Words by Tim O’Shea Photos by Shaun Seip
For the third and, possibly, last time, Montage Mountain in Scranton, PA recently served as the home of The Peach Music Festival.
Commonly referred to as Peach Fest, this one of a kind festival not only featured a powerhouse lineup of musical acts but also offered all the amenities of a modern day Pocono Mountain ski lodge with its own water park on site.
While the action was spread over three stages for the majority of the weekend, Thursday night’s music was limited to the Mushroom Stage located right along the edge of the Montage Mountain Wavepool.
One of the evening headliners was George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic who brought their signature style of funk with them to the Keystone State. Those in attendance were surprised to see Clinton in formal ware instead of his normal getup as the group ripped through a set of P-Funk classics.
Afterwards, Dopapod continued their busy summer with a fascinating set of music that touched on a multitude of styles and tempos, complimented by an entrancing light show.
Friday’s action picked right back up on the Mushroom Stage with a set from Bobby Lee Rodgers who threw in a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks” for the few early risers in attendance.
Next, Trigger Hippy, a band whose profile seems to be rising by the minute, took the crowd on a ride through a set of tunes that was highlighted by a searing rendition of “Tennessee Mud” which closed their set.
Other afternoon highlights included a performance by From Good Homes who delivered their signature folksy rock sound over on the Peach Stage, which was the main stage of the weekend complete with pavilion and lawn seating.
With Bob Weir having to cancel his and Ratdog’s appearance at the festival just a few days before its start, lineup changes and shifts were needed and things worked out quite nicely. Action really heated up at the Peach with an energetic set of Grateful Dead classics courtesy of Joe Russo and friends.
Billed as Joe Russo’s Dead Set, the star studded band included a lot of talent from his other project, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, like Scott Metzger and Reed Mathis as well as support from notable Trigger Hippy members Jackie Greene and Joan Osborne.
The packed stage created an even fuller sound as the super group ran through one classic after another in the Dead repertoire. A ferocious early sequence of “Help on the Way -> Slipknot” kicked things into high gear and was followed by a supremely funky version of “Shakedown Street”.
Osborne’s tender vocals added to a standout take of “Sugaree” and a rendition of the longtime Dead staple “Turn On Your Lovelight” had nearly everyone shaking their respective tail feathers.
Trey Anastasio Band agreed to play an extra set to help fill in the gaps and did so in incredible fashion.
Both nights featured exquisite guitar play by the Phish front man on top of a rich and multi textured bed of sound forged by his talented band mates. The horn section never missed a beat both nights and shined on Friday night performances of “Magilla” and “Push On Till the Day”.
Trumpet player and vocalist Jennifer Hartswick blew the house down with her powerfully spirited singing on a jammed out version of “Black Dog”, another Zeppelin cover, that served as the encore for their first set.
Saturday highlights included a lengthy, spaced out jam on “Gotta Jibboo” that rivaled the previous night’s jam in “Sand” as well as selections from the two nights of Allman Brothers Band in terms of standout musical moments for the weekend.
TAB concluded their impressive two nights of music with “Bounce”, a fairly new original that had a good portion of the crowd doing exactly just that, before one last cover in “Clint Eastwood”, a Gorillaz song that gave Hartswick another chance to lend her savvy vocal talents.
“First Tube” then served as the unofficial encore of sorts as its pulsating beat and driving force capped off two nights of music that surely earned them some new fans and sent accustomed festival goers out dancing into the night.
Other Saturday memorable acts included sets from Government Mule and honorary hosts, The Allman Brothers Band. Naturally.
This meant guitar virtuoso and the hardest working man in the music business, Warren Haynes, would be prominently involved.
Mule’s set opened with a fast and furious version of “World Boss” and, later, a beautiful rendition of “Banks of the Deep End” preceded a soulful take of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”, a song popularized by The Animals, that also saw Ron Holloway lend his assistance on saxophone. Later in the set, the band brought on another horn legend in Karl Denson for a jaunt through the old Mule classic, “Sco-Mule”.
There would be no covers, only pure originals, for the Saturday night Allman Brother Band set as the festival hosts announced in advance they would be performing the group’s iconic 1972 release, Eat a Peach, on the first night.
What the set may have lacked in suspense, it made up for in impeccable guitar play by two of the greats and a steady, cohesive rhythm section highlighted by original drummers Jaimoe and Butch Trucks who were joined by longtime member Oteil Burbidge on bass. Along with Marc Quinones on additional percussion and with the assistance of Danny Louis of Government Mule on keys, the southern rock legends opened things with “Ain’t Wastin’ No More” and never looked back.
Derek Trucks delivered his typical eloquent acoustic guitar play on a solid version of “Melissa” before a thunderous and lengthy “Mountain Jam” took over that gave Trucks, Haynes and everyone else in the band a chance to put their musical chops on full display.
Another standout was “Blue Sky”, sung nicely by original member Gregg Allman, as the rock icons continued to deliver a standout performance of a legendary album.
Saturday’s late night performances included sets from Particle as well as Lotus who were touring in support of their recent release, Gilded Age.
Both acts fit the evening electronica requirements more than adequately and Lotus saw quite an impressive crowd that stretched out far atop the scenic Scranton hillside.
Over on the Grove Stage, the third and smallest of all the stages, Warren Haynes returned the favor from earlier as he and Trucks both sat in and delighted those who chose to see Ron Holloway Band instead.
Sunday marked the final day and helped serve as a restful bookend to a furious weekend of music. Beginning with a solo Warren Haynes acoustic set on the Peach Stage dubbed “Wakeup with Warren Haynes”, music was completed before the sun went down which gave campers ample time to pack up and go home.
Haynes began his set with the always poignant “Patchwork Quilt” and continued to run through a set of soulful covers and classics that were often supported by audience members singing along.
His set concluded with a stirring montage of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” and “Comfortably Numb” as the guitar legend effortlessly shifted from one to the other.
Afterwards, blues legend Taj Mahal and his backing band graced the Peach Stage for a relaxed set of Sunday afternoon music before The Soul Rebels, a New Orleans brass and funk band, upped the energy and volume significantly.
Finally, it was time for one last set from the Allman Brother Band and with the future of this group very much in limbo with Haynes and Trucks announcing their future departures, nearly everyone made a point to be at the Peach Stage early and secure a spot for what may be one of the last performances from this legendary band.
They treated the Sunday crowd to a lengthy and memorable performance that saw both classics such as “Midnight Rider” and “Hot’lanta” as well cover songs like “Soulshine” and “Good Morning Little School Girl” played with grace and precision.
The band later brought Taj Mahal back to the stage for his vocals and harmonica play on “Statesboro Blues” and Pete Levin also joined Allman on keys for a lengthy yet well crafted version of the classic hit, “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed”.
Thankfully, the rock legends ended things with one last classic song as Trucks and Haynes traded tasty licks for the final time on a festival ending rendition of “Whipping Post”.
This marked the end of the third annual Peach Music Festival, which is quite possibly, one of the last public performances from one of the few remaining American pioneers of improvisational rock music.
Festival goers then slowly trekked out of Montage Mountain and headed home wondering what the future may hold for this unique festival with the host band in limbo, while also appreciating what an incredibly full weekend of music and memories just transpired.
For more info visit: ThePeachMusicFestival.com