Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats & Beck Highlight Saturday at Mountain Jam (FESTIVAL RECAP)

Although most of Sunday at Mountain Jam was cancelled due to hostile weather, Saturday at Hunter Mountain had its share of memorable moments.

After Gary Clark Jr. was a late cancellation due to a family emergency, Warren Haynes filled in with an impromptu acoustic set on Saturday afternoon.  Last year, Gov’t Mule played in the afternoon after their “Dark Side Of The Mule” set, so Warren is no stranger to these type of performances.  He began with some tunes from his latest solo album Ashes And Dust, recorded with Railroad Earth. “Spots of Time” was particularly interesting to hear without a band behind him.  “It Hurts Me Too,” long a staple of Warren’s solo sets, allowed him to jam on some blues.  George Harrison’s “Give Me Love” was a nice surprise as was the fact that “Beautifully Broken” didn’t include i’s usual “When Doves Cry” coda.  The Mule were playing it in Europe and it obviously feels particularly fitting after Prince’s passing.  However, he did cover David Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel” the night before in a reggae incarnation.  His long-standing cover of  “To Lay Me Down” was clearly based on the Cowboy Junkies version from 1991’s Deadicated. “Patchwork Quilt” was a crowd favorite as everyone understood who the song was about even though Jerry Garcia’s name is never uttered.  The set also included a cover of U2’s “One,” which had Warren’s wife, Stef, raising her hands in joy on the side of the stage.

In their first of two performances for the day, veteran virtuoso funk band Lettuce brought a heavy dose of energy to the slopeside festival goers and had everyone — including the non-stop stream of festival goers coming in for the headline acts — focused on the Valley Stage. This band plays bass-driven instrumentals and they’ll able to perform generally without vocals for long periods of time because they are just flat out tight. Every member of this band is an individual powerhouse and when you put it all together, the end result transports you straight to the mountain top, no lift required.

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Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats

After an introduction from an NPR DJ, which billed them as the most popular artist in a recent listener poll, Rateliff revealed that his tour bus broke down twice en route to Hunter Mountain.  Then they launched into their own brand of southern soul, complete with dual horns and James Brown dance moves from Rateliff.  These guys reminded this reviewer of Vintage Trouble.  The Night Sweats changed the pace of their set from gospel tent revival to slow blues.  Although their cover of The Band’s “The Shape I’m In” which flowed out of their hit “S.O.B,” was nothing new for them, it held special resonance at Mountain Jam.  It was after Levon Helm’s passing that his Midnight Ramble bandmates joined Warren Haynes in honoring the fallen legend.  Plus, after Gov’t Mule’s stunning rendition of “Stage Fright” from the night before, it was impossible not to have a smile on your face by the end of this set.

Beck headlined the evening and delivered the most polished performance of the weekend. The well-rounded set list (which changed five minutes before showtime) — combined with high-contrast monochrome lighting effects and studio-quality audio — hooked the crowd for the entire performance. Though he didn’t perform his new funk single “Wow”, Beck reached into his bag of tasteful tricks, breaking out “Sissyneck /Billy Jean” by Michael Jackson and “Raspberry Beret” by Prince. As always, Beck took the spotlight and came through.

Photos by Andrew Francke

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One Response

  1. Were you watching the same concert as me? Yes Beck and Nathaniel Ratliff were good and everyone has his or have favorite but you didn’t even mention the standout band of the festival! The Record Company was absolutely ferocious with their blues rock and lap steel riffing. What gives?

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