Review & Photos | Peach Music Festival | Scranton
Words by: Chadbyrne Dickens
Peach Music Festival :: 8.14.14 – 8.17.14 :: Montage Mountain :: Scranton, PA
“You’re my blue sky, you’re my sunny day.
Lord, you know it makes me high when you turn your love my way” – Allman Brothers
With nearly 55 different sets of music on three stages over four days, the Peach Music Festival included musical acts that spanned multiple genres from jam to bluegrass to electronica to soul. The successful musical destination event was attended by over 55,000 loyal music fans at Montage Mountain in Scranton, which is centrally located just two hours from both New York City and Philadelphia.
There are literally hundreds of festivals to choose from in the United States, so it is testament to the exemplary weekend that the fest must be characterized as one of our very best. The Allman Brothers and Live Nation have provided the blueprint on how an entertaining, musically-drenched offering should be planned and executed. Festivals inherently face growing pains but if the Peach Festival had any, they weren’t overtly showing. The third year was a charm for the festival bursting at the seams mostly due to its stellar lineup and bucolic setting. Some festivals are ephemeral in nature, but the surroundings at Peach forge an indelible mark. Taking place on the anniversary of Woodstock, the festival satiated the hearts and minds of a new generation of music aficionados. Some people go to a festival to immerse themselves into a plethora of quality musical outfits while others choose one based on the quality of the locale. At the Peach Music Festival, you get the best of both worlds.
One major component that sets The Peach Music Festival apart from its festival contemporaries is the locale. It takes place adjacent to the fully-operational Montage Meltdown Water Park, with access included in the price of admission. One can ride on a zip line travelling at 55mph with a 40-story drop or go on a water slide or take a dip in a wave pool to refresh between sets on a beautiful summer day. Another added bonus is that hillside camping under the ski chairlifts allows one to hear the music from the Mushroom Stage while refreshing at basecamp.
The only challenge at the festival was the inability to carry an alcoholic beverage from one stage to the other. This is due to different liquor licenses at each location and was really not that big a hassle once fans were aware of the situation. The vending was located in an organized prime location and security was a friendly and subtle non-presence, while the concessions were definitely higher priced than those at comparable festivals.
Thursday, August 14
George Clinton’s Parliament Funkadelic brought the groovy fat beats proper and Dopapod closed the first night of the fest with their thick, frantic jams.
Friday, August 15
Florida’s JJ Grey and Mofro shared a set of bluesy southern rock, Boombox brought a different, more electronic-tinged element and experience to the proceedings, Asheville’s Papadosio delivered their unique jamtronica sound, Consider the Source shredded a high-octane set of Middle Eastern fusion and Big Gigantic blew crowd away with a sit in by the Trey Anastasio Band horn section of Natalie Cressman, Jennifer Hartswick and James Casey.
Dead Set by Various Artists :: 6:45 p.m. :: Peach Stage
The Dead Set was announced at the last minute and was a beautiful surprise. With the cancellation of Bob Weir & RatDog, there was a void of Grateful Dead music that was more than suitably filled by an all-star lineup of Joe Russo, Jeff Chimenti, Joan Osborne, Jackie Greene, Tom Hamilton, Scott Metzger and Reed Mathis. Russo, no stranger to Grateful Dead tunes thanks to his involvement with Furthur and Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, led a musical barrage from the ensemble. They provided a clinic of group improvisation. The highlight was a monster “Help>Slip>Shakedown” that evolved into some deep and trippy jamming with masterful piano fills by Chimenti. A veteran of singing with Phil Lesh and Friends and The Dead, and having released a version of “Brokedown Palace” on her last solo album, Joan Osborne shared her talented chops with a vocal explosion, most notably shared on “Sugaree.”
Cabinet :: 12:00 a.m. :: Peach Stage
With Allie Kral having left Cornmeal and Jeff Austin departing Yonder, one can argue that Cabinet is the most prolific bluegrass band in the land. Cabinet is JP Biondo (mandolin/ vocals), Mickey Coviello (guitar/vocals), Pappy Biondo (banjo/ vocals), Dylan Skursky (bass), Todd Kopec (fiddle/vocals) and Jami Novak (drums). They are a brilliant mesh of Americana, bluegrass and jam. Despite going head-to-head with Big Gigantic, the local band from Scranton had the small Grove Stage overrun by fervent fans for their second set of the weekend. Double- headed monster co-lead singing cousins Pappy and J.P. Biondo offer a distinctive variety of sound with Pappy’s subtle style and JP’s delivery as smooth as clear honey. The set started in incendiary fashion with a unique take on JJ Cale’s “After Midnight” which set the stage for a raucous set. The highlight was the existential tale called “Doors” which exemplifies what Cabinet does best – exquisitely crafted storytelling over a textured and layered sound with notable fiddle fills by Kopec. To see Pappy work magic on his banjo is worth the price of admission alone and the band is chock full of members with exemplary chops.
Saturday, August 16
The day started with Dopapod playing a “spatula set” and cooking up pancakes for hundreds of fans in the campground. There was a fascinating Q&A with Duane Allman’s daughter, Galadrielle Allman, Butch Trucks and Jaimoe in the cafeteria. Infamous Stringdusters played to a crowded main stage, Particle brought their patented electro-funk to the Mushroom Stage and The Werks demonstrated their raw talent and remain a band one should never miss.
Trey Anastasio Band :: 7:30 p.m. :: Peach Stage
Big Red came to the rescue and agreed to fill in with an extra set for RatDog, after Weir and his band canceled. TAB was the buzz of the festival all weekend and the performances didn’t disappoint. Trey Anastasio, Jennifer Hartswick, Russ Lawton, Tony Markellis, Ray Paczkowski, Natalie Cressman and James Casey took center stage for the primetime Saturday night showcase. The beauty of TAB is the variety within the playlist. One may be satisfied with solid original staples like a tight and melodic “Cayman Review,” covers like “O-o-h Child” played Friday night or are peppered with Phish classics that originated from TAB like “First Tube” and “Gotta Jibboo.” “Jibboo” featured a lengthy exploratory jam which showcased the Jedi’s extraordinary raw talent with the axe. Although Cressman and Hartswick add exquisite harmony fills, the music lacked the intensity that Phish usually brings. The highlight was a regal and floating “Drifting” which serenaded the mountain crowd of revelers.
Set: Cayman Review, Pigtail, Night Speaks to a Woman, Alaska, Burlap Sack and Pumps, Drifting, Gotta Jibboo, Tuesday, Plasma, Bounce, Clint Eastwood, First Tube
Allman Brothers Band :: 930 p.m. :: Peach Stage
The Allman Brothers Band’s two sets were the main event of the weekend and the not-to-be missed performances. With only a handful of dates left before they disband forever, one relished in the opportunity to see the band one last time. It was also nice to see Greg Allman completely healthy and back in the fold without worry. Of course, the stakes were increased when it was announced months ago that the band would play their iconic 1972 album, Eat a Peach, in its entirety. Gregg Allman, Butch Trucks, Jaimoe, Warren Haynes, Marc Quiñones, Oteil Burbridge and Derek Trucks did the album justice. One could see the crowd was mesmerized by the proceedings as the re-creation unfolded. With two members on Rolling Stone’s Top 100 Guitarists list (Haynes at #23 and Trucks at #16), they shared a jam-laden set on Saturday night which sufficiently showcased their wares. One of the best solos in rock, “Blue Sky,” was played with a masterful meticulousness. Hard core fans may be disappointed by the overall energy of the set, but everyone else was captivated by the once in a lifetime experience. Highlights included Trucks sitting down to play a sweet and eloquent “Melissa” and Gregg Allman providing an exploratory organ solo during “Mountain Jam.” They even added the usual “Other One” tease at the end of the lengthy “Black Hearted Woman” encore.
Set: Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More, Les Brers in A Minor, Melissa, Mountain Jam, One Way Out, Trouble No More, Stand Back, Blue Sky
Encore: Little Martha, That’s What Love Will Make You Do, Black Hearted Woman
Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers :: 2:15 p.m. :: Mushroom Stage
Bay area rockers Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers (NBG) are Nicki Bluhm (vocals), husband Tim Bluhm (guitar), Deren Ney (guitar), Steve Adams (bass), Dave Mulligan (rhythm guitar) and Mike Curry (drums). The band gained initial notoriety with an arguably gimmicky, but successful and entertaining idea, of rolling out a series of unique covers played by the six band members snug tightly in a van while being driven down the road. The viral van series, with over 30 installments thus far and counting, surprisingly inundated the band with lavish attention and exponential growth into not only an internet sensation, but an increasingly recognizable household name around the music scene. The vocal prowess Bluhm demonstrates on record is even more powerful and robust on the live stage. Her vocals contain charmed nuances and she is a master of clear and magnetic vocal inflection. Her delivery is smooth, as her sound exudes an effortless, soothing calmness that is euphorically addictive. With her suave tone and powerful voice, sometimes Edie Brickell and sometimes Dolly Parton, Nicki delivers a youthful exuberance less overtly flashy as Grace Potter, but equally electrifying. The infectious guitar-driven musings vary in genre and style from ballads to rock to hillbilly to country. Everyone in the band had sunglasses on as it was a sunny day, but perhaps also it is because their future is so bright.
Pigeons Playing Ping Pong :: 4:30 p.m. :: Grove Stage
You know you’re pretty talented when you’re an quickly ascending young band and you make the list of top festival highlights amidst such heavyweights. The Baltimore-based jam juggernaut consists of Greg Ormont (vocals/guitar), Jeremy Schon (guitar, vocals), Ben Carrey (bass, vocals) and Dan Schwartz (drums). Ormont is the consummate front man oozing charisma and relentless energy as he frolics about the stage with fanatical facial expressions that would make Jeff Austin look tame. At one point Ormont instructed the crowd, or “flock,” to spread their wings in an act of freedom and unity. With throbbing crescendos, pulsating rhythms and spacey segues, Pigeons demonstrated that they are masters of the slow-burn tease. Highlights included fan favorites “FU” and “Julia,” but it was the extended “Time to Ride” jam that had rabid fans turning their heads in ecstasy. Schon is such an avid shredder on his instrument that budding musicians in the crowd must have felt eager to immediately run back home to practice – knowing they had so much ground to make up. The band’s use of unique time signatures and chord progressions kept the action flowing. Pigeons also shared an energetic twist on Talking Heads’ “Once In A Lifetime,” which engulfed the burgeoning crowd with its raw power and energy. Schon and company put on a professional, entertaining show as psychedelic mad scientist Carrey flew about the stage with unfettered enthusiasm. At a time when the jam genre is in desperate need of bands that can hold down the mantle with authority, it’s just a matter of time before these crafty and innovative men are a popular household name.
Set: Porcupine, Fade Fast, Melting Lights> Live It Up, Time To Ride>Once In A Lifetime>Time To Ride, Julia>Mario>Julia>Underworld>Landing> Spacejam>The Hop>F.U.
Sunday, August 17
After a year off to make way for “Brunch with Bobby,” Warren was back with a “Wake Up With Warren” set. The Allman Brothers Band’s final Peach Music Festival set featured a bevy of tunes with the legendary Taj Mahal making an appearance, Soul Rebels proved why they are talked about as a brass band with moxie and guitar maestro Miz shared some of his wizardry.
After another successful, sun-drenched weekend of quality music, one can go home feeling satiated and start planning the countdown to next year!
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