SCRANTON — The controlled chaos of hoards of music lovers migrating to the Pavilion at Montage Mountain marked the beginning of the Peach Music Festival on Thursday as the enthusiastic masses laid the foundation of the small and temporary town that pops up each year during the four-day celebration of music.
As tents stood up on their poles and festival-goers took refuge from the blazing sun around 1 p.m., the day’s artists arrived and prepared for their sets. Baltimore up-and-comers Pigeons Playing Ping Pong and Brooklyn-based ensemble Turkuaz were preparing to get funky during primetime and late-night sets, respectively, while Vermont jam outfit Twiddle was slated as the day’s headliner.
Herbie Berkenstein and Amanda Tallcot, of Syracuse, N.Y., were hauling their camping gear to their site when they stopped to talk to the Times Leader. Both said they were excited for Northeastern Pennsylvania-rooted bluegrass act Cabinet to perform their 6 p.m. set.
Berkenstein, on his third go-around at the Peach, had some perspective from his previous years in attendance.
“I think it’s awesome,” he said. “I like the fact that the waterpark is here, and the area is beautiful. As far as the lineup, I think it’s the best I’ve seen yet, for my tastes.”
Tallcot was attending for the first time.
“I’m pumped,” she said. “I’m also looking forward to seeing Marcus King, moe., and Twiddle.”
The Marcus King Band, of South Carolina origins, opened the day with a soulful blend of Southern blues, rock and soul. King, the band’s frontman and guitarist, energized the crowd with his moving voice, a surreal blend of grit and melody.
Montage Mountain employees Laura Galea, of Dickson City, and Stephanie Ornoski, of Eynon, drove a side-by-side all terrain vehicle, selling ice to sweaty patrons in the camping area, before the music began and late into the day.
“The crowd gets bigger every year,” Ornoski said. “Every year, more people have fun, and when newcomers arrive, we tell them, ‘you’re going to love it.’”
“The people are awesome,” Galea added, noting that people “go crazy” for ice in the oppressive heat. “It’s more relaxed than other festivals.”
Steal Your Plate, a vendor of flatbreads, quesadillas and wraps that works the Mid-Atlantic festival circuit, was in its typical place at the Peach and owner Charlie Cavallo, of Sugarloaf Township, said the yearly event is “fantastic.”
“They do a great job with the lineup, and it brings a lot of business into the area,” Cavallo said. “I’m a fan of jam bands, and I think this festival is one of the best in the jam scene. I’d be here whether I was working or not.”
Steal Your Plate will debut a new tent, Como Se Nacho, which will feature fresh fried tortilla chips, chorizo, steak and more on July 26 at the Vans Warped Tour at Montage Mountain, and the hut will be a fixture at the venue’s events.
Dedicated Twiddle fans Jacob Howard and Allie Mallutas, of Allentown, explored the festival grounds during their first experience at the Peach while they waited for their band to hit the stage.
“I also want to see Pigeons Playing Ping Pong,” Howard said. “I love those guys.”
Asked what she thought of the combination of a studded musical lineup and the infrastructure at Montage Mountain, Mallutas said, “That’s cool. We’ve been to a bunch of venues, but nothing like this.”
Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or on Twitter @RMatthewMattei.