Show Reviews

    Peach Festival 2021 Review

    Montage Mountain in Scranton PA hosts the Peach Festival July 1-4, 2021. Review by Ryan O’Malley

    “Hey, folks. I don’t know if I speak on behalf of the rest of the band, but I’ll tell you what. I really am glad that we’re back here at The Peach,” bassist Skip Vangelas said as Dark Star Orchestra took to the stage to headline the first night of this year’s Peach Music Festival in Scranton, Pa. “We missed it, and we missed all of you. This is what it’s all about, and I hope y’all are having a good time.”

    From the video channel of Relix

    Vangelas’s sentiment rang true for not only DSO, but for mostly every performer throughout the four day festival, which was the first large-scale festival to happen on the East Coast since the onset of the covid-19 pandemic last year. Due to the pandemic virtually all live music was sidelined, with some exceptions like drive-in style concerts and live streams, throughout the last 16 months. So if this year’s edition of The Peach Music Festival had a higher amount of energy than previous incarnations, it was well-deserved as throngs of music lovers from literally all over the country descended on Montage Mountain to celebrate the return of one of the most respected festivals in the jam scene.

    From the video channel of Relix

    A simple walk through one of the parking lots showcased the broad appeal that Peach has made for itself since its formation in 2012. Along with its native state of Pennsylvania and surrounding areas, this year’s Peach brought in travelers from as far West as California and Oregon, to Southern regions like Texas, Louisiana and Florida. The people who traveled for days to get to Scranton had good reason, too. Not only did the festival offer fans a chance to camp and relax with friends, but it provided some of the best music anywhere – which was organized in barely two months.

    Aside from a few changes from its planned 2020 lineup, most of the acts stayed on board for this year, including DSO, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Twiddle, moe., String Cheese Incident, and the festival’s headliner, Oysterhead. The wide variety made for four enjoyable nights of music for lovers of any genre including DSO’s Peach Stage tribute to the Grateful Dead experience being sandwiched in between two funky sets by Pigeons Playing Ping Pong.

    If you wanted to get away from the crowd under the pavilion, Thursday on The Grove Stage (located just outside the main stage entrance) featured one of the most unique aspects of the weekend when the set billed as Jaimoe and Friends was changed to Friends of Jaimoe, as the famed Allman Brothers Band percussionist had to cancel at the last minute. It was certainly a let-down, but considering everything this year’s Peach stood for in terms of music fans getting back into their element, the energy of the festival remained higher than ever with the group delivering some solid southern blues even without its namesake.

    Peach has become famous for many things since 2012 and one of its most well-known is the legendary late-night sets that happen each night. Along with the second set of Pigeons Playing Ping Pong happening on the Peach Stage, Thursday late-night on The Grove Stage showcased New England-based jam rock outfit Neighbor. Over the last two years, Neighbor has amassed a substantial following in Boston and surrounding areas due to their high-energy live shows and their dedicated fan base. That fan base made its presence known early in the afternoon on Thursday as a chartered plane flew above the festival grounds carrying a banner reading “Take a trip – Neighbor at midnight Grove Stage.” It was a tactic that worked perfectly with a huge crowd turning out for the performance. It was also a move that was perfectly Peach.

    With Peach forever being tied to the legacy of the Allman Brothers Band, finding the band’s music on the mountain was fairly easy throughout the weekend. Early in the afternoon on Friday, 18 year-old guitarist Brandon “Taz” Niederauer – who would appear with a plethora of acts during the event – took to the main stage augmented by his band and various other musicians to pay homage to the Allman Brothers live masterpiece, “Live at the Fillmore East.”

    If there is one song that has become synonymous with the Peach, it might be “Statesboro Blues.” No matter what time of day, every time the song kicks off with its trademark slide guitar intro, every person at Peach gets on their feet and celebrates the legacy of the festival’s founders. Such was the case on Friday with Niederauer and friends – including Allman Brothers co founder Dickey Betts’ son, Duane on guitar for a few tracks – ripped through most of the live album with jammed out versions of “Trouble No More,” “Stormy Monday,” and “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.” Unfortunately, due to time constraints, the outfit never got around to playing the albums ending track, the driving “Whipping Post.”


    Other Friday highlights included perennial Peach favorite Keller Williams, who brought his one-man looping show to the Peach Stage, and veteran jam outfit moe. who managed to get nearly everyone under the pavilion dancing to the fan-favorite “Rebubula.” Throughout the rest of their set, including “32 Things” and a jammed out version of The Rolling Stones’ “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’,” guitarists Al Schnier and Chuck Garvey’s interplay lead the band into exploratory territory that left its legion of moe.rons raving about the performance.

    Blackberry Smoke brought the southern flavor to Scranton: Taped by Marc Geanoules

    BLACKBERRY SMOKE SET LIST:

    Lord Strike Me Dead
    Run Away From It All
    Live It Down
    Waiting for the Thunder
    Let It Burn
    Believe You Me
    Sleeping Dogs
    Ain’t Gonna Wait
    You Hear Georgia
    Hey Delilah
    Ain’t Got the Blues
    All Rise Again
    Free on the Wing (with ‘Mountain Jam’)
    One Horse Town
    Southbound (The Allman Brothers Band cover) (with Duane Betts)
    Ain’t Much Left of Me

    Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, another Peach favorite who has worked its way up from an early evening slot to featured late night set, found itself instead headlining the Peach Stage on Friday, and in true JRAD form, did not disappoint. Numbers like “The Music Never Stopped,” “Dancing in the Streets,” and “Shakedown Street” were delivered with powerful drums courtesy of Russo and flawless soloing from guitarists Tom Hamilton (who also performed with his outfit Ghost Light at the Mushroom Stage earlier on Friday) and Scott Metzger.

    Read recent JRAD reviews from New Haven by Andrea Flohn:

    June 20 June 19 June 18 May 30 May 29 May 28

    JRAD SETLIST:

    Set 1:
    The Music Never Stopped (>)
    Help on the Way (>)
    Slipknot!(>)
    Playing in the Band
    Loser (>)
    Dancing in the Street (Martha Reeves and the Vandellas cover)

    Set 2:
    Dancing in the Street (Martha Reeves and the Vandellas cover) (>reprise>)
    Shakedown Street (>)
    Mission in the Rain (>)
    The Faster We Go, The Rounder We Get (>)
    Bertha (>)
    Truckin’

    From the video channel of Relix

    On the Mushroom Stage in the water park, The Shady Recruits performed a fun set with a bunch of special guests that people were talking about the next day. Thankfully, the word of mouth was needed for some people, as one of the few problems Peach has reared its ugly head – often times there’s so much good music happening on different stages at the same time, it’s almost impossible to catch everything you want to catch.


    Saturday turned out to be the most frantic day of the weekend for people who were hoping to catch everyone they came for. Early in the day on the Peach Stage, Montana based acoustic band the Kitchen Dwellers got festivities going with its blend of psychedlia and bluegrass, followed by Niederauer who led his band through a fiery 90 minute set of rock, blues, and funk. Being a multi-year Peach veteran, this year might have served as the most beneficial for the young guitarist, with fans raving about every performance he put in over the weekend and wanting to know where he is playing next.

    Over on the Mushroom Stage, one of the most impressive sets of the entire festival happened when Andy Frasco and the UN took to the stage for a raucous performance that will go down in the Peach history books. Being a Peach veteran, Frasco – who also served as roving interviewer for the festival – has built a reputation for his insanely high-energy and completely unpredictable performances at the festival. This year was no exception.

    With a massive crowd in front of him, Frasco sometimes sat at his keyboard while singing, and at other times was standing up and slamming his keyboard with so much energy that people were emerging from their campsites just to see what all the screaming was about. It’s not just fans that wanted to be part of Frasco’s spectacle. Fellow musicians like Niederauer and Duane Betts and Devon Allman joined Frasco at various points of his show, where the front man – instead of giving a proper intro to a song – would simply say, “alright. We’re gonna fuck some shit up now. Is that ok? You guys wanna fuck some shit up too?” The fucking shit up culminated with Frasco doing his now-famous routine of going into the crowd and being crowd-surfed into the wave pool. And this time he ended up finishing his set on stage sans pants. It was chaotic, unorthodox, and unpredictable, but ended up being one of the most talked about sets of the entire weekend with many fans online saying Frasco “stole the festival.”

    Over on the Peach Stage where musicians continued to perform with pants on, former Allman Brothers Band and current Dead and Company bassist Oteil Burbridge brought his Oteil and Friends project for a fiery set which saw guitarist Eric Krasno join in on most of the set beginning with the Jerry Garcia Band number, “Cats Under the Stars.” At the end of the set, Oteil paid tribute to his legacy with the Allman Brothers by bringing out Duane Betts and Devon Allman for jammed out renditions of “Midnight Rider,” “Blue Sky,” and the finale of “Revival.”

    Oteil and Friends full show audio. Taped by Jeff Travitz, transferred by Keith Litzenberger.

    Saturday marked one of, if not the biggest, crowds all weekend that assembled in front of The Grove Stage for Celisse, a singer and guitarist from California. While she is a strong musician in her own right, it was her inclusion in the band Ghosts of the Forest that generated a huge buzz for her performance. One of her band mates in GOTF is Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio, who was on site at Peach that day for a headlining set with one of his other bands, Oysterhead.

    Ahead of the festival, Anastasio made a social media post where he said Celisse’s set was a “must see” set, fueling speculation that he would be sitting in during her show. In the middle of rain, and towards the end of her show, she announced that she had a special guest who was an “up and comer” with Anastasio walking out on one of the smallest stages he’s played in years and sharing in some duel guitar shredding with Celisse which eventually culminated in a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll.”

    From the video channel of R

    In the most surprising set of the weekend, Doom Flamingo, an outfit spearheaded by Umphrey’s McGee bassist Ryan Stasik, put in a memorable set on The Peach Stage Saturday evening. For many fans, the show was their first exposure to the group which is heavy on synthesizers and loud guitars with an almost industrial like sound. It was truly a unique and diverse performance, with vocalist Kanika Moore adding theatrics and costume changes to her powerful vocals. The band included some solid covers in its set, including a slower re-working of the Grateful Dead hit “Touch of Grey,” and a lively cover of Tina Turner’s “The Best” which brought their show to a thunderous close.

    Saturday night from 10pm until 2am may have been the best four hours of music to happen all weekend. When the 2020 incarnation of Peach was announced last year, anticipation was extremely high due to the inclusion of Oysterhead, a long-dormant supergroup involving Anastasio, Primus’ Les Claypool, and The Police’s Stewart Copeland. After last year’s festival was derailed, the band agreed to be on board for this year’s edition and did not disappoint.

    Having only one album to their name – 2001’s “The Grand Pecking Order,” – the trio played most of the album including its most well-known song, “Mr. Oysterhead,” which served as the opener. Before the set, Claypool remarked about how good it felt to be back in front of a large-scale audience, and how the last time he performed to a large crowd he was on stage with Oysterhead in Colorado in February of 2020.

    From the video channel of gr8fuljon

    By the time the trio went into “Wonka Boat Ride,” their eagerness to get back on stage was apparent with Claypool doing his famous strut with a big smile and Anastasio looking like he was having the time of his life. Along with the studio material, the trio also threw in some choice covers including Primus’ “Southbound Pachyderm,” and the Trey Anastasio Band/Phish number “First Tube” which arguably might have been the best performance of the set.

    OYSTERHEAD SETLIST
    Mr. Oysterhead
    Oz Is Ever Floating
    Wonka Boat Ride
    Rubberneck Lions
    Little Faces
    The Grand Pecking Order
    Polka Dot Rose
    Army’s on Ecstasy
    Shadow of a Man
    Southbound Pachyderm (Primus cover)
    First Tube (Phish cover)
    Owner of the World
    Encore:
    Pseudo Suicide

    Late night on Saturday at the Peach Stage featured a performance that was right there next to Oysterhead as set of the weekend, when jam and funk favorites Turkuaz joined forces with Talking Heads’ Jerry Harrison and legendary guitar guru Adrian Belew for a mesmerizing offering of mostly Talking Heads material that leaned heavily on 1980’s “Remain In Light” album and its subsequent tour. Along with being a master guitarist, Belew is also an accomplished singer and started the show off by leading the outfit through a spot-on run through “Psycho Killer” which culminated in his avant-garde solo to bring the song to a close.

    Turkuaz’s Dave Brandwein, who couldn’t stop smiling at the way the crowd reacted to the lineup’s debut performance, took over vocals for an energetic “Crosseyed and Painless,” which had everyone under the roof feverishly dancing. Harrison, who up until this point had been solely on guitar and backing vocals, took to his keyboard and provided lead vocals for “Houses in Motion,” with Brandwein, Belew, and singers Sammi Garett and Shira Elias providing the call-and-answer choruses.

    Along with other cuts from the 1980 show – with a focus on the “Concert In Rome” DVD – like “I Zimbra,” and “Born Under Punches,” the group also performed Ophidiophobia, a new studio number they recorded with Harrison and Belew. As a tip of the hat to both men’s careers outside of their work with Talking Heads, they performed Harrison’s solo number “Rev It Up,” and “Thela Hun Ginjeet” by prog-rock legends King Crimson, the band Belew served as front man and co-guitarist for from 1981 until 2009. With Harrison back on lead vocals, the group launched into an upbeat “Life During Wartime,” eliciting some of the loudest crowd participation during the chorus. Wrapping up their set with a blazing combo of “Once In a Lifetime,” ”Take Me to the River,” and ”The Great Curve,” Turkuaz with Harrison and Belew had triumphantly debuted a project they intended to start last year, and the crowd couldn’t have been more thankful.

    Read this extensive interview with Dave B from Turkuaz along with Jerry Harrison and Adrian Belew on the Remain in Light album and their prep for this summer’s performances.

    Full show audio by Jeff Travitz, transferred by Keith Litzenberger. Turkuaz featuring Adrian Belew and Jerry Harrison plus Yahuba Garcia-Torres.

    From the video channel of Peaker570


    Wrapping up on Sunday, Peach kicked off with something it has grown to be known for – its annual Guitar Pull. Lead by Gregg Allman band guitarist Scott Sharrard, this year’s guitar pull leaned heavily on the Allman Brothers catalogue and saw the likes of everyone from Niederauer and Krasno join in on the festivities.

    SCOTT SHARRARD SETLIST:

    Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More
    (The Allman Brothers Band cover) (with Drew Smithers)
    Les Brers in A Minor
    (The Allman Brothers Band cover) (with Drew Smithers)
    Melissa
    (The Allman Brothers Band cover) (with Drew Smithers)
    Mountain Jam
    (The Allman Brothers Band cover) (with Eric Krasno)
    One Way Out
    (Sonny Boy Williamson cover)
    Trouble No More
    (The Allman Brothers Band cover)
    Stand Back
    (The Allman Brothers Band cover) (with Drew Smithers)
    Blue Sky
    (The Allman Brothers Band cover)
    Outro
    (The Allman Brothers Band song) (Little Martha)

    Another former Peach act, the Blind Boys of Alabama, made their return to the festival with an early afternoon set of gospel and soul. The group would stick around for the rest of the day and, like their 2012 appearance, joined guitarist Warren Haynes for his staple “Soulshine.” Without his driving blues band, Gov’t Mule, in tow, Haynes delivered a slower set of music on Sunday including songs like “Workingman Blues,” and his cover of U2’s “One.”

    WARREN HAYNES SET LIST:

    Traveling Tune
    (Gov’t Mule song)
    Hattiesburg Hustle
    Working Class Hero
    (John Lennon cover)
    Railroad Boy
    ([traditional] cover)
    Ballerina
    (Van Morrison cover)
    A Friend to You
    One
    (U2 cover)
    It Hurts Me Too
    (Tampa Red cover)
    Hallelujah
    (Leonard Cohen cover)
    Hope She’ll Be Happier
    (Bill Withers cover)
    I’ll Be the One
    Old Friend
    (The Allman Brothers Band)
    Desdemona
    Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More
    (The Allman Brothers Band)
    Soulshine
    (with The Blind Boys of Alabama)

    Full show audio SCI. Taped by Marc Geanoules

    Sunday’s headliner, the String Cheese Incident, took to the stage for the first of two sets and got everyone moving with a spirited “Texas.” The laid-back funkiness of “Lost” proved to be an early highlight, as was the trippiness of the keyboard-heavy “Believe. Bringing out Haynes for a lively cover of the Grateful Dead’s “U.S. Blues” – a fitting number for July 4 – SCI took a brief break before returning for a tight uF“Amazing Grace” set to the music of The Animals’ “The House of the Rising Sun.” lAs was the case all weekend, fireworks went off to celebrate both Independence Day land the return of Peach Fest. In keeping with the weekend tradition of fireworks going off during bands set times, SCI faced the same challenge and instead of waiting them out, broke into a cover of the Allman Brothers Band’s “Jessica” before bringing the festival to a close.

    Although it is always a summer highlight, the 2021 edition of Peach Fest will forever stand out on its own. Was it perfect? No, and nothing – especially a multiple-stage, multiple-day music festival – will ever be. What it was was a chance for musicians to get back on stage in front of a near-capacity audience again. It was a chance for vendors to come back out and start selling their homemade crafts and homemade food again. It was a chance for music fans to come together again after a year and a half of missing those feelings that only live music can provide.

    Being the first big festival to return after the pandemic, this year’s Peach Fest was just that – a chance. It was a chance taken by the festival’s producers to see if the time was right to bring back large capacity concerts. It was a chance taken to see if the magic of the previous eight editions of Peach Fest would make this year a success.


    And it worked.

    Read recent JRAD reviews from New Haven by Andrea Flohn:

    June 20 June 19 June 18 May 30 May 29 May 28

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