Mountain Jam @ Hunter Mountain

HUNTER, NY—Warren Haynes and Radio Woodstock turned Hunter Mountain into jamband central for the 11th installment of the fabled fest. With stellar weather, chairlifts taking concertgoers on scenic mountain vistas, rockin’ tunes and enough beer stalls to keep even the thirstiest rock fan happy, this year’s event did not disappoint. With a lineup that included Grace Potter, Gov’t Mule, Alabama Shakes, The Wailers and The Black Keys, there was something for everyone, from reggae to the blues and on back through the melodic thunder of Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant.

We caught up with the festival on a glorious Saturday that the rain threatened to damper early on but didn’t, as mother earth provided the sunshine and the bands the music. Due to the sloping nature of the grounds, sightlines are perfect, the backdrop of the Catskills divine and the facilities, better known for winter skiing on the notorious green run from up top called the Belt Parkway, provided all with a comfy place to party, eat, drink and be merry.

The Black Keys were the night headliners with “Dead And Gone.” Guitarist Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney laid out their garage rock, retrofitted and twisted through some northern soul as they stampeded their minimalist howl at the crowd. Helped out by a few musicians that softened the slam bam-athon into a textured and balanced outfit on some numbers, by night’s end the dynamic duo was back to the basics as they ended it with the drum/guitar rock attack of “Little Black Submarines.” Guitarist Auerbach cajoled his axe into fits of jagged rock one second and some sweet blues the next to drummer Carney’s steady and pulsating beats.

Festival co-organizer Warren Haynes and Gov’t Mule laced into the blues just as sunset. Their fiery set was a well-rounded melodic roar to The Black Keys’ machine gun rattle. Haynes let it rip as drummer Matt Abts laid out the steady rhythms starting off their set with “Railroad Boy.” On the Allmans’ “Dreams” Haynes played to the heavens and Duane’s spirit. They ended the set with a bunch of covers including The Beatles’ “She Said, She Said,” Lennon’s “Working Class Hero” and Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” done up Stevie Ray style.

The Wailers provided some roots rock and reggae as they bought back to life the songs of Bob Marley. Rebelution provided an updated version of the genre as they combined reggae with some ska and were backed up by a fine horn section. Rusted Roots tribal folk left everyone smiling in the midday sun as Shakey Graves added some Austin-based pickin’ to the mix.

Photographer Jay Blakesberg gave an interesting presentation of his work photographing the founders of the jam scene, Grateful Dead, whose surviving members are currently celebrating their 50th anniversary, adding the stories behind the pix and proving once and for all “what a long, strange trip it’s been!”