The first act that really struck me was, of course, Burlington, VT’s own, RAQ. They’ve really come into their own by heavily touring and playing together on stage all the time. Some of their songs cause you to pump your fist and chant anthem-like lyrics while others just make you groove. You can really hear that they mesh well and have a lot of fun bringing the funk as was most apparent in their afternoon set of music. I hung around the stage area because, after all, I was here to cover the music and was thoroughly blown away by The New Orleans Social Club, a band made up of New Orleans musicians (obviously) including members of The Meters and The Neville Brothers. They too brought the funk. I was now officially ready for some rock. And by rock I mean ROCK, not just rock. Mule was the antidote. They opened their first set with “Creep” the now classic Radiohead song that you just love to hear as long as it’s not everyday like it was in ’94. I turned to my buddy at some point during “32/20 Blues” and said, “I want my Thorazine,” which was, I can honestly say, a reference to the song. My wish was soon granted. The song “Banks of the Deep End” which Warren wrote with Mike Gordon about the death of bassist Allen Woody was a beautiful change of pace before the set continued with “Unring the Bell” in which I believe I heard a foreshadowing of things to come with that distinctive riff from “Shakedown Street” stuffed in there somewhere. The set closed out with a staple of any Gov’t Mule show, “Blind Man in the Dark”. This is how I would describe the scene at the late-night RAQ show in the lodge; crazy. This was a moment in time that you have to have experienced to fully understand what was happening because words cannot do justice to something this profound. The glowsticks were flying and the air was buzzing with energy. It was the kind of thing I live for. We stayed up all night exploring the campground and the next day discovered a swimming hole way up on a trail. There was a beautiful waterfall and the scene was very peaceful. Earlier security had warned us about bears but I thought they were just trying to see what we were doing. I guess it must have been a little bit of both because they did sneak up on us but there actually were multiple bear sightings throughout the weekend. I left my friends at the swimming hole and ran down the mountain to see Assembly of Dust. They played roughly an hour set which left me wanting more. Reid Genaur’s lyrical prowess is unparalleled in music today. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I stuck around for U-Melt which is a band I’ve been seeing on and off since I heard them play off Shakedown Street in Coventry at the last Phish show. These guys are getting better and better and nobody deserves success more. I actually got a chance to meet these people at a festival near Ithaca and they couldn’t have been more personable. Some of their jams build and build to the point of pure unruly bliss. I wanted to talk to the boys after the show but I ended up fleeing to my tent for cover before it ended. I ventured back for Umphrey’s McGee and ya know what? They have always impressed me. Their style is eclectic and their musicianship is impeccable. These guys are truly professional. I stuck out the rain for Ump as they played some of my favorite songs the highlight for me being “Jimmy Stewart” which seemed to pop up the middle of a multi song sandwich of sorts with “Jimmy Stewart” being the pickle, dig? The set ended too early once again with “Mulche’s Odyssey” going into the Zep classic “Immigrant Song”. I guess there was a lightning threat. I didn’t really see it. Micheal Franti came out with Mule for the first song and did a little freestyle in there which was cool but what I liked better was the beautiful “Soulshine” that followed and the ever so appropriate Allman Bros. song “Mountain Jam” that followed sometime after. At one point the sax and trumpet players from Ozomatli joined Mule onstage and added their flavor. I felt like a jackass for missing their set but I’m only one man damnit! The encore for Mule’s second show was a four song epic that included their second Rolling Stone’s song of the day, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” (Wild Horses” was the first. I thought there was nothing that could top the late-night RAQ show but I was wrong. Tea Leaf Green brought the house down from about 1am until 3:30am maybe 4 but either way it was glorious. They covered one of my favorite songs of all time “I’m Waitin’ for my Man” by the Velvet Underground. The climaxes in some of these guys’ jams were better than sex. I’m serious. Day 3. This is what we’d all been waiting for. The festival would culminate with the legendary Bassist from the Grateful Dead, but first… Robert Randolph and the Family Band always bring a stellar high energy show that leaves you feeling good about yourself for having seen it, much like Micheal Franti. Randolph brought three guest guitar players onstage for something of a “jam off” which I thought was a good idea except for the fact that I wasn’t one the guitarists. One the guys got to stay and play with the band for the set closer before a 3 song encore ending with a sick instrumental cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times Bad Times”. Every time I see Micheal Franti and Spearhead I feel like a I learned something and became a better person simply for having been there. This feeling generally wears off after an hour or two and I change back into the shady journalist I was before… With a background of a giant hand giving a peace sign before a target riddled with bullet holes Franti delivered his message of peace and unity through song and a strange man dancing with a vase of flowers. His politically charged songs serve to be somewhat of a rallying cry for a new peaceful revolution. I was touched by his delivery that some may find borders on cheesy. My personal highlights of this show were Warren joining in at one point and the Sublime song “What I Got” that included a little Sesame Street song. You really had to be there. When Phil took the stage he warded of the rain so everybody could get down. And everyone did when he opened with “Shakedown Street” It was the perfect way to start out what would be one of the greatest sets of music I have ever seen. “Althea” “Candyman” “Eyes of the World”; all brilliant. For an old man Phil Lesh certainly can still play and since Joan Osbourne wasn’t there he had to sing quite a bit too which delighted the hell out me because I love to hear Phil’s take on my favorite Dead tunes. Everyone sang along for “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” followed by “Lovelight” and everyone listened to Phil’s story that he tells near the end of all his shows of how he would not be alive today if it hadn’t been for an organ donor. “Not Fade Away” concluded a magical evening and weekend. After that, everything got even more wet than it already was. My shoes were cakes of red clay mud and I couldn’t wait to get home shower, eat, and sleep for a week.
- review by Andrew Place
- check out Tammy Wetzel's Mountain Jam photo gallery