Much like he participated in the evolution of the Allman Brothers Band, Warren Haynes has witnessed the ripening of the Peach Music Festival from the inside.
The guitarist and songwriter has performed at the annual four-day gathering — founded by the Allman Brothers Band in 2012 — as a member of the seminal Southern rock outfit as well as the frontman for Gov’t Mule, the vehicle for his original music. And he’ll perform in various capacities this year, as the Peach returns Thursday through Sunday to the Pavilion at Montage Mountain in Scranton and its surrounding grounds.
Gov’t Mule will perform the music of Pink Floyd during their “Dark Side of the Mule” set on Saturday, and Haynes will play a solo acoustic set titled “Wake Up with Warren Haynes” on Sunday morning before Mule headlines the day with a set of their original music.
“The Dark Side of the Mule set goes back 10 years,” Haynes said. “At one of our Halloween shows, we played a bunch of Pink Floyd songs and filmed and recorded it, never expecting to do it a second time.”
After a similar performance five years ago at Mountain Jam in New York, requests flowed in, and Gov’t Mule will have performed their Pink Floyd set seven times by the end of their current summer tour.
“We’re excited now that we made that decision,” Haynes said. “We’ll take a lot of material we did 10 years ago and add some to it and hopefully change it night to night. At Peach Fest, it’ll be interesting to do one night of that. ‘Wake Up with Warren’ comes from a whole different well. I don’t see a reason to repeat any songs over the course of the three sets.”
And when Mule takes the stage Sunday night, it’ll be the band’s booming blues-rock and soulful Southern rock catalog that greets the Peach audience. Their latest record, 2017’s “Revolution Come … Revolution Go,” has been celebrated by critics and fans alike.
“The new material seemed to connect with the audience even quicker and more deeply than normal,” Haynes said. “It’s fun to see where it goes. The title track, ‘Revolution Come … Revolution Go,’ is fun to play and changes every night. Songs like ‘Thorns of Life’ are going in new directions. ‘Traveling Tune,’ we’ve come up with different ways to play it. We open the show with it and close the show with it. … We can use it in a jam.”
Throughout the extended weekend, the Peach Festival will feature more than 50 acts including Phil Lesh & The Terrapin Family Band, The Revivalists, Umphrey’s McGee, moe., Blackberry Smoke, Michael Franti & Spearhead and Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe.
Allman Brothers Band founding member Jai “Jaimoe” Johanson will perform Friday with his Jasssz Band, and fellow founder Dickey Betts — back from retirement — will take the stage Sunday in a performance that would have been thought unlikely, if not impossible, last year.
Betts and the band he helped create parted ways in 2000, and in the 17 years that followed, Betts and Gregg Allman neglected to speak to each other until a few week’s before Allman’s death last year, a series of conversations in which the pair reportedly reconciled.
“The Peach Festival is an Allman Brothers family festival,” Haynes said. “That’s the way it started, and I think the spirit of that is still flowing. I’m excited to see Dickey perform. He gave me my biggest break of my career. I was in his band before joining the Allman Brothers Band in 1989. I’ve always appreciated him for that.
“I’m really glad Dickey and Gregg were in communication before Gregg passed. I think it’s something we all wanted to see happen. The Allman Brothers journey has been a long one, but I’m very thankful to be part of that extended family and be part of it for as long as I was. That music, starting when I was 9 years old, until this very moment, has always remained some of the greatest music I’ve ever heard.”
That catalog will be celebrated at various points throughout the weekend — including when Allman Brothers Band progeny Devon Allman and Duane Betts collaborate on Saturday — but the Peach will offer music for all tastes from the New Orleans stylings of Dumpstaphunk to the superlative songwriting of Anders Osborne & Jackie Greene to the soulful rock ‘n’ roll of Haley Jane & The Primates.
Even Northeastern Pennsylvania-forged acts will be represented as JP Biondo and Gatos Blancos are slated for sets on side stages while currently-on-hiatus bluegrass ensemble Cabinet is scheduled to take the main stage in what is billed as its only performance of 2018.
“I think one of the coolest things about Peach Fest is that it appeals to a certain type of music fan, the type who takes music very seriously and who looks at music as being a big part of their lives,” Haynes said. “They embrace the old music that is in the spirit of the starting point of Peach Fest, but also any new music that’s created with similar spirit. Music fans like that — and I consider myself that kind of music fan — are always looking for something that comes along and shakes things up and doesn’t adhere to norms, and resembles the music we grew up with and love.”