Four Nights and Three Nights of Utopia on Montage Mountain: Peach Festival 2015 Recap!

 Nights“Just a Reminder- I’ll be out of the office till Tuesday”
“Where are you going again?”
“A 4 day music festival; I’ll be camping.
“Is that some sort of hippie reunion, like Woodstock?
“I guess you could call it that.”
“Have fun. Be safe.”


This was an amusing conversation I had with my manager before Peach Festival 2015, my second time there. While I was somewhat disappointed that the Allman Brothers Band would not be there again, I consoled myself, knowing that 6/7 Allman Brothers (Gregg, Jaimoe, Butch, Warren, Oteil and Marc) and 2 members of the Grateful Dead (Bobby and Billy) would be there.
A week before the festival I got a message from Greg, one of my new GD50 friends, who recently contributed a Phish review to the blog. He asked for my address so he could send me a “Peach Fest gift”. The days between when he sent it and I received it I constantly thought about what the gift may be. I thought he may have sent some fresh Georgia peaches, when he said the gift would go bad if it didn’t arrive in a few days. To the contrary, it was a set of two USB drives with a ton of music from many of the bands playing at Peach and a few others.
Lots of Shakedown Street!

This picture was taken after Billy K sat down after everyone
 sung and clapped to “Not Fade Away” during his grand entrance!
Peach Festival 2015 carried the weight of the GD50 shows and was Grateful Dead heavy. I purchased Bill Kreutzmann’s new autobiography “Deal” and was able to listen to an insightful QA and get his signature. My one drawback was he did not provide an informative answer to my question about how he chose Trey Anastasio and John Mayer as guitarists for Fare Thee Well and Dead & Company respectively.
Dark Star Orchestra did 2 sets on Thursday night. Unfortunately, I missed most of the first one but the second one was solid. DSO is not just like any other Grateful Dead cover band; a few weeks ago they played their first Stadium show in Buffalo. Here’s “Bertha” from that show:
The second set started with “Estimated Prophet”! There were two additional GD50 flashbacks with a lot of audience vocal participation in the set-“Samson and Delilah” and “Terrapin Station.”
After the first song of the encore, “Johnny B Goode” the band announced it mimicked the April 27, 1977 Capitol Theater show.  I was excited to hear “Johnny B Goode” as it was one the Grateful Dead hits I didn’t hear in Chicago. We were than treated to two more songs- “Not Fade Away” and “Going Down the Road Feeling Bad.” It’s been a while since I’ve been to a show with 3 songs for an encore!
The next day, we heard from the other top Grateful Dead Cover band around- Joe Russo’s Almost Dead.  Drummer/singer Joe Russo led an improvised set that, which began with “Jam”. Despite some sound issues, in which we often could not hear the vocals on the lawn, the set was appealing. The two main highlights were “Let it Grow” with a “Song Remains the Same” tease and “Uncle Johns Band” (I’m a sucker for that song, I know).
Saturday evening we saw two sets with Bill Kruetzmann himself, the second with the help of his bandmate Bobby. Bill played Grateful Dead hits with a funky feel with his lead guitar, Tom Hamilton, who is also Almost Dead.  After “Scarlet Begonias”, Bill threw a curveball with “He’s Gone”, rather than the typical “Fire on the Mountain” follow-up. Later on in the set, “Eyes of the World” led into “The Wheel.” Bobby helped begin the second set as a guest teacher for Billy’s kids, playing “Feel Like a Stranger.”
Grateful Gospel with Keller Williams kicked off the festivities on Sunday afternoon. The played two of the same songs Billy and the Kids played the night before- “Feel like a Stranger” and “The Wheel” but in a peculiar gospel style. The band mixed in a few regular gospel tunes with the Grateful Dead songs. The pinnacle was “St. Stephen”, in which Keller Williams introduced the band’s members.”
Next up was the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, feat Bob Weir. To introduce Bobby, they played an instrumental” Not Fade Away”. Ben Jaffe, tuba player and upright bassist, and son of the band’s founders Allan and Sandra, said he is honored the original band opened up for The Grateful Dead at a 1969 Fillmore West show and welcomed Bobby to the stage. Bobby led the band on a jazzy  “Iko Iko”. Afterwards, the band played a Claptonesque Bluesy “Corinna, Corinna”. It was the first time I heard Bobby playing some slow-hand blues solos.
Allman Brothers Reunion

True to the festival’s name, the Allman Brothers were ever present with six out of seven Allman Brothers present at the festival. On Friday morning, Jaimoe did his typical talk with the official Allman Brothers biographer Alan Paul, who released One Way Outlast year. When Alan saw our t-shirts, he could not this photo of my roommates and I:

Jaimoes Jazzs Band with Jack Pearson
The previous two times I’ve seen Jaimoes Jazzs Band at Wanee and Peach last year, the band mostly did blues songs. This time it was a mix of Jazz and Blues. Ex-Allman Brother Jack Pearson, Derek Trucks’ predecessor came on as a guest for “Liz Reed.”

Warren Haynes was the next Allman Brother up to bat, playing with Railroad Earth. He mostly played new tunes off of his latest album Ashes and Dust, such as “Strange Tattoo”, “Stranded in Self Pity” and “Spots of Time.” Given the fact that he wrote this song with Phil Lesh, I thought there was a decent chance Joe Russo would come on for it; however, no cigar.  The band played a bi-folded “Blue Sky.” The first half of it was a bluegrass Railroad Earth style; the second half was the regular Allman Brothers “Blue Sky” that we all know and love.
After a short break, Gregg Allman’s Band took the Peach Stage. One should note that Gregg’s band also features ABB percussionist Marc Quinones. The set had a mix of classic Allman Brothers tunes, old blues songs and Gregg solo songs. “Hot Lanta” featured the band’s horns section. Gregg played “I Can’t be Satisfied”, a number off his 2011 Grammy Winning Low Country Blues Album, with Jack Pearson. There were several other ABB best hits like the blues standard “Stormy Monday”, “Aint Wastin’ Time No More” an acoustic “Melissa” and “Whipping Post”. It’s always pleasant when “Whipping Post” is played before the encore. Gregg’s buddies Jaimoe and Warren come on to end the show with “One Way Out.” While the encore was nice and illustrated the ABB’s jamming capabilities, the song choice was fairly predictable. A few weeks before, Jaimoe and Warren helped Gregg play “Southbound” as an encore at The Gathering of the Vibes.
Unfortunately, I missed Oteil Burbridge’s set so I could attend Billy’s signing; however, I did see him right afterwards as he is joined Butch Trucks and Very Special Friends. 
Before the set began, Butchie exclaimed ” Call up all off your friends and tell them to come on over!” 
4 ½ Allman Brothers were present on stage- Butch, Jaimoe, Oteil, Marc and Jack Pearson (I’ll count Jack as ½ since he was in the band before DerekJ).  Furthermore, frequent ABB guests Bruce Katz and Bill Evans were in the band. In contrast to Warren’s “Blue Sky” the night before, which started in a country style, Jack Pearson contributed vocals to a more or less regular version.  Lamar Williams took vocals on Gregg’s song “Stand Back.”

Other Music

So believe it or not, all of the music there was not all Grateful Dead and Allman Brothers related bands. One of the best parts of any music festival is the ability to explore unfamiliar bands that you wouldn’t necessarily pay to see otherwise. Trombone Shorty is a bit of a mutt from New Orleans. The band plays a mix of jazz, rock and funk. Australian Pink Floyd is a band I’ve seen in Boston before but seeing it outside with thousands of people dancing after dusk was a singular experience. The show ended with an extraordinary “Comfortable Numb” encore. I’ve always heard the name Willie Nelson before, but did not know much about him at all. He plays guitar and sings pretty dam well for an 82 year old! He played covers of “Georgia on my Mind”, a song I’ve only heard Clapton play before, and “Will the Circle be Unbroken”, a song the Allman Brothers played multiple times during its final Beacon run. Bill Evans was a guest. I got to go back stage for a few songs during Cabinet’s late night set Sunday. The Scranton-based band played a superb cover of “After Midnight”. Lotus’ electronic filled jams isn’t quiet my cup of tea, but It was fun feeling like I ,was quickly losing lives when I listened to its inspired music for a few minutes.

Australian Pink Floyd’s Lights for
“Another Brick in the Wall Part 2”
Dancing to “Will the Circle Be Unbroken”
with my new friend Camille 
Gifts and Souvenirs
Dancing Bear pillow on top of the
 Steal Your Face Tapestry I purchased at Peach 2014 

My friend Jesse, who I met at Peach 2014 gave me a Peach Festival pin. My buddy John, 1st time Peach attendee, brought me a little terrapin, which I named “Izzi”. A strange yet familiar face gave me a GD 50 sticker during Billy K’s set when he saw I was wearing my Fare thee Well t-shirt. I bought myself a peach painting and a Dancing Bear pillow. 
This Peach Painting was a bargain at $30:) 


It would be an exaggeration to say Peach Festival was 100% utopia this year. One women passed away in her tent early Sunday morning:
Several people brought their young children and dogs and did not properly take care of them. When my friend Adam and I got on the tractor to get from the shuttle bus to our camp site, we saw two toddlers running around, while their parents were looking the other way. I saw a picture on Facebook of a puppy tied to a person’s campsite while the owner went to party all day. I would not say pets and young children should not go to festivals necessarily, but the parents and owners should be more aware.

Despite such incidents, a large majority of people were amiable and accommodating. There is music for anyone’s interests that range from rock to jazz to blues to country. Overall, after attending Peach for two years, I definitely recommend it. As long as you pack relatively light and ideally take a wagon to drag your stuff from the car to the tractors up the mountain, the music is well worth it! The only reason I may not end up attending next year is I want to try Gathering of the Vibes.

Last but far from least, here’s a photo of my Peach 2015 crew (- a few folks) , made up of two of my roommates, two of our other Boston friends, a good friend from Peach 2014 and others 

Gregg Allman and The Doobie Brothers in Boston!

As Pat Simmons said himself, “Like Father, Like Son” 

The Doobies Brothers guitarist/singer Pat Simmons’s son Pat Simmons Jr. did a quick 1/2 hour set to start the night.

His set was honestly fairly lackluster, made up of acoustic songs with simple chord progressions. His father joined him for the last song, the Doobie Brothers hit  “Texas Lullaby”. It reminded me of a CSN show I saw at the Beacon two years ago, when David Crosby’s son Raymond joined the band.

Gregg played a similar set list with only a few changes. Just as in Peach, he opened up with “Statesboro Blues” into “I’m no Angel.” Later on he played the same chain of songs “Aint Wastin’ Time No More”, “Melissa”, “It’s Not my Cross to Bear”, “Midnight Rider”, “Love Like Kerosene” and “Whipping Post”. Gregg played guitar for about half the songs and had a nice voice, showing that he is in good health. Allman Brothers Band Marc Quinones had fewer toys than normal without his gong drum; however he did chime in with a lot of upbeats.

Gregg’s band gradually found more energy as the night went on. It was interesting seeing how his music director/lead guitarist Scott Sharrard differs from Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks. He played some slide like Derek, but mostly played faster paced, jangly solos and contributed vocals on “Soulshine” like Warren.

I do wish Gregg varied his set list a little more from his Peach Festival show. Part of the fun of a typical Allman Brothers show is you never know what the songs the band is going to play or who’s going to come on as a guest. This show was fairly predictable.

I went into the Doobie Brothers cold, not knowing any of the band’s music like when I saw Phish for the first time at Madison Square Garden in December 2013. Before both shows, I heard rumors that the bands were great, but walking into the venues, I could count more fingers on either of my hands than names of songs that the respective bands play.

As the set began with “Jesus is Just Alright”, I took a glance at the set lists of previous shows in the 2015 tour. I noticed the band was playing the same one each night. As I stated early in this post, I’m not a big of fan of a lack of variety in set lists; however, not knowing the band’s songs, it kind of worked in my favor as I was able to follow along.

Guy Allison on the Keys!

Many of the band’s greatest hits, including “Rockn’ Down the Highway”, “World Gone Crazy” and “Long Train Runnin'” featured vibrant, robust solos from the three guitarists Tom Johnston, Pat Simmons and John McFee.  John McFee mixed things up with his pedal steel guitar during “Neal’s Fandango”.  Later in the night things got funky with “Eyes of Silver” and people started dancing. Saxophonist Marc Russo moved around a lot and contributed some throbbing notes. I didn’t know the song “Black Water” by name at first but the words were definitely familiar. With all four vocalists lined up in front, the band reminded me of Crosby Stills and Nash. Everyone followed John McFee’s lead and chime in singing during the final “Listen to the Music” encore.

Marc Russo on Sax! 

Not knowing much about the band, I felt the Doobies Brothers is an eclectic mix of influences, like Crosby Stills and Nash with several vocalists, Lynyrd Skynyrd with three guitarists and the Allman Brothers with jamming.

 Like Tom Petty and Sir Paul McCartney, I’d say the band is an act everyone should see once in his or her lifetime, but not necessarily again. The first time I saw Sir Paul in 2009 at Citi Field, I absolutely loved hearing his stories and mix of Beatles, Wings and solo songs. When I heard him repeat almost entirely the same list and set of stories two years later at Yankee Stadium,  I was not all that impressed. Once you’ve heard the band play all of its major hits live, there’s not much more to hear.

Bow after the Encore; drum sticks and picks were thrown out

Thinking of You Jerry after 20 Years!

When Jerry died, I was precisely 5 years and 35 days old so I won’t try to say I was a dead head yet. However, since I went to my first Furthur show in 2010, I have been hooked to the Grateful Dead. Only in the last few months have I really got into Jerry’s solo stuff.

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I have been listening to the Jerry Garcia Band 1990 live album over and over again. Some highlights are ” The Way You Do The Things You Do”, “Deal” and a cover of “Dear Prudence”. I’ve seen Further  and Phil Lesh and Friends cover this song a few times, not knowing it was something Jerry did. 
One of my concert buddies Jordan shared with this acoustic show that he did with John Kahn at no other place than the Oregon State Prison! 
20 Years to date of Jerry’s death, we must commemorate his life. Love is Real, Not Fade Away! 

Hot off the Press: A Review of Warren Haynes’ new Ashes and Dust Album!

Blues, bluegrass, rock, soloing, and collaboration…. those are five words to describe Warren Haynes’ new album Ashes and Dust, which was released on July 24th, 2015. 
Warren plays with Railroad Earth and expresses a mix of Allman Brothers, Gov’t Mule, Warren Haynes solo band and other influences.
The album’s first song “Is it Me or You” begins with a bluegrass violin intro from Railroad Earth’s Tim Cabone, which leads into Warren’s Gov’t Mule-like rock vocals. To top it off, there’s a bit of ABB jamming in there!
Next up is “Coal Tattoo” with an intro from bassist Andrew Altman. The song is Ramblin’ Manesque: “just travelling around looking for a job”. Warren does his typical furious solos in the fills. 
“Company Man” is a biographical song about his father as a factory worker. Unlike John Lennon’s “Working Class Hero”, Warren does express much optimism about the Working Class; he was clearly excited to become a musician. 
“New Year’s Eve” is an optimistic song: ” Next Year’s going to be better.” I wouldn’t say its the best song of the album but its near and dear to me, having seen Warren at Gov’t Mule’s annual New Year’s Eve Beacon run twice, once featuring the likes of Robby Krieger as a guest.
My favorite song of the album is “Stranded in Self-Pity”. It’s ironic that a guy who has played 200+ shows at the Beacon repeatedly sings, “She’s in New York City and I’m stranded in self-pity.” 
Warren swaps styles again on “Glory Road”, which is somewhat James Tayloresque with a folkish bluegrass guitar intro and Americana lyrics. 
Another highlight is a cover of  Fleetwood Mac’s “Gold Dust Woman”, which features Grace Potter. Warren prepared this cover a few years ago however. I was at this Beacon show in 2012, when Grace Potter came out with the ABB to play the song. 
Warren as part of  “The Q” with Phil Lesh and Jimmy Herring 

There’s a sample of Warren’s days with Phil Lesh and Friends during “Spots of  Time”, a song he co-wrote with Phil. It features a intro from drummer Casey Harmon and a catchy beat that is reminiscent of “Eye of a Tiger”.  

The penultimate “Hallelujah Boulevard” starts slow with some world music but gradually escalates into Govt Mule style rock. To the contrary to the Grateful Dead’s ” I need a Miracle”, this song says “We don’t need a miracle.”
The final song ” Word on the Wind” includes a fair amount of soloing and is mostly redolent of Warren’s solo band. 
Ashes and Dust truly illustrates how Warren Haynes is a jack of all trades. You could hear Warren play blues, bluegrass, rock and even a bit of country, gospel and world music!  A few weeks ago, I saw Tedeschi Trucks step into the funky world with Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. While I am still obviously sad the Allman Brothers are no longer, I am happy to see that both guitarists are producing quality music of different genres. I look forward to seeing Warren Haynes play some of the songs live with Railroad Earth at the Peach Festival next week; expect a review on the blog soon!

Review of 8/1 Phish Show in Atlanta!

Below is a great review of the Phish show in Atlanta on Saturday, August 1st. It was written by Gregory Myrberg, one of my new friends from the Grateful Dead shows in Chicago. 

This is before the July 4th show. Gregory is wearing the blue shirt.
Long one, mostly for music phans. Here’s the 8/1/2015 Phish concert story and review. My first Phish show in 12 years (posting soon about the differences I heard) and it was terrific! I might not have gone if I hadn’t just seen Trey in Chicago. We had seen Phish in plenty of intimate settings and after 2003, at this same venue, said enough. They went their way and I went mine. Kept up marginally and have lots and lots of music but probably nothing in the last 10 years.The venue, Lakewood Amphitheater, is one of my least favorite–distant, somewhat dubious neighborhood, tricky parking. Also, at 19,000, it’s probably over my Fox-theater capacity limit. Got tickets through Cash or Trade three hours before the show and had to drive to Marietta (45 minutes each way, if lucky) and get back, which didn’t leave much time to get to the show. Frantic planning and poor map reading skills made it look like we would miss the opening. You know, you’re either on the bus or you’re off the bus, so we drove to a nearby MARTA station and took a short bus ride right to the entrance. Public transportation turned out to be easy. Arrived at show, didn’t hear any music and thought, things are continuing to look up. Quick entrance and a stop for water and beer. No sound yet. Found our seats, put our drinks down, the lights went out, and the band starting playing “Runaway Jim”, a favorite of ours and a nice way for the band to stretch out. Best . . . timing . . . ever.
The first set had a handful of familiar tunes and some that were either new or that I hadn’t remembered hearing them play before. All were excellent and the band was exactly as tight as you would expect four talented musicians who have played together (mostly) for thirty years to be. The sound was clear and the keyboards were up in the mix as they should have been, Page can really play, and it was nice to hear his high clear voice featured. Trey was fantastic, making me think, same musician, different music. Of course, there’s lots of differences in the jams, and it was entertaining to see him just go nutty several times. Mike laid down a huge bottom and honestly, it seems like Fishman has never missed it any time I have seen him.
Lots of highlights. First and foremost, was the 26+-minute version of “Tweezer” that began the second set, epic in every way. A song that I had to stop, and Steve Dolley will get this, ask about 19 minutes in, “Is this still Tweezer?” All-time version. I loved the nostalgic rush of the frantic “Run Like an Antelope” that closed Set 1. I’d heard “Carini” before, but I sure don’t remember it being a Black Sabbath/Led Zeppelin-pound-your-head-against-the-air kind of thing. I had never heard “Ocelot” before. Love this song—the story and lyrics are worth listening to and Trey, the Ocelot himself, played the begonias out of it. The “pop” songs “Heavy Things” and “Waste” had plenty of the melody and the catchiness that started moving more into Phish’s repertoire after “Billy Breathes”, a move I thought balanced the band’s appeal. The encore was the Velvet Underground’s “Rock and Roll’, from my favorite VU album “Loaded”, an album that had been covered in its entirety during one of Phish’s Halloween shows.
Getting home was just as easy, although someone tried to use a credit card on the bus and someone else had to be reminded that she was trying to use her driver’s license to pay. An offbeat path through downtown Atlanta to Decatur and a quick stop at Waffle House—oops, didn’t eat before the show—completed a grand evening.
Note: Nicely, the show was available online before I got home and was free with my ticket. Listening to it, it was just as good as I remembered. Paula, who loves music but seldom comments on it, said, “Wow, that was a pretty good set!” after listening to Set I. The set lists for the other shows on this tour look terrific and I’ll be just fine if this was the last show I see.

Gregory Myrberg's photo.