Now that The Peach Music Festival 2021 is over and we’ve all (hopefully) made our way home from Scranton, it’s time to run down the events of the festival’s final day on Sunday, July 4th.
While the rest of the country celebrated Independence Day, there were other more pressing celebrations at hand on the Fourth of July at Montage Mountain—from the final day of hangs with festival friends new and old to the first live performance by The String Cheese Incident since November 2019.
To start, however, early risers were treated to the second edition of a growing Peach tradition, the Peach Guitar Pull presented by Scott Sharrard & Friends. This year, the Guitar Pull took on an added thematic layer as guitarist/vocalist/musical director Sharrard (Little Feat, Gregg Allman Band) led the house band—featuring Brett Bass (bass), Eric Kalb (drums), and Peter Levin (keys, organ)—through a near-complete performance of Eat A Peach, the famed 1972 Allman Brothers Band album and namesake of the festival, with a rotating cast of lead guitarists and vocalists.
As they worked through the tracklist, Sharrard and company welcomed up a parade of guest guitarists including Drew Smithers of Bishop Gunn (on “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More”, “Melissa”, and “Stand Back”), Brandon “Taz” Niederauer (on “Les Brers in A Minor”), Eric Krasno (on “Mountain Jam” and “One Way Out”), Nick Perri (on “Trouble No More”), and Joey Williams of Blind Boys of Alabama (on “Stand Back”). Forgoing the shorter “Little Martha” that closes the LP, Kraz and Taz returned to unleash a guitar duel worthy of the set’s billing on a climactic “Blue Sky” to set (Eat A) Peach Sunday in motion.
Scott Sharrard & Friends w/ Joey Williams – “Stand Back” (Allman Brothers Band) – The Peach – 7/4/21
With the schedule pared back down to two stages (the Peach and the Grove) after running three simultaneous sets throughout the day on Friday and Saturday, patrons at The Peach had less running and more relaxing to do on Sunday. After Pressing Strings took the stage at the Grove, the legendary Blind Boys of Alabama convened on the Peach Stage for a rousing Sunday gospel performance, matching the joyous mood permeating the crowd after three full days of fantastic live music.
From welcoming Taz on a rendition of Tom Waits‘ “Way Down In The Hole” (which the band famously provided as the theme song for The Wire Season 1) to turning up the “spiritual” factor on a cover of Norman Greenbaum‘s “Spirit In The Sky” to infusing “House of the Rising Sun” with “Amazing Grace” lyrics, the Blind Boys of Alabama set the tone of grateful celebration on the festival’s final day.
Throughout the week, various artists performed additional acoustic sets at the off-the-beaten-path VIP Stage. While most of the VIP lineup also performed on one of the other three stages during the event, Brandon “Taz” Niederauer and Doom Flamingo’s Kanika Moore linked up there for a special, off-the-main-lineup acoustic set on the final day of the fest.
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As Philadelphia’s Nick Perri & The Underground Thieves brought gritty rock energy and Neil Young vibes to the Peach Stage, the schedule at the Grove Stage wound down for the weekend with JB Strauss and New Madrid. Bobby Lee Rodgers‘ trio finally closed down the side stage with a funky set which featured a sit-in by Melody Trucks for a tribute to the late Ike Stubblefield.
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Peach mainstay Warren Haynes kept the laid-back Sunday vibes going with his early evening solo set. Haynes embodied the title of a John Lennon “Working Class Hero” cover early in the set, packing a reverent crowd of hushed fans into the pavilion and out across the lawn. While Haynes is best known for his work in projects like the Allman Brothers or Gov’t Mule, his solo sets allow him to wear each of his many hats: a storyteller, a bluesman, an axe-slinger and, overall, a badass.
“I’m sorry if I’m repeating myself,” Haynes gushed between songs, “But damn, it’s good to see you guys.”
Some were more surprising, like U2’s “One”, which Warren somehow managed to make sound cool. Though the set was lyrically focused, Haynes still gave the people what they want with some extensive slide work on “It Hurts Me Too”. The set appropriately wound down with the Allmans as Warren worked through “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More” followed by a powerful “Soulshine” featuring the Blind Boys of Alabama on backing vocals, a reprise of a similar collab at a past Peach Fest.
Warren Haynes – “It Hurts Me Too” (Elmore James) – The Peach – 7/4/21
[Video: Michael Broerman]
Warren Haynes w/ Blind Boys of Alabama – “Desdemona”, “Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More” (ABB), “Soulshine” – The Peach – 7/4/21
[Video: Bob Fakeson]
With time for one last headlining performance, The String Cheese Incident took the Peach Stage to open the band’s first live show since 11/30/19 with a trip down to “Texas” that didn’t bother with the brakes. Though the song started off by following suit with the chilled-out Sunday atmosphere, Cheese soon dispelled that notion and broke from the path as the band geared up like a steel locomotive with percussionist Jason Hann and guitarist Michael Kang rolling SCI down the tracks.
The String Cheese Incident – “Texas” – The Peach – 7/4/21
The band was far from “Lost” as the groupthink became immediately apparent with a self-fulfilling “Can’t Stop Now” that showed off just how ready the band was to return to the stage. A slow-build intro ultimately led into “Big Reveal” and an ensuing jam which proved itself to be a first set highlight. The band predominantly opted for jams over grass even during the early set as Bill Nershi held onto his Stratocaster for most of the performance.
In a reminder that it was, in fact, the Fourth of July—and not just the final day of the first five-day music and camping festival to take place in the U.S. in 2021—the band closed set one by welcoming out Warren Haynes for a rendition of the Grateful Dead‘s U.S. Blues that saw the fireworks come early as sparks flew off the stage.
The String Cheese Incident ft. Warren Haynes – “U.S. Blues” (Grateful Dead) – The Peach – 7/4/21
[Video: The String Cheese Incident]
Cheese returned to the stage a few minutes early for set two with the Blind Boys of Alabama in tow to reprise the “Amazing Grace” from their set earlier in the day. The banter on Sunday was minimal, but Nershi still took a minute to lead the crowd in a long-awaited “group hoot” where everyone was able to let out over a year of pandemic-fermented frustration.
The String Cheese Incident w/ Blind Boys of Alabama – “Amazing Grace”/”House of the Rising Sun” – The Peach – 7/4/21
A run through the joint Keller Williams catalog with “Best Feeling” took a detour through “Exodus” by Bob Marley before “Colliding” gave everyone the signal that it was time to get weird. From the earworm riff through upbeat jams into dark chasms of bassed-out bliss, the improvisation checked all the boxes before “Search” hit the reset button for some relaxing, wholesome jamgrass. Hann and drummer Michael Travis then took audiences around the world of rhythm with “Drums” before the rest of the band returned for “Black And White”.
While The String Cheese Incident had only arrived at Montage Mountain on Sunday, the rest of the Peach congregation had been experiencing “Black Clouds” and frequent downpours all week long. Sunday was all sunshine and smiles, however, as whatever washed-out memories of a wet and wild weekend were easily dispelled by a satisfying jam that closed out the second frame.
Finally, SCI returned to the stage for the final hurrah of the weekend, a fitting cover of the Allman Brothers’ “Jessica” as Fourth of July fireworks blasted away over the mountain.
For those who attended the Peach, however, the fireworks—which had sparkled over Montage Mountain for four nights straight—marked much more than Independence Day. After more than a year of sadness, hardship, uncertainty, and far too little music, The Peach 2021 heralded the full-fledged return of the music scene we know and love.
Live concerts have been trickling back in at a smaller scale for months, but The Peach felt like the official starting gun. Thank you to Geoff Gordon, Jon Hampton, Curt Voss, and the entire Live Nation team; Sameen Ahmad and Bill Orner (Hank & Ed, festival producers); CJ Strock (Mint Group); Burt Holman (Allman Brothers Band); and Charlie Jefferson (Montage Mountain Water Park) for a thoroughly impressive, seamlessly run event. It was everything we hoped it would be throughout a year-plus of anticipation—an overdue reunion with family and friends, a rekindling of the connections between long-isolated artists and their fans, a return to the adventure only a great festival can provide—at a time when it was sorely needed.
Above all, it was confirmation that live music is primed to come back bigger and better than ever. Whereas one year ago the future was largely uncertain, today the possibilities are endless. At The Peach, and in the live music world at large, the road goes on forever.
Scroll down to check out a gallery of photos from Sunday, 7/4/21 at The Peach below via photographer Jesse Faatz. You can also revisit our daily coverage from Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at The Peach.
[Photo: Andrew Hutchins – (from left) Duane Betts, guitarist Allman Betts Band; Geoff Gordon, Regional President, Live Nation; Burt Holman, Manager, Allman Brothers Band; Jon Hampton, Sr. VP, Live Nation; and CJ Strock, Mint Talent Group]