Reggae comes to a Bloomville dairy field

The last place you'd expect to find a reggae festival is Bloomville, a hamlet in the middle of rolling dairy country. Here, you're lucky if you can get a strong radio signal, and if you do, you'll hear country or rock, or maybe bluegrass and folk. Jamaicans in the Catskills are few and far between.

One of them is artist and woodworker Michael Milton, who runs the Turquoise Barn B&B in Bloomville with his wife, Michelle Premura. In 2013, Milton brought a lineup of reggae acts to a field near the barn. The daylong festival was a surprise success, attracting “happy campers dancing barefoot into the small hours,” according to Conde Nast Traveler.

Despite some setbacks--last year's festival was rained out, and one of the organizers is no longer involved--the concept has stuck.

Now in its third year, the Dairy Field Music and Art Festival brings reggae and dub—and, this year, a mix of electronica, jazz and rock--back to the rural countryside today, Saturday, Sept. 5, starting at noon.

Milton and a new collaborator, SUNY Oneonta music professor Joe Pignato, will be playing in a group called Dub Ground, and Terry Blaine, a roots reggae artist from Jamaica via the Bronx, will take the stage as he has done in previous years.

Above: Bright Dog Red. 

This year, the festival will include more genres: Stamford-based Logan's Express will cover 70s rock classics, and Bright Dog Red, featuring Pignato and a set of former SUNY Oneonta students, will fuse “electronica, jazz, hip hop, and psychedelia.”

Watershed Post correspondent Anne Pyburn Craig talked with organizer Michael Milton about what the region's most improbable festival.

Watershed Post: How did the Dairy Field festival get started?

Michael Milton: The festival actually started two years ago. This one is the third annual. It was an idea that sat around for years before that. The first two years were reggae bands. This year we are bringing more art into the music and the event itself. The bands are a mix of different styles.

WP: How did it come to be located in Bloomville?

MM: You may know of the Turquoise Barn. Well, the Dairy Field is located in the back of the property. I moved to Bloomville from Brooklyn in 1999 and wanted to develop an arts and music venue.

WP: What’s the arts piece of the festival going to look like?

MM: The actual Turquoise was originally opened as a gallery of sorts. Everything we had in the gallery was made here in our studios. This year the gallery is opening again on the weekend of the festival. It will host a one person show by Michael Milton of paintings and sculptures.

WP: What kinds of events do you plan to put together in the future?

MM: The future of the art will involve field-scale outdoor installations along with the gallery shows. There will also be dance performances in the future, and possibly working with the nearby colleges creative arts departments. 

WP: It sounds like you have assembled an amazing variety of bands from around the Catskills. How did you happen to find them?

MM: A friend, Joe Pignato, who teaches music and composition at SUNY Oneonta, took on the whole job of promoting and getting most of the bands. My friends from Stamford, Logan's Express, volunteered their craft and time. Joe is working with his recently created band, Bright Dog Red, made up of past students of his that live in New York State. Dub Ground is a collective of three performers: Paul Geluso, Michael Milton and Joe Pignato. Another performer from the Bronx, Terry Blaine, has volunteered his time too.

The Dairy Field Music and Art Festival. Saturday, Sept. 5, 12 p.m. To 7:30 p.m. $10 suggested donation. For more, you can visit the event’s Facebook page.