The Peachiest of Peach 2014: Ten Reasons Why the Final ABB-Led Music Festival Rocked Our Socks Off
Last year, Sensible Reason provided you with a day-by-day blow-by-blow of all things Peach. This year, the sheer amount of excellence packed into Peach weekend makes such an approach…somewhat unfeasible. As it should be – the final festival ever to be held by the Allman Brothers Band deserves nothing less than nonstop, top-notch musical prowess and family entertainment. Peach managed to cram so much into one weekend that I missed more things that I had planned on seeing than I have at any other festival. Coming from a person who prides herself on catching as much of the music as possible, this is pretty impressive – my hat is off to you, Peach. Here are the top ten reasons why Peach 2014 hit the spot for us. (And, don’t you worry, ABB fanatics – the Allman Brothers Band will have an article to itself in the coming days, hence why you won’t find their performance spotlighted in this list).
10. We grooved at the Grove Stage with our favorite locals.
The Grove Stage hosted a number of local acts large and small. The schedule was packed and the Grove Stage a haul from the Mushroom Stage on the other side of the Resort so and I inevitably missed acts I very much wanted to catch; like Philadelphia-based American Babies, led by Tom Hamilton of Brothers Past. However, I did manage to catch four of the local acts playing at the Grove Stage, and the two that stood out most were Flightschool and Flux Capacitor.
Philadelphia local act Flightschool made its debut festival appearance at this year’s Peach, and had the crowd dancing with its classic rock vibes. A first festival performance in and of itself is a mile marker for any band. But to be able to say that the first festival you played was the very last Peach before Allman calls it quits? That will be one hell of a story to look back on. Many congratulations to the guys in Flightschool for a strong debut.
Flux Capacitor hails right from Scranton, and this threesome can generate a crowd. It was the biggest of the crowds I personally witnessed at the Grove Stage. It’s no surprise – their bass-free trio packs in quite a punch. Their cover of the Doors’ “L.A. Woman” was spot on, and though no one can ever replicate the great Jim Morrison, Flux Capacitor guitarist and vocalist Pete Specht did his memory justice. The band’s sans-bass setup is most appropriate for a Doors cover, and keys player Mike Specht held down the bass lines just as Ray once did. It was a wildly energetic end to a great set.
9. We got our mountain grass on.
Peach had its fill of bluegrass-infused music, but the one that always seems to get the Peach on its feet the fastest is Scranton favorite Cabinet. The band had a significant showing at both the Mushroom Stage and the Grove Stage, the Grove Stage crowd showing up even though heavy-hitter Big Gigantic played the exact same time slot on the opposite side of the Resort. They of course invited Ron Holloway to the stage during both performances, which is always a pleasure, and once again brought out their unique cover of Sublime’s “Garden Grove,” a song which perfectly suits the summer festival season. The dancing that ensued left no doubts as to why the band is asked back to the Peach year after year – their distinct blend of sounds appeals to fans varying in musical taste and age and it has allowed them to work up quite a diverse crowd.
8. There were some oh-so-Peachy sit-ins.
We already talked about Cabinet, but a number of other acts welcomed guests onto the stage as well, including Karl Denson’s appearance with Gov’t Mule. However, number 8 spotlights the Dead Set featuring drummer Joe Russo, guitarist Tom Hamilton, and guitarist Scott Metzger of Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, RatDog keyboardist Jeff Chimenti, and Tea Leaf Green bassist Reed Mathis. For this special set, which replaced RatDog after Bob Weir had to cancel all upcoming performances, the musicians welcomed Jackie Greene (of the Black Crowes and Trigger Hippy) to the stage for the majority of the set, along with Trigger Hippy’s Jackie Osborne and surprise guest Sarah Buxton (country singer) for a stellar and energetic performance of “Not Fade Away,” that featured the three guest musicians on vocals. The loving vibes shared by the trio onstage echoed passionately through the audience, in what was perhaps the emotional apex of the set for band and crowd alike. These guys more than made up for the absence of Bobby and his band, and it was an absolute treat to catch their performance.
7. It got dancy. Way dancy.
When it came to beat-driven dance music, the Peach certainly had your pick. From 8 PM onward, Peach became a dance party nightly, with stellar performances from acts big and small, from EDM to livetronica to electro-rock. Papadosio, BoomBox, Big Gigantic, the Werks and many others brought swarms of dancing fans to their respective stages. Three of these acts particularly stood out, and as two of them come up for other reasons later in the list, LA-based four-piece livetronica ensemble Particle comes in at lucky number 7. To say that Particle got screwed with their time slot is an understatement. They and The Werks played directly overlapping sets, and both bands’ sets overlapped with the majority of Trey Anastasio Band’s set and the beginning of the Allman Brothers Band’s performance of their 1971 album Eat A Peach, the festival’s namesake. I was therefore pleasantly surprised to see a sea of bobbing heads in the midst of Montage Mountain’s water park that night. After regrettably missing his special appearance with American Babies, I looked forward to seeing Brothers Past bassist Clay Parnell perform, who has been touring with Particle since the beginning of the year. It was my first time seeing him perform with the band and he certainly did not disappoint. His rich bass lines, along with the perfectly pitched, high energy synth of Steve Molitz and the quick, methodical beats of drummer Brandon Draper, created the perfect environment for a nonstop dance party. It seemed the crowd couldn’t tear itself away, even after Allman went into the first notes of “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More.” To keep a crowd going like that while competing for an audience with Trey and Allman is pretty damn impressive in my book.
6. We went to NOLA without ever leaving Scranton.
New Orleans is one of a handful of cities that simply cannot be matched, no matter were in the world you travel. The Big Easy holds a particularly special spot in the music community as a result of its unique and significant contributions to the world of music, and those contributions were certainly explored in Scranton this past weekend. At the Peach, we briefly forayed into the world of creole swamp blues with a selection or two from the Taj Majal Trio infused with a bit of NOLA jazz and zydeco influence, and the Revivalists brought some high energy N’awlins rock-and-roll. But Peach went full-fledged “Who Dat Nation” when the Soul Rebels took the stage on Sunday afternoon. This year, as in other years, many Peach attendees were tired from an action-packed weekend by Sunday and a large portion of the crowd in both the lawn and in the seats toward the back of the tented arena were seated. Saxophonist Erion Williams had a problem with this however, and asked the crowd “Can someone please tell me why all the people in the back are still sitting?” Trombonist Corey Peyton chimed in, calling the lack of enthusiasm “a damn shame,” and the two musicians, with the help of fans in the front who had been actively engaged in the show from the start of the set, called on the seated crowd to get up and dance. A decent number of them stood up as the band went into “Get On Up.” The lively ending had NOLA written all over it, and was a perfect finish to our quick trip to the Bayou State.
5. Non-stop funk parties kept the crowd engaged.
There was plenty funk to be had at the Peach, with several funk bands on the bill featuring front men with the uncanny ability to use stage presence like a grappling hook to pull in the crowd and keep them interacting with the music. Karl Denson led the way with the Greyboy Allstars, and David Shaw literally leapt into the crowd while singing during his performance with the Revivalists. But the most commanding funk presence of them all came early on in the weekend, during the Thursday night performance of the legendary George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic. Clinton, who along with James Brown and Sly Stone has been referred to as a leading innovator of the funk genre, clearly was the star of the night with his musical stories, theatrics, and calls for crowd involvement. Yet it wasn’t just Clinton – Parliament Funkadelic is an ensemble of no less than fifteen singers and instrumentalists, including his daughter, all of whom exuded the utmost enthusiasm while performing. One of the men in the band, dressed in white pants and a floor-length white fur coat, and a wide-brimmed white hat, at one point threw aside his coat to show off some acrobatic dancing, and later on scaled the speakers, launching into some dance moves from a headstand position once he reached the top. Clinton and his band had the crowd shouting and dancing for his entire two-hour set, in what may have been the greatest amount of crowd involvement the Peach saw this year.
4. We witnessed a praiseworthy live performance debut.
The live performance debut of any song off a new album, particularly for a band that prides itself on providing a unique musical experience at with performance, is a notable occurrence regardless of place and time. However, to do it during Peach 2014, the last to be headlined by its founding band, would make it all the more special. This is especially true when fans identify the song as the one they’d most like to hear. Even more so when one of the musicians in the band identifies it as the one song off the album he most looks forward to playing. Such was the case this past Saturday night when Lotus performed “Sunset of the Giant Dipper,” a heart-melting instrumental ballad off their new album Gilded Age (see what bassist Jesse Miller says about the new album here). Guitarist and keyboardist Luke Miller has a way of perfectly customizing a set list to bring up the energy to an explosive peak, only to follow it up with a beautifully emotional moment of musical bliss, and (more often than not) ending with an energetic punch. “Sunset” fits the bill flawlessly, and was the perfect emotional preamble to the sheer musical fire that the band unleashed with spirited rock anthem “Age of Inexperience” to close their set. It was without a doubt a debut to remember.
3. We got some down and dirty late night action.
All three of the late night acts at this year’s Peach generated huge crowds. With Lotus and Big Gigantic, such crowds are a foregone conclusion. However, the late-night act that most greatly and exceeded its own bar was the four-piece Berklee-born band Dopapod, which laid down a performance of epic proportions on Thursday night. The band opened with an awesomely nerdy introduction incorporating dialogue from the “Universe” episode of cult favorite Tim and Eric Awesome Show set to lights mimicking an interstellar skyscape. The musicians came out as the introductory dialogue concluded and launched into two and a half hours of music dripping with improv. Yes, two and a half straight hours of music. I did not catch every performance at Peach, but I know of no other band that played more than two hours. Dopapod also played later than any other band, remaining on the stage until 3:15 am. When Peach HQ attempted to end the quartet’s set around 3 am, the considerable and unrelenting crowd that remained booed boisterously until the powers that be bent and allowed Dopapod’s return to the stage, leading to a stellar “Onionhead” encore. As if they hadn’t given us enough with that exemplary display of musicianship, the guys got together with their friends from The Werks and made free pancakes for festival attendees on Saturday morning in the campgrounds while guitarist Rob Compa performed acoustic versions of classics like “Yellow Brick Road” and an “I Believe I Can Fly” duet with keyboardist Eli Winderman helping him out on vocals. Well done this weekend, guys. You sure do know how to keep your fans happy.
2. We learned that two is often better than one.
Focusing on silver linings can often help one move beyond a sad discovery, and adding a second set of Trey Anastasio Band was part of a dual silver lining that most assuredly made up for Bob Weir’s unexpected absence from the festival. Though I am an avid Phish fan, I had not gotten a chance to see TAB prior to Peach. I also unfortunately missed their first performance at Peach, a set which some fans deemed underwhelming. However, I’d call their performance on Saturday night anything but underwhelming, and it made me wish I had caught a live performance sooner. Their classic cover of “Clint Eastwood” by the Gorillaz accentuated by the sultry voice of Jennifer Hartswick was beyond funky and had the crowd singing along with gusto. And you know what else? I now have a dream. I have a dream that Phish will one day welcome horns to sit in with them. Because TAB’s brassed-out version of “First Tube” to close out their second performance has completely changed the way I see that song. Normally an energetic song, the horns take it to a whole other level, particularly in terms of live performance. There’s just something about a good horn section that can really bring out the energy in any song. It’s probably an unrealistic pipe dream, but the craving will remain unsatisfied in the back of my mind until the day Phish brings some funky guest horn action to the stage.
1. It was a family affair for all involved.
Hands down the best performance of the festival also happened to most adeptly reflect the festival’s greatest attribute – it was all about family. Festival-goers often bring their children to the Peach or travel with family, and much like them, Victor Wooten brought along his kin as well. Wooten and his band not only put on the best musical display of Peach 2014, but perhaps the greatest showcase of musical talent I have ever seen, and did so while embodying the very core of the Peach. Victor melted faces with his Grammy-winning bass skills – that much was to be expected. But how about when he and his older brother, guitarist Reggie Wooten, stood face-to-face with instruments pointing upward as they expertly played on each others’ strings? Or when he invited his daughters of sixteen and eleven to join him on stage for a couple songs, which they sung in perfect pitch? Wooten had a regular family band up there on stage. The only difference with his family being that they have a ridiculously greater amount of musical talent than the average family. Hell, I’d put money on the claim that the Wooten family even has more musical talent than most musically-bent families out there. He later made his set a local “family” affair when he invited fifteen-year-old Philadelphian and attendee of one of Wooten’s music camps in Tennessee, Dylan Reese, to show off some of his moves, and Reese surely made his instructor proud. About young Dylan, Wooten said after the performance “I think there’s something in the water in Philly.” Damn right there is, Victor. And, for the record, it’s pronounced “wooder.” But you’ve won five Grammy awards, so we’ll let you slide. There’s a lot of local love at Peach, and a lot of family love, and Wooten had it all that Friday afternoon.
Family. Music. Love. It’s what the Peach has always been about, and this year was surely no exception. Many thanks go out to each and every one of the bands, as well as LiveNation and the dedicated staff at Peach HQ, for all of their hard work. Stay tuned for coverage of the Allman Brothers Band’s performances coming soon. Gregg DID say that he’d see us again, and so I say – until next year, Peach Fam.
All pictures used in this article were taken by Sensible Reason photographer Eric Madar, who, like writer Ali Kramen, returned to the Peach to cover the festival for Sensible Reason for a second consecutive year. Stay tuned to Sensible Reason’s Facebook page for the release of a complete album of his full-sized images from the weekend, coming soon!