The foothills of the Adirondacks are a perfect location for camping, hiking, kayaking and fishing, especially in these dog days of summer as the sun sets a little earlier each day. Oak Mountain in Speculator has been an all-seasons destination for years, but in the summer they have begun to attract a crowd for an annual event, Oak Mountain Bluegrass and Arts Festival. Smaller than Snow Ridge (moe.down) and Hunter (Mountain Jam), Oak Mountain has gentle sloping hills that lead to a comfortable base where music fans can set up tents, canopies and chairs and bask in the warm sunny Northern New York days and feel the chill come down the mountain once the sun sets.
With locally made arts and photography of the Adirondacks for sale, the crowd was very relaxed on this warm day, some hooping, others chatting with friends but all focused on the music and tapping their feet to the five bluegrass bands from Upstate New York that graced the stage. Birdseed Bandits got things kicked off with Lumineers-style bluegrass, paced and inviting, including “Wagon Wheel”, a popular cover by Old Crow Medicine Show. Pocket Change played tunes from Steve Miller Band, Justin Earle Townes, The Grateful Dead, Marshall Tucker Band and Neil Young, as well as original spread out in between these wonderful renditions of classic songs. Blind Owl Band performed more frenetic bluegrass tunes, notably “Missing my Home”, eliciting cheers with a shoutout to Eastbound Jesus. A gorgeous cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Thank You” had Christian Cardiello swap his upright bass for electric one, while the strings of Eric Munley, James Ford and Arthur Buezo were in sync in a Greensky Bluegrass type of connectedness. Their high intensity and fast paced play for the full set is proof that Upstate NY bluegrass is its own subgenre.
Two bands from the Utica area, The Rusty Doves and Remsen Social Club, closed out the night as the sun began to set, giving way to pink and purple hues in the sky. The Rusty Doves started off with a cover of Patsy Cline’s “After Midnight”, an intense “Rock of Ages” and a beautiful “Pretty Fair Maid”, by Tim O’Brien. Remsen Social Club polished off a splendid day with the campfire crackling nearby, playing “Over You Darling”, “Mountain Top Love Song” and “Gorge Road Blues”. Campers enjoyed the brisk Adirondack night and locals ventured back to town once night fell, setting up a perfect night in that area between the Mohawk Valley and the North Country, a perfect place for a music festival in August.