Review and photographs by Stanley Johnson
Another night of little sleep (I couldn’t make it to Pretty Lights’ late night set) saw early Sunday morning and, for me, a must-see set with Sean Rowe. A Nippertown favorite, Rowe made a big impression with the early risers, especially following terrific versions of Springsteen’s “The River” and Richard Thompson’s “Vincent Black Lightning 1952.”
Anders Osborne, whom I remember from a Second Wind show years back in Schenectady, was next. His jamming set began with reggae and travelled through Dead-inspired jams, even mentioning “A Touch Of Grey” in his song “Wind Is Gone.” Osborne’s band included keyboardist Marco Benevento, who contributed to the funky rhythm. A touch of “I’ve Got a Feeling” was perhaps a nod to things to come later that afternoon.
Next I heard a reading by Galadrielle Allman from “Please Be With Me,” her book about trying to know and understand her father, Duane Allman, who died when she was just two years old. This is my favorite of many rock-related biographies and autobiographies that have appeared in recent years and a moving search for her father through his music and family. Galadrielle is an excellent writer, and I’m looking forward to whatever comes next from her.
I would have stayed for the autograph session, but I wanted to see some of the Chris Robinson Brotherhood, who were cooking on the main stage. The set by the solo Black Crowe included a memorable “Rosealee.”
Next to Galadrielle, the most anticipated new artist of the weekend for me was The Ghost Of A Saber Tooth Tiger. I had seen Sean Lennon at The Egg several years ago, and I knew of his capacity to surprise. This young, new band layered celestial harmonies on top of a solid, heavy bedrock.
Lennon told the crowd the band was looking forward to seeing the ABB because, “We are fans,” he said, “especially Derek Trucks, who really knows how to shred.” Lennon knows something about the guitar. His solos brought to mind both Frank and Dweezil Zappa.
If Lennon’s appearance and vocals brought to mind his father, then his mother also was recalled when he got down on his knees to twist and turn the volume knobs of his foot-pedals, producing sounds not unlike those she is known for. Also, thankfully, no one onstage or in the audience mentioned the “B” word or his dad’s name. In fact, whether or not some crowd members realized who he was, the audience reaction was very enthusiastic. “This is the biggest crowd we’ve ever played for,” Lennon said. I’ve got a feeling it won’t be the last…
Michael Franti, next to the Mule the performer with the most Mountain Jam appearances, wasted no time in getting the crowd dancing with a cover of Sly Stone’s “It’s a Family Affair,” which clearly was the theme of the festival this year. Franti’s hit “Sound of the Sunshine” never sounded so appropriate. Known for his walks through the crowd, Franti went all the way to the top of the festival seating while Spearhead kept rocking on the stage as beach balls bounced everywhere.
Lucius, featuring blonde twin sisters from Brooklyn, brought bright pop vocals, tight arrangements and a dual keyboard attack in an unlikely, but effective, warm-up to the weekend’s final band.
The Allman Brothers Band took the stage for their final upstate New York performance as the sun dipped low behind the mountains. They played every song from their first two albums, although not in order. I’ve heard them do all of these songs many times before, but standout versions this evening include Allman’s mournful vocals on “Please Call Home,” a version of “Hoochie Coochie Man” that started out like Muddy Waters did but then exploded into the Berry Oakley arrangement. Also notable were extended takes on “Leave My Blues at Home” and “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.” In fact, most songs were extended, since listening to both original albums takes less than 80 minutes and this was a two and a half hour set.
The highlight of the evening, and maybe the whole festival, had to be Derek Truck’s astonishing, long solo on “Dreams.” Perhaps inspired, perhaps challenged, Warren Haynes’ firey solo on “Whipping Post” propelled the band headlong into the song’s thrilling climax, with Butch Truck’s tympanies roaring above all. Following a encore of the first song on the band’s third album, “Statesboro Blues,” it was over.
I gathered my things and slowly walked to the shuttle bus, listening to the recorded sound of Duane and Dickey Betts playing “Little Martha” for the final time…