Words by: Jess Roman | Images by: Joe Roman
Mountain Jam VII :: 06.02.11-06.05.11 :: Hunter Mountain :: Hunter, NY
|Warren Haynes by Joe Roman|
With the best weather in festival history, the seventh annual Mountain Jam at Hunter Mountain featured four days of music by some of the best – including headliners Warren Haynes Band, Gov't Mule and My Morning Jacket.
Mountain Jam has grown tremendously in the last few years. This year included the addition of the fourth day – a “Pre-Festival Party” on Thursday night – featuring six bands, shorter entry lines, and easy camping setup.
Many of the featured artists to Mountain Jam have also grown with the festival. Grace Potter was featured on a tiny stage just a few years ago, and this year rocked in the second-to-last closing spot to one of the larger crowds of the weekend. My Morning Jacket is also a festival regular, in the past having an afternoon show, and this year closing out the entire festival.
Out of 55 total bands for the weekend, 46 were new to Mountain Jam, making the festival one of the most diverse in years, and providing a new and exciting weekend for concert-goers. With four stages, it was impossible to see every act, and with as strong of a lineup as the festival had this year, attendees were bound to miss at least of few favorites.
Thursday “Pre-Festival Party”
|Zach Deputy by Joe Roman|
Early arrivers to the Thursday “Pre-Festival Party” were treated with short entry lines and the pick of camping locations on the sprawling Hunter Mountain hills. Camping, located on one of three ski slopes on the mountain, was a short, convenient walk to the music, and those inclined to walk further up the slopes were able to find uncrowded and more private camping locations.
Although the daytime festival temperatures were pleasant and sunny, evening temperatures dipped down into the low 40’s, and the first two days featured wind that caused quite a dust stir over the festival grounds.
Soulive, a funky organ trio who later played the larger West Stage, treated early campers with an entire set of Beatles covers at the indoor Colonel’s Hall Stage. Soulive has been touring for their new album, Rubber Soulive, and played 90 minutes of memorable hits like “Drive My Car,” “Come Together,” “In My Life,” and “Eleanor Rigby.”
Zach Deputy, a live looping one-man band, was the largest outdoor draw to the Awareness Village Stage of the evening, and kept the dance party going with his mash-ups of original tunes and familiar hits such as Vanilla Ice’s “Ice, Ice, Baby,” which could be heard from the camping grounds.
|Tim Reynolds & TR3 by Joe Roman|
On a dusty and windy day, Friday began the opening of most of the food and craft vendors on the mountain. Priding itself on diversity and awareness, the festival brought together an amazing assortment of “green” vendors, including vegetarian and vegan fare, a farmer’s market, a “Karma Wash,” and yoga classes. Clean Vibes helped to keep the area clean, and a Mountain Jam water bottle was available with free spring water refills to cut down on plastic bottle use.
Timbre Coup opened up the main West Stage for the day, and featured their progressive jamband sound. Voodelic followed on the East Stage, blending funk, R&B, and blues-rock. Voodelic was one of the surprise highlights of the day for campers who arrived early enough, and reminded everyone to “Keep Looking Up.”
Carbon Leaf seemed to be the first band to really draw down a crowd to the stage with their high-energy music. Bringing together great lyrics in a singer-songwriter style and the music of a sophisticated rock band, the combination of their acoustic and electric instruments blended well. Although the band has been around for almost 20 years, it seemed that many were surprised with a great introduction to the band. Carbon Leaf played many of their classics including “Desperation Song” and “Let Your Troubles Roll By.”
|Bela Fleck and the Flecktones by Joe Roman|
Toubab Krewe brought their eclectic African traditional music back to the East Stage, where they invited the audience to provide the down beat –and promised to call the next time they need an additional drummer. On the last song of the set, the Krewe grabbed cigar box guitars and invited up Soulive guitarist Eric Krasno, who added an impressive jam.
While Tim Reynolds is probably best known for his work with Dave Matthews Band, his band TR3 is vastly different. TR3 was definitely the most “hard” band on the bill, and started the set off with a rocking cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” on the double-necked guitar a la Jimmy Paige. The set covered a wide variety of musical styles, and really showed off Reynolds’ ability to improvise.
Hot Tuna was the first band with a 90-minute set of the day and played an electric set. The band features Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady, who were also part of Jefferson Airplane. This year, the band released Steady As She Goes, their first studio album in 20 years, and did not disappoint their many fans who came out to see the new songs.
Soulive returned Friday afternoon for a more traditional set of jazz classics from their vast catalog. Part of the set featured a full horn section and singer Nigel Hall.
The sun began to set on Friday evening as Bela Fleck and the Original Flecktones took the stage for a treat with the original lineup, including the outstanding banjoist Béla Fleck, bassist Victor Wooten, percussionist/drumitarist Roy “Futureman” Wooten, and pianist/harmonica player Howard Levy. The band expertly combined classic Flecktones’ songs such as “Blu Bop” with songs from their current album, Rocket Science. Casey Driessen also sat in on the fiddle for several songs, adding an additional dimension to some of the most beautiful melodies of the weekend to flow over the mountain.
The Heavy Pets, unfortunately were scheduled during the same time as Béla Fleck & The Original Flecktones, and was the first casualty of conflicts.
|Shilly Shally Fire Troupe by Joe Roman|
After a 45-minute break, the first headliner of the weekend, the Warren Haynes Band, took the stage. Promoting his new album, Man in Motion, Haynes rocked two full sets, including several songs from that album such as the title track, “Sick of My Shadow,” and “On a Real Lonely Night.” Several covers also punctuated the evening, including Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” and Van Morrison’s “Tupelo Honey,” which was centered in the crowd-pleasing “Soulshine.”
Friday and Saturday night featured something particularly unique – the Shilly Shally Fire Troupe – who provided entertainment with flame throwing. They performed on a three-tier stage at the back of the main festival area. Several dancers lit up the ground and the sky with dances of flames, and drew quite a large crowd. The dances could be seen throughout the main festival grounds, providing a unique perspective to the nighttime performances.
7 Walkers, the highlight of the late night festivities, is a super group of Bill Kreutzmann of the Grateful Dead, guitarist/vocalist Papa Mali, Sousaphonist Kirk Joseph of Dirty Dozen Brass Band, instrumentalist Matt Hubbard (Willie Nelson), as well as a guest appearance by Warren Haynes. 7 Walkers released their self-titled album in 2010, and blended New Orleans sounds with Dead-inspired jams. The group packed the Colonel’s Hall until well into the early morning, and did not disappoint those who stayed to party.
|Portugal. The Man by Joe Roman|
After an attempt to clean off the dust of Friday in what turned out to be the only large line of the weekend – the shower line - campers moved to the music on a Saturday morning that brought out the sun and warmth.
Zach Deputy returned to the stage early Saturday afternoon to bring back his soulful one-man band. Deputy was to play with his full band, but did not disappoint with his solo show. Deputy played many original tunes, such as the high-energy, moving song about his daughter, “Jump in the Water,” while blending in many familiar hits including Steppenwolf's “Magic Carpet Ride,” and James Brown’s “Sex Machine.”
Mavis Staples came to the stage next, bringing her gospel and soul to the day’s lineup. Staples played many songs off her new album, You Are Not Alone, including the title track and “Wrote a Song for Everyone.” She also played “The Weight,” which she performed with The Band at The Last Waltz, and her family’s hit single “I’ll Take You There.”
Portugal. The Man is a psychedelic rock band originally from Alaska. They brought an original sound blending bluesy-guitar with mixed textures, and played songs from their last several releases, including “Guns and Dogs,” “Bellies Are Full,” and closed with a rockin’ version of Devil Say I, I Say Air’s “M80 aka The Wolf .”
|The Avett Brothers by Joe Roman|
A huge crowd favorite, The Avett Brothers were the biggest draw of the day thus far. Bringing massive energy to the mountain, the Avett Brothers stomped to many fan favorites, including “I and Love and You.” The highlight of the set was the closer, where Simone Felice (The Duke & The King) joined the band for a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Just Like a Woman.”
North Mississippi Allstars Duo continued the energy with their blues rock. Bringing brothers Cody and Luther Dickinson to the stage, the duo played songs from their 2010 release, Keys To The Kingdom, as well as NMA favorites, including “Shake What Your Momma Gave You.”
Michael Franti & Spearhead brought their happy, uplifting music to the stage next. Franti delivered one of the most energetic performances of the day, bringing most of the crowd to their feet to dance. Reminding the audience why everyone was joined together this weekend, Franti sang, “Hey, hey, hey, no matter how, life is today / There is just one thing that I got to say / I won’t let another moment slip away.” The stage props included the release of beach balls into the audience and flowers decorating the stage. Franti jumped from the stage into the audience and joined them in song in the middle of the set, and later invited all of the children in the audience onstage for their hit “Say Hey.” One girl had the chance of a lifetime when she got to close out the set in the microphone, saying, “My momma told me don’t lose you, ‘cause the best luck I had was you.”
|Gov't Mule by Joe Roman|
Saturday night closed with Gov't Mule, which was their first, and as of this moment, and only show scheduled in 2011. Frontman Warren Haynes promised the crowd a “crazy night,” and didn’t disappoint, leading off with “Railroad Boy” and “Thorazine Shuffle.” Mule played a lengthy number of covers in the first set, including ZZ Top’s “Nasty Dogs And Funky Kings,” The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” and closed the first set with Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs.” The second set also featured several covers, including the lead-off “Money” and “Have a Cigar” by Pink Floyd and the Rolling Stone’s “Angie.” The highlight of the night was a lengthy “32/20 Blues,” which featured Cody Dickinson on electric washboard, Luther Dickinson on guitar, and Hook Herrera on harmonica.
Saturday’s late night festivities included a performance by festival favorite Umphrey's McGee with special guest John Oates (half of the iconic Hall & Oates). During the set, festival-goers lighted candles inside paper balloons, lighting up the night sky as a beautiful backdrop for the sound. Warren Haynes joined the band for “Slacker,” as the band finished in the wee hours of Sunday morning.
The second late night offering was The New Deal, in what many argued was the worst scheduling conflict of the weekend, in the same time slot as Umphrey’s McGee, particularly because The New Deal will be retiring at the end of this year.
|Dawes by Joe Roman|
In the best festival surprise favorite, Civil Twilight started off the East Stage for the final day of Mountain Jam. The band hails from South Africa, and has been playing together since they were teenagers. The alternative-rock styling was definitely some of the loudest of the weekend, and filled the air with growing melodies and expansive sound. Very reminiscent of an early U2 sound, lead singer Steven McKellar’s voice is eerily similar to Bono. This is a band worth checking out.
Dawes was up next with their Laurel Canyon-style music. Influenced by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, the band had an impressive gathering for early in the day. The band expertly blended harmonies on their most well-known hit, “When My Time Comes,” and is released their sophomore album, Nothing Is Wrong, last week.
Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros was the first large draw of the day at the main stage – and the only delay of the entire festival. Showing up late and wearing no shoes, frontman Alex Ebert bounced from the stage to the audience several times while playing songs including their infectious sing-along “Home.”
Ebert reminisced that this Mountain Jam was much better than a previous “Mountain Jam” he played at a different venue in Phoenix (unrelated to this event). “It was in a parking lot between a Target and a Staples,” he said. “And there was fake grass. This doesn’t seem to be the same situation.” The energy in the crowd grew as Ebert reminded them that “home is wherever I’m with you.” Although the band seemed disorganized, including Ebert asking keyboardist Aaron Embry which song he would like to play next, resulting in a several minute delay. But, the crowd didn’t seem to mind, and even enjoyed Ebert’s antics. The band closed the set with “Brother,” where Ebert again jumped into the crowd, asked everyone to sit down, and played the song in almost silence.
|Alex Ebert & throng by Joe Roman|
Preservation Hall Jazz Band followed with their New Orleans jazz music. Their music had a timeless quality to it – while feeling like the music could have been from years past, it was still fresh and joyful. Jim James, frontman for My Morning Jacket, joined the band on “Louisiana Fairytale,” bringing the crowd running to see.
Nicole Atkins played the Awareness Village Stage simultaneously with Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Her crooning voice drew a large crowd, and her set included songs from her new album, Mondo Amore, as well as fan favorite “Maybe Tonight.”
|My Morning Jacket by Joe Roman|
Grace Potter and the Nocturnals played to a packed East Stage in the second-to-last festival slot. Potter got the crowd dancing immediately with “Ah Mary,” and an extended version of “Oasis.” Warren Haynes jointed the band for an outstanding version of “2:22.” One of the highlights of the set was Potter’s acappella rendition of “Nothing But the Water.” The band closed out the night with “Medicine” featuring Potter’s signature scream and the entire band joining drummer Matthew Burr with a drum stick and each taking a drum. An annual favorite at Mountain Jam, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals were welcomed with open arms once again by the crowd.
Closing out the festival was the outstanding rock band My Morning Jacket. Jim James donned a pair of white, furry boots as the band took the stage for “Victory Dance.” The setlist was very heavy on MMJ’s recently released Circuital. The night continued with fan favorites “Off the Record” and “One Big Holiday.” Preservation Hall Jazz Band joined MMJ for a version of “Highly Suspicious” that may have been the highlight of Mountain Jam for many. The jazz band stayed onstage for a cover of Al Johnson’s “Carnival Time,” and MMJ’s “Dancefloors.” The night culminated with perfect way to end Mountain Jam 2011: “Mahgeetah.”
Particularly impressive was the timing of the entire weekend. When one band ended on the East Stage, the band on the West Stage was immediately ready to start. Other than the Magnetic Zeros delay, every single act was on time. This really kept the crowd excited and energized the entire weekend, and went a long way towards providing a great atmosphere.
As one of the most successful Mountain Jams in history (the great weather sure helped), festival production has discovered the recipe for success – great bands, an intimate setting and great organization. See you next year, Mountain Jam.
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