The first thing you notice about The Peach Music Festival is not the music. It’s the mountain. The treacherous incline towards Peach’s main entrance has laid waste to even the most noble fest-hunters over the years.
But upon reaching the ascent, and enjoying the accompanying angular relief, you begin to notice the other things you don’t normally see at a festival.
The zip-lines. The water-slides. The fire-pits.
And then, that sweet, sweet music, making the calf-carving hike a distant memory.
Odd and wonderful, Peach is like a music festival designed by Willy Wonka if he was really into jam bands.
This is a zany world where one stage is a wave pool, and another is a seated amphitheater.
A crazy place where even plebes can use the air-conditioned restrooms with flush-able toilets.
It seems impossible. But Peach is something else.
The Allman Brothers Band founded Peach Music Festival in 2012, and since then, the festival has been staged annually at Montage Mountain in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
Peach was understandably rocked by the recent deaths of Allman Brothers Band founding members Gregg Allman and Butch Trucks, which led many to wonder, where would Peach go from here?
Nowhere but up, apparently — and not just because of the mountainous setting.
Over the course of Peach’s four days, the Allmans were lovingly eulogized. In addition to a guest-filled tribute set (which featured Chuck Leavell, Warren Haynes, Duane Betts, and dozens more), the festival also featured stellar Allman-themed sets by Pink Talking Fish, Jaimoe’s Jasssz Band and the final performance of Les Brers.
The crowd ate up Allman content both musically and materially. The Big House Allman Museum traveled from Georgia to hawk merch, and judging by the crowd’s attire, did brisk business.
Love is everywhere, indeed.
Peach has had bad luck with weather in years past. And unfortunately, it rained most of the day on Friday.
But the sky was clear when My Morning Jacket took to the stage for their headlining set.
Early on, My Morning Jacket treated Peach fans to the jammier side of their repertoire with extended takes on “Compound Fracture”, “Off The Record” and “I’m Amazed”.
The rain and thunder picked up during “State of the Art”, a song in which Jim James chants “I really mean it, the power’s goin’ out!”
Perhaps unbeknownst to Jim, the power DID go out earlier that day, so the crowd was understandably nervous when the lighting guy played the “on-off” game during the song’s chorus.
With the band nearing the end of their set, the opening chords of “Circuital” hit, and the storm did too. The rains were so heavy, floodwaters rushed from the lawn all the way down to the lower bowl.
My Morning Jacket, at it again with their unique brand of sky-opening rock.
MMJ’s set also included a medley featuring covers of the Allman Brothers Band, George Harrison, Bob Dylan and Prince. The surprise mash-up received one of the biggest ovations of the weekend. My Morning Jacket wasn’t alone in the tribute game, as almost every Peach act played a set widely, if not entirely, composed of covers.
To Peach’s credit, they know what the people want to hear: the classics.
Shortly after My Morning Jacket left the stage, festival funk warriors Lettuce got groovy with set featuring legend Chaka Khan. The sun was mere hours from rising when Lettuce finally left the stage. And the audience still wanted more.
One of the best tribute sets was Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Thursday night’s headliner. The band plays Grateful Dead covers exceptionally well, but also adds a cosmic twist. Their rendition of “Fire on the Mountain” turned quite literal for those dancing next to the flames. JRAD saved the most mesmerizing for last, with a set-closing take on “Morning Dew”, whose blistering final notes soared into the sky as the literal morning dew began to materialize.
The search for that magic seems to keep music fans trekking up the mountain to Peach every year. And with its incredibly unique setting for gathering respectful music lovers, Peach is in good shape to keep the Allman Brothers memory and legacy alive for years to come.
And if Peach fans keep climbing, they’ll be in good shape too.