Peach Music Festival made for wonderful weekend | REVIEW
Last Modified: March 29. 2013 9:09AM
BRAD PATTON, For The Times Leader
SCRANTON -- From Friday through Sunday, the first-of-its-kind Peach Music Festival, presented by the Allman Brothers Band, gave us roughly 29 hours of music from 25 bands on two stages at the Toyota Pavilion at Montage Mountain and neighboring Sno Cove water park.
And to paraphrase the lyrics from a well-known song by a band who had much in common with those in Scranton the past three days: What a long, strange, wonderful weekend it was.
A band with local roots, Cabinet, kicked off the festival with a one-hour-and-15-minute performance on Friday afternoon. The old-timey bluegrass and acoustic six-piece put its best foot forward with “Susquehanna Breakdown” and other original tunes such as “Pennsylvania” and “Caroline.”
After electrifying performances by Southern rock band Blackberry Smoke on the main stage (dubbed the “Peach Stage” for the weekend) and 61 North and Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk on the second stage (the “Mushroom Stage”), guitarist Warren Haynes, playing the festival as part of the Allman Brothers Band and doing solo turns with the Warren Haynes Band on Friday and the solo acoustic “Wake Up With Warren” segment on Sunday, first took the stage.
Highlights of the Warren Haynes Band set included his own “Sick of My Shadow” and “Man In Motion” (on which he was joined by keyboardist Ivan Neville) and tasty covers of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” and Steely Dan’s “Pretzel Logic.”
Although he introduced his group as “happy to be opening for the Allman Brothers,” one of Friday’s co-headliners, the Zac Brown Band, proved a hard act to follow. From opener “Keep Me In Mind” to “Chicken Fried,” the last tune of a four-song encore, guitarist Brown and his cohorts were on fire.
The group’s two hours on stage were one highlight after another, whether playing its own hits such as “Toes,” “Colder Weather,” or “As She’s Walking Away,” or a generous amount of cover tunes including spectacular versions of The Band’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” Marshall Tucker Band’s “Can’t You See” (both sung by multi-instrumentalist Clay Cook) and “The Devil Went Down To Georgia,” which showcased fiddler Jimmy De Martini.
Then it was time for the Allman Brothers Band, the festival’s hosts, who wasted no time before kicking in a great version of “Statesboro Blues.” 1994’s “No One To Run With” was an early standout, as was “Midnight Rider.”
Haynes led the band on a wicked “The Sky Is Crying” and the group hit its stride on a 12-minute epic “Dreams” and the instrumental “Jessica,” which ended the main set. The two-song encore was capped by a divine version of “Southbound,” as the first evening came to a close at 2:40 a.m.
The ABB’s second set began about 17 hours later, this time with a host of instrumentals before Haynes brought out some friends to play horns, piano and drums on a scorching “Same Thing.” Haynes’ version of “Blue Sky” (a song written and sung by estranged ABB member Dickey Betts) was a particular standout of Saturday’s second performance, as was his version of Van Morrison’s “Into The Mystic.”
Keyboardist and vocalist extraordinaire Gregg Allman was not to be outdone, as he gave the crowd a memorable “Revival” and knockout versions of “Statesboro Blues” and “Dreams” (the only repeats from the prior evening).
Saturday’s encore was a majestic, 13-minute version of “Whipping Post,” which was a fitting way for the band to end its festival and its 2012 concerts (there are no more ABB concerts scheduled for the remainder of the year).
Earlier in the day Saturday, another band with local roots, MiZ headed by singer-songwriter Michael Mizwinski, opened the afternoon’s activities on the main stage with a great 45-minute performance that left the crowd chanting for “one more song.”
Highlights included originals “Was A Time,” which opened the set, and a tune Mizwinski referred to as a “Yatesville bluegrass number,” plus great covers of Paul Simon’s “Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes” and Steely Dan’s “Reelin’ in the Years,” all of which showcased Mizwinski’s formidable skills on the guitar.
Sunday’s abbreviated schedule was the perfect capper to the weekend. Haynes helped the crowd “ease into the day,” as he put it, with a solo acoustic performance. About as spiritual as he got in the early going was a glorious version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” but he later brought out the Blind Boys of Alabama for joyous versions of the traditional “Down by the Riverside” and the Haynes original “Soulshine.”
Next up was Robert Randolph & The Family Band, who pumped the crowd up with an hour-long, five-song performance capped by a remarkable “Ain’t Nothing Wrong With That,” as each band member left the stage after being introduced until Randolph was alone with his pedal steel guitar.
The Blind Boys of Alabama, the legendary gospel group with roots that stretch back more than 60 years, capped the festival with an hour’s worth of spirituals and other God-centric tunes such as “People Get Ready” and “Spirit in the Sky.” The Blind Boys brought Randolph back to the stage for the title track of the group’s first traditional country album “Take The High Road” and ended with a poignant “Amazing Grace” and an extended jubilant number that brought the crowd to its feet as the music and the weekend came to a close.
Over the past few weeks, everyone from the festival’s promoters to band members had been saying the possibility of future festivals on Montage Mountain would depend a lot on what happened at the first one. After seeing, hearing and witnessing everything the Peach Music Festival had to offer, let’s hope it was not one-of-a-kind.