SCRANTON —Bouts of intermittent heavy rain and an hour-long power outage challenged the The Peach Music Festival at The Pavilion at Montage Mountain Friday, but neither inclement weather nor technical difficulty prevented the first half of the yearly gathering from producing inspiring sets of music.
Thursday and Friday featured sets by locally-rooted experimental bluegrass sextet Cabinet, Grateful Dead torch carriers Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, wildly popular rock outfit My Morning Jacket, and sophisticated funk ensemble Lettuce, among others.
Four-day festival goers got their money’s worth as artists poured themselves into sets, rocking the mountain as late arrivals and single-day attendees continued to add to the expanding audience and setting the table for stacked Saturday and Sunday lineups.
Hitting the water park’s Mushroom Stage early evening on Thursday, Cabinet whet musical appetites with the jazz-inflected instrumental “Mysterio” before launching into the somber string sonnet “The Dove,” which culminated in a reggae-tinged jam laced with a psychedelic fiddle solo by Todd Kopec.
The band continues to push the boundaries of bluegrass and Americana music, an effort made clear in a set that featured the aggressively electric “Bottom of the Sea,” from their forthcoming “Cool River” album, and a haunting take on folk traditional “Diamond Joe.”
Joe Russo’s Almost Dead delivered three hours of masterfully arranged Grateful Dead music, featuring the sparring guitar riffs of fret masters Tom Hamilton and Scott Metzger.
Hamilton would make several appearances over the two days showcasing his unique songwriting and penchant for passionate improvisation with his band American Babies, and in one candid moment, playing covers of Bruce Springsteen’s “Atlantic City” and the Dead’s “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo” for roughly 100 people during a power outage.
Well before Hamilton’s showmanship won over fans, The Werks energized the mountainside with their blend of jam rock and psychedelic electronica.
Their original, “Cloud Hopper,” teased the Allman Brother’s “Hotlanta,” before giving way to an organ-driven jam that made the crowd by the water park gyrate.
The band welcomed the Turkuaz horns onstage for rambuncious versions of Kool & The Gang’s “Jungle Boogie” and Average White Band’s “Pick Up The Pieces.”
The three-man horn section, billed as artists at large, popped up everywhere brass was needed, sitting in with Pigeons Playing Ping-Pong and collborating with Lettuce on a memorable set that featured funk and soul icon Chaka Khan.
Greensky Bluegrass took American roots music to far away places, alternating between ferocious string work and soothing mountain folk.
As a downpour brought hoards of listeners under the Pavilion, Greensky treated the soggy but undetered dancers to a genre-bending cover of Pink Floyd’s “Time” and a stormy “Bring Out Your Dead.”
The biggest draw, to that point, in the long weekend, My Morning Jacket, generated a palpable energy, setting the pavilion abuzz.
The slow-building ambient rush of “Victory Dance” kicked off a set that featured anthemic performances of “I’m Amazed” and “Magheeta” and a four-song cover medley that started with the band’s original “Steam Engine.”
Jamming out of their own tune, My Morning Jacket teased the Allman Brothers Band’s “Melissa” but delivered their interpretation of Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” before taking on “Melissa” in earnest.
The performance was the first true nod Allman Brother’s Band founders, Gregg Allman and Butch Trucks, who both died earlier this year, and it foreshadowed today’s scheduled Peach Tribute to the late legends.
My Morning Jacket fed off the ecstatic crowd and drove straight through George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass” and Prince’s “The Beautiful Ones” before the medley was finished.