Mountain Jam

There’s nothing quite like the roar of the crowd as the stage lights up bright purple, and the first licks of electric guitar fill the dark night air…

I’m talking about Mountain Jam. For those of you who don’t know what Mountain Jam is, it’s a three day Folk/Rock music festival put on by WDST Radio Woodstock. This years festival was held last weekend in Hunter, NY and was the fourth annual. I’m not going to write about every single band that played (that would probably take up three blogs due to the fact that there were 27 bands playing over the course of the weekend). Besides, not all of the bands held much interest to me. I’m going to write about what I thought some of the highlights of the festival were.



I went up to the festival after work on Friday, so the first band I got to see was Grace Potter & the Nocturnals. One of my favorite songs that Grace Potter sings is “Nothing But the Water” and she sang that song during her set. That girl knows how to rock a crowd, even if it was only the smaller early Friday crowd… She started the song off a capella with only the tambourine for accompaniment before the rest of her band joined her. At one point during the song, they all started attacking the drum set. Grace got down on her knees and was pounding the bass drum, the rest of her band was banging the tambourines, the drums, anything they could… They stopped with a final resounding bang on the bass drum and Grace took it back to the quiet intro, singing with only the tambourine again. Grace Potter & the Nocturnals played mostly rock at Mountain Jam, with some funk thrown in. I wish she had sang more bluesy soulful stuff, the songs she sang didn’t particularly show off her vocals which is a shame since she has an amazing voice.



Aah, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings… They’re a tight band. The Dap Kings came out first and played a few songs before Sharon Jones took the stage with them. The Dap Kings have some killer moves… The brass section continuously stepped left and right to the music, looking sharp in their suits. In addition to the three piece brass section, there are two drummers in the band (one on a regular drum set and one on congas), two guitarists, and a bass played who is the bandleader. As for Sharon Jones, she is absolutely fabulous! (I rarely use that word, but in regards to her it is quite fitting). She’s an incredible dancer too, she busted out some African dance and Hip hop moves during her performance. Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings were definitely one of the highest highlights of the weekend for me.




If Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings were one of the highest highlights of the weekend for me, Michael Franti and Spearhead weren’t far behind. Michael Franti really knows how to get the crowd going, and his shows are always high energy. All of his songs are full of politics and have a profound message in them. Spearhead sounded great, they’re cool guys… Warren Haynes came out to play a few songs with the band, as did Jackie Green (who had just finished his own set prior to Michael Franti and Spearhead’s).  




Catskill Mountains’ own hometown boys sounded great, which was impressive considering they had just gotten back from a tour of Europe, what, a day before? They played a bunch of crowd favorites for their set at Mountain Jam, including “Hey Hey Revolver,” “Rockefeller Druglaw Blues,” “Frankie’s Gun!,” “Where’d You Get The Liquor,” “Ruby May,” and Blind Willie McTell’s “Lord, Send Me An Angel.” The Felice Brothers’ sound is changing, and it’s straying from their roots. They’re becoming more Rock by the moment, but they still hold on to a part of their original sound and their uniqueness, which is something that I hope never changes.





The Drive-By Truckers were great. They’re a little vain (they deliberately posed at the front of the stage to make sure the photographers could get a good shot), but it was funny. The Drive-By Truckers play “Southern Rock,” and although people like to compare them to Lynyrd Skynyrd, as a huge Lynyrd Skynyrd fan I neither like nor agree with that comparison. It’s not giving The Drive-By Truckers their due either, because they have their own distinct sound. One can just imagine them playing (or going for drinks) at an old Country bar in some rural town… The Drive-By Truckers are so badass they drink Jack Daniels and smoke onstage. Patterson Hood, the lead singer of the band, paid homage to Levon Helm onstage. He sang “Let There Be Rock” in honor of him, and also told the crowd that if his daughter had been a boy, her name would have been Levon.





It was awesome to see Levon Helm perform, the man is a living legend. He seemed a bit frail when he took the stage, but when he took his place at the drum set, there was nothing frail about him. Levon Helm had his “Ramble On The Road” band with him, which included a five-piece horn section. He had a number of guests playing with him. His daughter Amy Helm (who is in a band called Ollabelle) and Teresa Williams on vocals, Larry Campbell on guitar and fiddle, Tony Leone (also of Ollabelle) on drums on a few songs (so Levon could play mandolin), Warren Haynes, and Little Sammy Davis.



Gov’t Mule closed the festival on Friday and Saturday nights, while Bob Weir and Ratdog closed on Sunday. They’re both real, honest-to-goodness jambands, and the cool thing about “Jam bands” is that you never know what’s going to happen, or what direction a song might take. It’s totally spontaneous, and there’s something beautiful about that.

The one thing I disliked about Mountain  Jam is the kind of people that it drew. After my sister almost got trampled by some drunk guy who was also stoned out of his mind, it made me think; everyone at the festival was using drugs. Everyone. People seemed to think that in order to enjoy the festival and the music they had to drink and use drugs. I don’t understand it, because isn’t music supposed to take you to the same place? It does for me. (Well, okay, maybe not the same place that guy who almost trampled my sister was)… When I experience music, whether it be through creating it myself or simply listening to it, I’m transported to a state of mind more wonderful than any drug could ever possibly take me. With less consequences and side effects too… None actually. I don’t have anything against the majority of people who were at Mountain Jam, it’s just that, sometime’s it seems like people get so involved in the whole “scene” that they forget about the music and it’s left by the wayside. I think that using drugs and getting wasted takes away from experiencing the music to it’s fullest potential. And isn’t that what it’s all about? Experiencing music to it’s fullest potential. If not, then that’s sad. Because it should be.