The 10 Best Things We Saw at Mountain Jam: Day Three
Another year of Mountain Jam is in the books, and it went by in a flash. It was interesting to talk to the festival attendees who we ran across. (We heard about at least one person who had come from as far away as Tasmania.) There were occasional showers, but for the most part, the weather held together remarkably well – especially when you consider that at times, the advance forecasts were calling for thunderstorms and long periods of rain.
That never really came to pass and the entire weekend of scheduled entertainment ran on time with no weather-related delays. You can’t ask for much more than that, right? Today was Father’s Day and plenty of dads thought that Mountain Jam would be a good way to celebrate their special day. We chuckled over a Grateful Dead-themed “Grateful Dad” t-shirt that we saw early in the day. Here are 10 things that we enjoyed on the third and final day of Mountain Jam.
Peter Frampton Remembers Chris Cornell
Peter Frampton paid tribute to longtime friend Chris Cornell during his Mountain Jam set, playing an appropriately guitar-heavy rendition of Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun,” which Frampton also covered on his 2006 Fingerprints album. “We’ve been doing this song for a few years now, because I like it a lot,” he told the crowd. “The singer that wrote this song was a friend of mine and we lost him recently, Mr. Chris Cornell. I dedicate this to him and his family.” Recast in that light, Frampton’s version – both musically and visually, as we watched his expression while he played it – felt like a reverent tribute. Especially touching was when Frampton lifted his picking hand high in the air in the sections between the instrumental “verses.”
Strings and Things
Infamous Stringdusters are one of those bands that live up to their name: There was hardly a stringed instrument that they didn’t touch as they worked their way through a one-hour set that kicked off Sunday’s lineup on the Mountain Stage. The Charlottesville-bred band is touring in support of their latest album, Laws of Gravity, which was released in January. Surprisingly, similar to Friday night headliners String Cheese Incident, this was also the debut Mountain Jam performance for the group. “It’s truly an honor to be here. We’ve wanted to be on this stage for a long time,” bassist Travis Book told the crowd. Providing a mellow start to the day, one of the major highlights of their set was their version of “Highwayman” by the Highwaymen. Staying true to the original, in a way that would have made Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson and Johnny Cash proud, they each sang a different verse.
Let’s Tauk About This
The members of Tauk are described as “heavy NYC dirty funk.” While they might have had one of the better festival commutes, that was just this time around: They keep a pretty heavy work schedule, playing more than 100 dates per year. The bulk of the band members first began working together in junior high, and that long history has served the group well. They played with incredible precision, locked tight in a groove with each other at all times. It was really something to watch the musical interplay within the members of the band; the synthesizers played by keyboardist “A.C.” Carter added a futuristic tint to their sound.
The Clean Plate Club
It was an interesting moment when we dropped into catering to have some lunch, where we had our choice of an eggplant parmesan sandwich or a sausage sandwich. We grabbed the eggplant parm. The guy behind us, however, said: “Can I have both?” “You can choose one,” was the reply. “But if you finish everything on your plate, you can have more.” Just when you think you’ve left home and you’re living on your own, this happens.
Michael Franti Brings All of the Good Vibes
Michael Franti kept busy this year at Mountain Jam. The morning of his set, he was on site to lead a yoga session. Later in the afternoon, he was on the Mountain Stage, to spread a massive dosage of good vibes, sprinkled out across his 75-minute set. Three songs into his set, he pulled a young girl out of the crowd to help him sing “The Sound of Sunshine,” helping her work through her initial nerves and saying, “She’s really good, y’all!” By the end of the song, Sabrina Smith had found the confidence and was singing the song with power, conviction and excitement. Never mind that she didn’t have the “best” voice: Everybody has to start somewhere, right? This was Franti’s 12th appearance at Mountain Jam and, though he was slotted on the main stage, he spent very little time on it. Quickly making his way out into the crowd, it was obvious how much he enjoys removing the barrier between the artist and the fans. Franti praised the family vibes that are created at Mountain Jam. “You can walk up to a complete stranger and say, ‘Excuse me, can you come hold this flashlight? I dropped my phone in the Porta-Potty. And you know that they would do it. That’s family,” Franti quipped.
Lukas Nelson Made All of the Promises Real
Lukas Nelson – yes, son of Willie Nelson – has been pretty busy in recent years, working with his band, Promise of the Real, touring and recording with Neil Young. With Neil focused on other projects presently, Nelson and the band have returned to the road to play and promote their own music. At Mountain Jam, they came out swinging with “Ain’t Gonna Die Alone,” a rollicking roots rocker which quickly revealed how much Nelson and Promise of the Real have progressed as a band, thanks to heavy road work, both on their own and with Young. Watching Nelson, it’s not hard to see that some of the road-dog tendencies and mannerisms of his famous father have rubbed off, but he’s an incredible talent on his own – no matter whose name is listed as his father on the birth certificate. One can hope that his own career will stretch similarly for decades and huge stacks of albums. The performance from Nelson and Promise of the Real was unquestionably a major highlight of Sunday’s Mountain Jam lineup.
We Ate the World’s Best Sundae
When you see something branded as the “Undisputed World’s Best Sundae,” you’ve got to try it eventually, right? We were curious to sample the offerings being peddled by the Avon, Connecticut-based company of the same name. Of course, we asked, "What exactly is it that makes this the world’s best sundae?" Realizing how many times they've probably gotten this question, you can imagine the reception we got. They smiled and said simply, “You’ll find out.” It might be a bit of an exaggeration to say that the sundae that we got was made up of 98 percent hot fudge -- but there was certainly a lot of it. They topped it with “100 percent whipped cream,” and after we ate the whole thing – which also had some maraschino cherries on top – we were certainly 100 percent satisfied.
Andy Frasco and the U.N. Come Back Around
Mountain Jam founder Gary Chetkof came out at the conclusion of Peter Frampton’s set and announced a special surprise: The return of Andy Frasco and the U.N., which as you might recall, was one of our favorite moments from the first day of Mountain Jam. “Once in a while, a band plays Mountain Jam that no one’s ever heard of and they blow everybody away,” Chetkof said, adding that they had to coax Frasco and the band – who went to Delaware on Saturday to play the Firefly Festival – back to play another set at Mountain Jam. He revealed that Frasco has already been booked for next year’s fest. It was a welcome encore for Andy Frasco and the U.N., but it also became their fourth performance – following two sets and a private VIP set on Friday. Under normal circumstances, something like that might start to get a bit annoying, but the infinitely quotable Frasco was an unpredictable force each and every time that he took the stage this weekend. Sunday’s highlights? Frasco was dancing with a bottle of alcohol as he led a toast to the Mountain Jam crowd. Things didn’t end well: “I just burned my eyeballs with whiskey. It hurts like s---!” Also, his announcement that they were going to “Allman Brothers the f--- out of this song,” as they were in the midst of playing “Pay To See You Smile” with guest guitarist Lukas Nelson. We can’t wait to see what they’ll have up their sleeves next year.
Two Guitar Gods Jam The Blues
On paper, it was pretty clear that the combination of classic-rock heavyweights Peter Frampton and Steve Miller Band would be a great pairing. But they took things to the next level on Sunday evening. Miller was a half hour into his headlining set at Mountain Jam when he announced that he was going to bring out Frampton to jam. The pair dug into a double shot of blues covers – “Stranger Blues” by Elmore James and Howlin’ Wolf’s “Who’s Been Talkin’.” (Miller has recorded studio versions of both songs previously: "Stranger Blues" was on 1993's Wide River album and "Who's Been Talkin'" is on 2010's Bingo!.) As Miller shared, he and Frampton have a lot of history together; he recalled how they toured together in the ‘70s, eventually playing football stadiums. Although not entirely spontaneous, it was a cool moment and it would be great if more of the package tours took advantage of the opportunities to do something similar, giving the fans more of these once-in-a-lifetime type of experiences.
We Saw A Lot of Live Music This Weekend
One of the coolest things about the Mountain Jam experience is the way scheduling is handled so that the two main performance spots – the Valley Stage and the Mountain Stage – don’t have any overlap. As a result, there aren’t tough choices forcing you to skip one or the other: You can simply see them all. Also, since the stages are side by side, it makes it easy to go back and forth. We managed to pack in seeing close to 30 bands this weekend, and it was an exhilarating experience.
Mountain Jam 2017 in Pictures