Hunter Mountain, NY
Sunday is hardly a day of rest for the Mountain Jam masses. Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros spill their charismatic brand of pop bombast all the way up the mountain as the frontman descends into the overjoyed crowd. “You guys have really transcended man’s relation with two o’clock in the afternoon,” Sharpe congratulates the crowd before rewarding them with “Home.”
Preservation Hall Jazz Band stake their claim to being the weekend’s most immutable band (not to mention the best dressed), waving their New Orleans jazz sound like a victory flag. Their three horn players take turns at the mic crooning sweet southern standards until they bring out My Morning Jacket’s Jim James to sing “Louisiana Fairytale” and a planet-crushing purge of “St. James Infirmary.” Not content to remain above and apart from the crowd, they close their set by marching out into the dusty thoroughfare, gathering the crowd around them to be their second line.
Aside from Warren Haynes, rain has been the only other force of nature to appear at every Mountain Jam, but thus far the weekend remained mercifully dry despite the grey-ceilinged Sunday. The sun emerges as if by divine mandate just as festival circuit mavericks My Morning Jacket took the stage. Decked out in moon boots and a sampler pendant, Jim James trounces across the stage like a Pooh-bear shaman and leads the band through the first three tracks off their new LP Cicuital (see July/August issue) before delving deep into their catalog.
At this point in their career, MMJ have learned to treat their live show like a flesh and blood remix of their favorite tunes. As varied as their records may be, they adroitly pluck all the right tunes at just the right time in the set and sometimes even mashing disparate songs into one beautiful new entity. On record, “Smoking From Shooting” and “Run Thru” are divided by five years and a hearty slab of distortion, but on stage the latter consumes the former with toothy abandon. The Preservation Hall Jazz Band returns the favor to Jim James and joins the band for a romp through the crunk-Prince send up “Highly Suspicious” and a regal take on Al Johnson’s “Carnival Time.” The band’s two-and-a-half hour set takes no breaks and no prisoners, a fitting statement on the whole weekend. “I just realized how much great music is being made right now!” Jim James smiles in between songs. As festivals become more widespread endeavors having to compete with each other through peripheral distractions, a relatively small scale festival that keeps the big focus on music is a refreshing thing. Same time next year, everybody?
Photos of Clint Maedgen (PHJB) and Jim James (MMJ) courtesy of Jim DiPerna.