An Interview with Mountain Jam Founder Gary Chetkof

Don’t forget to check out the 11th installment of this year’s Mountain Jam from June 4-7 at Hunter Mountain. Leave your ski poles and boots at home and bring along a tent and some boogie shoes for some Grateful Dead-inspired Jammies from the likes of Rusted Root, Michael Franti & Spearhead, moe., Railroad Earth and Joe Russo’s Almost Dead. Headliners Alabama Shakes, Robert Plant and of course Gov’t Mule, who will perform Dark Side Of The Mule, will provide the classic rock.

The Black Keys’ guitar-and-drum slam-bam knockout headlines Saturday night. New York City native Larry Campbell, who played with Dylan and Levon Helm, will be joined by Teresa Williams and Little Feat pianist Bill Payne for some acoustified stomp. Grace Potter and her Gibson Flying V guitar will summon up the spirit of Janis Joplin as she plays tunes off her new album, Midnight.

We caught up recently with festival founder Gary Chetkof for a little Q&A.

What are the origins of Mountain Jam ?

Mountain Jam began as the 25th anniversary celebration for Radio Woodstock/WDST radio station with just one stage! There was perfect weather on June 4, 2005. It was the first summer-feeling day and everyone was in shorts after a long Hudson Valley winter. There were only four bands on the main stage. It was so successful that we decided to do a two-day festival the next year, a third night was added the following year and eventually a fourth night. It is hard to believe the festival has grown to over 40 bands and The Black Keys and Robert Plant headlining. 
Is there anything special about this year’s fest as opposed to previous year’s festival? 

            Yes, we have four nights of headliners which include some of the most current, largest musical giants in the industry. We have also teamed up with O+ Festival to present visual artists and live painting.

I covered the event a few years ago and Donald Fagen sat in with Levon Helm. Will there be any interesting collaborations taking place this year?

            That was a great Mountain Jam moment. Collaborations are always happening and are normally a surprise! We have Warren Haynes, Grace Potter and Robert Plant all on Saturday, so we are hoping something special will happen.

What are some activities going on besides checking out bands?

            Besides our usual chairlift rides, yoga classes, hula-hoop workshops and frisbee golf courses, we are extremely excited to have Michael Franti leading a special yoga session Sunday morning! We have former High Times editor, Jason Pinsky, leading seminars on legalization and the cannabis industry. Something totally new and different is the interactive zombie paintball course that is set up on the west side of Hunter Mountain. On the visual arts end, we are excited to have live painting with Scott Ackerman, kids’ sock-making workshops with One World Puppets, and family nature walks led by The Ashokan Center.


Mountain Jam will take place at Hunter Mountain in Hunter, NY from June 4-7. For more information, check out