The Big Up Festival with a line-up featuring headliner Beats Antique, Gaudi, Dopapod, and a DJ set by Chris Keating of Yeasayer brings the magic once again to the Hemlock Hollow Farm in upstate New York. One look at the website tells you that this is not going to be your average summer shindig in the woods. With a theme of creating an atmosphere of visionary music, arts, and culture, Big Up has made a name for itself in a short time. I spoke with founders Zach Levy and Jules Jenssen to get the lowdown on what to expect for this year.

Big Up Festival 2013

TSI: How did you decide what types of music or artists you would want to be played at the festival and how do you go about choosing the artists each year? 

Zach: Music to keep the people dancing all day and night. We have lists we started many years ago, tons of late night calls, brainstorming sessions and input from our friends and fans.

Jules: The main factor is their live show and genre-crossing sensibilities.  With the growth of electronic music’s popularity, we feel it is crucial to have a balance between that and traditional music and instruments that are a major part of both Zach and I’s histories. Finding acts that blur the lines between electronic and organic is very important, especially when choosing headliners.  We specifically booked acts that aren’t just Djs and aren’t just bands- and we are very excited about the acts that we have this year.  We also have many acts that clearly fall on each side of the fence as well, from straight up djs to bands that play funk, jam, jazz-fusion, and more.

TSI: What was the greatest experience that you as founders have had at your own festival?

Zach: Seeing it all come together blows my mind every time.

Jules: As a musician, getting on that stage and sharing my music with the fans, friends, and musicians that I respect deeply is an extremely gratifying experience.

Big Up Festival Crowd Stage

TSI: How will The Big Up be different from 2011?

Jules: The new venue is obviously a change. We think its great!  The bigger, cooler woods are gonna be a huge hit, and the nook and crannie factor for exploration is definitely sweet.  The owner is the man and we appreciate his involvement deeply. We definitely have more activities and workshops happening which is awesome.  I think the internal logistics are going to be much smoother which will result in a better experience for everyone. I think some of the ways it will be the same are equally as important.  I’m mainly referring to the communal vibe that comes with the fans and attendees and bands.  That’s what made TBU so special in the past and we anticipate a lot of the same special people returning with some new faces as well.

TSI: What are your green initiatives as a festival?

Jules: The green initiative survivor challenge is a big one that encompasses a lot of the major detrimental factors. Carpooling, clean campsites, cigarette butt pickup, and recycling are all used to make a contest that a group of people can complete together to win tickets for next year.  If everyone plays a little part, a big difference can be made.  We also have a rideshare board to connect people with rides. We try to motivate people to use local business and resources to help keep it within the community, which decreases the footprint of shipping and freighting things that could be obtained locally.  We also have a permaculture workshop that should be a big hit.

TSI: Where do you see The Big Up in 5 years?

Jules: If we are able to have 20k people and still present the types of music we want and have our ethos and vibe imparted upon it, I wouldn’t say I don’t want 20k.  The quality of the product is essential to the strength of the brand and what helps it stand out among the pack.  Boutique is the mentality, and I don’t think you HAVE to lose that feel if you got to 20k.  Glastonbury has 250-275k and they still have one of the most boutique things going.  Its all about keeping the essence dear to you and the decisions you make. Its hard to balance those costs as an independent fest, and sometime extra curricular sacrifices have to be made for the greater good of the event- but we take it seriously and will always put as much into those things no matter how big it gets.



When the promoters are this pumped it’s time to start packing the car! For more info and tickets go to the website