Tag Archives: Mountain Jam

Interview with Gary Chetkof: Founder of Mountain Jam Festival and principal owner of Radio Woodstock 100.1

Interview with Gary Chetkof: Founder of Mountain Jam Festival and principal owner of Radio Woodstock 100.1
Interviewer/photographer: Vernon Webb


The history: What was your inspiration for Mountain Jam and how did it come about? What was the inspiration?

It is Radio Woodstock 25th year anniversary. I wanted to put on an outdoor party. Found Hunter Mountain and it’s a beautiful location. We had five bands and it was a one day event. After everyone said how amazing it was we decided to do it again the next year. The following year the festival was two days; the next year three days. The growth in size and sound was organic, it was unplanned and spontaneous. Gov’t Mule was the first headliner, they were onboard from the get go. I had been at Woodstock 94, 99; Bonnaroo and thought it was the coolest thing in the world to escape from the world and meet new people and experience new music. Michael Franti has been on the bill since the second year. The Avett Brothers, Grace Potter, almost every year. The community of musicians and fans that get together shows musical diversity, it’s a good mix of old and new. Ya, it’s incredible and bigger than we ever imagined. Mountain Jam I and II, started out with half a dozen people, now it’s probably thousands of people. Every year it’s like wow, I can’t believe it.

The town budget has increased. By year three Phil Lesh and Friends; year five Allman Brothers, Gov’t Mule’s Levon Helm Tribute. Last year, we had the Black Keys and Robert Plant. Never imagined they would have this level of talent.



I’ve heard rumors of it being moved, is there any merit in that? If so any thoughts on a good place to move too?

It got big, we are constantly thinking of ways to make it good but not too crowded. We do not want to change location. You always look to see options but no intentions of moving. It’s an incredibly beautiful spot, green rolling hills, hiking trails, biking trails, it’s hard to beat. We’ve moved things around so there’s not as many hospitality tents. We want to keep it at Hunter mountain as long as possible.

What are some of the bands that represent the feel of Mountain Jam?

Gov’t Mule and Michael Franti are the soul of the festival. Warren is an amazing guitar player, they are the nicest guys. Franti is on a whole other level where he lifts people’s spirits. The combination of the two is very powerful. Franti has a way to make it stop raining, sunshine for Franti. There was one year there was a rainbow when Franti played. (In fact in stopped raining and the rainbow came out during The Sound Of Sunshine.)



How does rain affect Mountain Jam?

It doesn’t rain every year, you’re there for 4 days, it’s going to rain at least 1 or 2 days. Years 2 and 3 we had a lot of rain and you develop a reputation. Years 4 and 5 no rain but there is the reputation of rain. The perception isn’t really the reality, it is unpredictable. Franti said it’s the only festival where you get all four seasons at one festy. Everybody knows to come with all different clothes to the festival.


What do you like most about putting on Mountain Jam?

Putting the music together is the best part. You get some of your favorite bands together to create the festival. Seeing the creation come to life is my favorite part. There’s a million moving parts, improvisation things that happen where you have to deal with the unexpected. I have a large staff that takes care of most things and only contact me when there is really important things.

What advice would you give to someone who’s wanting to create a festival?

Don’t do it! (lots of laughter) It’s hard to start a festival now. There was a time and place where it was easy. Now it’s very regulated, competitive it was a lot easier and fun at the start. It’s an honor and a privilege to be creating the festival. I feel really lucky. You get to see your friends, like extended family, like a reunion. Cool thing to do but it’s hard to get it started now because of big competition.

Why you got rid of smaller stage on the side?

The only reason we got rid of the small stage was we simply ran out of room and needed the room for something else and issues with sound bleeding over. There’s not a lot of space so you have to compromise.

What are the plans for next year?

I’d like to have all the bands I couldn’t get to this year. I have pie in the sky dreams of who I have in mind.


Dopa-Blog: The Road Journal of Dopapod – #7 Martha2, “Echoes,” and Slayer

mt jamHey everybody! I’m back at it after a long hiatus from blogging. I guess I just got the bug again and needed some sort of activity to keep me from going nuts on the road. But before I give you the details of last week’s run of shows, I figured I’d tell you about a couple of the more exciting things that have happened so far this year.

First off, I started off the new year by purchasing a shiny new guitar. That’s exciting stuff for me. For any guitar geeks out there who care about specifics, its a Gibson custom shop CS-336 with a non-reverse firebird headstock. For anyone who doesn’t care about what its called, just look at the pretty picture of it below:

















I was out to dinner with my girlfriend and we stopped into a terrific guitar shop called Lark Street Music. I had no intention of buying a new guitar, but it felt and sounded too perfect for me not to fall in love with it. I spent the following couple days trying to get it out of my head so as not to make a frivolous decision, but ultimately my wonderful, lovely girlfriend told me to stop being a dumb ass and buy it. There’s nothing like the love of a good woman, huh? Anyhow, it’s been my primary guitar for the last six months, which is saying a lot since I’ve sold every guitar I’ve owned in the last 8 years. I named her Martha 2 (Martha 1 is my dog). Also, for anyone who cares, I still have Amelia, my trusty Paul Reed Smith hollowbody II that has been my primary guitar for the last ten years. That guitar will have to be pried from my cold, dead hands. She is however, in need of some TLC and overall maintenance, so I haven’t been playing her too much as of late.

Another highlight of this year for me was our three night run at the Sinclair in Boston. Playing shows and just being in Boston in general is always a big deal for us since we started the band there many years ago, and being there always brings something out of us creatively. I usually try not to voice my opinion of any of our shows. Who am I to let my negative opinion of a show ruin what was a great experience for someone in the audience? And, conversely, I’m wary to think too highly of a show and then get people’s expectations up too high only to have the music not meet it. But I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that these three shows are some of my favorite shows we’ve ever played. I love the feeling of abandoning a setlist for the sake of creativity and exploration, and I don’t think any of the three shows abided by what was written down. I also felt that every chance we took paid off in spades. I couldn’t have had a better time.

Here’s some of personal highlights of the run:

1- the entire first show

2- Russ Lawton and Ray Paczkowski of Soul Monde and Trey Anastasio Band sitting in with us on “Roid Rage”

3- Playing Pink Floyd’s “Echoes” for nearly an entire hour. It was the only song of the entire second set on the third night.


Fast forward to Summer and here we are, in the midst of festival season. This is an exciting yet stressful time of year for any band. Being at a festival with all our friends from other bands feels like a giant family reunion. The hang is just unbelievable. I honestly feel that all the other bands that are sort of in the same teir as us (is that what the kids are calling it these days? “Teir?”) are my best friends. Unfortunately, with all of us always on our own crazy tours we don’t get to hang as much as we’d like to, so we look forward to the hang that occurs backstage at any given festival.

Last weekend was an amazing, albeit insane one for us. We started off by flying to Arkansas to perform at Wakarusa. The set was all right despite fighting through some technical difficulties in the first quarter of the set. We were also using all rental (or “backline,” as the pros say) equipment, which was a bit stressful. But we made it through unscathed to fight another day. I think my personal highlight of the day was that all the water at the festival came in cans, which blew our minds. It felt like we were drinking beer, but we were actually being healthy. Good stuff.

We woke up bright and early the next day for one of the most hectic days of travel I’ve experienced in recent memory. We started off with an hour and a half drive to the airport, and then got on an airplane and landed in Chicago to catch a connecting flight. The layover culminated with our plane arriving an hour late, only to be kept at the gate for an extra hour because the flight crew couldn’t get the door of the airplane to close. That’s reassuring! A door being broken on an airplane is definitely pretty high up on the list of things you don’t want to be broken on an airplane. Dead men tell no tales, however, and obviously I’m alive to tell this one, so I think it’s obvious that the door held up okay. Then once that plane landed at LaGuardia, we hopped in a car and drove another three hours to Mountain Jam in Hunter, New York. All in all, thirteen hours of traveling in one day.

Thankfully, we arrived in time to catch the last half of Robert Plant’s set. He rocked the shit out of that mountain. He still sounds great and his music has aged gracefully over the years. Also, in between songs he told weird stories about young girls walking through the heather with buckets of milk singing “English refrains of old.” I don’t know what the hell he was talking about, but Robert Plant was saying it so it was pretty much the coolest thing I had ever heard.

After that, I walked over to the indoor stage to play our late night set. I’ll admit it was a bit surreal to watch a member of Led Zeppelin and then walk 100 yards and play my own set. That was a pretty cool “pinch me moment.” I enjoyed our set a lot, although I can’t think of any specific highlights. I just know it was nice to play a good long set that allowed us to stretch out. We’ve had a lot of power hour festival sets where we’re off stage before we even know we have started playing, so it was nice to have time on our side once again.

We got finished at 3 am and headed to our hotel to get some rest, but not for long. We were back at the venue at 11 am to get set up for an early afternoon set on the main stage. This was by far the biggest stage we had ever played on, but frankly I didn’t care what the stage looked like; I just hoped that people would get up early and come see us. No one wants to play for an empty ski slope. Fortunately, we had a wonderful crowd as well as a beautiful, sunny day amidst a lush, green mountainous setting. What a beautiful time. Despite our exhaustion from all the travel, we felt really locked in and creative. All four of us were in high spirits and were truly enjoying such a beautiful place to make music. 

I hung out for the afternoon and enjoyed some free beer and food, and then decided to hit the road so I could have some “R and R” before getting back on the road, which brings me to now. We’re in the van, headed to Bonnaroo. My back is killing me and my hair is starting to go gray. Do you guys think Billy Joel would be down to sit in with us? I doubt it. Maybe we’ll ask Slayer…they’re a jam band, right? We’ll see… 


Spring tour dates for Govt Mule

Govt Mule have announced spring tour dates leading to their late night Jazz Fest May 3 at the Mahalia Jackson Theater of the Performing Arts in New Orleans. New Orleans’ The Revivalists will be opening up for the entire run of dates before Jazz Fest. The run of spring dates kicks off with a stop at the Wanee Festival in Live Oak, Florida. Govt Mule has also confirmed their apperance at this year’s edition of the Hangout Festival on the Gulf Shores of Alabama.

Pre-sale tickets will be available at noon on Wednesday, February 20 through Mule Ticketing.

Govt Mule’s annual Mountain Jam will take place June 6-9 in Hunter, NY.

The band has also released European summer tour dates.

April 18-20 Live Oak, FL—Wanee Festival
April 21 Charleston, SC—North Charleston PAC
April 24 Wilmington, NC—Greenfield Amphitheatre
April 27 Cincinnati, OH—Taft Theatre
April 28 Columbia, MO—Blue Note
April 30 Kansas City, MO—Uptown Theatre
May 1 Springfield, MO—Gilloz Theatre
May 3 New Orleans, LA—Mahalia Jackson Theatre
May 17-19 Gulf Shores, AL—Hangout Festival
June 6-9 Hunter, NY—Mountain Jam
June 28-29 Azkena Rock Festival Vitoria, Spain
July 6 Roots In The Park Utrecht, Netherlands
July 14 Kunst!Rasen Bonn, Germany
July 15 Fabrik Hamburg, Germany
July 17 Hornberg Sommer Tuttlingen, Germany
July 18 Zeltspektakel Winterbach, Germany
July 19 Kulturbastion Torgau, Germany
July 20 Burg Herzberg Herzberg, Germany


Mountain Jam, May 31-June 3, 2012

Mountain Jam
Hunter, NY
May 31 – June 3, 2012



Setting out to once again deliver on its “Life is a Festival” mantra, Mountain Jam returned for its eighth consecutive year from high atop the hills of Hunter, NY.

Dually hosted by Radio Woodstock and venerable jam statesman, Warren Haynes, Mountain Jam  has managed to pull off what few could: maintain just enough tradition to keep the recidivism rate high, but not to a point that would scare away potential virgins.

Through the years, the event has developed a fervent following of “jammers.” For these folks, the festival has become an annual pilgrimage that is not only an event that allows them to get a high octane dose of guitar heroics from Haynes; it is also about community and reunion — a yearly respite from the everyday hustle and bustle, amongst like minded individuals. But this is in no way meant to take anything away from the tie that initially bound them all together and is also responsible for bringing welcomed new members into the fold each year.

Let’s face it, Mountain Jam is hosted by Warren and his spirit is infectious. There are times when one would swear that he has the ability to teleport. Just as he does with Christmas Jam or any other event that he hosts, the title is not just honorary.

Warren is a man who musicians like to be around, irrespective of genre, and it is due to this (and the fact that he is a badass) that he is able to curate a lineup that is suitable to not only his style and what he feels will offer up necessary diversity, but also to the sought after Mountain Jam vibe.  Nothing against Girl Talk (well… maybe a little something) but you won’t find his plagiarism in Hunter, NY.  It wouldn’t fit — plus Warren couldn’t sit in with him. Nope, at Mountain Jam you will find bands like The Word (North Mississippi Allstars plus John Medeski and Robert Randolph), The Roots, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Anders Osborne, Gary Clark, Jr., Dawes and rising stars like Delta Rae.

Of course Mountain Jam wouldn’t be complete without the act that is under current Warren management (Gov’t Mule, this year) and the only other event staple (aside from Haynes), Michael Franti.

Elementally, Mountain Jam had it all again in 2012: a perfectly loving vibe, a well stocked lineup and once in a lifetime collaborations between some of the greatest bands of today and one of the top guitarists in rock history, Warren Haynes. When taken succinctly amidst the cool nighttime air and under the clear star-filled sky, the 2012 Mountain Jam experience was one of pure ecstasy… again.



Courtesy of taper extraordinaire, Scott Bernstein*

(follow Scott on Facebook and Twitter)


Set of the Weekend

Gov’t Mule with second set Levon Helm tribute ft. Levon’s band, 6/2/12




Anders Osborne

Ben Folds 5

Bustle In Your Hedgerow

Carolina Chocolate Drops


Gary Clark, Jr.

Govt Mule, 6/1/12

The Lee Boys

Marco Benevento Trio

Michael Franti & Spearhead

Steve Winwood

Tedeschi Trucks Band (courtesy of groundhog)

The Givers

The Roots

The Sheepdogs

The Word

Zach Deputy




Click the thumbnail(s) to view photos from the fest by Vernon Webb

(Vernon on Facebook & Twitter)





* Unless noted otherwise

Steve Winwood, Mule, The Roots, The Word top Mtn. Jam 2012 lineup


Radio Woodstock and world-renowned guitarist Warren Haynes (Gov’t Mule, Allman Brothers Band, The Dead) present the 8th annual Mountain Jam Festival at Hunter Mountain, NY from Thursday, May 31 through Sunday, June 3, 2012. Mountain Jam will welcome its strongest lineup of talent yet with approximately 50 bands on 4 stages over the course of the 4-day Festival. Discounted early-bird VIP, 3-Day, 4-Day, and Camping Festival Passes are on-sale now at MountainJam.com.


Legendary British international recording artist, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member, and multi-instrumentalist/vocalist for Traffic, Blind Faith, and Spencer Davis Group, Steve Winwood will perform as one of Mountain Jam’s 2012 headliners. Govt Mule will return as a headliner for their 8th consecutive Mountain Jam.


Long time Mountain Jam favorite Michael Franti & Spearhead will be gracing the Festival stage for their 7th straight appearance and will once again perform an intimate acoustic set in the Awareness Village. Famed hip-hop/neo soul group, and official house band of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, The Roots, will make their inaugural appearance on the Mountain in 2012. Singer-songwriter, producer, and judge of NBC’s The Sing-Off, Ben Folds, will reunite his alt-rock trio Ben Folds Five after an 11-year hiatus for only a few shows this summer including a stop at Mountain Jam. Sacred steel/gospel/southern rock supergroup, The Word, will bring together the talents of Robert Randolph, John Medeski, and the North Mississippi Allstars (Luther and Cody Dickinson, Chris Chew) at this year’s Festival.


Also on the bill for Mountain Jam 8: New Orleans funk of Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, bluegrass with Travelin’ McCourys ft. Keller Williams, funk jazz of Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, folk rock with Dawes (returning for the second consecutive year), Austin-based guitar-slinger Gary Clark Jr., Grammy-winning string band Carolina Chocolate Drops, indie-pop group GIVERS, funk/soul/R&B singer and Daptones recording artist Charles Bradley, and many more. For complete lineup, log on to MountainJam.com. the initial lineup is attached.


Mountain Jam 2012 will once again offer early Thursday admission with a Festival Pre-Party featuring the funk jazz of Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Late Night with Bustle In Your Hedgerow (featuring Joe Russo (drummer for Furthur), Dave Dreiwitz of Ween, Marco Benevento and Scott Metzger) playing energized versions of Led Zeppelin classics, island-infused drum n’ bass/gospel/soul of Zach Deputy, and the rock power trio Planet of the Abts (featuring Matt Abts and Jorgen Carlsson of Gov’t Mule).


New in 2012, Mountain Jam will offer a limited number of Luxury Pre-Pitched Tents on the Mountain atop the Concert Field and Awareness Village. Each campsite provides room for up to six campers and includes a pre-pitched canvas tent, cots, tables, rugs, and a lantern, along with an exclusive lounge for Premium Camping Villagers. Pre-Pitched Tents may be reserved at MountainJam.com.


The festival’s forward-thinking Awareness Village will once again host a special acoustic stage, as well as exhibits from not-for-profit organizations and environmental groups, children’s entertainment, performance and sculpture art, physical and spiritual healing, a beer and wine garden, and much more. The Festival will also be continuing its greening efforts with recycling, carbon offsets, and free water refills to reduce the usage of plastic water bottles.


Originally conceived in 2005 as a single-day celebration of Radio Woodstock’s 25th anniversary, Mountain Jam has blossomed into a four-day, multi-stage event, featuring onsite camping, and one of the northeast’s most pristine natural amphitheaters. The Festival received a Pollstar Award nomination in 2011 in the category of Best Music Festival. The New York Post called Mountain Jam one of the “summer’s best music festivals” in 2009, and Rolling Stone magazine listed the Festival in its list of “Top 8 Best Fests” of 2008.


Over the years, Mountain Jam has hosted some of the top names in live music, including The Allman Brothers Band, Phil Lesh & Friends, Bob Weir & RatDog, My Morning Jacket, Warren Haynes Band, Alison Krauss and Union Station, Ray LaMontagne, Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi Band, Yonder Mountain String Band, Les Claypool, Dave Mason, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, The Hold Steady, Béla Fleck & The Flecktones, Hot Tuna, Coheed & Cambria, Drive-By Truckers, Dr. Dog, Medeski Martin & Wood, Mike Gordon, G. Love & Special Sauce, Ozomatli, Galactic, Umphrey’s McGee and Robert Randolph & The Family Band, among many others. Last year, the festival presented Levon Helm’s 70th Birthday Jubilee with very special guests Warren Haynes, Donald Fagen, Ray LaMontagne, Sam Bush, Steve Earle, Patterson & David Hood, Jackie Greene and Allison Moorer.


The Hunter Mountain Lodge will provide fans with 24-hour access to both food and indoor bathrooms, while onsite camping and a variety of nearby hotels, lodges and ski chalets will ensure that all attendees have a wide variety of accommodations to choose from. This year Mountain Jam will also offer expanded VIP options, including its highly acclaimed “Tavern in the Woods” featuring private bar area and Hammock Grove, as well as shaded hospitality tents, early arrival access at no additional charge, private camping areas, and a variety of gourmet food and beverages. Mountain Jam will also offer options for VIP on-site lodging and a VIP RV area on the Mountain.


Following the sellout of Mountain Jam’s Presale tickets, Festival Passes are now available at Early Bird prices for $150, and with camping for $180. For an additional $25, attendees can enjoy early admission to the campgrounds on Thursday afternoon and music starting at 8 pm. A limited number of VIP Festival Passes are now on sale for $440, which includes Thursday admission and VIP camping. Single day tickets will be available in the spring.


Hunter Mountain is located within a short drive from anywhere in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.
For complete lineup, full details and ticketing, please visit MountainJam.com.