Peach Artist Spotlight: The Triumvirate of Jam
Sensible Reason’s first Artist Spotlight for this year’s Peach Music Festival is dedicated to the headliners. Each year, the Peach has featured a killer host of headlining acts, and this year is no different. In fact, the festival may very well have outdone itself this year.
The Grateful Dead. The Allman Brothers Band. Phish. In that order, these three bands have revolutionized live music, and have created a world unto itself – nomadic communities comprised of members from far and wide who reunite on a fairly regular basis to follow the musicians who made these bands what they once were or continue to be. Each of these classic groups is represented in this year’s group of headliners, in a sense representing the long history of the music scene in which the Peach thrives. The headliner choice is fitting, given that the Allman Brothers Band will soon turn the corner toward the next stage of its life when it says goodbye to guitarists Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks at the end of the year.
Representing the Grateful Dead is, of course, Bob Weir, with his band RatDog. Today one can find an ever-increasing number of roving, music-loving “families” traveling the country in support of a wide array of bands, all have but one band to thank for initiating the development of this counter-cultural phenomenon, and that band is the Grateful Dead. The Family that grew up around the Dead is alive and kicking, always ready to follow the projects of the surviving members of its beloved band. As one would expect, Bob Weir & Ratdog figure prominently in this list of Dead-related bands, and as a result, the Family will no doubt show up in full force to support Weir and his band at the Peach this year. I can tell you that for a fact, because this isn’t the band’s first time around Peach’s block – Bob Weir & RatDog appeared at the festival last year for two sets, and Weir had his own solo acoustic set, dubbed Brunch with Bobby. Although he at times faltered over the three days he played, Weir met a wildly enthused fan base who seemed more than satisfied with all three of his sets. It’s been quite an active year for Mr. Weir, with a documentary on his life having come out earlier this year, the recent completion of a significant winter/spring tour, and a hefty summer schedule that has just gotten underway. If recent news from the road is any indication, he and RatDog are ready for action and will no doubt meet a reaction similar to the love he received last year. Check out a video of the band performing “China Cat” into “I Know You Rider” at the Peach last year below – Grace Potter joins them for the second number.
Representing the Allman Brothers Band is its current manifestation, which has existed since 1999 when guitarist Derek Trucks joined the band alongside his uncle, founding member Butch Trucks. The Peach will mark two of the final performances of Allman as we now know it, so the band’s performances this weekend will be particularly special. Given the band’s crucial role in the development of the “jam band” scene and the counterculture surrounding it, this milestone in ABB’s history is in essence a milestone for the entire music community. As a means of commemorating the end of an era, Allman will play the album Eat a Peach in its entirety on one of the two nights the band will play at the festival. The album contains on it the thirty-four minute instrumental “Mountain Jam,” a perfect embodiment of their jam-rock essence and a true testament to their deserved place among the jam band legends. And, given the extensive list of talented musicians who will appear at the Peach, it is safe to assume that we’ll see some fantastic guest appearances. In fact, if prior years are any indication, guest appearances may not be limited to those artists already performing at the festival – last year, Eric Krasno, guitarist of soulful jazz fusion trio Soulive and funk powerhouse Lettuce, showed up at the Peach with the sole purpose of joining ABB on stage (he was performing with Soulive that weekend at another festival nearby). Check out Krasno playing with ABB at last year’s Peach below. Given the circumstances, I can only imagine that Peach HQ and Allman will pull out all the stops to make these performances Allman’s most impressive Peach performances to date.
Finally, representing the newest addition to the godfathers of jam, Trey Anastasio of Phish will appear with his solo project, Trey Anastasio Band. Phish can be seen as a bridge between the original jam world of the Grateful Dead and Allman and today’s scene, in which electronics of varying kinds play a greater role. The so-called “livetronica” or “jamtronica” genre (admittedly vague categorizations that encompass a wide variety of musical acts and do not even begin to touch on the varied influences at play within each of those acts) will be heavily represented at the Peach this year. Arguably none of them would exist without the iconic quartet of Vermonters, a band identified by many livetronica acts as a major influence. And there is no Phish without Anastasio, who is credited with composing over half of the songs in the band’s catalogue. Yet Anastasio’s musical involvement goes far beyond his authoritative role in Phish, and he has driven a number of musical projects on his own, from rock and roll to classical symphonic work. His most considerable project outside of Phish has been his solo work with numerous additional musicians, known to fans as Trey Anastasio Band. In its current formation, the band includes Russ Lawton (drums), Tony Markellis (bass), Cyro Baptista (percussion), Ray Paczkowski (keys), Jennifer Hartswick (trumpet, vocals), Natalie Cressman (trombone, vocals), and newest addition James Casey (saxophones, vocals). This group of musicians backed Trey for a short thirteen-date winter tour this year, and saw a number of the performances sell out. The talent of Anastasio alone should be incentive enough to attract you to his set, but the musicians backing him up are nothing to scoff at. A quick rundown on a couple of them: Cressman has recently come out with a solo album that received glowing reviews by fans and fellow musicians (including Hartswick) alike; Hartswick shines whether with her own band or any other of the many rock, jazz, and gospel groups with which she has performed, and James Casey, until recently, played a prominent role in the Shady Horns, the funkier-than-thou brass section of Lettuce. This is a stellar group of musicians, and there simply is no excuse for missing them perform. For a taste of what you’ll see, take a peek at their cover of the Gorillas‘ “Clint Eastwood” a couple months back at Allman Brothers Band’s Florida music festival, Wanee.
You may be considering the possibility of single day passes, which the Peach, like a number of other festivals its size, offers. But if you want my opinion, get the full 4-day festival pass. You aren’t going to want to miss a single one of these headliners. And you won’t even have to miss work on Monday – the festival ends around 7 PM on Sunday night, giving you plenty of time to get home and rest up before your week begins, even if you live several hours away. As the well-known Nike ad goes: JUST DO IT.