Friday, August 21, 2015

Four Nights and Three Nights of Utopia on Montage Mountain: Peach Festival 2015 Recap!

 Nights“Just a Reminder- I’ll be out of the office till Tuesday”
“Where are you going again?”
“A 4 day music festival; I’ll be camping.
“Is that some sort of hippie reunion, like Woodstock?
“I guess you could call it that.”
“Have fun. Be safe.”


This was an amusing conversation I had with my manager before Peach Festival 2015, my second time there. While I was somewhat disappointed that the Allman Brothers Band would not be there again, I consoled myself, knowing that 6/7 Allman Brothers (Gregg, Jaimoe, Butch, Warren, Oteil and Marc) and 2 members of the Grateful Dead (Bobby and Billy) would be there.
A week before the festival I got a message from Greg, one of my new GD50 friends, who recently contributed a Phish review to the blog. He asked for my address so he could send me a “Peach Fest gift”. The days between when he sent it and I received it I constantly thought about what the gift may be. I thought he may have sent some fresh Georgia peaches, when he said the gift would go bad if it didn’t arrive in a few days. To the contrary, it was a set of two USB drives with a ton of music from many of the bands playing at Peach and a few others.

Lots of Shakedown Street!

This picture was taken after Billy K sat down after everyone
 sung and clapped to "Not Fade Away" during his grand entrance!
Peach Festival 2015 carried the weight of the GD50 shows and was Grateful Dead heavy. I purchased Bill Kreutzmann’s new autobiography “Deal” and was able to listen to an insightful QA and get his signature. My one drawback was he did not provide an informative answer to my question about how he chose Trey Anastasio and John Mayer as guitarists for Fare Thee Well and Dead & Company respectively.
Dark Star Orchestra did 2 sets on Thursday night. Unfortunately, I missed most of the first one but the second one was solid. DSO is not just like any other Grateful Dead cover band; a few weeks ago they played their first Stadium show in Buffalo. Here’s “Bertha” from that show:
The second set started with “Estimated Prophet”! There were two additional GD50 flashbacks with a lot of audience vocal participation in the set-“Samson and Delilah” and “Terrapin Station.”
After the first song of the encore, “Johnny B Goode” the band announced it mimicked the April 27, 1977 Capitol Theater show.  I was excited to hear “Johnny B Goode” as it was one the Grateful Dead hits I didn’t hear in Chicago. We were than treated to two more songs- “Not Fade Away” and “Going Down the Road Feeling Bad.” It’s been a while since I’ve been to a show with 3 songs for an encore!
The next day, we heard from the other top Grateful Dead Cover band around- Joe Russo’s Almost Dead.  Drummer/singer Joe Russo led an improvised set that, which began with “Jam”. Despite some sound issues, in which we often could not hear the vocals on the lawn, the set was appealing. The two main highlights were “Let it Grow” with a “Song Remains the Same” tease and “Uncle Johns Band” (I’m a sucker for that song, I know).
Saturday evening we saw two sets with Bill Kruetzmann himself, the second with the help of his bandmate Bobby. Bill played Grateful Dead hits with a funky feel with his lead guitar, Tom Hamilton, who is also Almost Dead.  After “Scarlet Begonias”, Bill threw a curveball with “He’s Gone”, rather than the typical “Fire on the Mountain” follow-up. Later on in the set, “Eyes of the World” led into “The Wheel.” Bobby helped begin the second set as a guest teacher for Billy’s kids, playing “Feel Like a Stranger.”
Grateful Gospel with Keller Williams kicked off the festivities on Sunday afternoon. The played two of the same songs Billy and the Kids played the night before- “Feel like a Stranger” and “The Wheel” but in a peculiar gospel style. The band mixed in a few regular gospel tunes with the Grateful Dead songs. The pinnacle was “St. Stephen”, in which Keller Williams introduced the band’s members.”
Next up was the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, feat Bob Weir. To introduce Bobby, they played an instrumental” Not Fade Away”. Ben Jaffe, tuba player and upright bassist, and son of the band’s founders Allan and Sandra, said he is honored the original band opened up for The Grateful Dead at a 1969 Fillmore West show and welcomed Bobby to the stage. Bobby led the band on a jazzy  “Iko Iko”. Afterwards, the band played a Claptonesque Bluesy “Corinna, Corinna”. It was the first time I heard Bobby playing some slow-hand blues solos.

Allman Brothers Reunion

True to the festival’s name, the Allman Brothers were ever present with six out of seven Allman Brothers present at the festival. On Friday morning, Jaimoe did his typical talk with the official Allman Brothers biographer Alan Paul, who released One Way Out last year. When Alan saw our t-shirts, he could not this photo of my roommates and I:

Jaimoes Jazzs Band with Jack Pearson
The previous two times I’ve seen Jaimoes Jazzs Band at Wanee and Peach last year, the band mostly did blues songs. This time it was a mix of Jazz and Blues. Ex-Allman Brother Jack Pearson, Derek Trucks’ predecessor came on as a guest for “Liz Reed.”

Warren Haynes was the next Allman Brother up to bat, playing with Railroad Earth. He mostly played new tunes off of his latest album Ashes and Dust, such as “Strange Tattoo”, “Stranded in Self Pity” and “Spots of Time.” Given the fact that he wrote this song with Phil Lesh, I thought there was a decent chance Joe Russo would come on for it; however, no cigar.  The band played a bi-folded “Blue Sky.” The first half of it was a bluegrass Railroad Earth style; the second half was the regular Allman Brothers “Blue Sky” that we all know and love.
After a short break, Gregg Allman’s Band took the Peach Stage. One should note that Gregg’s band also features ABB percussionist Marc Quinones. The set had a mix of classic Allman Brothers tunes, old blues songs and Gregg solo songs. “Hot Lanta” featured the band’s horns section. Gregg played “I Can’t be Satisfied”, a number off his 2011 Grammy Winning Low Country Blues Album, with Jack Pearson. There were several other ABB best hits like the blues standard “Stormy Monday”, “Aint Wastin’ Time No More” an acoustic “Melissa” and “Whipping Post”. It’s always pleasant when “Whipping Post” is played before the encore. Gregg’s buddies Jaimoe and Warren come on to end the show with “One Way Out.” While the encore was nice and illustrated the ABB’s jamming capabilities, the song choice was fairly predictable. A few weeks before, Jaimoe and Warren helped Gregg play “Southbound” as an encore at The Gathering of the Vibes.

Unfortunately, I missed Oteil Burbridge’s set so I could attend Billy’s signing; however, I did see him right afterwards as he is joined Butch Trucks and Very Special Friends. 
Before the set began, Butchie exclaimed " Call up all off your friends and tell them to come on over!" 
4 ½ Allman Brothers were present on stage- Butch, Jaimoe, Oteil, Marc and Jack Pearson (I’ll count Jack as ½ since he was in the band before DerekJ).  Furthermore, frequent ABB guests Bruce Katz and Bill Evans were in the band. In contrast to Warren’s “Blue Sky” the night before, which started in a country style, Jack Pearson contributed vocals to a more or less regular version.  Lamar Williams took vocals on Gregg’s song “Stand Back."

Other Music

So believe it or not, all of the music there was not all Grateful Dead and Allman Brothers related bands. One of the best parts of any music festival is the ability to explore unfamiliar bands that you wouldn’t necessarily pay to see otherwise. Trombone Shorty is a bit of a mutt from New Orleans. The band plays a mix of jazz, rock and funk. Australian Pink Floyd is a band I’ve seen in Boston before but seeing it outside with thousands of people dancing after dusk was a singular experience. The show ended with an extraordinary “Comfortable Numb” encore. I’ve always heard the name Willie Nelson before, but did not know much about him at all. He plays guitar and sings pretty dam well for an 82 year old! He played covers of “Georgia on my Mind”, a song I’ve only heard Clapton play before, and “Will the Circle be Unbroken”, a song the Allman Brothers played multiple times during its final Beacon run. Bill Evans was a guest. I got to go back stage for a few songs during Cabinet’s late night set Sunday. The Scranton-based band played a superb cover of “After Midnight”. Lotus’ electronic filled jams isn’t quiet my cup of tea, but It was fun feeling like I ,was quickly losing lives when I listened to its inspired music for a few minutes.

Australian Pink Floyd's Lights for
"Another Brick in the Wall Part 2"
Dancing to "Will the Circle Be Unbroken"
with my new friend Camille 
Gifts and Souvenirs
Dancing Bear pillow on top of the
 Steal Your Face Tapestry I purchased at Peach 2014 

My friend Jesse, who I met at Peach 2014 gave me a Peach Festival pin. My buddy John, 1st time Peach attendee, brought me a little terrapin, which I named “Izzi”. A strange yet familiar face gave me a GD 50 sticker during Billy K’s set when he saw I was wearing my Fare thee Well t-shirt. I bought myself a peach painting and a Dancing Bear pillow. 

This Peach Painting was a bargain at $30:) 


It would be an exaggeration to say Peach Festival was 100% utopia this year. One women passed away in her tent early Sunday morning:
Several people brought their young children and dogs and did not properly take care of them. When my friend Adam and I got on the tractor to get from the shuttle bus to our camp site, we saw two toddlers running around, while their parents were looking the other way. I saw a picture on Facebook of a puppy tied to a person’s campsite while the owner went to party all day. I would not say pets and young children should not go to festivals necessarily, but the parents and owners should be more aware.

Despite such incidents, a large majority of people were amiable and accommodating. There is music for anyone’s interests that range from rock to jazz to blues to country. Overall, after attending Peach for two years, I definitely recommend it. As long as you pack relatively light and ideally take a wagon to drag your stuff from the car to the tractors up the mountain, the music is well worth it! The only reason I may not end up attending next year is I want to try Gathering of the Vibes. \

Last but far from least, here's a photo of my Peach 2015 crew (- a few folks) , made up of two of my roommates, two of our other Boston friends, a good friend from Peach 2014 and others 

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