Montage Mountain in Scranton PA welcomes this annual festival June 30 – July 3 2022. by Ryan O’Malley
The summer festival season is in full swing, and for fans of the jam band scene that means the 2022 edition of the beloved Peach Music Festival in Scranton, Pa. would be hitting soon. And hit it did, with four days full of fun, dancing, sweltering heat and one of the most eclectic lineups of the season.
Celebrating 10 years, the festival has grown from a collaborative effort between Live Nation and the Allman Brothers Band into a nationally recognized festival that is known for showcasing many artists who currently sit atop the jam scene. This years’ edition was headlined by respected national acts Billy Strings, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Trey Anastasio Band, and the current incarnation of The Black Crowes. Were the “big name” acts the biggest and best in the game? No. They were, however, the perfect way to celebrate 10 years with all the headlining acts being Peach veterans, and Strings and JRAD being two prime examples of artists utilizing the festival to build themselves up to the headliner spots they find themselves in today.
With the energy level very high at The Pavilion at Montage Mountain, Thursday saw people out to the main stage early for a nice variety of music including Midnight North, a band from Northern California that was introduced to the crowd by legendary photographer Jay Blakesberg who had a humorous slip of the tongue and mistakenly billed them from North Carolina. The band – fronted by vocalists/guitarists Grahame Lesh and Elliot Peck – delivered a solid 45 minute set which covered everything from rock to folk and Americana. Another Peach veteran, Samantha Fish, brought her guitar mastery and powerful voice to the main stage as an early evening treat. The 33 year-old guitarist blazed through the opening number “Bulletproof” on her matchbox guitar, before switching over to a regular guitar for the remainder of her fiery set which included a cover of Neil Young’s “Don’t Let it Bring You Down.”
Thursday night was capped off with back-to-back bluegrass from two perennial Peach favorites beginning with the legendary one man jam band, Keller Williams. Williams routine is simple at this point: take whatever instrument it may be – from guitar to trumpet – and create unique experiences by looping the instruments together. For this years’ Peach, Williams chose to concentrate more on the guitar and delivered one of the more enjoyable sets of the weekend which included originals like “Freaker by the Speaker,” and “Doobie in My Pocket,” mixed in with several Grateful Dead covers including “St. Stephen” and “Scarlet Begonias.” Following Williams’ set, anticipation grew for the headlining spot by bluegrass phenom Billy Strings. For Peach fans local to the Scranton area, watching Strings’ quick ascension to the top of today’s bluegrass scene has been something to behold. Along with being a Peach veteran – both as a single set performer and as an “artist at large” – Strings has also played 400 person venues in the Scranton market early in his career before moving on to larger venues.
For his two set performance on Thursday, Strings did not disappoint. From the down home feeling of the opening number “Fire on My Tongue,” Strings led his band – banjo player Billy Failing, mandolin player Jarrod Walker, bassist Royal Masat, and newly hired fiddle ace Alex Hargreaves – through a rousing first that included upbeat cuts like “Bronzeback,” and “Long Forgotten Dream.” Strings was one of only a handful of acts throughout the weekend to have two sets, and after a short intermission, the quintet kicked off the second set with a driving “Taking Water” which had some fine playing from Hargeaves. Along with being a beast on the guitar, Strings also knows the talent of the musicians in his band and is not shy when letting them showcase it. An extended “Pyramid Country” was a set two highlight that had flawless solos from each member of the band and had Strings grinning from ear to ear throughout.
Taped by Jeff Travitz, transferred by Keith Litzenberger
Fire on My Tongue
Heartbeat of America
In the Morning Light
Away From the Mire
Long Forgotten Dream
Love Like Me
This Old World
(>) Ice Bridges
While I’m Waiting Here
(>) Pyramid Country
(>) Know It All
Enough to Leave
So Many Miles
(Billy Falling lead vocals)
Everything’s the Same
Show Me the Door
Peach Pickin’ Time in Georgia
(Jimmie Rodgers cover) (live debut by BS)
After Strings powerhouse set, Trouble No More, a tribute to Peach founders The Allman Brothers Band, took to the stage to pay homage to the ABB 1972 classic album “Eat a Peach.” The band, led by Peach veteran and guitarist Brandon “Taz” Niederauer and guitarist Daniel Donato, ripped through a late night set of hits including “One Way Out,” “Melissa,” and the jam heavy “Mountain Jam” to conclude the first night.
Friday was a bit of a chaotic day with so many choices on the festival’s three stages beginning with Eggy on the main stage and The Jauntee on the Mushroom Stage in the water park. For a lot of Peachple the unending heat of Friday created a bigger crowd than normal for the lazy river and water slides. It wasn’t a bad choice, either.
Throughout the afternoon the Mushroom Stage showcased everything from guitar extraordinaire Eric Krasno, to the funk of The Motet, and the absolutely out of control live experience known as Andy Frasco and the UN. Being a multi-year Peach veteran, Frasco has garnered an enormous following at the festival for his unpredictable stage show. As a large amount of fan video can attest to, his show at the Peach had everyone throwing a party and following Frasco’s instructions of getting a large circle formed and moving left or right depending on his command. Of course no Frasco Peach appearance would be complete with his annual tradition of being crowd surfed into the large wave pool. True to form, his pants came off and the enthusiastic crowd carried Frasco to a watery landing.
Marco Benevento set:
Over on the Peach Stage, the members of Joe Russo’s Almost Dead had half of the scheduled time slots starting with keyboardist Marco Benevento who brought his band to the stage for a 45 minute set of energetic improv. Russo himself had two different outfits on Friday and brought his Bogie Band with him which had fans raving about the funky set.
The Kitchen Dwellers audio:
Following a brief but lively set from Montana bluegrass outfit The Kitchen Dwellers, Led Zeppelin music filled the amphitheater as Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Evening took to the stage for a raucous 75 minute set full of crowd favorites. Speaking with a thick British accent, Bonham – son of legendary Zeppelin drummer John Bonham – stood up from behind his drum kit to welcome the crowd before launching in to a thunderous version of the Zeppelin classic “The Immigrant Song.” From the start it was hard not to appreciate the vocals of singer James Dylan. While he looked nothing like Zeppelin front man Robert Plant, Dylan’s vocals were in fine form and were the perfect match for music. The same can be said about the guitar playing of Tony Catania who also took his role in the band a bit too far by trying to look like Zep guitarist Jimmy Page, complete with the big, curly black hair, sunglasses and stage moves that helped make Page the legend he is. Maybe it was Catania trying to be as authentic as possible, but trying to look like Page came off as over the top. There will never be another Led Zeppelin, but its music should live on with artists bringing the music to a new generation, while being themselves. Notwithstanding, JBLZE certainly provided a Friday highlight throughout the rest of the set that included spot-on takes on classics like “Over the Hills and Far Away,” “Rock and Roll,” “Whole Lotta Love,” and the set ending “Stairway to Heaven.”
Unfortunately, Friday had a threat of severe weather and nature decided to deliver. Prior to a two set headlining gig by JRAD, an announcement was made that fans should seek shelter due to approaching storms. It was a problem that reared its head throughout the weekend (for safety reasons, if lightning was spotted within ten miles of the venue, a delay was necessary), but festival organizers made it work. Instead of two sets by JRAD the show was condensed into one long set. A minor inconvenience, but considering no acts were cut it was the right move.
When they did take the stage, JRAD started things off with a slower (for them) version of the Bob Weir chestnut “My Brother Esau” before picking up the pace with a run through the Jerry Garcia Band classic “Cats Down Under the Stars.” Guitarist Tom Hamilton – looking almost unrecognizable after shaving off his beard, ditching his glasses and appearing without his famous hats – was on fire throughout the set delivering lush solos and bouncing around with endless vigor. Other set highlights included “Terrapin Station” and a prolonged exploratory “Throwing Stones” which saw the outfit surpass the 20 minute mark.
My Brother Esau
Cats Under the Stars
(Jerry Garcia Band cover)
Tell Me, Momma
(Bob Dylan cover)
Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo
After a lengthy “He’s Gone” to wrap up their headlining set, the stage was set for this year’s appearance by funk outfit Pigeons Playing Ping Pong. Throughout the ten years of Peach, PPPP has climbed up the ladder of being noticed by graduating from their first appearance on the small Grove Stage to early evening sets on the Mushroom Stage before becoming a staple of the Peach Stage. Although the band was in high spirits and had everyone dancing with the opening “Water,” that’s exactly what Mother Nature had planned and their set was cut early after more severe weather moved in. During the time they were on stage PPPP provided a Friday highlight with their cover of Elton John’s “Rocket Man.”
With the rain mostly out of the forecast, Saturday was geared up to be a busy day for fans with a multitude of options including Allman Brothers Band founder Jaimoe on the Peach Stage in the early afternoon, and Daniel Donato’s Cosmic Country on the Mushroom Stage in the early afternoon. Hailing from Nashville, Donato is a 25 year old guitar whiz who looks almost too innocent for the jam scene. But when he plugs in, you quickly understand why he was a part of Peach. His performance had people asking for more and they were in luck as Donato not only sat in with multiple artists throughout the weekend, but also performed a brief set on the VIP stage for those who purchased the VIP passes.
Also on the Mushroom Stage, New England outfit Neighbor delivered a set that had everyone talking for the rest of the day. Neighbor made its debut at Peach last year and left a memorable mark by having a chartered plane fly over the festival grounds reminding people what time they were playing on the Grove Stage. The combination of that and endless touring must have worked as Neighbor graduated to the Mushroom Stage this year and found a huge crowd in front of the stage for them. Just in case anyone was unsure when Neighbor was playing, yet again, a chartered plane served as a friendly reminder.
Back on the Peach Stage, Trey Anastasio Band alumni Celisse brought down the house with a powerful, upbeat set of ferocious guitar playing and soulful vocals. Last year, Celisse made Peach history with her debut performance at the festival. As part of last year’s Grove Stage lineup, Celisse garnered one of the biggest crowds ever at the stage when Anastasio joined her for the end of her set marking the smallest stage the Phish front man had performed on in years. This year – complete with Anastasio and other TAB members watching her from the side of the stage, Celisse ripped through a 75 minute set dressed in a rainbow striped one piece outfit and interacted with the crowd between each song, joking about herself – including the line “the titties are coming out” when her outfit revealed some of her bra. Her personality made the crowd love her even more, and towards the end of her set a soulful rendition of Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools” sealed the deal on her mesmerizing set.
Later in the evening The Revivalists, an eight piece outfit from New Orleans, brought some high energy rock and roll to Peach. The Revivalists may not be the first band someone thinks of when they hear the term jam band, but they are Peach veterans and were once again well-received by the adoring crowd who fed off the energy of singer David Shaw – including Shaw standing on the monitors and security rail in front of the stage – and sang along with their 2015 national hit “Wish I Knew You” which featured a cameo from Niederauer.
Having top billing on the festival lineup, the Trey Anastasio Band brought a solid two hour set to the Peach Stage. Anastasio has become a staple of the festival over the last decade with numerous TAB shows and last year’s Oysterhead performance. It almost seems that whenever Anastasio is at Peach people always talk about why Phish is never booked at the festival. It’s a question that will probably happen whenever he comes back, but this year’s set seemed to have pacified people with half of the band’s set consisting of Phish material. Kicking off with the upbeat “Blaze On,” Anastasio was all smiles as he bounced around the stage soloing and feeding off the crowd. Keeping the crowd on their feet, “Sand,” another Phish cut followed before leading up “Mozambique,” a Phish song that was only played a handful of times before disappearing from their repertoire. The song has been a staple for TAB and showcases the talents of the band’s horn section – James Casey, Natalie Cressman and Jennifer Hartswick who was almost unrecognizable due to her weight loss.
A one-two punch of Phish’s “Gotta Jiboo” and “Ghost” proved to be a mid set standout, with a funky “Simple Twist Up Dave” showcasing some great keyboard playing from Ray Paczkowski. Returning the favor from last year, Anastasio welcomed Celisse to the stage to add to the ending triad of Phish’s “The Moma Dance,” “A Life Beyond the Dream,” and “Rise/Come Together” which brought the set to a close. Having time for a quick encore, Anastasio broke into the familiar opening of Phish’s thumping “Carini” which again showcased his brilliant horn section.
(Trey Anastasio song)
Set Your Soul Free
(Trey Anastasio song)
…And Flew Away
(Trey Anastasio song)
roll like a river
(Trey Anastasio song)
Simple Twist Up Dave
(Trey Anastasio song)
The Moma Dance
(Phish cover) (with Celisse Henderson)
A Life Beyond the Dream
(Phish cover) (with Celisse Henderson)
(with Celisse Henderson)
Easily the most hyped performance of the weekend followed when Connecticut-based funk band Goose took to the Peach Stage for a late night dance party. Out of all the acts that went up the Peach ladder over the years, Goose claims the top spot. In 2019 the band was tapped for a set on the Grove Stage, which saw a massive crowd await the band’s Peach debut. At the time the band was on a huge upswing in popularity in the jam scene and many felt their performance at the 2019 Peach was the moment that broke them into the big time. To further illustrate the path their career took since that moment in 2019, when the band was invited back this year they bypassed the mid-size Mushroom Stage and went right to the Peach Stage. A better example? Typically when the headliner ends each night, the reserved section empties and general admission holders file in to the front of the stage. On Saturday, barely anyone left; if anything more people showed up. It was clear to see that if the festival was a five day fest, Goose would be a headliner.
After some microphone issues with singer/guitarist Rick Mitarotonda were straightened out, vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist/mustache advocate Peter Anspach looked flabbergasted at the amount of people in front of him when he welcomed everyone. Shortly thereafter it was off and running with the funky “Yeti” which saw Anspach jump onto the monitors in the photo pit to get the crowd even more energized, as if that were possible. Early highlights included a cover of Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride” and a spirited “Tumble” including some brilliant bass work from Trevor Weekz. After a cover of Jim James’ “State of the Art,” Goose ended its set with the fan favorites “Factory Fiction,” and “Dripfield.” Not only was the set one of Saturday’s highpoints, but it was still being raved about online on Monday after the festival ended. It’s a safe assumption that when Goose is back at Peach, they’ll probably be a headliner.
Sunday turned out to be an impressive day in terms of artists making their Peach debut. On the Mushroom Stage, Daniel Donato delivered another set full of guitar wizardry. After Donato, Asbury Park, New Jersey five piece Dogs In a Pile marked their initial Peach appearance with a really enjoyable hour long set full energetic psychedelia. The band received a huge pop from the impressive crowd after their set with people already talking about when they will return to the festival. Over on the Peach Stage, the band calling themselves The Wailers delivered some spirited reggae early in the afternoon. Reading about this version of The Wailers is interesting, as the band currently has no one in the lineup that performed with Bob Marley. There are, however, children of musicians who played with Marley in the original Wailers in the band and they are serving as a vehicle to get a new generation into Marley’s legendary material. The band did just that when they had most of the crowd singing and dancing along to classics like “Buffalo Soldier,” “Is This Love,” “No Woman, No Cry,” and “Three Little Birds.”
Philadelphia native G. Love brought his side project, The Juice, to the Peach Stage for a pleasing hour long set complete with his famous improv hip hop lyrics. Another Sunday highlight followed with the reunited lineup of The Word brought their mixture of blues and Gospel to the main stage. Fronted by pedal steel virtuoso Robert Randolph, the band included North Mississippi Allstars guitarist Luther Dickinson and Medeski, Martin and Wood keyboardist John Medeski. Originally formed in 2000, The Word hasn’t played too often over the last decade, and their appearance at Peach With minimal vocals (mostly Gospel chants), The Word focused on their incredibly tight musicianship to win over the crowd. And it worked. However, with so few shows many in the audience didn’t know what songs were played, but were impressed enough to go home and get more into the outfit. A perfect example of a festival turning people on to music they were not familiar with.
Closing out the festival was the current version of Southern jam stalwarts The Black Crowes. Spearheaded by the always-loving brotherly duo of Chris and Rich Robinson, the band is on tour to celebrate the anniversary of its classic album “Shake Your Moneymaker” where they have been playing the album in its entirety followed by some other choice cuts. Surprisingly, the set list at Peach veered away from the format of previous shows and found the band delivering songs from the album like “Twice as Hard,” but instead of going in to the follow up of “Jealous Again,” the band opted for the later era cut “Soul Singing.” Although many of the original Crowes are not involved in this tour – mainly guitarist Marc Ford and drummer Steve Gorman – the current lineup does justice to the band’s extensive catalogue, and even saw guitarist Rich Robinson crack a few rare smiles. Set highlights included “Kickin’ My Heart Around,” Otis Redding’s “Hard to Handle” and a tight cover of The Velvet Underground’s “Rock and Roll.” Following the ending combo of “Jealous Again,” and “Remedy,” the Crowes left the stage and a large fireworks display marked the end of this year’s festival.
After 10 years, the Peach Music Festival has more than earned its classification as a top-notch jam band festival. It is a festival that can not only draw national headliners from all over the scene, but is also a festival that has helped launch the careers of many of those same bands. This year’s lineup was a breeding ground for new headliners. And like Goose, Billy Strings, and Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, we’ll certainly be seeing some of those same bands on bigger stages in the years to come.
No Speak No Slave
Twice as Hard
(The Rolling Stones cover)
Kickin’ My Heart Around
High Head Blues
Good Morning Captain
Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone
(The Undisputed Truth cover)
Hard to Handle
(Otis Redding cover)
Ballad in Urgency
Thorn in My Pride
My Morning Song
Rock & Roll
(The Velvet Underground cover)
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