SCRANTON — The intermittent showers could not dampen the spirit of the Old Farmers Ball Music Festival as six bands and two solo performers presented a mostly local, mostly original musical showcase at the Toyota Pavilion at Montage Mountain on Saturday.
Due to the inclement weather, the day-long festivities, including the farmers market, food stands and vendor booths, were moved under the pavilion as the musicians took turns on the facility’s main stage. As early-afternoon performer Kyle Morgan put it, “We got ourselves a really big tent so we should be good.”
Most of the musicians seemed excited to be playing the big stage – Christopher Kearney of Coal Town Rounders put it best: “Snoop Dog drove a car on this stage, Slayer played on this stage, and now we are here. Just take that in for a minute.”
The more than seven hours of music was started by three young performers from Marley’s Mission, the festival’s charity partner. Mollie Edsell, Jordan Tarter and Abby Millon each did one song on acoustic guitars, as the strains of “Sweet Caroline,” “Fastest Girl In Town” and “I’m On a Mission” rang out for the early arrivals.
Morgan, a singer-songwriter from Harrisburg, then took the stage for a 15-minute, four-song set, followed by Cabinet’s Pappy Biondo, who ushered in “Pappy Time” with six tunes, including Woody Guthrie’s “Do Re Mi.”
Coal Town Rounders, four players from various parts of Northeastern Pennsylvania, then played some hard-charging bluegrass classics such as “Fox on the Run” and “Dark as a Dungeon.” They also scored nicely with the gospel tune “My Lord’s Going To Set Me Free,” a George Jones tribute on “Milwaukee, Here I Come” and a revved-up version of The Band’s “The Shape I’m In.”
After a layoff of about two years, Scranton’s own And The Moneynotes did a one-time-only reunion show, bringing back its signature blend of Vaudeville, country, bluegrass and pop, getting the growing crowd on its feet and dancing in front of the stage.
MiZ, the band led by singer-songwriter and guitarist extraordinaire Mike Mizwinski, was next up, playing originals like “Wink” and a great version of Elvis Costello’s “(The Angels Want To Wear My) Red Shoes,” as Mizwinski dazzled on both acoustic and electric guitars. An additional highlight was “Pennybrook Road,” a tune Mizwinski wrote about the time he shared a house with members of Cabinet in the Scranton area.
Holy Ghost Tent Revival, a band based in Greenville, N.C., then kept the party going with some fine tunes accented by a two-piece horn section. The six-piece band made the most of its 45 minutes on stage, again getting the crowd on its feet and dancing.
Yarn, a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based band with its own followers nicknamed the “Yarmy,” a la the Grateful Dead and Phish, turned in an inspired 45-minute set of mandolin-driven tunes before the festival’s hosts, Cabinet, finally took the stage about 8:40 p.m.
“Thanks for coming out with us,” mandolinist and vocalist J.P. Biondo said as the band tuned up. “We thought it would be pretty fitting if we started with this tune,” he said as the band kicked off “The Old Farmer’s Mill,” which inspired the festival’s name.
The six-piece band then played the reggae-flavored “My Baby’s Gone” as Dylan Skursky moved from double bass to electric and locked into a groove with drummer Jami Novak. The tune then turned into an extended jam as saxophone player Nick Driscoll joined in.
Even with the rain, the Old Farmers Music Ball proved to be a worthy showcase of the area’s top talent. Here’s hoping it turns into an annual event.