Posted Jun 11th, 2015 (3:25 pm) by Staff
Mountain Jam 2015: Day 1
Image by Richard Clarke
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The eleventh installment of Mountain Jam kicked of last Thursday on beautiful Hunter Mountain. What started as a one day festival to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of legendary independent Woodstock radio station WDST, has turned into an epic four day festival. Hunter Mountain is a beautiful venue for a festival with amazing views and the ski slope makes an excellent viewing area. Even the ride through the Catskills to Hunter was majestic.

In the early days of Mountain Jam, when it was a smaller and humbler event, parking was free and convenient, but as the event has grown, parking has become another coveted commodity. On-site parking is pricey and sold out before the festival and while off-site parking was available, shuttle buses can be a mind-numbing ordeal plagued with long waits for shuttle buses, so we opted for a third choice: the local entrepreneur and paid for pretty close parking in a nearby yard converted into a lot.

The entrance gate had the usual bag searches and pat downs one must expect at an event as large as Mountain Jam. We did not notice any harsh security tactics that had launched a barrage of complaints at last year’s event. Campgrounds varied in distance and those who camped were allowed to unload gear in front of the lodge adjacent to the entrance, but the hilly terrain of the venue is laborious, after all, it is not called Mountain Jam for nothing.

Brothers Sam, Abe, and James, sons of musician Bill Wilson, hence their name, Sons of Bill were the first band we caught when reached the mountain. We picked a place in front of the Main Stage soundboard (where we would spend much of the long weekend) for the optimum sound sweet spot, and even though Sons of Bill were playing on the smaller side stage the sound was still perfect because both stages music runs through the speakers of each other. Large screens on both sides of the mammoth Main Stage also offer a great view of the smaller stage, so apart from some of the extra entertainment in the Hunter Mountain ski lodge, you could take in all the outdoor music from one place. Sons of Bill’s set of alt-country/Americana rock did a great job of getting the festival attendees who made the trek up the mountain for the shorter opening night of Mountain Jam stomping and bopping.

The rhythm section of Govt. Mule drummer Matt Abts and bassist Jorgen Carlsson’s side project Planet of the Abts crushed their set of edgy strait ahead rock music The set featured searing guitars, thunderous drums, a great song from their new album, All Things the Valley, called “Off the Hook” and an awesome cover of Black Sabbath’s “Who Are You.”

The first band to play on the Main Stage was Railroad Earth and their lush acoustic sound provided a cool vibe to evening. They began the set with “Black Elk Speaks” that blended seamlessly into “Walk With Me.” Govt. Mule singer/guitar shredder and Mountain Jam fixture, Warren Haynes, made his first guest appearance of the festival, joining the six-piece group for two songs, “Goat” and “Lone Croft Farewell.” The band rapped up their set with the popular and uplifting “Like a Buddha."

The first stroll through the festival grounds revealed a ton of food and beverage choices, art and craft venders, and SJP Productions had installed artistic lighting and projections throughout the festival grounds including the ceilings of the VIP tents, a Zen Garden, and the giant Mountain Jam XI sign at the top of the mountain. The festival also allows access to the huge Hunter Mountain Ski Lodge that had a full bar, more food choices, art exhibitions and two more performance spaces that would host a variety of extra entertainment.

A highlight of Marco Benevento’s fusion rock/jazz band first set of the night was the last song “Real Morning Party” that led to powerhouse jam band moe.’s first set that featured a great cover of The Grateful Dead’s “Loser” and also ended big with Warren Haynes sitting in for “Opium.” Marco Benevento played another thirty-minute set before moe.’s second set that started of with a jam encrusted “Seat of My Pants” and ended with a fan voted “Rebubula” as an encore.

The first night of the festival had some incredible music, and with the first full day of music still to come, not to mention, rock legend Robert Plant headlining the next night, we were plenty pumped to get back to the mountain on Friday.

Article and Photos by Robert and Richard Clarke

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