The sprawling, dexterous, and vibrant guitar interplay on “Mountain Jam” was the centerpiece of the Allman Brothers Band’s 1972 opus, Eat a Peach. Those same adjectives could easily be applied to the third annual concert festival bearing the song’s name. Sponsored by WDST and Gov’t Mule virtuoso latter-day Allman Brothers guitarist Warren Haynes, the musical conclave will be hosted for the third year at Hunter Mountain June 1 through June 3.
Ensconced in a natural amphitheater framed by the Catskill Mountains, the festival’s two stages will again feature an accomplished, eclectic array of artists, including Gov’t Mule, the New Orleans Social Club, G. Love and Special Sauce, Robert Randolph and the Family Band, and Michael Franti and Spearhead.
Conceived in 2005 to celebrate WDST’s 25th anniversary, Mountain Jam has evolved from a single-day event into a weekend community of bands, artisans, and music lovers. Since it’s positioned one week after Memorial Day, WDST’s president and general manager, Gary Chetkof, views the festival as both a gateway to the outdoor concert season and a return to the fundamental spirit of live music. “There is something to be said about going back to the elementary roots of live entertainment and spending the weekend in a communal environment,” he says, “where it’s a new reality in that you forget your problems, go away, meet new friends, and get away from your computer screen and the BlackBerry.” Contrasting the event with the experience of seeing a band in a nightclub, Chetkof adds that the more than 20 bands acts appearing at Mountain Jam have greater leeway in terms of their set times.
Every year, Haynes and WDST carefully select the festival lineup and this year they had some help. More than 200 bands submitted demos for the Join the Jam contest. A panel of judges, including Anthony DeCurtis of Rolling Stone, Allaire Studios Manager Mark McKenna, and WDST Music Director Dave Doud, whittled that number down to 15. From there, listeners are invited to visit the station’s website to cast their votes for the five competing acts they would like to see at the festival. The Bearsville Theater will host a battle of the bands event on May 12, from which one local and one national act will each emerge with a slot for the Mountain Jam stage. (Doud admitted to a couple personal early favorites, prior to the May 12 battle, including Frankie and His Fingers and the Meg Johnson Band.)
Despite inclement weather at last year’s event, 2,000 people camped out at the festival, and the number is expected to be double that this year. Festival amenities also include an array of food and craft vendors, a children’s tent with entertainment by Uncle Rock, and a climbing wall.
Getting in tune with the Zeitgeist, the organizers have made environmental responsibility a central theme of the festival. Community Energy, Inc., a marketer of wind power, is donating wind energy credits to pay for the festival’s power usage. Advocacy organization Rock the Earth will also be on hand to offer advice on implementing environmentally sustainable lifestyles. “At Mountain Jam, we are doing everything we can to reduce waste and emissions,” says Gov’t Mule’s Warren Haynes.
WDST’s Mountain Jam take place June 1 through 3 on Hunter Mountain. One-day and multiple-day passes (with camping) are available. www.mountainjamfest.com.