Mountain Jam XI   Day One

Hunter Mountain Ski Resort • Hunter NY

June 4-7 2015


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By Barry Brandow

Featuring moe. , Robert Plant & The Sensational Space Shifters, The Black Keys, The Alabama Shakes, and Govt Mule “Dark Side of the Mule”… plus many many more!

Since I fell in love with Mountain Jam 5 years ago it has become somewhat of a tradition that my wife, several of my friends, and I look forward to every year. In fact, it’s such a great weekend of music and fun most of us secure tickets as soon as they are available, even before the lineup is announced.

Tucked in the middle of the Catskill Mountains at Hunter Mountain Ski Resort, the event in its 11th year of existence has become one of the premier festivals of the season and has consistently featured a stellar lineup year after year. The eclectic list of musicians and bands has something for every music fan no matter which genre you enjoy most. Whether its blue grass, funk, reggae, blues, country, folk, or good old rock and roll you’ll be completely satisfied. As a fan of live music I find I enjoy watching the bands included in the styles I don’t commonly listen too as much as the ones I do. That’s one of the things that music festivals are best known for, exposing the average fan to music they’re not accustom to hearing on a regular basis. Although I may not ordinarily listen to bluegrass or reggae, I love watching bands like Railroad Earth, Yonder Mountain String Band, and Damien Marley perform their sets.

I also look forward to discovering newer bands I might not have gotten to see live or hear if I hadn’t attended a festival. Bands like The Revivalists, Moon Taxi, The Main Squeeze, Cornmeal, North Mississippi All-Stars and The London Souls have become favorites of mine and I look forward to catching their shows whenever they perform close to home. Besides the bands and friends I get to see at Mountain Jam year after year, another thing that is appealing to me about the festival is having the two main stages side by side, eliminating overlap and trekking from one end of the grounds to the other to catch all the bands I want to see. There are also several great bands that perform on the more intimate indoor stage at Healey Hall– a short walk from the main stages and perfectly timed so not to miss much of the music on the main stages.

I also enjoy taking advantage of a 3 hour zip lining tour through the mountains just minutes away from the festival site. I recommend that for everybody to do at least once…What a BLAST and an absolute adrenaline rush!! It’s not included as part of the festival, but worth every penny to those brave enough to go. Something that is included as part of the festival, and ONLY cost $6, is riding the ski lift up and down the mountain and over the massive crowd during the show. I recommend that as well. It’s not only fun and exciting but allows for GREAT photo opportunities. You’ll even catch glimpses of performers taking the ride overhead before or after their sets.

As the steadily growing crowd filtered into Mountain Jam the bands The Dharma Bums and Sons of Bill kicked off the long anticipated weekend of music on the smaller west stage with ambitious sets that included a blooming and extended version of a personal favorite “Morning Dew.”   It was evident to me already that whether you’re the first band to hit the stage playing to a smaller crowd or a band playing at the peak of the day, all those performing at Mountain Jam play with passion and driven ambition to be noticed and remembered.

One of the first sets to draw early attention was Planet of the Abts– a band with immediate connections to jam giants Gov’t Mule. Drummer Matt Abts, bassist Jorgan Carlsson from Mule, and guitarist T-Bone Anderson form the psychedelically themed band whose music flashed me back to the earlier days of Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, Rick Derringer, Black Sabbath, and others from that era of music. Having seen POA last time they played Mountain Jam I was excited to see how they have progressed since then.  On the heels of a newly released album “All Things In Valley” the trio played several cuts from the new album as well as a superb and haunting version of the Sabbath song “Who R U”.

The first band to play on the larger east stage was the popular and beloved band Railroad Earth, bringing with them their bluegrass/rock influences, which set them apart from most conventional bluegrass bands. While the close to capacity crowd settled in and engulfed the infield, the ultra-melodic sounds of RRE filled the valley of Hunter NY. Many there expressed hope that Mr. Warren Haynes might make his initial appearance to the Mountain Jam stage to perform music from the newly released album just recorded with Railroad Earth, “Ashes and Dust” as the band will soon embark on a tour with the Mule frontman throughout the summer. At about the 4th song in those in attendance got what they hoped for as Warren graced the stage to a roaring applause. Railroad Earth also performed favorites such as “The Forecast”and “Long Way To Go”. Everyone in attendance danced and sang along to the brilliant and energetic music being played.

When Railroad Earth’s set concluded, keyboardist Marco Benevento along with Andrew Borger and Ween bassist Dave Dreiwitz, made their first of what will be many appearances on the festival stages. The mega talented and super ambitious musicians played a spirited set that fired up the already eager jammers in attendance.

The opening night headliner, playing their first ever Mountain Jam, was the jam band veterans of 25 years moe. The 5 piece jam machine features Rob Derhak on bass, Vinnie Amico on drum, Jim Loughlin on percussion and mallet cat, and two of the most ferocious and face melting guitarists on the music scene Al Schnier and Chuck Garvey. The loyal following of devoted fans known affectionately as “moe-rons” as well as those catching the band for the first time raged as the 5 guys named moe. took to the main stage. After greeting the crowd, the boys started up the set with “Same Old Story” that featured Loughlin as the xylophone took to the tunes forefront. The song “Crab Eyes” preceded what will seem to be a recurring theme among festivals and other live music offerings as the Grateful Dead embark on their 50th anniversary celebration with a rendition of the song “Loser,” which they performed at Dear Jerry a few weeks ago. “Downward Facing Dog”, “Deep This Time”, and “Threw It All Away” rounded out the first set before Warren Haynes made his second appearance of the night to perform “Opium,” a song he has performed with moe. many times before and has also incorporated in Mule’s ever growing arsenal of music. Haynes and Derhak traded verses throughout and all three guitarists (Haynes, Schnier, and Garvey) mesmerized the masses with wailing solos, with Warren mostly on slide.

Between moe’s two sets of music, Marco Benevento and his bandmates delighted the crowd with another musically ambitious set on the west stage. A treat for all

To start their second set of music moe. played fan favorite “Seat of My Pants,” an eclectic tune that morphs reggae, funk, and dabs of scorching metal with playful lyrics that got everyone back into party mode. A few instrumental offerings, ”Mar De Ma” and “Ricky Marten” preceded a blazing version of the song “Silver Sun” that featured amazing solos by the whole gang. The next tune “Blue Jeans Pizza” offered much of the same during the explosive set. “Wind It Up” melted into one of my favorite songs moe. performs live, “Recreational Chemestry.” Although I’ve seen moe. live about 20 times it was my first opportunity to see this song since I saw them at Radio City Music Hall on New Years of 2008. It was well worth the wait as the quintet blasted amazing musical harmonies and several brain frying solos, highlighted by Al’s 5+ minute act of musical kindness to complete the song and set. To keep with moe. tradition, Mr Schnier returned to the stage to read the “Al-nouncements,” honoring those celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, and musical milestones presented by the fans. As another added bonus, moe. allowed those who downloaded the Mountain Jam app the opportunity to vote for the bands encore for the evening. As many fans would suspect the song “Rebubula” was the prominent choice. The devoted and zealous jammers danced and sang throughout the encore as they had the entire set, especially during the songs chorus.

The first night (of four) of Mountain Jam concluded with success as the crowd disbanded and trekked back to their campsites and hotels to recharge for the rest of the fest.

Day 2 Review Coming Soon.

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