Susquehanna Breakdown at Montage Mountain in Moosic brings bluegrass and more May 20
The fourth annual Susquehanna Breakdown music festival started, fittingly, with a nod to Northeastern Pennsylvania music Friday.
The yearly sound display, hosted by Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s own contemporary bluegrass ambassadors, Cabinet, launched as a celebration of regional music while taking time to embrace a roots forbear as well as rock explorers.
Opening Scranton act The Dishonest Fiddlers brought their best as they played tunes from debut album “The Whistle Missed the Train.”
Vocal accompaniment was provided by Cabinet’s own J.P. Biondo as the Fiddlers played “There Ain’t Enough Water In The Water,” a folky song-scape of inequity and hope.
Scranton-based Coal Town Rounders took the stage next, their suit jackets, suspenders and full brimmed hats as old timey as their music.
Gathered around a single microphone, as is their custom and the custom of string bands before them, they delivered an emotive rendition of Bill Monroe’s “The Wicket Path of Sin” showing depth in both picking and harmonizing.
Jerry Egelhoff of State College was at his third Breakdown and said, “Those guys are stellar,” referring to the Rounders.
Egelhoff passes out stickers with the word “special” at each festival, and he brought 2,500 stickers with him this year, a number that’s grown 1,500 since his first year.
Larry Keel, renowned as an acoustic legend, took the stage down two members from his intended ensemble. His banjo player experienced health issues earlier in the week, and his fiddle player’s car broke down en-route.
He and wife Jenny Keel performed as a duo, carrying a big sound with Keel’s lightning fast flatbody guitar picking and Jenny’s rhythmic, in the pocket, bass playing.
Keel’s haunting tune “The Internet” brought roars from the crowd with it’s skepticism of human reliance on technology.
“I like it up here on the mountain,” Keel said. “Y’all got it goin’ on.”
After riling up the crowd, he launched into “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong,” from his latest album “Experienced.”
Keel joined Cabinet on stage for a Cabinet & Keel set. The collaboration led off with “Nashville Blues,” featuring solo moments by every player on stage, even pushing through a power glitch that downed the sound system.
Festival founders Cabinet took the stage for the headlining set and did not disappoint. With emotive renditions of “99 Years (And One Dark Day)” and “Home Now,” which incited cheers from the hometown crowd.
Dave Gaiser from Sauquoit, New York said he loves supporting music and likes the local scene in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
“It takes you away from all the crap in the world,” he said referring to the festival atmosphere. “This is what reality should be.”
Late night players Flux Capacitor kept the energy high and the people dancing as they performed a set full of their psychedelic jam rock with tunes like “They Know We Know” and a cover of the Zombies’ “Time of the Season.”
Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or Twitter@TLArts