Nine years ago, promoter and musician Andy Animal began booking invite-only parties, occasionally with bands, at Uncle Pete’s Campground in Phoenicia. Animal — his preferred name — had returned several years before to his hometown of Woodstock after a sojourn in New York City, during which he fronted abrasive provocateur-punks the Stalkers and put on underground shows around Brooklyn.
In 2014, Animal “got roped into” hosting a festival in Georgia, an experience he still seems baffled by, and he needed a name. Meltasia, a portmanteau, was inspired by a slang term for partying and a particularly engrossing episode of Gumby. After taking a year off, Meltasia proper began in 2016 at the Catskill Game Farm, with, according to Animal, “bands performing in animal cages and people were sleeping in the old enclosures.”
For the last two years Meltasia has been back at Uncle Pete’s as a decidedly DIY affair, with, in Animal’s words, “a punk-rock vibe.” This means a simple setup: a small stage, a tent and, new for this year, a bar. Only 400 weekend passes will be sold, keeping crowds manageable and experiences intimate. Camping is included with every ticket, and people are invited to bring their own alcohol. As compared to the hundreds of thousands who will attend its larger local cousins, Meltasia might as well be a hangout among friends.
2019’s edition is headlined by names at once high profile and under-the-radar: garage rockers The King Khan & BBQ Show, gangsta rap forerunner Schoolly D, and Gibby Haynes of avant-punk pioneers the Butthole Surfers. The lineup is tailored to Animal’s particular taste for “forgotten, vintage acts” that rarely play festivals of any size. Other bands of note include The Tandoori Knights, Gymshorts, and Scott Yoder.
Local acts will be limited, determined by a Battle of the Bands to be held on June 8 at Woodstock’s Station Bar. Much else remains to be announced: prices will be announced soon, and the festival is still seeking sponsors, so long, says Animal, as “it’s done tastefully.” Anyone seeking to vend their own merchandise, whether used records or vintage clothes, can email firstname.lastname@example.org for information.
Animal books occasional shows at local venues like the Beverly and BSP in Kingston, his Meltasia company bringing alternative groups like Habibi and La Bamba to small rooms in both the Hudson Valley and Brooklyn. He plays in a doo-wop group and his bushy-bearded, wild-haired visage might be familiar to the particularly-online thanks to his viral Yankee Candle-sniffing videos.
As the local festival scene diversifies and grows ever-larger, it can take a lot to stand out. But Animal is circumspect about his aims and his niche: “It’s underground rock and roll,” he says with a shrug. After all, he just wants people to get melted and have a good time.