Thousands of music fans took to the hills of Scranton this past weekend for the 3rd annual Peach Music Festival.
Held at Montage Mountain Ski Resort, the four-day concert and camping event has grown in size each year. While official attendance numbers haven’t been released, organizers were reportedly preparing for around 45,000 fans, with 6,500 or so camping on-site. This year’s lineup included 50 musical acts, spread out over three stages and spanning a wide array of music genres.
It also provided two of what might be the final performances of The Allman Brothers Band, creators and hosts of the festival. In January long-time members Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks announced they would be leaving the band at the end of the year. Greg Allman, one of three original members still with the group, then announced that this 45th year of the band would be the final one to involve touring. While he did not rule out individual performances in the future, the uncertainty of things to come and the chance to see this current lineup of the group one last time brought fans from as far away as Italy.
One unique feature of The Peach Festival is that it is held in and around a water park. While at some festivals you are lucky to find a mist tent, here patrons could enjoy several water slides and a lazy river tube ride. One of the stages was even placed at the end of the wave pool, making it possible to splash around while getting down to the music.
“It’s great. There’s barely any lines,” said Victoria Contreras of Milford, Pennsylvania. “The water’s a little cold, but it’s refreshing.” She and Sean Goetz, also from Milford, are two of the thousands who chose to camp for the weekend.
Three ski slopes served as the camping area, which became an inclined tent city. The later one’s arrival, the further up the mountain one would find a campsite. While the key to sleeping at an angle is to lay with your head up the hill, “you still end up at the bottom of the tent in the middle of the night,” Goetz said.
In addition to tent camping, many fans stayed in RVs. Still others chose more comfortable lodging at one of the area hotels.
“We’re in a hotel. We’re lame. I sleep at night,” joked Dan McCourt from Port Chester, New York.
Whether staying for the weekend or a single day, fans were treated to top-notch entertainment around every turn.
“This lineup is so amazing”, said Randy Girer of Philadelphia. “To have this many great bands, and only two hours from home, it’s just wonderful” she said on Sunday.
The music got off to a funky start Thursday evening with George Clinton, of Parliament-Funkadelic fame, performing on the Mushroom Stage inside the water park, followed by a midnight set by the band Dopapod.
Friday saw the addition of the other two stages: the Grove Stage, a tiny, intimate setting on a small piece of land, and the Peach Stage, which was located inside The Pavillion at Montage Mountain, a LiveNation concert venue that holds 18,000.
Friday’s highlights included performances by Trigger Hippy, with Joan Osborne on vocals; legendary bass player Victor Wooten and his band; JJ Grey & Mofro; and The Tedeschi-Trucks Band, a side project of Allman Brothers Band guitarist Derek Trucks alongside Susan Tedeschi.
The Trey Anastasio Band headlined the evening, taking the time slot originally set for Bob Weir & Rat Dog that had to quickly be rescheduled when the former Grateful Dead guitarist canceled his entire fall tour last week. Anastasio, the guitarist for Phish, was already on Saturday’s bill but stepped in and delivered a spectacular bonus set a day early.
Despite Weir’s absence, The Grateful Dead was still represented, when a set of Dead music was performed by Joe Russo, Jeff Chimenti, Scott Metzger, Tom Hamilton, Reed Mathis, and Jackie Greene earlier in the evening.
An Allman Brothers Saturday
On Saturday, there were more spirited sets from Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers, The Wood Brothers, Particle, The Greyboy All-Stars, Gov’t Mule (ABB guitarist/vocalist Warren Haynes’ side band, now celebrating its 20th year), a second helping of The Trey Anastasio Band, and the first of two shows by The Allman Brothers Band.
The jam rock juggernaut did not disappoint, playing their landmark 1972 double album Eat A Peach in its entirety to start off the set. The highlights included one of their best-known songs “Melissa,” a 29-minute version of the very appropriate “Mountain Jam,” and a touching rendition of “Blue Sky.”
“Little Martha” began the encore as a gallery of Duane Allman photos was projected on the screen above. It was a poignant tribute to the co-founding guitarist, as Eat A Peach was the final album he recorded before dying in a motorcycle crash at the age of 24. The set lasted an hour and 45 minutes, leaving the crowd joyful as they exited the festival grounds.
Sprint to the finish
A majority of festival goers stuck around on Sunday for the final performances, and for good reason: Every band rose to the challenge of keeping the exhausted masses moving. Warren Haynes started the day off with Wake Up With Warren, an amazing solo set that culminated with a cover of the Pink Floyd classic “Wish You Were Here,” leaving very few dry eyes in the crowd. Following him was The Taj Mahal Trio and then The Soul Rebels, a New Orleans band that had the entire venue dancing as if suddenly transported to Bourbon Street.
Local act The George Wesley Band was a highlight at The Grove Stage on the final day. The Wilkes-Barre native had the crowd swaying.
“This is a great opportunity, to just be able to drive home and drive back, see such great music, and be part of this is just awesome” he said. “We couldn’t ask for much more on a Sunday afternoon. The sun started shining. Everybody was dancing, reggae grooving — just nice.”
The weekend concluded with another scorching set by The Allman Brothers Band, a two-hour affair that included masterful performances of classics “Midnight Rider,” “Soulshine,” and “In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed.” Blues guitarist Taj Mahal joined the band for “Statesboro Blues” — a coming-full-circle moment, because it is rumored that his recording of that song is what inspired Duane Allman to learn to play slide guitar in 1968.
The show ended with a powerful delivery of “Whipping Post,” stirring the crowd into a frenzy and creating an ovation that went on for minutes. If this truly was the final Allman Brothers Band performance at a the Peach Festival, it was certainly a memorable one. For now, the band has stated that its six-night run of shows scheduled for October at New York City’s Beacon Theatre will be its final.
Plans are in the works for a 2015 Peach Music Festival, but there’s no word yet as to who will perform.