The Get-Down & Dirty: An Interview With Disc Jam Festival Founder Tony Scavone
Words by Manda Green
Published May, 11, 2017
Disc Jam Music Festival has certainly seen its fair share of bangers, obstacles, cabbage, and aces over the course of its evolution. What started out as an idea to have a “backyard BBQ with bands” has since evolved into a staple of the New England festival circuit and about to enter its 7th year.
Nestled amidst the scenic Berkshire Mountains in Stephentown, NY, this summer’s 4 day music and camping festival promises to be better than ever, complete with 50+ stellar musical performances spread out across 4 stages, car-side or forest camping, 2 men’s and women’s disc golf tournaments, a free onsite, wooded Par 3 disc golf course, yoga, wellness, hula hoop and flow art workshops, artist installations, a silent disco, vending and a plethora of good times for music, disc golf and mindful enthusiasts alike.
Recently, ShowTheShow’s Manda Green spoke with Disc Jam founder Tony Scavone about some of the logistical challenges, as well as highlights for this year’s festivities…
Manda Green: Wow, 7 years! With so many festivals now, how do you differentiate yourself from the rest?”
Tony Scavone: I saw the trend happening even 8 years ago. I mean, it takes a good solid year to even plan your event… the motivation, the finances, the venue, and of course the musical acts. I never had the intention of throwing a mid size festival. I know there are bigger festivals, smaller ones too. We started out as one of the smaller ones.
2011, our first year, I was hoping 300-400 people would show up, that would have been a good thing. Instead, about 600-700 came! I was both pleasantly surprised and unprepared. I had nothing to gauge it by, no idea what to expect. We were understaffed, for sure.
I ended up parking cars during my headliner because the 3 people who I paid, and were my friends, were like, ‘Listen, we’ve been parking for you all day and now my favorite band is playing. Here’s your flag and vest. We’re going to watch the show, Tony!’
So I jumped in and parked cars. I can remember closing the parking lot about halfway through Dopapod’s set so I could run down and catch it. I thought, ‘I’m done! I’m going in!’ That was Saturday, 1st year.
Once you get through Saturday, the hump, you can breathe as a promoter. Sunday is so much less complicated.”
MG: Yeah, I’m sure… and you’ve moved locations a few times also?
TS: The first year we were at this brewery with a pavilion and a disc golf course. I thought that would be an amazing venue for what I wanted to do. I always knew someone would throw a bigger/better festival so I wanted to set it apart from the others.
At the time, I had a lot of friends playing disc golf and a lot of friends going to shows but it was difficult for me to get them together because they were all either traveling to disc golf tournaments or other states for shows. So I thought, I’m going to bring these people together, they’re the same kind of people… a bridge between the two, and obviously, it’s taken off.
MG: The disc golf course is definitely a perk. Innova Discs is one of your sponsors?
TS: Yeah, they’re like the pinnacle of disc golf. They’ve been the pioneers of the disc, itself, since like the mid to late 70’s. Going back about 5-7 years, there were maybe three other disc golf manufacturing companies. Fast forward to today, there’s probably 100 or more because the sport (activity) has taken off dramatically. Most play for leisure, but some have made it their profession. Do you play?
MG: Yeah, a few times but I’m really not that good. Guess I should practice so I don’t embarrass myself at the festival.
TS: [Laughs] Well, no one is very good. Even the pros will tell you they suck. It’s all about your personal expectations and if you don’t have any, then you’re going to do great!
That’s the thing about Disc Jam, it’s not one of those competitive tournaments. This is the kind of event that you can be introduced to the activity and feel comfortable out on the course. No one is going to judge you, whether you throw it 500 ft. or 50 ft.
MG: Alright, well that makes me feel better. Which musicians are you excited about this year?
TS: I rarely book bands that I haven’t seen before. I get excited about all of them on some level but this year Break Science Live Band is one of the headliners and I’m so pumped! It’s a treat because they rarely play and it’s like 5/6 members of Lettuce. This is like a treat to them, too. When they’re excited, you know what’s going to godown!
West End Blend is back and I feel like they’re about to explode on this scene. I’ve always tried to find the young, up and coming acts. I can’t book Lettuce and all these huge bands each year. I can put 1 or 2 of them on the lineup, but I would rather find the bands on the way up, help them take the next step into stardom.
I love watching bands get white hot. Going back to having Twiddle 5 years ago, having Turkuaz 6 years ago, having Dopapod be either a Friday or Saturday night main stage closer at my festival for 7 straight years… and I knew it when I saw them 9 years ago! Flash forward 8 years and now they’re bigger than my festival!
MG: What an amazing lineup it is indeed! Thanks, Tony. Now I just need to grab a few discs, hit my local course, remember Tony’s sage advice and of course smile about the music to come…
This year’s Disc Jam Music Festival is being held in Stephentown, NY, June 8-11th. Major acts include Break Science Live Band, Dopapod, Turkuaz, The Motet, TAUK, Pink Talking Fish, Manic Focus, Kung Fu, Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad, Aqueous, Gubbulidis (Twiddle side project), Ghost-Note (Snarky Puppy side project), Electric Beethoven & more…
Tickets are still available and can be purchased through their web site here.