Mountain Jam 2011: Day 1

Hunter Mountain, NY

“I just love festival season!” cries Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars, his drawl can’t hide a giddy gleam.“You get out into the woods and just being outside allows the music to breathe.”

Eric Krasno
Eric Krasno

Luther and his brother Cody, along with some 5,000 music fans of all stripes, gravitate towards Mountain Jam. For four days, the Hunter Mountain ski resort transforms into a natural amphitheater tucked away in the Catskills.

On Friday, underground supergroup Kung Fu lures sun-fried fans into Colonel’s Hall to blast out a fierce Weather Report calling for Sun-Ra. After the set, funk junkies quickly migrate to the main stage where the holy trinity of Soulive readies to dole out jazz communion. Having already stirred things up with a late night set of Beatles covers on Thursday, Soulive tears into their evening set with relish. They rage through the classics of their trio days, from “Rudy’s Way” to “Uncle Junior” with a little help from long time partner-in-crime Ryan Zoidis on tenor saxophone.

Victor Wooten & Bela Fleck
Victor Wooten & Bela Fleck

Béla Fleck & The Original Fleck Tones then make a prodigal return to the stage, seamlessly mixing classic tracks like “Blu-bop” with selections of their new reunion album Rocket Science. With Howard Levy back in the fold on both grand piano and harmonica, the band rekindles its roots with burning results. Dressed as a cosmic lovechild of Richard Roundtree and Jack Sparrow, Futureman perplexes and impresses on his drumitar while his brother, bassist Buddha Victor Wooten thumps out a thunderous solo on fan favorite “Sinister Minister.”

Futureman
Futureman

Friday’s main event is to be the weekend’s leonine host, Warren Haynes, out with a solo band for the first time in almost two decades. To fans of the six string workhorse, the man cooks up an extended set both fresh and familiar, culling mostly tracks from his new album Man in Motion and peppering in some choice covers (“I Wish”) and classic cuts. With his original tune “Soulshine” now a staple of both the Allman Brothers’ and the Dead’s live repertoire, it seems no festival can be complete without a requisite run down of Haynes’ fatherly send-up. This night is no exception as the set’s swan song proves.

—Luke Dennis

Photos of Eric Krasno of Soulive, Bela Fleck and Victor Wooten and Futureman courtesy of Jim DiPerna.

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