Words by: Chadbyrne R. Dickens | Images by: Jennifer Starr
The Peach Music Festival :: 08.10.12-08.12.12 :: Toyota Pavilion At Montage Mountain :: Scranton, PA
Full review below photo gallery!
When Warren Haynes delivered these Dickey Betts lyrics, “You're my blue sky, you're my sunny day. Lord, you know it makes me high when you turn your love my way” with the co-headlining band, The Allman Brothers Band, patrons could equate it with the euphoric experience delivered over the weekend at the inaugural Peach Music Festival in Scranton, Pennyslvania. With just under 30 hours of music shared by 30,000 fans on two stages by 25 bands, the Festival known to be a “test run”, proved to be better than anyone could have expected.
|Warren Haynes by Jennifer Starr|
The setting was ideal for a summer music festival. Planted on two adjacent mountain sides, the musical adventures took place smack dab in the middle of a fully open and operational water park, which was free to attendees during the hot festivities. Locals arrived in droves in addition to a countless number of out of state plate, making the first music festival to ever take place in Northeast Pennsylvania a ‘destination’ spot. The weather was ideal for soaking in music with sun. The concession options were plentiful enough, and the mood of the staff and concert-goers was a very laid-back one in a country-style atmosphere.
The Festival appropriately commenced with a rewarding set from local bluegrass band, Cabinet, which one close fan dubbed, “the best set they’ve ever played” with original songs including “Pennsylvania”; Dumpstaphunk brought the thick and heavy funk-laced grooves to a crowd ready to get down; The Warren Haynes Band jammed blues style, with the highlight being the title track from the current album, “Man In Motion” which included Ivan Neville sitting in on keys; Dark Star Orchestra again demonstrated that they are the definitive Grateful Dead experience with classic renditions of “St. Stephen” and “The Wheel”. The Allmans played their first set of two over two nights which contained a magical cover of “That’s What Love Will Make You Do” with Ron Holloway on sax.
|Zac Brown Band by Jennifer Starr|
Zac Brown Band :: 9:30 PM – 11:30 PM :: Peach Stage
At first glance, the veteran jam-band festival goer may have questioned how Zac Brown Band assimilated into a Festival filled with familiar festival names and jam band stalwarts. Realistically, judging on current record sales and adulation from fans, Zac Brown presently has the biggest draw of any act at the Festival. One only need watch his heartfelt performance of his smash 2009 #1 hit, “Chicken Fried” to a completely bursting Peach Stage, filled to capacity and crackling with energy, to witness a fan base who truly adores the 2010 Grammy Winner for Best New Artist. Conversely, perennial favorite Dark Star Orchestra, was delivering another ridiculously tight and powerful set on a Mushroom stage that was at least half as full.
Although a co-headliner, Georgia-based Country superstar Brown showed class and respect by deferring to his distinguished veteran counterparts, “I’m happy to be opening for the Allman Brothers.” The joyous crowd seemingly sang along in unison for two hours as Brown played his string of hits that included “As She’s Walking Away” and “Toes”. To fully convert the casual fan, Brown persuaded them with satisfying covers, “Devil Went Down to Georgia” and “Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” Brown’s two sets were so impressive and fulfilling, that a constant fan-buzz permeated the weekend, even by those who had never before heard a note of his music, stating that they would be downloading some of it upon returning home.
Amongst beautiful chairlift rides up the mountainside, water rides like The Lazy River and Tundra Tornado, Saturday offered a full of day of extraordinary music. A young and guaranteed to quickly-ascend band, Tauk, delivered an instrumental demonstration, often reminiscent of Phish and Lotus, of such quality that I can’t wait to see them open for Perpetual Groove during this fall tour; local hero and guitarist virtuoso, Mike Mizwinski, led his band MiZ into a memorable cover of “Diamonds on the Sole of her Shoes”; Maryland’s indie-rock act O.A.R. showed why they have proven successful through the delivery of a spectacular high-energy fueled set with hits “Shattered” and “Hey Girl.” Rebelution garnered new fans with a reggae show that captivated the crowd, and The Wailers closed the night with their trademark joyous representation of Bob’s classic storytelling.
|Toubab Krewe by Jennifer Starr|
Toubab Krewe :: 2:30 PM – 3:30 PM :: Mushroom Stage
The band from Asheville, North Carolina with the unique name (roughly translated to “Foreigner Crew”), quickly proved onstage that their unmistakable and rich instrumental sound leaves an impression long after a performance. With Africa-influenced musicians playing instruments like the kora, kamelengoni and soku, in addition to traditional American ones, they fuse a fresh and rare sound of intriguing and mesmerizing tones that stimulate d the listener’s palette. A veteran of an impressive list of Festivals, I asked versatile band member, Justin Perkins about his impressions of Peach Fest, “It was great. I’ve never played in front of the sounds and sights of a water park, pretty surreal.” Perkins continued to share a highlight of this set: fiddler player, Tim Carbone of Railroad Earth, jammed on some classic TK tunes including “John Hardy.” Perkins explained that the last time he played with Carbone was in 2000 when they both were in India performing with different groups. They had forgotten about the chance encounter. Fortuitously, they serendipitously reconnected to help pass on some exquisite musical memories. Toubab Krewe headlines the environmentally conscious, 10th annual Manifestivus Festival, in mid-August in Cabot, Vermont.
|Gregg Allman by Jennifer Starr|
The Allman Brothers Band :: 9:30 PM – 12:030 AM :: Peach Stage
Despite the well-known declining health of veteran leader, Gregg Allman, there were lofty expectations for ABB over the weekend. The co-headliner was the anchor for the weekend festivities in rural PA, and the fan base came out in droves almost in demand of a command performance from the band ending their 2012 tour on this night. Rather than leave them disappointed, they impressed the audience by pumping out a stellar show. Kenwood Dennard sat in on drums, the well-respected and talented Juke Horns added a fundamentally different dimension and depth to the ABB sound on a few songs including, “Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’” and surprisingly, the stand-out of the set was the cover of “Into the Mystic.” The repetitive chants from the fawning crowd during “Revival (Love is everywhere)”, was eerily haunting as if it were directed to Gregg himself, on what may be his last tour. Derek Trucks, in constant interplay with Haynes, again effortlessly proved why Rolling Stone ranks him #16 in the list of Greatest Guitarists. Naturally, the satisfying love-in concluded with selections in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the epic album, Eat a Peach including “Mountain Jam”, “Blue Sky” and “Whipping Post”.
Warren Haynes, the man known to be one of jam music’s greatest weapons and capable of playing admirably when sitting-in with anyone, played a poignant solo show early in order to “ease the day”, covered “Hallelujah” and included some surprise guests; the gospel group, Blind Boys of Alabama concluded the festivities with spirituals including “Spirit in the Sky” and “Amazing Grace” with Robert Randolph sitting-in for “Take the High Road.”
|Robert Randolph by Jennifer Starr|
Robert Randolph :: 1:45 PM – 2:45 PM :: Peach Stage
Pedal steel professional, Robert Randolph, proved long ago and consistently at his performances this summer, that he is one of the greatest guitarists of this generation. A raw frenetic energy and hard rhythms may prove to be overwhelming to a newcomer, but veterans appreciate the endless talent of the sacred steel master. The Randolph fans who witnessed this stellar display could only share empathy for the hordes of people who flocked out of the arena after Haynes set concluded for an early start home. In a five-song performance, Randolph played as if it were a packed house, jumping in and out of his chair with abandon while stomping about the stage as if it were an audition. At one point he repeatedly screamed to the audience, “What’s your name?” One discovers he is actually speaking to certain individuals in the audience. First, a beautiful young woman is brought on-stage and shows off her sexy dance moves. Then, Randolph chose another fan, and with help from the roadies to carry him up on stage, a man with a prosthetic limb could be seen frolicking with delight as if it were one of the greatest moments in his life. Fans could not help but share in his jubilation and as he walked by me side stage, he said with a perma-grin, “Man, I hope someone puts that on YouTube.” When asked about his participation with the festival, Randolph exclaimed, “I’m here to see Gregg Allman. I saw him in Germany and couldn’t wait to do it again.” Randolph not only expressed his love for Gregg, but continues to spread love and joy with his axe-playing, sharing his intense passion with the audience.
With a weekend mired with family, friends and familiar back-country surroundings, there was much for any fan to cherish about this lost weekend in Scranton. Live Nation, the security, staff and amenities were all fair and easy to pleasantly interact with. A few people complained about trekking camping equipment from the car to the camping site, but there was a shuttle service offering rides. Others complained about the random 40 feet stretch during the walk between the two mountain stages, where one had to consume the rest of their alcohol before proceeding to the other stage as that particular stretch did not possess a liquor license. However, the Festival was a smashing success and ultimately the music proved to be contagious, euphoric and fulfilling. I am confident that the Montage Mountain venue will soon be hosting a bevy of varied events. It is an ideal venue as it is small, yet accessible, and no other festival can claim to also provide a water park. After a weekend of festivities, one only need to remember the haunting voice of Gregg Allman singing “Dreams” to provide impetus for further inspiration, “Pull myself together, put on a new face, climb down off the hilltop, baby get back in the race.”
JamBase | Peachy
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