Live Nation Moves Mountain Jam to Bethel Woods, Preps Montage Mountain for Peach Fest

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Aerial atmosphere and Stages during 10th Annual Mountain Jam at Hunter Mountain on June 7, 2014 in Hunter, N.Y. 

Growing demand for camping festivals in the Northeast has Dave Niedbalski and his Philadelphia-based team coming up with new ideas for the three events they host each summer in the region.

The 14-year-old Mountain Jam has outgrown its home, moving from New York's Hunter Mountain to Bethel Woods in anticipation of the camping festival's best attended year to date, June 13-16.

It's a complicated move from the Catskills peaks to the dairy-farm-turned-amphitheater in Bethel Woods, but Live Nation's v.p. of marketing and talent buyer Dave Niedbalski says growing demand for camping festivals in the Northeast means his Philadelphia-based team has to come up with new ideas for Mountain Jam and two other camping festivals they put together each summer in the region. 

There's the Disco Biscuits's Camp Bisco July 18-20 at Montage Mountain in Scranton, Pennsylvania, with Bassnectar, Odesza and Umphrey's McGee -- an event Niedbalski calls the "venn diagram of where electronic meets jam."

That's followed the next weekend by the eighth year of the late Gregg Allman's Peach Music Festival, July 26-28, also at Montage Mountain, with headliners the String Cheese Incident, Trey Anastasio Band and Phil Lesh & Friends. Known for its collaborations, the festival usually referred to as "the Peach" announced May 22 it was adding a multi-artist session this year with Warren Haynes and Grace Potter, plus the launch of the fest's first guitar pull, a southern rock traditional jam sequence featuring Vulfpeck collaborator Cory Wong, Percy Hill, Magic Beans and Joanne Shaw Taylor.

"The guitar pull started with country singers sitting on the front porch playing guitar, down in the South," says Niedbalski. "Back then, they might have only had one or two guitars and they would pass it around and play and write songs together."

The format has evolved with mainstream country radio with singer-songwriters and studio musicans, but it's still not utilized much in the jam scene, Niedbalski explained. Scott Sharrard, Allman's long time music director, has been tapped to lead the Peach Fest guitar pull, which Niedbalski describes as "a guitar pull for shredders and players that's a cross-section of the best of jams, blues and the rock world."

This year, the Peach's second stage will be inside Montage Mountain's waterslide park with fans able to watch performances from a giant wave pool as well as inside the park's lazy river.

"Instead of people hanging out at their campsites all day, like they do at most festivals, were able to extend the day with the water park," Niedbalski says. 

As for Mountain Jam, founder Gary Chetkof entered into a new partnership this year with Live Nation to move the fest two hours south of Hunter Mountain to Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, home of the 1969 Woodstock festival and a 17,000-seat amphitheater that opened in 2006.

"It's just one of the most gorgeous sites you could possibly go to with lush rolling fields and an immaculate amphitheater," Niedbalski explains. "Everyone can camp in their car, and once we grow out of the amphitheater, you can use the original Woodstock fields to expand. Gary loves Hunter Mountain and there's still a lot of fondness from fans but this site was just one of those things we couldn't pass up."

That includes a large footprint and infrastructure with permeneant artists dressing rooms, staging and bathrooms. Mountain Jam will feature a hemp mini-festival, walking tours of nearby trails and local food vendors from the artist villages in upstate New York. 

Each festival has its own unique identity, he explained, saying, "Peach is jam band festival with a Southern rock heart, whereas Mountain Jam has always been programmed with jam, rock and Americana," including this year's appearance by the Avett Brothers, Dispatch and Lukas Nelson & the Promise of the Real.

"We're creating curated experiences that deliver exactly what people want," Niedbalski said. "We have everything from RVs to tent camping, car side camping and glamping rentals with preset up tents, beds and concierge services. We build a village for a weekend and utilize the experience and commonality of camping to help build the community around the festival."