After a lively internal debate as to whether I’d climb in a van with 10 friends and travel north to Hunter, N.Y., for final day of the Mountain Jam Festival, I heeded my own advice and decided an adventure was just what my Sunday afternoon needed.
The little village set up behind the side-by-side main stages featured typical fairground grub like gyros, funnel cakes and pizza, but it also included some hippy-leaning culinary treats like a vegan friendly stand and a gentleman who was selling Jerry Rolls, which is a deep fried salad posing as an egg roll that comes highly recommended by me. Sprinkled among the many food vendors were stands selling a variety of crunchy garb like bajas, patchwork and all sorts of tie-dye.
Needless to say, the crowd leaned heavily into jam band genre, but there were sprinkles of all walks of life grazing the side of the mountain. The main stage faced up the side of the mountain allowing attendees the opportunity to spread out and enjoy the day’s proceedings.
We arrived in time to see Dawes blow through a set that featured a number of songs from their new record Nothing Is Wrong that will hit shelves tomorrow. There is no doubt the four gents who make up Dawes can play the heck out of their instruments, but it is the true passion with which they do it that sets them apart from the rest of the herd.
After Dawes we stuck around to watch Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes whip the crowd into a feverish, dance circle frenzy. At times lead singer Alex Ebert and his female counterpart Jade Castrinos seemed out of step, but when they found their rhythm, like they did during crowd favorite “Home,” the audience went wild.
During the Preservation Hall Jazz Band set, our crew began to wander and eventually we stumbled upon one of the ski lifts that ran throughout the course of the festival. We proceeded to burn the rest of the afternoon riding the lift up and down the mountain. It provided breathtaking views of Hunter along with bird’s eye views of Preservation Hall Jazz Band, which included a vocal assist by My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, and an Americana inspired rock set by Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, who was the final act before the final headliner.
As we settled back down into the crowd, the excitement grew to the day's height as My Morning Jacket took the stage with the sun setting behind the crowd. The quartet opened with a trio of new songs off their latest album Circuital that included “Victory Dance,” the album’s title track, and “The Day Is Coming.”
They proceeded to play a slew of jams like “Off The Record,” “I’m Amazed” and the set closer “One Big Holiday.” It didn’t take long for Jim James and the band to return for an inspired encore that included three songs featuring the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.
As My Morning Jacket called the festival to an end with “Mahgeetah,” it became clear my friends and me that choosing to take a day-long adventure was worth it, especially when the payoff involves beautiful scenery, stimulating performances and a short trip home.