Peach Festival 2019 Day One: Billy Strings Sits-In with PPPP, The String Cheese Incident Cover the Allman Brothers, ‘The Office’ Theme and More

Danny Schantz on July 26, 2019
Peach Festival 2019 Day One: Billy Strings Sits-In with PPPP, The String Cheese Incident Cover the Allman Brothers, ‘The Office’ Theme and More

Scheduled for July 25-28, The Peach Music Festival kicked off its first day on Thursday with a full day of music at Scranton, Penn.’s Montage Mountain, including a Billy Strings/Pigeons Playing Ping Pong crossover and a cover-laden set by The String Cheese Incident.

Jam quartet Aqueous opened the festivities with a meandering musical journey, pushing and pulling at ever-changing tempos, leaving the audience hanging and begging for a peak. Throughout their 90-minute set, the chemistry between guitarist Mike Gantzer and keyboardist/guitarist David Loss was on full display, with Loss ripping at both his instruments throughout the show. Aqueous ended their sixth career set at Peach on a high point with a groovy rendition of “Strange Times.”

The second slot of the day featured rising act Billy Strings and his band. Hailing from Michigan, the gang of pickers played a smoking hot mid-day set, which featured a combination of tight bluegrass songs and exploratory jams. The band covered Jeff Austin’s “Run Down,” paying homage to the late Yonder Mountain String Band co-founder.

Without a drummer to handle the tempo, Billy led his band using his acoustic guitar to provide melodic and percussive effects. One highlight of the set was “Blue Mule,” a bluegrass cover that Jerry Garcia played during his time with “Old and in the Way.” Of course, the tune got Deadhead-heavy crowd crowd on their feet grooving along to the tunes.

Later, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong hit the Peach Stage for their first of two sets, with lead vocalist “Scrambled” Greg Ormont greeting the audience with a peppy salutation, “What’s up Peach People!” During his intro monologue, the Pigeons frontman promised to “burn down the Pavilion,” and the band proceeded to do just that, displaying their musical chemistry with a clean version of “Melting Lights.”

However, the set hit new heights when Billy Strings jumped onstage with PPPP to play a version of “Burning Up My Time,” trading his signature acoustic guitar for a plugged-in white stratocaster. The band was visibly excited to be jamming with Billy, and after the sit in, Scrambled Greg commented on how he loves guest sit-ins, especially with artists like Billy who are always “pushing their musical limits.”

After a roaring drum solo from Alex Petropulos and a monumental “Poseidon” jam, the band treated the audience to a funky version of Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer,” which ended with bassist Ben Carrey crawling on his knees.

Next came The String Cheese Incident, playing in the Thursday night prime time slot. And, certainly, they rose to the occasion, with an openeing “Restless Wind” and, later, a standout “45th of November,” an SCI original co-written with Robert Hunter.

Seguing out of “Shine,” SCI offered a cheeky version of The Officetheme song, a tribute to Peach Music Festival’s hometown of Scranton (the Electric City!). True to character, guitarist Bill Nershi kept up the lively energy, dancing around the stage and kicking beach balls back into the crowd.

After noteworthy takes on their own “Miss Brown’s Teahouse” and the Allman Brothers Band’s “Hot’lanta,” SCI closed their show on a high note with a blistering version of New Grass Revival’s “Can’t Stop Now,” giving the audience the motivation to enjoy the next three days of music.

In the late night slot, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong returned to the stage to serve up a certified dance party. Their rendition of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” felt inspired and personal, as they put their own touch on the classic Beatles song by featuring bass heavy lead lines coupled with a furious tempo.

Ormont took ample time to thank the audience and to appreciate the moment. In the late night hours, he spoke to the crowd and meditated on ideas like feeling free, feeling inspired, and celebrating beauty, while the rest of the band maintained the funky intro of “Horizon” to accompany his words.

The late night set got weirder and weirder as late night turned into early morning, with highlights like “Say Cheese” and “Yo Soy Fiesta.”  Rather than tucking the “Peach People” gently into bed, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong catapulted the audience into a night of partying, with sunrise inching ever closer.

The Peach Music Festival continues this weekend, and if you can’t make it out to Montage Mountain, a free livestream is available.

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Watch the full day of music below:

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