Montage Mountain in Scranton PA welcomed fans June 29 – July 02 2023
Along with putting another Fourth of July in the books, this past week also saw another summer tradition come and go. The 11th annual Peach Music Festival rolled its way back to the spacious Pavilion at Montage Mountain in Scranton, PA for another four-day weekend full of fun, friends, and a heavy dose of funk.
Having garnered a reputation for solid lineups and very affordable early bird tickets, Peach Fest has grown from an Allman Brothers Band founded showcase of the former outfits’ musical friends and influences, into a celebration of the jam scene the Brothers helped create and the numerous current acts who help carry on the tradition. Unfortunately, many of the Allman’s contemporaries have started fading away throughout the years and the music industry has had to adapt and start looking at the new scene of jam bands. Peach Fest is no exception. Since returning after covid-19 in 2021, Peach has seen its normal stable of acts like Trey Anastasio, String Cheese Incident, Bob Weir, and The Black Crowes get shuffled around to make room for newer acts like My Morning Jacket, Tedeschi Trucks Band, and the immensely popular Goose to headline the festival. The scene has evolved over the last eleven years, and Peach has followed that evolution and has become a catalyst for many of today’s top acts.
That said, this year’s edition of Peach was a year for discovery.
Acts like Thumpasaurus, a five piece psychedelic funk outfit from Southern California who put in a mesmerizing performance on the main stage Thursday evening, Looking like a throwback to new wave pioneers Devo, the band all wear matching one piece painter outfits with most having the word “THUMP” printed on the back. The music is a mixture of funk, psychedlia, new wave, and almost punk-like moments that somehow mesh together and are bolstered by the energetic delivery of front man Lucas Tameran. They even had pancakes on stage. I mean, who doesn’t like pancakes?
Even though they are Peach veterans, venerable jam favorites Twiddle put in what may have been the best set on Thursday. Having announced that 2023 will be the last run of shows for the four-piece, fans have been following the band around trying to catch whatever shows they can. As many fans know, last year the lineup welcomed a new drummer in the form of the funky Adrian Tramontano of Kung Fu fame. Whether it was just the energy of being at Peach or the mere addition of Tramontano, Twiddle sounded like a well-groomed band that is on top of their game. Front man Mihali Savoulids was near perfection in his lead guitar on cuts like “”Jamflowman,” “Lost in the Cold,” and “The Box.” Mihali would stick around for the entire weekend as he was a frequent sit in guest and had his own solo project performance on the Mushroom Stage in the water park later in the festival.
Thursday’s headliner was Goose, a band that has garnered a spot near the top of today’s jam scene, and basically has Peach to thank for a big part of it. At the 2019 edition of the festival, Goose was booked to perform at what was formerly known as the Grove Stage, a small stage set up outside the main gate where up and coming acts come to play. The band’s near capacity performance from that year was released on YouTube and many feel it was that single performance that helped “break” the band. Even more impressive: Goose may be the only act in Peach history to go from the Grove Stage (now Garcia’s Hand Picked Stage) to the main stage without making a stop at the medium sized Mushroom Stage. Truth be told, seeing Goose in the water park would most likely be a mind-blowing experience, but the crowd they bring might be too large for it to happen. For Thursday’s appearance, the band was slated for two sets and kicked off their first one exactly at 10pm with a funky “Feel It Now.” Multi-instrumentalist Peter Anspach was all smiles while he reveled in the size of the crowd while busting out some tight keyboard solos. Front man Rick Mitarotonda was meticulous in his solos which he later opened up for some deep improvisation on songs like “Lead Up” and “Butter Rum.” The second set was a bit slower in terms of tempo but did spawn some highlights, like a cover of Bob Seger’s “Hollywood Nights” and the set closing “Thatch.”
Friday was a day for some Peach veterans to shine, albeit while picking up new fans along the way. At last year’s edition of the festival, first time performers Dogs In a Pile received some of the best reviews of the weekend. It was no surprise to see them return this year. The surprise was that they would again be on the Mushroom Stage in the water park. The size of last year’s crowd was substantial and many felt the band should have been upgraded to the main stage this year. Regardless of what stage they are on, the quintet blazed though an hour-long set that was bookended with the legendary surf rock song “Wipe Out.” Their set also included a fun “It Gets Better,” a double shot ode to apples – “Applesauce,” and “Appleseed,” – and a rousing rendition of the Grateful Dead chestnut “Jack Straw.”
Elsewhere on Friday Boston-bred funky dance outfit Ripe delivered a highly entertaining an interactive set on the Peach Stage. Fronted by the wildly captivating Robbie Wulfsohn, the band is a tight mix of funk, jazz, and sometimes disco. It blends together to create a sound that is impossible to not dance to, and that goes for everyone from the crowd to the band itself. They received one of the loudest applause of the weekend after their brief but fun set. Umphrey’s McGee, another Peach veteran, delivered an immensely tight performance that touched on everything from blues and rock to borderline metal material.
Ripe Taped by Mark Geanoules
Friday night’s headliner might have been the biggest surprise act of the weekend: the masters of brown, Ween. Hailing from a bit south of Scranton – New Hope, PA – Ween has been around for nearly 40 years, amassed a cult-like following and has made for one of the most interesting careers in modern music. Although their set was full of fan favorites like “Spinal Meningitis (Got Me Down),” “The Mollusk,” and “Roses Are Free,” Ween is a VERY acquired taste, and unfortunately, a decent chunk of Peach fans didn’t quite get the performance and were seen leaving the amphitheater and heading to other stages. It’s not a slam towards the band; they’re all very talented musicians, but headlining a night of Peach might not have been the best spot for their first appearance.
Taped by Mark Geanoules
Saturday was an almost non-stop assault of stellar music from start to finish. Early in the day when many people were still shaking out the cobwebs and planning their day – including this reviewer – Circles Around the Sun put in a performance that was so tight it had the people who were there raving to their late-rising friends about what they missed. Also early on Saturday afternoon was Marco Benevento band standout Karina Rykman, who performed a Dj set for the VIP holders. Rykman would make an appearance later in the day with her solo band, who delivered an inspired set on the Peach Stage. Being a multi-year veteran of Peach, Rykman spoke of some of the “crazy shit” that happened at prior Peach Fests, and was smiling ear to ear for the majority of her time on the main stage.
That brings us to Andy Frasco. If there were an award for “Mayor of Peach Fest,” Frasco would probably garner close to 100 percent of the vote. He and his band the UN have been mainstays of Peach for several years now, and his crowd has continued to grow every year. But this year there was something different; Frasco was on the main stage. In a hilarious twist, most fans would be happy to see such an entertaining artist make it to the main stage. When it was announced he would be moving up this year, people actually got upset. Frasco has made a name for himself for his wild – and we mean WILD – Peach performances which were always at the water park stage and typically included Frasco drinking straight liquor, removing his pants, and crowd surfing to the wave pool. If music is art, Frasco is the most abstract, party-loving artist since Andy fucking Warhol. Even without a wave pool in sight, Frasco “blew shit up” with his over-the-top brand of eccentric rock and roll. The names of his songs don’t even matter. It’s the completely wild stage show that Frasco brings that is the standout of any show. For this year’s appearance, he had his organ rise and raise him up some ten feet in the air, a dancer in a thong with googly eyes on her posterior, and for his “hey, why the fuck not” moment, Frasco managed to crowd surf all the way from the stage to the back of the lawn at the end of his set. Frasco’s music might not go over too well in the car or on your phone, but combined with his stage antics, the music is perfect in a live setting.
Phish bassist Mike Gordon brought his solo band along with a lively set in the early evening, including his take on Talking Heads’ “Cities,” “Jones,” a song from his bandmate Scott Murawski’s band Max Creek, and a run through the Phish staple “Carini.” A one-two punch of prominent rock bassists ensued when Primus mastermind Les Claypool brought his Fearless Flying Frog Brigade to Peach for a thunderous set that included a full rendition of the Pink Floyd classic “Animals.” The band – which also includes John Lennon and Yoko Ono offspring Sean Lennon and iconic punk drummer Mike Dillon – has been performing the Floyd album as part of their current tour, and also adding in some other choice cuts into their sets. Due to a criminally short set time, the band had to limit the amount of other material for the night, but still managed to drop some vintage Claypool material including the opening of “David Makalaster,” a thumping “One Better,” and a rousing “Whamola” to end the night which saw Claypool don a disco ball head piece and use a bass bow to elicit some of the funkiest grooves of the night.
Another returning Peach alumni, alt-rockers My Morning Jacket, made their triumphant return to Scranton to headline Saturday night. Led by front man Jim James, MMJ delivered a well-received set at Peach several years ago and was a welcomed addition to this year’s lineup. An early set highlight of “Love, Love, Love,’ gave way to the bands’ live debut of the Beatles – minus George and Ringo – nugget “The Ballad of John and Yoko.” An appropriate song considering the spawn of John and Yoko was backstage. Other highlights included “Wasted,” “I’m Amazed,” and a brilliant take on the Rolling Stones classic “Happy.”
Sunday was a day to focus on the main stage, with numerous standout performances starting with rising guitar prodigy Christone “Kingfish Ingram, who put in a fiery set early in the afternoon including a segment where he walked around most of the amphitheater while shredding. Speaking of guitar prodigies, Peach veteran Brandon “Taz” Niederauer was a frequent performer of the weekend, which included sit ins with numerous performers, a VIP set, an Allman Brothers tribute, and a Saturday set on the Mushroom Stage where he and his band ripped through an hour’s worth of Jimi Hendrix material.
Back on the Peach Stage, veteran funk/horn outfit Lettuce had everyone dancing with a short but funky set that included highlights like “Blaze” and a nice reworking of the Tears For Fears classic “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.”
Lettuce Taped by Mark Geanoules
Ziggy Marley, son of late reggae icon Bob Marley, brought some Jamaican and political-heavy reggae to Scranton including spirited takes on his father’s material including “Get Up, Stand Up>War,” and “Jamming.”
The Lucky One
Wild and Free
Circle of Peace
See Dem Fake Leaders
Justice / Get Up, Stand Up / War
We Are the People
Love Is My Religion
Jamming (Bob Marley & The Wailers cover)
Look Who’s Dancing
Headlining Sunday, the Tedeschi Trucks Band took the stage to loud applause, with many in the crowd ecstatic to see Derek Trucks return to Peach Fest. Trucks was a longtime member of The Allman Brothers Band, and had been missing from Peach for almost a decade. In a scene where the veteran acts are fading away, it was a touching moment to see one of the founders of the festival back on stage and tearing it up. Along with both of them being world class guitarists, band leaders Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks need to be commended on their relationship. The band took the stage to a cover of Joe Cocker’s “Woman to Woman,” with Tedeschi emerging about two minutes into the song. After being greeted by applause, she and Trucks made eye contact with both musicians smiling at each other like two lovebirds who are infatuated with each other.
Their set was easily one of the highlights of the entire weekend, even though it had a focus on cover material including a take on the Rolling Stones “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker,” Dr. John’s “I Walk On Guilded Splinters” and The Allman Brothers Band “Dreams.” Tedeschi delivered a beautiful rendition of one of the her trademark songs, “Midnight In Harlem” before Trucks ripped through a triumphant rendition of the instrumental classic by the late Jeff Beck, “Beck’s Bolero.”
Woman to Woman (Joe Cocker cover)
It Hurt So Bad (Susan Tedeschi song)
Playing With My Emotions
Do I Look Worried
I Am the Moon
Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker) (The Rolling Stones cover)
Part of Me
I Wish I Knew (Billy Taylor cover)
I Walk on Guilded Splinters (Dr. John cover)
Dreams (The Allman Brothers Band cover)
The Sky Is Crying (Elmore James & His Broom Dusters cover)
Made Up Mind
Midnight in Harlem (With snippet of Little Martha… more )
I Want More (>)
Beck’s Bolero (Jeff Beck cover)
Like everything else in life, the Peach Music Festival has evolved. It has evolved from a festival focusing on The Allman Brothers Band into a festival focusing on keeping the scene they created alive for years to come. The 2023 edition was a shining example that as long as there’s a Peach Fest there will always be an outlet for that same jam scene to get the attention it needs to carry on for future generations.
Joe Russo’s Almost Dead
I Need a Miracle
Hell in a Bucket
Brown Eyed Women
Let It Grow
Joe Russo’s Almost Dead Taped by Mark Geanoules
JULY 14 Reid Genauer and Assembly of Dust featuring Zach Nugent, Dave Diamond and more at Shea Theater Arts Center in Turners FALLS MA.
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