sure you grab your friends and your tickets for this unparalleled four-day music, arts and camping festival. Running from June 7 to June 10, Disc Jam is coming upon us as the Upstate NY summer weather approaches. This will be the fourth year in a row the festival takes place on Gardeners Farm in Stephentown, New York, just on the border with Massachusetts. This year’s official lineup might be the most groundbreaking one yet with some of the most cutting-edge live musical performances spread over four stages. There’s also onsite disc golf, mini golf, installation art and live artists, food and crafts vending, workshops, silent disco, and a whole lot more!
Along with the name, there will be tournaments for the up-and-coming sport of disc golf. There is a 27-hole onsite disc golf course behind the main stage. Innova Disc Golf will award prizes to the winners. If you have never played, this is the place to learn and try it out! There will also be art installations with live artists as well as a collection of the top-name “Hoopers” in the New England area called “Flow Tribe” throughout the weekend. Definitely be sure to check out the wide range of workshops open to everyone set near all the food and craft vendors!
We have one week until it all begins! Here’s what Tony Scavone, the founder of Disc Jam, had to say about the build up of Disc Jam and what’s to come!
L: Hey Tony, How’s it going? Glad to get in touch and thank you for your taking some time out of your crazy schedule to talk! So, last year was my first Disc Jam and I loved it, I saw that the first Disc Jam was back in 2011 — so this year is the eighth consecutive year for Disc Jam. Congrats!
T: Thank You!
L: Can you tell us a little about how it all started?
T: Sure! Well, I’m a music buff myself and love to support the local music scene. I’m always searching around the local area for shows and artists in and around Worcester (Massachusetts) and I’ve been involved with some of the Grassroots Events, like Strange Creek, Worm Town and Gathering of the Vibes. I felt that there was room for another event that focused on more of some of the younger, up-and-coming talent in the “jammy-electronic” scene, not so much that “Grateful Dead” vibe, that some of the other festivals are about. When I decided that I wanted to my own event, I wanted to kind of give it its own entity, its own identity. I wanted to set it apart from anything else by involving disc golf. I thought it would be a great idea to bring the two communities together — both the disc golf and the live music/festival world. I felt the two communities of people who supported those types of things, if we brought them together for a weekend, would hit it off.
L: I’m assuming that’s what happened the first year?
T: Yeah! At the first year, we were like, “Let’s see how it goes!” I was expecting maybe a couple hundred people and then maybe five, six hundred people showed up and I was like, “Woah!” I was kind of taken back by it. Unprepared on a lot of levels. Not enough porta potties and amenities. It was a little bit of a humble wake up call. It was something more that what I expected it to be. Each year, it’s been a little bit of a “baby steps” process. I never wanted to rush it to become a major event. But with the lineup we booked this year and over the past couple of years, the lack there of some of those staple events going on like Catskill Chill and Gather of the Vibes are no longer, it’s custom to see the Northeast in this way, so we’re kinda holding the torch for them ya know?
L: Definitely, definitely. It’s a shame some festivals won’t be returning but I’m sure that everyone is beyond glad and appreciates what you and everyone involved in Disc Jam have been doing to keep the community alive. I saw that the first year was in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, then moved to a couple other places in Massachusetts. Then in 2015, moved to the current Stephentown location. Just wondering what caused the changes in location the first several years and how did you end up at Gardener's Farm?
T: The first year, we never envisioned it bigger each time. I thought I was gonna stay the same size. The venue they had in Sturbridge, the Hyland Brewery, had a brewery, disc golf, and a music pavilion all in one spot. I was like, “This place is amazing! It has everything we need.” By the end of the second year, we were too big to be there. We outgrew it in two fast years. Then we moved to Brimfield, Massachusetts, where I was hosting the camping portion of Disc Jam since we couldn’t camp at Hyland. I was paying for buses to get people safely to and from the campground, so there were some complaints, so I’d always kept looking for a different venue. When we moved the music and camping to Brimfield, we outgrew that place in a year and then we moved to Barre, Massachusetts, where there was an RV and campground. I wanted to keep it in Central Massachusetts because that’s where I’m from, along with all my friends and all the local bands, so I wanted to keep it local. After that year, same thing ... we outgrew Barre. I kept my ear to the ground, looking for new venues because I knew we had to move. It’s hard to move a festival once. It’s even harder to move it four out of five years! Try to convince a town and property owner that you’re gonna throw a four-day concert in their backyard or town. So it was a little bit a challenge to do that, but by year tjree I’d gotten pretty good at it! We moved five out of the eight years now, so this will be our fourth consecutive year in Stephentown. When I saw this property, I said, I don't ever want it to get bigger than this, I never intended it to be the next Bonnaroo or Coachella. I like the size of this, I can staff it with friends and I’ll still be able to support the local jam scene.
L: How did you actually come across Gardner’s Farm?
T: A festival called Bella Terra that was held there, and when they unable to continue their event, there it became the next spot we landed. I had attended a few of their festivals, so I was familiar with the place and since they were not returning, the venue was open. I actually met with the owner the year before we moved there but I wanted to keep it in Massachusetts. After we realized we just outgrew Barre, I called the owner and said “We’re coming.” He was like, “OK, we’d been waiting for you.”
L: Nice. So you we’re pretty much set and ready to go. How did you get bands to come play the first year and did preparation and booking get easier over the years?
T: The first year were all my friends’ bands and people I knew in the jam scene along my travels seeing and booking local shows. As years went on, I worked and met more people and bands that I liked and have been following for a while took interest in it. Some of the bands that have been staples in my event, like Aqueous, they have been a part of my event for six years now, but they came over from a recommendation from the guys from Dopapod. I was like, “If they like you, I like you.” I’ll give a young band a shot that they normally would not have expected to be offered. That’s what I embrace and appreciate and look forward to. I booked Twiddle five years in a row, Dopapod seven years in a row. Turkuaz for five. Kung Fu for seven years now. Some of these bands that have been staples in my event have become the “big boys” in the scene so, it’s pretty crazy to see where people go and how they started.
L: This year, you guys seem to be all over social media and the response is tremendous. Compared to 2011 when social media was not as prominent as today, does it help a lot with planning and announcements?
T: I don’t really consider even having a website. I know that some people aren’t on social media and I don’t know if I consider those people potential attendees. Sure some stumble on us via the web, but it’s 2018, everyone’s on something. I’m old-school in the sense where I print fliers and posters but I make all my announcements online. Everything gets shared instantly and people find out who’s playing in minutes after we announce. Eight years ago, that didn’t exist, we had a mailing list that we’d mail to people’s houses and hopefully they’d share it with their friends. But times have definitely changed, and I’m happy we’re in them because I’m able to reach these people I couldn’t since we don’t have a marketing budget like the huge festivals so it helps out a ton but it’s still not easy.
L: You’re definitely working hard on everything and the effort you put into your social media definitely gets a huge response that’s created a larger community. Let’s talk about the woods stage a little, how did that come into play? Is that a stage you bring in or is that always there?
T: When Disc Jam took over Gardner’s Farm, simultaneously, my friends throwing a psy-trance event, up in Vermont, lost their venue. I helped out and made the property available to them. I let these guys who run a completely different vibe-genre event, host their event there and they, in turn, built that triangular-shed style stage in the woods. So they let me use it, so I’m not gonna take credit in building it, but I’ll take some credit in helping it get there.
L: That stage doesn’t come down, it stays there for good?
T: Yup, it’s a permanent wooden stage. Staying there forever. Yeah we trick it out, put some visuals on it, it totally comes to life at night but that’s the only place you’ll see that stage anywhere.
L: This year, it looks like a different promotion group is taking over the woods stage every night this year?
T: This year, because the times are ever changing, not every kid goes out to see jam rock shows anymore. There’s a younger demographic that likes electronic music. I call it good music, no matter what you’re doing, I call it good music. Whether it be electronic jam, jam funk, jamtronica, good old Grateful Dead music, whatever it is, it’s called good music. You might not be into that style of music, then all of sudden, you’re out in the woods and you go, “This is ridiculous.” I have these four different promoters I’m working with who put on these curated underground events that have huge communities. I thought that if I can combine my event with their events and bring the two types of musics together, it would be a blast. I always felt that Disc Jam’s been a very eccentric, not “one-styled” music event. I want it to be a way to “DISCover” new music! Electronic music has caught fire and people are like, “Dude, thank you for having that one guy.” Electronic-scene kids are like, “I didn’t know you could do that with an electric bass or keyboard!” “Yeah dude, that’s how we do it!” Turning people onto music who might not have had the opportunity to hear these types of music is what I like. If I’m the catalyst in introducing people into music they enjoy, I’m doing my job!
L: Right on. It seems like the artists playing the woods stage are the “heavier” side of bass music, if you will?
T: For sure.
L: That definitely seems to mix well with the “night-time party atmosphere” at the Woods Stage.
T: This year, I also curated a more wide range of electronic bass music. I booked some house artists hosted by NV Concepts and the Dirty Bird record label. Some of the “best of the best” European-like dance house music. Working with the other promoters, like Sermon out of Brooklyn and Rezinate out ot Boston, they run these underground bass shows that sometimes sell out in like a half hour. So they are stoked to be a part of the festival and have given me their best of the best lineups each night.
L: I’ve been to a couple Sermons and I have a few friends huge into the Dirty Bird scene so it’s definitely a great mixup of electronic bass music.
T: It’s definitely a good mix-up of good vibey-bass dance music. It’s all good music!
L: Are you in the mix of creating any other festivals or events?
T: I book a venue in Worcester, Massachusetts, and co-produce some events at the Worcester Palladium. We’ve had acts like Griz, we just announced String Cheese Incident around Halloween. I’m booking some cool events with friends, but my baby is Disc Jam. An event this size needs a personal touch and attention so I focus most of my energy and concentration on Disc Jam or else it could fail. I’d rather focus on a couple smaller things than work on too many things. I’m in this one for the long haul.
L: Can you tell us a little about what you’re planning for the future of Disc Jam?
T: I host Disc Jam’s Horror Camp. It’s a little smaller and more intimate one-night over-night camping event around Halloween. The venue has a ton of cabins people can reserve, so you have a venue where you can sleep in a bed if you want with a bunch of people or camp in a tent. It’s a unique thing with an event that size, so I’m focusing my attention on this one coming up. I’m slowly grooming it to become bigger than it is.
L: Tony, thank you so much for your time! I can’t wait to what this year will bring and we thank you for all your hard work and dedication. Looking forward to Disc Jam!
Tickets are available here:
Watch the 2017 Disc Jam Recap
Watch the 2018 Disc Jam Announcement Video
Disc Jam Music Festival Official Links: