Weekender

Grateful For Spring Festival to kick off concert season at Mountain Sky

Since 2011, Mountain Sky – a welcoming festival ground located just off Interstate 81 in Jermyn – has been hosting a yearly springtime party that serves as the kickoff to its festival season.

In the venue’s infancy, the annual Grateful For Spring Festival showcased local talent like MiZ, Still Hand String Band and Northeastern Pennsylvania’s father of the reggae scene, the late George Wesley.

As Mountain Sky has progressed, Grateful For Spring has evolved, and this year’s gathering, slated for Friday through Sunday, features several national acts and a slew of local talent. It’s something that Mountain Sky official Michael “Ragu” Rogowski takes pride in after years of work with hundreds of volunteers.

“The progress over the last five years has been really good,” he said. “It’s been growing in size each year, and because of that, it allows us to book more bands and expand our creativity.”

This year’s lineup will focus on local acts like a full band performance from MiZ, Appalachian Gypsy Tribe, Eric Harvey and Friends, Dave Brown from the Dishonest Fiddlers, Diane Brigido and Friends, and the venue’s hosting outfit, Mountain Sky Orchestra. Along with the regional showcasing, Grateful For Spring will boast national acts like California-based pianist Scott Guberman, Brooklyn-based funk outfit Escaper, and Grateful Dead tribute Jam Stampede, which has performed regularly in NEPA and will bring along former Bob Weir and RatDog saxophonist Kenny Brooks for a headlining set on Saturday.

“I’ve been a fan of them for years now, and I’m stoked that they’re finally going to be playing our stage this year,” Rogowski said of Jam Stampede.

Jam Stampede rhythm guitarist and vocalist Tom Circosta shares Rogowski’s excitement about the outfit’s maiden voyage to the cozy mountain.

“First, let me compliment Mountain Sky for a terrific lineup,” he said. “It’s always great to meet and see other bands do their thing. We are hoping that our first Mountain Sky show can bring together some real music lovers — new, old, young, and perhaps those who have never gotten to see the band. We will do our part and give you a rocking show. Folks should know this is one not to miss.”

Jam Stampede’s core lineup consists of Circosta, bassist Klyph Black and drummer Dave Diamond, all of whom are longtime bandmates from their New York-based Grateful Dead outfit, the Zen Tricksters. Completing the lineup are Pittston’s Mike “MiZ” Mizwinski on lead guitar and vocals, and MiZ’s bandmate Michael Borowski on keys and vocals. It’s a lineup that allows members to feed into each other’s way of interpreting and bringing new life to the Dead’s catalog.

“Mike Miz was refreshingly original in his approach to playing, not only GD music, but everything he did,” Circosta explained. “We all agreed, his style reminded us of that same defiance and originality that Jeff (Mattson) gives us in the Tricksters. Mike Borowski, or Mike Bee, as we affectionately call him, is a great player/singer. He plays multi-keyboards and finds just the right textures to keep us moving. Our style of jamming requires a tremendous amount of interactive weaving, as opposed to a band like Pink Floyd, say, where the keyboard pads long noted figures under a guitar solo. That is very different from what Mike brings us.”

Complimenting the bands’ sound at Mountain Sky will be Brooks, who has joined Jam Stampede for numerous shows in NEPA including performances at the River Street Jazz Café in Plains Township and the Northeast Fair in Pittston Township. Brooks’ many years in RatDog gave him a deep understanding of the Dead’s music, and has allowed him to mesh well with Jam Stampede whenever they collaborate.

“It always amazes me that we all jump around and play in each other’s bands, and communicate in kind of this secret code, despite perhaps, never having played together,” Circosta said. “When Kenny Brooks joins the band, he brings a very legitimate background and flavor that you’d be crazy not to feature it in some way. We put together sets of music that compliment his playing and use big ears to play to him as much as he plays to us. So that could be one reason we sound together and rehearsed.”

That chemistry will be out in full force on Saturday when the outfit headlines the festival with two sets of Dead favorites. Just thinking about the evolution of the event over the last six years — the venue went from hosting just local acts to now bringing in national bands and one of Bob Weir’s cohorts — is a gratifying feeling for Rogowski, who has worked tirelessly to nurture the event.

“(We need) not only this event, but all of our events to continue to grow in size so we can keep growing as a venue and keep getting bigger acts to play for us,” he said.

As for now, the Grateful For Spring festival will serve as a fitting kickoff to the venue’s yearly festivities which run through mid-fall. It’s something that Rogowski looks forward to every year as he anticipates the kind of crowds that will be heading up to Mountain Sky for another season of fun and camping.

“What excites me the most for not only this event but all of them is to see all those smiling faces, young and old, dancing, laughing and having a great time,” he said. “We’ve always been about music, arts, creativity and the children, and that’s what excites me.”

Patrons gather in front of the main stage at Mountain Sky in Jermyn during a past event. The venue will kick off its concert season this weekend with the Grateful For Spring Festival.
https://www.theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/web1_mt-sky-1.jpgPatrons gather in front of the main stage at Mountain Sky in Jermyn during a past event. The venue will kick off its concert season this weekend with the Grateful For Spring Festival. Courtesy of Ryan O’Malley
An overhead view shows campers and concert goers at Mountain Sky in Jermyn during a past event. The venue, which has grown to accommodate larger and larger festivals over the last five years, will host a full schedule of events through Sept. 9.
https://www.theweekender.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/web1_mt-sky-4.jpgAn overhead view shows campers and concert goers at Mountain Sky in Jermyn during a past event. The venue, which has grown to accommodate larger and larger festivals over the last five years, will host a full schedule of events through Sept. 9. Courtesy of Matt Bobeck/AerialEyes Photography
Jam Stampede to headline three-day festival

By Ryan O’Malley | For Weekender

IF YOU GO

What: Grateful For Spring Festival

When: Friday, Saturday and Sunday; doors open at 11 a.m.; music begins at noon.

Where: Mountain Sky, 63 Stillmeadow Lane, Jermyn.

Additional information: Tickets cost $60 for three-day general admission, $50 for Saturday only and $15 for Sunday only and are available online at ticketf.ly/2K4A9SS.

***

Mountain Sky season schedule

May 19: Keep Hope Alive, featuring Clarence Spady, Dave Brown and more

June 9 and 10: Country Throwdown Music Festival

June 22 through 24: Stonehenge Music Festival (The Tradition Continues) featuring the Juggling Sons Project

June 24: Old Lion Reggae Festival

July 28 and 29: Inclusion Festival, a sensory friendly music, arts yoga and wellness festival

Aug. 18 and 19: Bluegrass and Blues Music Festival

Aug. 31 through Sept. 2: Satellite Ranch Music and Arts Festival

Sept. 7 through 9: Still Grateful Festival