In the Spring of 2006 I had to stay overnight in the Catskill Region of New York State for work. When I went into my hotel room I found a flyer on my bed; “Radio Woodstock and Warren Haynes present Mountain Jam”. The festival was to be held at Hunter Mountain Ski Resort. There would be lots of bands on multiple stages and you could camp out right at the resort. The line-up included Gov’t Mule, Robert Randolph, MMW, Micheal Franti, Mike Gordon, Keller Williams, and Grace Potter to name a few. I immediately got on the phone and started making plans to attend.
A friend and I ended up going the next two years. We probably would have continued going to Mountain Jam if it wasn’t for our bad experience with the weather. Just like Woodstock conjures images of mud-covered concert-goers for many people, now Mountain Jam elicits those same images for me. Both years it rained the entire time. Of course, since then the weather for the festival has been beautiful.
Despite the rain, the music and venue were great. Up to 5,000 people are allowed to camp at the resort. The years we went I don’t think there was near that many. If camping isn’t your thing you can stay at the ski lodge or in one of the hotels in the area. Campers at Mountain Jam have access to all the amenities of Hunter Mountain Ski Resort. You can eat at the restaurant, grab a drink at the bar, and ride the ski lift to check out the great views from the 3,200 ft. mountain. I read that this year they even have a zipline and canopy tour.
Even though we spent a lot of our time indoors and muddy, we did have a good time. I’ll just give you one highlight of each year.
The first year, a girl we met after the shows were over told us that some of the artists were going to play a little after-party gig at their hotel and that we could come. I said there was no point of driving to the next town. It was late at night and we’d probably not be able to get in, if it was even happening. My friend’s attitude hadn’t become pessimistic due to the rain as mine had and he talked me in to going. It turned out to be the best time of the trip.
When we arrived at the hotel it didn’t seem like much was going on. When we went in we told the front desk person that we were there for the after-party like we were instructed to do. To my surprise he pointed us towards a banquet room. We walked into the room to find a small group of 15 to 20 people hanging out. Among them were Mike Gordon(Phish), Grace Potter and her band(The Nocturnals), and some various musicians from other bands that had played at Mountain Jam. They proceeded to go on stage and jam, improvising and rotating the line-up. I’m glad I got talked into going.
Our second year at Mountain Jam the highlight was during the concert. Phil and Friends played an awesome show and the clouds opened up to reveal a blue sky for a few minutes at the beginning of the concert. This may not seem like it’s worth writing about, but after 48 hours of rain it was exciting. Phil and Friends broke out their “mountain” songs; New Speedway Boogie, Fire on the Mountain, and Mountains of the Moon. They also played Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s album. Mud, rain, and everything, it was still one of my favorite shows.
Check out more info about Mountain Jam, the event that Rolling Stone rated as one of the top 8 music festivals in the country. This year there will be 50+ bands on four different stages!
Tip for entering the venue: leave your seat belt on until you park and your vehicle is turned off. My friend and I both got tickets for not wearing a seat belt, even though we wore them the whole way and took them off in the parking lot.