Photos By Mandy Pichler
Three hundred and seventy-five miles separate the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, OH from Montage Mountain, PA. For over three days at the Peach Music Festival, however, those miles slipped away while museum inductees played still-in-it-to-win-it sets in the Pocono Mountains.
Peach Fest headliners also immortalized in Cleveland’s renowned museum included Gregg Allman (and nearly every member) of the Allman Brothers Band (ABB), the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir and Billy Kreutzmann and Carlos Santana. These iconic artists shared their musical legacies with the fans—and each other. Without question, “collaboration” was the word of the weekend, with many of them scheduled, as well as fan-expected unions and reunions and surprise on-stage appearances.
The festival, however, stayed true to its roots and embraced an eclectic gathering of musicians spanning the spectrum of genres, from rock (Gov’t Mule, Australian Pink Floyd), country (Willie Nelson, Old Crow Medicine Show) and bluegrass (Cabinet) to electronica/jamtronic/electro-funk (Lotus, Papdosio, Dopapod), funk (Dumpstaphunk, Deep Banana Blackout), jazz (Jaimo’s Jasssz Band) and they-can’t-be-pigeonholed-artists (Bruce Hornsby & The Noisemakers, G. Love & Special Sauce, Rusted Root).
Amongst those mentioned—and those who weren’t—were so many collaborations, counting them required most fingers and toes. The marquee meetings left indelible marks. Gregg Allman, who founded the festival in 2012 with the ABB, shared his now-solo spotlight with former bandmates Warren Haynes and Jaimoe Johanson for a “One Way Out” encore. This set-closer proved to be the ideal culmination of a soulful, heartfelt journey through Allman’s legacy that included “Melissa,” “Whipping Post” and “I’m No Angel,” as well as T-Bone Walker’s blues staple “Call It Stormy Monday (But Tuesday Is Just As Bad).”
The following night, Bob Weir played three sets with three bands in less than 24 hours. The first, and perhaps most anticipated set, saw the marquee Saturday night double-billing of Weir on-stage with Billy Kreutzmann’s Billy & The Kids, jamming out uber-high energy GD staples, “Feel Like A Stranger,” “Cassidy,” “The Other One,” “Stella Blue,” “Sugar Magnolia” and “Brokedown Palace,” to name a few. This reunion marked the first Grateful Dead collaboration since the critically acclaimed (and fiscally successful) “Fare Thee Well” shows at Soldier Field in Chicago from July 3-5 of this year.
The following day, in a surprise-to-no-one on-stage appearance, Weir joined Keller Williams and Grateful Gospel (featuring Furthur guitarist John Kadlecik) for “Eyes of the World,” and “Sampson & Delilah.” Soon after, Weir reconnected with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.
In 1968, the Preservation Hall joined the Grateful Dead and the Sons of Champlin for three nights at the storied Filmore, making this scheduled billing a long time coming. And while the names and faces of PHJB have changed since then, this generation of the band seamlessly fused with Weir.
If festival goers were exhausted after three days of walking steep hillsides from stage-to-stage, riding the ski resort’s zip line or waterslides, or wading in its wave pool (yes, this festival really is fun for the whole family), they certainly didn’t show it.
The energy level remained high for the final set, Santana. On-stage with his son, Salvador, Carlos Santana performed “Evil Ways,” “Black Magic Woman,” and “Oye Como Va.” Vocalists Andy Vargas and Tony Lindsay belted lyrics while traversing and dancing across the stage, giving the set a rap-like vibe. And it worked; the classics had become current.
Clearly, none of these artists need to be reminded that there is no “I” in “band,” and that for music to endure across generations, it must share its soul and spirit and transcend genres.