Peach 2015: What A Long Strange Trip It’s Been
Peach Music Festival packed quite a wallop this year, a year otherwise known in the live music community as the 50th Anniversary of the Grateful Dead. From the Grammy Award winning Santana to Philadelphia-based jamtronica up-and-comers Tweed, the 2015 Peach lineup ran the gamut by any standard. Here’s a daily breakdown of some of the coolest things we saw at the Peach this year.
This year, for the very first time, Peach opened up the Peach Stage in addition to the Mushroom Stage for Thursday night’s performances. This meant both more music and bigger crowds. In particular, it meant two sets of Dark Star Orchestra on the festival’s main stage. The Mushroom Stage was as packed all day as it was for last year’s two Thursday night sets with George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic and Dopapod. The turnout for DSO, however, was truly impressive, and surely broke all previous Thursday attendance records by leaps and bounds. Deep Banana Blackout played the night’s final slot on the Mushroom Stage, laying down some seriously funky and dance-worthy instrumentals that served as a perfect end to the evening.
Friday’s collaborations were numerous and impressive. Kung Fu (a band which seemingly hasn’t missed a beat with the addition of new keyboardist Beau Sasser) invited the percussionist and trombonist of Deep Banana Blackout to join them for some high energy funk. Twiddle had the honor of sharing the stage with harmonica wizard John Popper of Blues Traveler. Warren Haynes and Jaimoe reunited with Gregg Allman during Allman’s set, performing “One Way Out” together (with a little extra something from the horns section of Allman’s newest project). Joe Russo’s Almost Dead very may well take the cake when it comes to Grateful Dead cover bands sans-Dead members. Take, for example, their set closer: an incredibly energetic “Uncle John’s Band” that permeated the lawn even when the speakers began to temporarily malfunction.
But the two most memorable sets, both on the Peach Stage, were the complete package, through and through. The first came in the early evening when Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue took to the stage with their spin on traditional New Orleans jazz. These guys don’t just play music. They live and breathe it. More than that, they give you an all-encompassing show. Not only does Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews play more instruments than one can count (including, during this set, the trombone, the trumpet, the tambourines, and the drums), but he sings like an angel, raps with the best of them, and boy oh boy can he dance. He was surely channeling Michael Jackson that evening, and the crowd absolutely loved every second of it. He is, without a doubt, one of the most talented all-around entertainers on the music scene right now.
The second most memorable set came from Australian Pink Floyd. More than one Peach-goer could be heard joking before the set about whether the band would sing with Australian accents. Well, they didn’t. In fact, they sounded almost exactly like the legendary musicians of Pink Floyd themselves. This set was the only set on the Peach Stage to incorporate lasers (just as one would expect out of an authentic Pink Floyd set). The lighting, the instrumentals, the vocals, the LED graphics, the entire performance was spot on. If you hear someone say that it’s the closest thing you’ll ever get to Pink Floyd nowadays, they aren’t lying. These guys are the real deal.
Saturday got started off right with New Orleans funk outfit Dumpstaphunk on the Mushroom Stage. The show featured the Steel City Horns for a few songs, and included the band’s signature double bass rendition of Led Zeppelin’s “Ramble On” to close the set. Bassist Clay Parnell, who is still recovering from surgery after breaking his wrist (and continuing to play in spite of it) earlier this summer, proved that pretty much nothing can stop him as he didn’t miss a beat during his performance with Philadelphia-based rockers American Babies. American Babies guitarist Tom Hamilton stepped up to the plate as well, performing with Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Billy & the Kids, and Billy & the Kids with Bob Weir in addition to American Babies. G. Love & Special Sauce kept that Philly feeling going with a fun early evening set. The brotherly love continued with improv-laden late night performances by two genre-defying Peach veterans. Dopapod (keyboardist Eli Winderman currently calls Philly home) took fans on a musical adventure complete with Pink Floyd teases and an appearance by Roosevelt Collier and his lap steel guitar. Philadelphia-based jamtronica giant Lotus packed the Mushroom Stage all the way to the lawn, luring in fans with an epic segue-filled set of heavy-hitters. The band closed with a “Flower Sermon” that could make the jaw of even the toughest critic drop.
The day’s schedule included numerous performances by musicians from the Allman Brothers Band and the Grateful Dead. Oteil & Roosevelt, led by Grammy-winning ABB bassist Oteil Burbridge and famed steel pedal guitarist Roosevelt Collier, featured singer Alfreda Gerald for numerous songs, and she covered Aretha Franklin in expert fashion. Billy & the Kids performed two sets, the second serving as a reunion for Bob Weir and Bill Kreutzmann. The set was the perfect opportunity to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Grateful Dead, and the band certainly didn’t disappoint.
Once again, two acts in particular stood out. First, Bruce Hornsby was the only musician throughout the festival to bring a baby grand piano to the stage for his performance with Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers. To top it off, Hornsby busted into a Vivaldi concerto during the band’s cover of “The Way It Is” (originally written and performed by Bruce Hornsby and the Range, and later covered by 2Pac under the name “Changes”). This was easily one of the most impressive sets of the entire festival.
The second stand-out act took place on the Mushroom Stage, with Butch Trucks & Friends. More than one fan could be heard after the fact saying that these guys did the Allman Brothers Band better than Gregg Allman himself had done the previous night (though that is, of course, debatable). They flawlessly covered “Midnight Rider,” “Blue Sky,” and many others, but their version of “Jessica” took the cake. If you’ve never heard “Jessica” with horns, you have to check out this version, which includes Peach veteran Bill Evans on saxophone.
Sunday may have featured the fewest performances, but it packed no less of a punch. The day began with Keller Williams’ Grateful Gospel, which featured an appearance by Bob Weir. Weir would return to the stage to perform a number of songs with the phenomenally talented Preservation Hall Jazz Band, a New Orleans standard with long-standing musical tradition. The band has the honor of being the longest-running group to appear at Peach festival this year (having started in 1963 and featuring multiple generations of musicians). It was only fitting that the first song to feature Weir was “Iko, Iko,” a New Orleans standard that has long been a part of Preservation Hall Jazz Band repertoire and was often covered by the Grateful Dead.
History and tradition continued to take the forefront with ten-time Grammy winning band Santana, led by legendary guitarist (and Grammy winner in his own right) Carlos Santana. Being that he is one of the greatest guitarists to have ever lived, it is only fitting that Carlos Santana and his band closed out the festival, and the band’s unique, Latin-infused world music vibe was the perfect end to a weekend of phenomenal music. During the set, Santana invited his son Salvador Santana to the stage to perform several of Salvador’s songs, revealing that talent surely runs in this family. Salvador’s piano skills are formidable, and his fusion of hip hop and world music with its message of positivity was both innovative and impressive.
Overall, the weekend provided top-notch music wide in style and deep in talent, covering the full spectrum of musical tastes. Peach HQ once again provided a noteworthy festival experience, one which left many a fan already looking forward to next year. And if this year’s success is any indication, the Peach will be here for many years to come. Congratulations on a job well done, Peach!
Photography by Eric Madar