Festival Favorites: Mountain Jam VI
Here is the second installment of our summer series, highlighting a diverse mix of upcoming festivals. Today we look at Mountain Jam, which will take place from June 4-6 in Hunter, NY.
Hunter Mtn, New York, June 4-6
Gov’t Mule, Levon Helm & Friends 70th Birthday Jubilee with very special guests (including: Warren Haynes, Donald Fagen, Ray LaMontagne, Sam Bush, Steve Earle, Patterson & David Hood, Jackie Greene, Allison Moorer), Alison Krauss and Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi Band, The Avett Brothers, Les Claypool, Yonder Mountain String Band, Drive-By Truckers, Matisyahu, Toots and the Maytals, Dark Star Orchestra, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Dr. Dog, Dave Mason, Jay Farrar (of Son Volt), Lettuce, ALO, One eskimO, The Whigs, Company of Thieves, The New Mastersounds, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, The Duke & The King, Justin Townes Earle, Allison Moorer, Jerry Joseph & Wally Ingram, The Bridge, The London Souls, Sonya Kitchell, Zach Deputy, Tao Seeger Band, The Brew, Simone Felice, Gandalf Murphy & SCD, These United States, Jamie McLean Band, Van Ghost, Natural Breakdown, Bret Mosley, Elmwood, The McLovins, Tamarama, Mojo Myles Mancuso, Dean Batstone, Sons of Bill, Alabaster Brown, IS, Kari Spieler
The band-motley that constitutes the lineup of Mountain Jam XI is a sonically mixed bag of goodies. An eclectic blend of artists should make for happy ears in the audience, as the schedule harbors everything between jamband Gov’t Mule and Hasidic Jewish New York City reggae-rapper Matisyahu.
The sequencing of bands is carefully thought out. “I try not to program major bands against one another, I think that’s silly,” says Gary Chetkof, one of Mountain Jam’s founders. “But we have these two side stages, so if you wanna take a break from the main acts you can catch either an acoustic stage, or go indoors and catch something a little more cutting edge.”
But if your ears yearn for rest from music, do not fret. “We have some really cool offerings in terms of being at a ski lodge. We get to use the chair lifts and sky rides that take people to the top of the mountain for these amazing views – it’s really cool. We also have a zip line, so people get to experience zipping down the mountain at 50 miles per hour if they want to,” Chetkof notes.
In addition to music, scenery and mountain zipping for daredevils, Mountain Jam provides mental guidance for its attendees. In the on-site awareness village, patrons have the opportunity to learn about the planet and environmental issues of the day. There are a lot of non-profit groups there, educating people on the importance of voter registrations, solar power and alternative health and healing modalities. “So that’s kind of like the heart and soul,” Chetkof reflects and adds, “the consciousness of the festival.”
The Back Story:
Mountain Jam started as a one-day concert in 2005 to celebrate Radio Woodstock’s 25th anniversary of broadcasting. During the night, four bands took the one stage – Gov’t Mule headlining. “After it was over people came up to us and said, ‘that was so great, you should do that again next year,’” Chetkof remembers. “I was like ‘Next year, what are you crazy?’ Then we got so many people requesting it, and the idea came up of making it into a two-day camping festival. So we expanded the next year and we did it again as a two-day camping festival and we invited Gov’t Mule back. They really encouraged us to go full-head, and then we expanded to three days the third year. Now it’s grown from the first year’s four bands to 50.”
Warren Haynes, who co-presents Mountain Jam with Radio Woodstock, was instrumental in bringing a lot of the bands that headline this year. The Avett Brothers was one of the bands he expressed particular interest in. “It’s their first Mountain Jam appearance and we’re really excited, really excited, I can’t even tell you. I think the Avett Brothers and Dr. Dog have two of the best CDs out,” observes Chetkof.
The perhaps biggest pull this year is Levon Helm’s 70th birthday jubilee, with guests including Warren Haynes, Donald Fagen, Ray Lamontagne, Sam Bush, Steve Earl, Patterson & David Hood, Jackie Greene and Allison Moorer. Chetkof says that the celebration gig will draw on the tradition of The Last Waltz and the midnight rambles that Helm organizes in his home studio. The response from invited guests was enthusiastic, and Chetkof extols, “You know, it’s unique, it’s a one-time only thing, it’s not like you can catch this again anywhere else, so that’s what I really enjoy – it really will make this night and the festival memorable. And something people will say ‘I was there, and I remember how incredible that experience was.’”
Other prominent artists in the lineup include Les Claypool, who appears at the festival for the first time. Alison Krauss also makes her Mountain Jam debut, playing with Union Station and Jerry Douglas.
London poppers One eskimO come armed with their recently released burning hot self-titled debut album. “We played them on the radio months and months ago and we never saw such an incredible response where listeners kept calling in and asking ‘Who is that band?’” Chetkof says, enthused.
Another must-see is the fever-inducing Dr. Dog. If you haven’t heard Shame Shame by now, put on the dunce cap and let iTunes take a $12 bite off your credit card. It’s well worth it, and the show is bound to glorify your festival experience.
And, for the love of God, don’t miss Levon Helms’ celebration show.
Mountain Jam informs festival attendees not leave food or garbage out or around the tent locality, since bears populate the area. Over the years, there have been a few encounters with bears, although friendly and mostly with cubs.
Except for obvious things such as water bottles, sunscreen and sundry other common festival-packings, the promoters encourage you to bring a smile, friends and a positive attitude. Also, bear in mind that the festival is on a hill, so pack light; what you bring you will have to tote up.