Upstate NY’s Basilica Soundscape Is A Festival Of Intimate Juxtaposition: Pastoral Stillness, Frenetic Noise

09.19.17 11 months ago

Elene Perry/Uproxx Studios

Though I’ve wanted to go forever, when I finally went to Basilica Soundscape it was on the spur of the moment, with nothing but a backpack and a return train ticket. Actually, it wasn’t until I arrived that I realized I’d completely forgotten to find myself housing, and crossed my fingers that someone would take me in, anyway.

Luckily, Hudson is a very small, picturesque town that seems to breed community and helpfulness — especially during Basilica — and I almost immediately ran into AJ and John of the post-rock band Sannhet, who took me in, and let me crash at their house for the weekend. After getting settled, we all trekked to the venue in the late afternoon as I open-mouth gaped at pink and blue clouds and countryside the whole way.

For a kid from LA with a thing for trains, I can’t think of a more perfect name for a rail adjacent venue than Basilica. Stunning visuals surrounding the artists and filled up most of the space in the venue. Most striking of all were the hanging sculptures created as if Donald Judd imagined paper airplanes in aluminum.

I grew up in Los Angeles during the rise of commercialized festival culture, and it certainly had never occurred to me to describe a festival as intimate — but that’s exactly what Basilica Soundscape was. The Main Hall never felt overwhelmingly huge — even with its high ceilings — and artists in the North Hall gave performances sometimes inches away from a reverent and attentive audience. The only complaint any of us could even come up with is that it was hotter in Hudson than we expected. Still, it was a far cry from the street-style centric vibe of the west coast festivals I’m used to, with most people just dressed for balmy weather.

Elene Perry

I grew envious of that, while boiling in my standard uniform of black jeans and a t-shirt, spending the two days eyeing everyone who had the sense to just dress comfortably — and I promised myself I’d relax a little more next time. Hudson brings out that urge in you, the desire to live comfortably and freely, and the atmosphere at Basilica does too. All these bands are so wildly singular, and they’re all playing at a festival that celebrates them for that, instead of relegating them to basements or bottom of the flyer font.

For instance, the first night favored the fest’s more experimental and avant garde acts from all over the world. Naama Tsabar gave a furious and noisy performance, most notably her performance of “Untitled (Double Face)” from her Guitar Series. Both musicians spun around facing one another in the most intenese performance I’d ever seen live. Right afterwards, Moor Mother ripped right into a politically charged electronic noise set, gutturally crying “REVOLUTION EVERYWHERE” while summoning a black clad audience towards the stage.

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