The 5th Annual Susquehanna Breakdown: Affordable Scranton Bluegrass

What can you do with $50 in Scranton, PA this weekend?  How about two days of incredible bluegrass, folk, and funk?  The 5th Annual Susquehanna Breakdown begins Friday, May 19 with local act, The Dishonest Fiddlers taking the stage at 6:30pm followed by most Deadhead’s favorite one-man band, Keller Williams, at 8pm.  Members of Northeastern Pennsylvania’s own Cabinetwill be joining Williams on stage for the 9:30pm “Keller & Cabinet” set which is sure to be full of surprises.  Cabinet will then take over the stage at 10:45 for the first of three weekend sets.

When Susquehanna Breakdown was founded in 2013 by Cabinet and Live Nation Entertainment, their aim was to shine a light on the regional artists, farmers and craft vendors of Scranton, PA.  Over the years the festival has added bigger names and larger crowds to their Montage Mountain home, yet the tight-knit friendly vibe, cheap ticket price, and local sponsorship has remained.  While Cabinet continues to be at the nucleus of the event, bluegrass juggernauts, Greensky Bluegrass, have taken over 2017’s headlining slot at 9pm on Saturday night.   Other sets to check out on Saturday include Binghamton, New York’s Driftwood at 12:30pm, a daytime acoustic set from Cabinet at 2:15pm, the soulful folkie Wood Brothers at 4pm and Billy Strings tearing things up at 8pm!

The full schedule is posted and as in years past, the festival organizers have set the separate stage times so that attendees are able to catch a glimpse of every band with little to no overlap.  And did we mention the late night acts?  The funky West Coast trio, Organ Freeman, will be taking over the party on Friday night and the traveling powerhouse, Turkuaz, will be sending Breakdowners home after one more Saturday night set.  Sandwiched in between all this funkiness is Tom Hamilton’s Breakdown All Stars at 11pm on the second day which will be full of festival-wide collaborations.

The Northeastern festival season is now upon us and this showcase might be the best bang for your buck you will find this year.  Whether you plan to attend on Saturday only or camp for both nights on the pavilion lawn, there is plenty to do and hear at this year’s Breakdown.  An eclectic collection of acts from around the country sharing the space with local bands and vendors makes this the perfect practice run for the rest of the summer’s events.  The Susquehanna Breakdown shares the same space as Montage Mountain’s larger summer extravaganza, The Peach Festival, but at a fraction of the cost.  While Scranton locals may consider Peach to be the big brother of the mountain’s two jam-heavy festivals, the Breakdown just hit another growth spurt and is ready to rival its older sibling in 2017.

NYS Music had the chance to sit down with The Dishonest Fiddlers founder, Dave Brown to discover what makes “The Electric City” the perfect place for a breakdown…

Ben Boivin: What is the concept behind The Dishonest Fiddlers and where did you first come up with this unique idea to play with different artists at every show?

Dave Brown: Well, I played solo prior to forming the band and I still enjoy the solo sets very much but the band has given my music a chance to take a different shape and myself a chance to play with and learn from a lot of different musicians along the way.

BB: What is your connection with Cabinet, the band that founded the Breakdown?

DB: Well my introduction to Cabinet came maybe 4 or 5 years ago in Scranton.  I ordered lunch from Pizza by Pappa’s, and JP [Biondo] delivered it. I was not expecting him, nor was I expecting the pizza to have several bites out of it either. JP agreed to let me take a few bites of the next pizza he had to deliver, and after playing a few tunes I agreed we were square. Since then I started picking up my orders from Pappa’s and listening to Cabinet.  Lately I’ve been fortunate enough to have Todd Kopec, from Cabinet, playing fiddle with us and he’ll be on stage with me at the Breakdown too.

BB: I know that you are on the road all summer and visiting many different festivals.  What do you feel is so special about the Susquehanna Breakdown?

DB: The Breakdown has really evolved into something a lot of people really look forward too. I’ve met people from all over the country at the Susquehanna Breakdown over the years. I was a spectator at the first one and its definitely special to have the opportunity to be playing this year. It’s also nice that our family and friends have a chance to be there and share the day with us

BB: What is the band you are most looking forward to seeing at this festival?

DB: I recently had a show with Driftwood and I got a copy of their new album so I’m looking forward to hearing some of those tunes again.  I’m also interested in hearing Billy Strings for the first time.

BB: What would you like to see for The Dishonest Fiddlers?

DB: Well tours and new albums all sound great but mainly I want to keep having fun and keep writing music. If I can manage to keep enough air in my tires and the lights on at home, the rest will fall in place.

Tickets for the Susquehanna Breakdown can be purchased at the festival or via Ticketmaster while supplies last.