Review Mike LoRoso
Photos by Bill Grenfell
From Thursday, August 15th through Sunday, August 18th an eclectic mix of tunes could be heard emanating from the beautiful setting of Montage Mountain in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The event was the Peach Music Festival which in just its second year is quickly becoming a mainstay on the festival circuit. The festival was once again headlined by the Allman Brothers band and the event drew a seemingly full house of concert goers from a wide mix of ages and musical tastes. The weather at the event could not have been better with temperatures in the upper 70’s during the afternoons and a cool breeze drifting in for the evenings.
Day one of the event started slowly as the crowd drifted in and the campers got set up. As the festival got underway by 9pm Rusted Root hit the Mushroom Stage which was situated adjacent to the water park. Fans who came early also enjoyed a solid set by Cabinet, a bluegrass band that has a growing regional and national following.
The festival action really got underway on Friday afternoon as Tauk and Railroad Earth took to the main Peach Stage. The Peach Stage is one of the best on the festival circuit with a large number of very comfortable seats that are shaded by a high white canopy keeping the fans cool and protected from the threat of any rain (of which there none for this years event). For the fans who come to enjoy the opportunity to listen to the music while soaking up some rays and grooving more free style there is a nice wide lawn around the perimeter which is elevated to allow for clear views of the stage no matter where you are viewing from.
Late Friday afternoon a blast of energy arrived as Grace Potter and the Nocturnals rocked the crowd. Among Potter’s own hits were blended in some scorching covers such as Cocaine in tribute to the late JJ Cale and the Band’s Mystery Train. Potter and her band wrapped up set with the crowd favorite Nothing But the Water but this version had inserted between verses a memorable rendition of Neil Young’s Down By the River.
Bob Weir followed with his first of three Peach Festival performances, two of which were with his Ratdog bandmates. Over the last couple of years most of Weir’s touring has been with former Dead member Phil Lesh in the band Furthur and so the Peach Festival marks the only scheduled appearances this year with Ratdog. The current configuration of the band includes veteran Ratdog mates, Jeff Chimenti on keyboards (who also plays with Furthur), Jay Lane on drums, Rob Wasserman on standup bass, and Rob Sylvester on electric bass. Replacing Mark Karan on lead guitar was local native Steve Kimock who traded riffs with Weir effortlessly throughout their bluesy set of traditional Dead tunes. Grace Potter returned to the stage to join Weir in fabulous version of the Beatle’s Dear Prudence and then she left briefly as the band cruised into China Cat Sunflower and when they rolled into I Know You Rider Potter was back to finish the set.
The Allman’s kept the groove going and stepped it up a notch when they hit the stage as the night built to a climax. Greg Allman was full of energy and looked healthier than he has in years. Along with Allman the band blazed through hits like Statesboro Blues, Midnight Rider, and Revival with Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes trading incredible guitar solos. The band was joined on stage by Eric Krasno on guitar for Feel Like Breakin Up Somebody’s Home, and then Bob Weir was back on vocals and guitar for Good Morning Little Schoolgirl. Winding up the set was a mountain shaking version of In Memory of Elizabeth Reed with Bill Evans on saxophone. For the late night crowd the night finished off with a tight set at midnight on the Mushroom Stage by Galactic.
Saturday proved to be a day of continued outstanding musicianship. Gov’t Mule took to the Peach Stage in late afternoon proving once again that Warren Haynes is the hardest working guitarist in rock and roll. The band mixed in a few tradition Mule favorites with some new music which the crowd soaked in cheering for more. Haynes, ever the rock innovator, brought to the stage a trio of tenor saxophonists that included Ron Holloway, Karl Densen, and Bill Evans on Devil Likes It Slow which certainly blew out more than a few eardrums.
Ratdog returned for their second night with another fabulous set of Dead tunes highlighted by sick versions of West L.A. Fadeaway and The Other One. As the band finished the set to Not Fade Away the packed crowd serenaded them as they continued singing and clapping as the band took their final bows.
The Allman Brothers then returned with another excellent set with crowd favorites Ain’t Wastin Time No More, Blue Sky,and Melissa which featured Greg Allman playing acoustic guitar. The parade of onstage guests continued to the delight of a rocking crowd when Steve Kimock joined the band for Dreams and Jeff Chimenti on keys and Ron Holloway on sax joined them for The Same Thing, an old Willie Dixon cover. Down the stretch the band tore into an extended jam which included bits and pieces of a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s 1983 (A Merman I Should Turn To Be). Just when it didn’t seem that the set could be taken higher Greg Allman led the band into a thunderous version of Whipping Post which convinced any doubter that the Allman Brothers aren’t leaving the festival tour scene anytime soon.
Sunday, the final day of the festival proved to be a lower key day started off with Bob Weir returning for his final performance of an acoustic solo set. The blues dripped from Weir fingers as he coaxed the crowd through the early afternoon. Steve Kimock joined him for Peggy O, Playing In the Band, and Standing On Shaky Ground with Bob voice sounding as clear and strong as it has in years.
Green Sky Bluegrass and Dirty Dozen Brass Band kept the dwindling crowd grooving while the faithful waited for the Black Crowes to put the icing on the festival cake. Those who remained were rewarded with a rock solid set that included a cover of Traffic’s Medicated Goo and Dylan’s Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues with Weir back to join Chris Robinson on vocals and guitar. The Crowes’ version of Otis Redding’s Hard To Handle has become a must hear anytime Robinson is on vocals and Sunday night was no exception but this time the band mixed in Billy Joe Royal’s Hush which blew the remaining fans away.
As the last of the festival faithful made their way to pack up their tents and cars the only question remaining in the air was who would be in next year’s lineup!