Words by Marley Ghizzone, Photos by Alex Schettino
My “no experience” list is long and varied. Nestled among the outdoor wilderness section of the list was, before Mountain Jam, “camping” and just below that “attend a music festival.” In the way of firsts, Mountain Jam was a great first festival. It was full of energy and pure love of music but it wasn’t frenetic. From the tiniest of babies sporting gigantic headphones to groups of men and women older than my grandparents, the festival had a giant age range of people who just wanted to jam out to some music.
Getting there was probably one of my favorites parts. It was an easy drive, admittedly because I was in the passenger seat, and scenic as hell. I was being blown away by nature which slowly prepared me for the camping adventure ahead of me. Now this may shock you, but Mountain Jam – located on Hunter Mountain in New York – was on a mountain. So everything was on incline. I know, it’s crazy and wild. I was completely offended by the sheer incline of the mountain. How dare it make me walk uphill everywhere. But I quickly got over it because, well, there was nothing to do about it.
The cool thing was that we could hear the music from our camp. Because of the aforementioned full body workout received every time I walked up or down the mountain, I didn’t see every show. But I still got to hear the awesome rockage from my dope as hell campsite.
There was this really wacky British comedy, The Mighty Boosh, that my family and I used to watch all the time. It was weird and hilarious and full of short songs. My personal favorite was, “Captain Cabinet, trapped in cabinets, can he get out, will he get out, course he can.” Probably no one knows what I’m talking about and giving the screen the same glazed eyed look of confusion my friends gave me when I burst into song on our way to our first concert of the weekend. The band was Cabinet, my knowledge of them zero, but my zeal for this diddy strong. Cabinet was awesome and lived up to the song I paired it with. The six piece group from Eastern Pennsylvania are being credited with starting “slamgrass.” They play traditional bluegrass instruments but their music has elements of reggae, rock, and folk. Their set at Mountain Jam was fantastic. The audience was captured from the first note until the last tune faded out.
Train Plays Led Zeppelin II I didn’t actually see play, but I heard from my campsite while shoving hamburgers into my mouth. When I hear Train I think “Hey, Soul Sister” and “Drops of Jupiter.” I was definitely confused by their choice to play Led Zeppelin as well as their place among these folky jam bands and psychedelic rockers. Then they played and my jaw, that had been helping to chew up my burgers, dropped to the floor. Train was dope and did Led Zeppelin justice.
Thursday ended with Marco Benevento and Superhuman Happiness sandwiched between two Umphrey’s McGee performances. Marco Benevento’s tribute to David Bowie was excellent. He was a great performer and the whole show was fun. The Umphrey’s performances were a completely new experience for me. They had crazy long jams with one of the most wild light shows ever. I had to take breaks from it because I thought I was gonna pass out, but it was definitely worth it.
Friday I played Slap the Bag. For anyone who doesn’t know, the game consists of one person holding a bag of wine and another person slapping it as hard as they can and then drinking from the spout. This goes on and on and on until the bag is finished. It was the best worst decision as going forward the day had a pleasant wine glaze to it. Our goals for Friday’s lineup was Nahko and Medicine for The People (missed it for Slap the Bag,) Courtney Barnett, Jason Isbell, Wilco, Gov’t Mule, and The New Mastersounds. Unfortunately we missed Jason Isbell because of extreme hunger.
Courtney Barnett was perfect. She has such a unique sound that I was nervous if it would transfer to a live performance. I shouldn’t have been worried because she rocked. Wilco, Gov’t Mule, and The New Mastersounds all had varying styles and types of music but they were all the same in the quality of their performance. They all jammed out hard but it never felt aggressive or assaulting to the senses.
Going into Saturday, I was waiting for Houndmouth. If that was the only performance I saw all day, frankly all weekend, I would have been satisfied. I saw them live last year at The Stone Pony and it was one of the best shows of my life. I had gone into that show barely a fan. I knew a couple songs and was mostly going because my dad was super into them and had bought tickets. However I left that night, a megafan. Even with my disappointment over Katie Toupin, whose songs are probably my favorite, leaving the band, Houndmouth played an amazing show. They had a horn section for some songs and I almost died it was so perfect. The crowd was so pumped, singing along and jumping and swaying through every song. I honestly thought my night was over. I was content.
Then Beck happened. Here’s a little backstory though. I am a huge fan of Beyonce because, let’s be honest here, who the hell isn’t? When Beck beat out Beyonce for the best album at the 2015 Grammy’s I was pissed. I wrote Beck off from my anger at this clear injustice. Fast forward to Mountain Jam 2016, night three. Beck was fantastic, fabulous, enigmatic, full of flair and talent. His performance was so awesome; catchy, infectious, lively. Two songs in, I turned to my boyfriend and proclaimed, “I understand why he won the Grammy. I am no longer salty about this.” It felt momentous at the time.
The late night Lettuce show was intimate. It was held at the indoor stage and for die hard Lettuce fans, it was a crazy time. For me however, it was too hot, too dark, and too late. I bought a giant turkey leg by accident (long story) and sat in the cafeteria just outside the show listening to the music rush through the walls.
Sunday was rainy and there was a threat of a horrible thunderstorm heading our way. As we packed up camp and loaded our cars an alert went out that all the shows for the day were cancelled due to the storm and to evacuate the mountain. This was a pretty cool turn of events because by Sunday we were beat. Everyone I was with was fine giving up the Sunday performances to get home to dry clothes and soft beds.
It was one of the best weekends ever and the greatest introduction to festival life. From the scenic location on Hunter Mountain to the community vibes of all the festival goers, Mountain Jam was well worth the sore calves muscles.