The fourth annual Peach Festival will forever be a prolific memory for those who attended the 2015 installment of the festival. Some might even say they’ve been “changed” and have no idea how to explain their experience to friends post festival. All they can say is, “I can’t wait till next year. I can’t wait to go back to The Peach.” The festival began as a celebration of The Allman Brother’s Band and The Grateful Dead. Festival attendees were pleased to see that two former drummers of the Allman Brothers Band would be included on the line up. Those two being Butch Trucks and Jaimoe. If that’s not exciting enough former ABB member Warren Haynes was also a brilliant addition to the weekend’s lineup. There were also three surviving members of The Grateful Dead on the bill. Those being Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzmann and Bruce Hornsby. Last year was the final year the complete Allman Brothers Band headlined Peach Festival. However, one of this year’s headliners was of course the great Gregg Allman. Others included Willie Nelson and Family and a closing by Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Carlos Santana.
Montage Mountain has been the home of the Peach for the past four years. It boasts a summit of 1,960 feet. The tree line is made up evergreen trees and pines. Remember, this festival is held on a mountain. Packing light and wearing proper foot attire will make for a delightful camping experience. The general admission campgrounds are predominantly on the ski slopes so getting back to camp literally means “hiking” I was constantly telling myself, “Think of how strong your calves will be after the festival!” There are two tractor loops for those who don’t wish to muscle it up the slopes. There are three kinds of camping. General admission camping, family camping, and CID’s “Glamping.” Glamping provides much larger tents with much more amenities and style than a bare bones campsite and are also assembled for guests in advance.
The park in the summer time is permanent home to a water park! It features an array of slides, a wave pool, and a lazy river. There are lockers to store your belongings, and also indoor and outdoor showers. The lodge included a food court, indoor restrooms and CID’s VIP lounge. The VIP lounge had to have been the most cushy place in the park. There were plenty of comfortable couches, a bar, and even a free photo booth!
The festival began Thursday evening on the Peach Stage also known as The Pavilion . To kick off the festival was Grateful Dead tribute band Dark Star Orchestra . Their set showcased tunes from a Grateful Dead show at the capitol theater in Passaic New Jersey in April 1977. The set included staples like “Sugaree,” “Scarlet Begonias,” “Mississippi Half-Step” and Terrapin Station.” I have to say, it was an overwhelmingly beautiful yet haunting experience. Thousands of Dead fans sang along as if they were a giant choir and these were their hymns. The voices reverberated against the pavilion’s high interior and echoed into the distant hills. The lights dazzled the crowd everyone swayed in joyous harmony. After the show ended one thing was apparent. Everyone wants Dark Star Orchestra to be the traditional festival opener.
Later in the evening we were wow’d by our first Deep Banana BlackOut show on the Mushroom stage. I can’t remember the last time I’ve heard more inventive trombone solos. The level of energy and improvisation this band spits out is a force to be reckoned with. Lead vocalist Jen Durkin’s voice is so powerful you need to prepare yourself to be ripped in half! Between the improvisation and funky rhythms, you’re sure to feel like you’ve been transported to New Orleans.
The next day Scranton’s own Cabinet opened the Peach stage. Followed by the Hard Working Americans, Trombone Shorty and Joe Russo’s Almost Dead. Many rushed the Mushroom stage eager to catch Blues Traveler. Perhaps the most memorable experience was watching the people in the wave pool. Which is a few feet away from the Mushroom stage. They cheered and sang along to BT’s hits like “Hook.” John Popper’s harmonica solos are melodic feats that would make any instrumentalist blush. They were also pleased to have a guest appearance by none other than Warren Haynes himself. Which lead to a nice rendition of the “The Mountains Win Again.”
Warren Haynes and Railroad Earth set the tone for Friday night with their soulful yet raw set in the pavilion. It was interesting to see RRE’s lead vocalist Todd Sheaffer step aside for a while and let Warren Haynes take the wheel. The ensemble played selections from their new album Ashes and Dust which was released in July of this year. Tim Carbone’s violin solo’s descended upon the crowd like a feather gently floating to the ground. A perpetual stream of melodic call and response between Carbone and Goessling carried on through the set and added a fine degree of polyphonic texture.
The pinnacle of Friday evening was the iconic Gregg Allman. He opened his set with “Statesboro Blues.” Many were easily impressed on his transition from organ to guitar. The legendary vocals, solos and overall spirit of the Allman Brothers was definitely experienced. The warmness of Allman’s organ is a sound that will never be forgotten. The crowd became downright emotional when Allman played his signature tune, “Melissa.” I looked around to see fans weeping and smiling simultaneously. The set ended with “Midnight Rider,” “Love Like Kerosene,” “Whipping Post.” With no surprise the show encored with “One Way Out.”
The temperature definitely rose on Saturday. Most festival attendees made themselves ready for a dip in the wave pool or a drift down the lazy river. Or for those feeling extra adventurous the ultra fast water slides. Watching Dumpstaphunk while jumping waves in the wave pool was so much fun! The Mushroom stage also featured Rusted Root which performed their hit “Send Me on My Way.” With GD50 in the not so distant past it was a real treat to see Bruce Hornsby and The Noise Makers once again paying tribute. His set was laid back and serene. Back at The Peach stage Old Crow Medicine show kicked the vibe up a notch with their own “Alabama High Test.”
Finally, it was time for the one and only Willie Nelson and family. Nelson’s signature vocals were spot on and everyone was thrilled to see Trigger (his beloved guitar) once again by his side. His sister Bobbie Nelson has been playing piano in his band since the 1970’s. She of course played my favorite piano interlude “Down Yonder.” Towards the end of the set Nelson included selections of “I’ll Fly Away, You were always on my mind” and of course, “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die.” He even paid tribute to the great Hank Williams Sr. with songs like “Hey Good Lookin” and “I saw the Light.”
Billy and the Kids killed it shortly after and were later joined by The Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir. The entire second set featured Weir on lead guitar and vocals, which included takes on “Cassidy,” “Stella Blue” and “Sugar Magnolia.” Weir’s guitar raged through the crowd and the lights penetrated the thousands of loyal fans.
Saturday night was closed out on the Grove Stage by Scranton’s local band Cabinet. We’re sure to see and hear more from this band in the future. The musicianship and camaraderie are the aspects that make this band so solid. With every instrumental break you can feel the virtuosity leaking from their hands to the strings. I learned quickly not to underestimate the Grove Stage. Although smaller than both the Mushroom and Peach Stage and also further away it is never the less the place for a great show.
On Sunday a congregation formed at the Peach Stage for Keller Williams and Grateful Gospel. The band features members of More Than a Little and Further’s guitarist John Kadlecik. The set started off with “Feel Like a Stranger.” The vocal harmonies were absolutely stellar. The positive vibes could surely be felt throughout the entire audience. Other selections were “My Sister and Brothers,” “St Stephen” and “Ripple.” Towards the end Keller excitedly proclaimed, “Hey look everyone! Its Bob Weir!” Weir sat in for “Eyes of the World” and closed with “Samson and Delilah.”
Over at the Grove stage Indianapolis’ Turbo Suit delivered a powerful and funky set with remixes of up beat tunes new and old. One memorable selection was a mashup of Uptown Funk which led to an ensemble of happy dancers.
Santana made for a memorable grand finally. Latin rhythms flooded the amphitheater and not one foot remained still. Santana proudly introduced his son Salvador who is a much accomplished vocalist and a master of the keyboards. The crowd was pleased to shake it to hits like “Evil Ways,” “Black Magic Woman” and “Smooth.” One thing’s for certain, Carlos Santana bleeds positive mantras. The long instrumental jams were definitely used as a platform to inspire and uplift the community with his kind words.
One of the kindest actions I saw all weekend was the attendees voluntarily cleaning up the grounds. Once a few began picking up the garbage a chain reaction ensued. It was really heartwarming to see essential strangers coming together for the betterment of the festival and respect of the mountain. The festival overall had a great sense of community. People genuinely showed love for each other. It was a kind of harmonious bond that is a rare occurrence in humanity. Peach Fest was a sure fire success and we can’t wait for next year.