As Rain Falls and Fog Prevades, Influences Abound at Mountain Jam Day Two
Day two at Mountain Jam (June 5) was filled with reminders and remembrances of the originators of blues-inflected rock -- both the sonic explorations and complex interplay of the Allman Brothers and the swagger and sweat of Led Zeppelin.
Plant, of Zeppelin, headlined the main stage on Friday, and sang with a voice untarnished by the years since the legendary band's breakup. He played new, rearranged versions of Zeppelin's classic songs with an inspired vigor. "Whole Lotta Love" was a tempo-shifting trip, if probaly less of a workout than it was in 1970; "Fixin' to Die Blues," a cover of Bukka White's 1940 classic, felt as much like a meditation on death as an assertion of continued relevance.
Grace Potter, who played before Plant, drew from the same well -- highly physical stage moves; physically consuming vocals -- if her songs themselves took more cues from '80s acts like Scorpions and Nazareth than Zeppelin. Despite the debt her moves owe to trailblazers like Plant, she held her own, and held the dudes who stood on either side of us -- and maybe us, too -- in the palm of her hand.
To a large extent, the laid-back, accessible vibe that predominated day one continued yesterday. Both stages face the same gentle slope that festival-goers rest their backs against, as music crashes up and over them; it's so relatively easy to work your way up to the dancing, hippy-happy stagefront area.
And, gloriously, that's it -- no long walks from stage to stage, no sound from across the venue canceling out the band you're watching, no vibes spoiled by uncharted hinterlands crowded with vendors.
It's Gov't Mule, of course, most literally carries on the Allman legacy these days -- head Mule Warren Haynes was a longtime Allman guitarist before the band split up last year -- and their leisurely, late-night cover of Dark Side of the Moon was as much of a practiced salute to the Pink Floyd classic as it was a nice bedtime comedown. Literally every person we talked to at the festival mentioned how excited they were to catch "Dark Side of the Mule," and we've learned to trust Haynes, too. It didn't disappoint.
Since it was still, largely, not the weekend yet, most of the day the festival was populated by the die-hards. Festival-goers Sarah Bishop and Sarah Kluger were volunteering today, and early on, they were chilling on the hill, bemoaning the fact they weren't going to be able catch Grace Potter and Robert Plant. "We'll be right here from start to finish tomorrow," Kluger, who drove up from Montclair, N.J., said.
Gary Finch and Robert Lutz, a couple of young dudes from Orange County, N.Y., were camped out off to the side. They were decidedly not die-hards. "This is my first concert," Lutz said, sipping a Pepsi. He's here to see the Black Keys. "They have some good songs," he said.
Nikki Lane was an absolute festival highlight -- outlaw country rock with a Wanda Jackson sneer and rolling thunder guitars. Her sound paid more homage to Waylon and Willie than Duane and Jimmy. "Man Up," one of Lane's sharpest hooks, shone. It's a song she always announces as a kiss-off to her ex-husband. "Instead of hiring a lawyer, I wrote this song," she joked, before dropping the ring from her ring finger onto the stage floor and raising double birds.
Lane said the band is going into the studio -- Electric Lady in New York City -- to record her follow-up to the Dan Auerbach-produced All or Nothin' next week.
Trigger Hippy, the collaboration between Jackie Greene and Joan Osborne, excels at Allman Brothers-style blues rock, full of slide harmonies and Meters-y organ. They formed the soundtrack today's late-afternoon straggle-ins and softly falling rain. Lisa and Peter, a friendly couple from Manhattan who were sharing a rock high on the hill away from the stage, were in love. "They were really good," Peter said, looking up as the rain started falling in sheets.
Mother Hips were as much touched by the Allmans as the Grateful Dead -- especially the Bob Weir-distinctive blue-eyed boogie. "Been Lost Once," from 1995's Part-Timer Goes Full, turned from Tom Petty-meets-Weir classic rock to a crunchy guitar jam, eliciting raised craft beers from across the crowd.