The Peach Music Festival returned to Montage Mountain in Scranton, PA for its eighth year this past weekend, and from the buzz of the crowd it seems that this year was the best yet. Everywhere you turned there was good people and good music, all thanks to the incredibly stacked lineup the festival runners put together. The weather was nearly perfect, aside from a storm on Sunday night that cut some of the first Phil and Friends set short, but fans raged on and powered through it. All of the main stage sets were livestreamed by nugs.net, all of those streams can be found there.
Thursday was kicked off by Buffalo groove rockers Aqueous, playing the main Peach Stage for their first time and opening up the weekend with their upbeat tune “Random Company,” which set the mood for the rest of the weekend. The group played a set of all originals, omitting their usual cover placed somewhere in the set, and blew the tent off the Peach Stage with stellar versions of “Kitty Chaser (Explosions)” and “Skyway,” as well as some new tunes like “Going Nowhere” and “Be The Same.” Aqueous was followed by Billy Strings, a hot new act on the bluegrass scene that mixes a classic bluegrass sound with psychedelic rock and improvisation. Strings and Co. (Jarrod Walker, Billy Winning, and Royal Masat) kicked off the set with “Dust in a Baggie,” a tale of spending the next years of your life in prison for some dust in a baggie. The group performed extended versions of “All Fall Down” and “Meet Me at the Creek,” showing off a bit of their jamming chops to Peach’s jam friendly crowd, and were met with warm reception, creating a lot of new fans by the end of their set.
Pigeons Playing Ping Pong followed with their first set of the night, graduating from one main stage set last year to two sets this year, one of them being of the late night variety. During Pigeons’ first set, the group stuck with mostly old school tunes, aside from the recently debuted “Water,” played for the first time at their festival Domefest. The group brought Billy Strings out for a heated version of “Burning up my Time” and sandwiched an inverted “Psycho Killer” by the Talking Heads in the middle of another aquatic song, “Poseidon.” Between Pigeons’ two sets, the String Cheese Incident performed their first of the three sets of the weekend. The group performed an impressive set, featuring a 30-minute segment of “Shine” > “Sirens” that had a mini jam on the theme from The Office before transitioning fully into “Sirens,” as well as an extended version of “45th of November,” a song keyboardist Kyle Hollingsworth wrote with Grateful Dead collaborator and Jerry Garcia songwriter Robert Hunter. A highlight was Herbie Hancock’s classic “Chameleon” sandwiched in the middle of a tale of mushrooms and mystery, “Miss Brown’s Teahouse.” For Pigeons’ second set, the group mixed old and new with segments such as “Somethin’ For Ya” > “Distant Times” surrounded by “Upfunk” > “Drums” > “Upfunk” and “Horizon.” A dance driven version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” really got the crowd moving and during the set closing “Ocean Blows” the bliss was tangible in the air.
Friday was kicked off by Andy Franco & the U.N. on the Mushroom Stage, a much talked about set of the weekend and for good reason as the man himself was feeling good about his Peach set. Among his usual stage banter, he instructed the crowd to “skullf*ck the wave pool” as a seemingly inspirational message about grabbing hold of life. Joe Hertler & the Rainbow Seekers performed on the Live for Live Music Stage, bringing their upbeat tunes and positive outlook on life to Montage Mountain’s smallest stage. While Cory Wong funked up the water park, Upstate was on the Live for Live Music Stage, sharing their beautiful vocal harmonies and Americana tales with the patrons of Peach. Despite the 90+ degree weather, the three lead singers of the band, Allison Olender, Mary Kenney, and Melanie Glenn, rocked powerful jumpsuits that displayed their badassery both as people and on the mics. The group’s set was a mix of new and old, including “No Slack” off the group’s first record A Remedy.
Blues Traveler performed on the Peach Stage before moe., continuing the show set up of the groups’ co-headlining All Roads Runaround tour that’s happening right now. The group performed their usual hits “Run-Around” and “Hook,” while pulling out an interesting Radiohead cover, “Creep,” followed by “Accelerated Nation” (written about PA’s own I-81) and a version of “But Anyway,” before bringing out Chuck Garvey of moe. for a song. moe. opened their set strong with “Seat of my Pants,” a song that quite literally flies by the seat of its pants in how quickly it jumps from section to section and genre to genre. Following SOMP came “Sensory Deprivation Bank” with a no huddle segue into “Along for the Ride.” “Bearsong” came next, giving the moe.rons in the crowd flashbacks to the Saranac bears flying through the air during this song at past Saranac Brewery runs. “Bearsong” drop segued into “LL3,” a recently penned Rob Derhak tune about the train he’d take to his chemotherapy treatments. Later on in the set, the group performed an emotionally hefty “Kyle’s Song” > “Silver Sun” segment that was the highlight of the set jam-wise. Both songs took time to breathe, especially “Silver Sun” which always lends itself to notable jams.
Over on the Mushroom Stage, Dopapod returned to Peach for their third show since ending their hiatus this past April. The group has played Peach Fest numerous times over the years, including a special Dopapod Orchestra performance in 2017 that featured the Turkuaz horns and Kung Fu’s Adrian Tramontano on percussion. Highlights of their set include a water park-shaking rendition of “Freight Train,” the debut of bassist Chuck Jones’ party anthem “23 Forever,” which had to be restarted due to some sound issues, a segment of “Turnin’ Knobs” > “8 Years Ended” that took the crowd on an interesting journey, and a set ending “FABA” that was the ending note for the group’s sunset performance. BIG Something took the Mushroom Stage next, opening their set with the appropriate “Waves,” and playing a few other water-related tunes throughout the set, including the funky, electronic “Megalodon” and “The Flood.” Following a hefty “Song For Us” > “Tumbleweed,” the group debuted a new tune called “Dangerous” which was a heavy, riff and synth driven ride. Towards the end of the set, the band brought Andy Frasco out to conduct them in a version of their tune “My Volcano” that ended up being the longest jam of the set.
Over on the Peach Stage, the String Cheese Incident performed a full two-set show with the second set being the highlight of the night for most fans. During the group’s first set, they brought out the Infamous Stringdusters’ Andy Hall on dobro for “My One and Only” and “Lonesome Fiddle Blues,” and guitarist Scott Sharrard of the Gregg Allman Band for “Outside and Inside” > “Southbound,” with both sit-ins blowing the crowd out of their seats. The second set didn’t feature any sit-ins, but “Song in my Head” > “Beautiful” and “Let’s Go Outside” > “Land’s End” > “Glory Chords” > “Southbound” were both segments that left fans with their jaws on the floor. Closing out the Peach Stage was Lotus in the late night slot. Lotus got a two hour set and kept the crowd moving in the night with their groovy tunes and dance-focused improv. Highlights of the set included “Wooly Mammoth,” “MacGuffin” featuring Eli Winderman of Dopapod and Octave Cat, “Bellwether” > “Spaghetti” > “Bellwether,” and the set closing “Umbilical Moonrise.” Of all the late night sets, Lotus was one of the most fun and people bounced between the pavilion and the Live for Live Music Stage where the Magic Beans were playing their late night. The Beans threw a real party, playing to a decently sized crowd, most likely gained after their two-set late night party last year. The entire set was pretty good, with the highlights being a cover of Sturgill Simpson’s “Long White Line” and a set closing “Mission” > “Here On Out.”
Star Kitchen kicked off Saturday on the Peach Stage, bringing out guitarist Jeremy Schon of Pigeons Playing Ping Pong to make the set extra funky. This was the group’s first time playing the Peach Music Festival and they were well received by the crowd as their funk stylings got everyone up and moving for the start of the day. Over on the Mushroom Stage, Ghost Light returned to the Peach for their second year, as guitarist Raina Mullen celebrated her 26th birthday. The group opened the set with Mullen’s own anthem “Diamond Eyes,” before masterfully working their way into “Streets of Brooklyn” and “Synth Driver.” The highlight of the set was the closing segment of “Old Fashioned” > Radiohead’s “Black Star” > “Simple Gift Of Man” > the ending of “Best Kept Secret,” in which guitarist Tom Hamilton took the lead and broke into his signature effects-driven guitar scratching. Lettuce took the Peach Stage for a mid afternoon set, opening with the jazzy “Larimar” before jumping into the soulful “Krewe.” The whole pavilion was up and moving for the entire set, as the beats coming from bassist Jesus Coomes and drummer Adam Deitch were too good not to dance to. The set also featured an especially stellar version of “Phyllis,” a hip hop-infused cover of Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule The World,” and a tight rendition of “Purple Cabbage.”
Goose debuted at the festival on the Live for Live Music Stage, having been heavily requested by fans during the festival’s survey after last year. The band had a lot of hype following their name the entire weekend, with many attendees sporting Goose merch and moustaches. Goose opened the set with “Madhuvan” and took it off to the races, before playing two recently released singles “Time to Flee” and a slow version of “All I Need.” The set included the band’s versions of “Mississippi Half Step Uptown Toodeloo” by the Grateful Dead and “The Way It Is” by Bruce Hornsby. They closed the set with “Hot Tea” and had the whole L4LM Stage area packed to the brim, which is a rare thing to see at Peach. Greensky Bluegrass performed on the Peach Stage before the big act of the night, Trey Anastasio Band, paying tribute to the Allman Brothers with a cover of “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More” as well as some standards including “Living Over,” “Leap Year,” and “Demons.”
Trey Anastasio Band took the stage for a full two sets of music following Greensky, pulling from all aspects of Trey’s musical career as TAB sets usually do. The group opened with “Set Your Soul Free,” part of a suite of songs that have to do with the guitarist’s “Soul Planet” concept. Following SYSF came some Trey classics, “Alive Again,” “Cayman Review” and “Money, Love and Change.” The group also played numerous Phish songs that have been part of the TAB repertoire for a while, including “Gotta Jibboo,” “Sand,” and “First Tube,” which were all jammed out in their usual fashion. Second set highlights include “Mozambique,” “Rise/Come Together,” and “A Life Beyond a Dream.”
During Trey’s second set, Chicago progressive rock band Mungion took the Live for Live Music Stage for their second ever Peach set, gathering a pretty good sized crowd for playing at the same time as Trey. The group opened their set with the always odd “Myrtle,” letting the song breathe and expand as they explored the jam section. Mungion brought a handful of new tunes with them including a new character, “Fludias Wozalenbill,” as well as “Better Half” and “Hideaway,” where they brought out Dopapod guitarist Rob Compa for the tune which led to he and guitarist Justin Reckamp having a prodigious guitar battle. The group closed the set with the anthemic and jazzy “Beneath the Shallows,” a fan-favorite composition from the group’s first record Scary Blankets.
Joe Russo’s Almost Dead closed out the night on the Peach Stage, featuring two drummers that weren’t Joe Russo, as the namesake of the band had just had a baby with his wife a few days prior. (Congrats Joe!) In his place were his drum tech, 19 year old Evan Roque, and Ben Porowsky, who is in BOYFRIENDS with Russo. The pair did an impressive job taking on Russo’s difficult role while also paying homage to the Dead’s two drummer setup. The setlist was filled to the brim with Dead classics, opening with the disco-infused “Shakedown Street,” before taking the crowd out west for a rowdy “Me and My Uncle” and “Eyes of the World.” Guitarist Tom Hamilton led the group in an emotional take on “Althea” before breaking into the madness of “Drums” > “The Other One” > “Viola Lee Blues,” which was the highlight of the set. JRAD closed out the show with an “I Know You Rider,” sans “China Cat,” and encored with the classic singalong “Not Fade Away.”
Sunday’s music mainly took place on the Peach Stage, with a lineup of heavy hitters of both veteran and new acts. The inaugural Guitar Pull set was among the many highlights of the day, bringing together some of the jam scene’s favorite guitar players together for a set of mind blowing guitar mashups. From a relaxed version of the Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood” led by Steve Kimock and joined by Rob Compa, to Umphrey’s McGee’s “Booth Love” led by Jake Cinninger and joined by Brandon “Taz” Niederauer, to Stanley Jordan leading an inspiring cover of Hendrix’s “Red House,” this set satisfied the guitar nerds in the audience with matchups they could never dream of. Marcus King Band followed the Guitar Pull, bringing their new age blues sound fueled by the guitar stylings of the 25 year old prodigy. King’s set was soulful, performing songs straight from his heart including emotional versions of “Goodbye Carolina” and “8 a.m.” off of the group’s recent release Carolina Confessions, as well as songs showcasing the group’s signature gritty blues, including “Fraudulent Waffle,” “Plant Your Corn Early,” and “What’s Right.”
Following King came a duo acoustic set from music legends Warren Haynes and Grace Potter. The set was comprised of mostly covers, aside from a few originals by each artist, including Haynes’ “Is It Me or You” and Gov’t Mule’s “Captured” and Potter’s “Stars” and “Shout it Out,” a new song performed for the first time at this duo set. Surrounding the duo’s original music included Fleetwood Mac’s “Gold Dust Woman,” Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released,” Etta James’ “I’d Rather Go Blind,” and Joan Baez’s “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You,” all performed with the entirety of each artist’s heart and soul fully invested into the music. Phil Lesh & Friends closed out the main stage with two sets, the roster included Elliot Peck on vocals, Holly Bowling on keys, Warren Haynes, John Scofield, and Grahame Lesh on guitar, and John Molo on drums. The sets featured many classic Grateful Dead songs and a handful of covers led by various members of the band, including a Lesh-led “Broken Arrow,” and “Sunshine of Your Love” and “All Along the Watchtower” led by Haynes. The group performed stellar versions of Dead classics, especially “Bird Song,” “St. Stephen” and “Morning Dew.” The first set got cut slightly short due to inclement weather on the mountain, but the band and crowd powered through it and Grahame Lesh led the group in “Playing in the Band” to open the second set.
Check out the photo gallery below for a look into what the Peach Music Festival was like this year. This weekend was full of great music and rarely ever had a lull in things to do. Spirits were high and the weather was great until the yearly rain on Sunday night. Peach is an event not to miss, so make it a point to go next year! Check back with NYSMusic for future coverage of the Peach.