MOOSIC — Old-style country music and the spirit of the Grateful Dead took over the Peach Music Festival on Saturday as Old Crow Medicine Show, Willie Nelson and Family and the legendary jam band’s Bill Kreutzmann and Bob Weir turned in inspired sets on the main stage.
While Rusted Root and the Allman Brothers Band’s Butch Trucks played the satellite stage in the waterpark, the main stage music began at 12:30 with Bobby Lee Rodgers. Another Allman Brothers alum, bassist Oteil Burbridge, was next up, before giving way to Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers.
Grand Ole Opry members Old Crow Medicine Show stormed the stage with a hard-charging, energetic set beginning at 5:15 p.m. with “Brushy Mountain Conjugal Trailer.” Ketch Secor, the band’s fiddler and vocalist, peppered his stage patter with references to small towns across the Keystone state, and mandolin player Cory Younts displayed some fancy footwork.
OCMS made a big impression on the big crowd with “Carry Me Back to Virginia” from 2012 album “Carry Me Back,” the old chestnut “Down Home Girl” and “Shit Creek” from 2014’s “Remedy.”
The band also turned in a great performance of John Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery” and got its biggest response from “Wagon Wheel,” an obscure song from a Bob Dylan bootleg that Secor finished off in 2003 that went on to become a No. 1 hit for Darius Rucker 10 years later.
Willie Nelson and Family took over around 7 p.m. with his traditional opening medley of “Whiskey River,” “Still Is Still Moving To Me” and “Beer for My Horses.” The Red Headed Stranger, making his first appearance at the Peach, followed with the Waylon & Willie classics “Good Hearted Woman” and “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys.”
Other highlights included the medley of his early compositions “Funny How Time Slips Away,” “Crazy” and “Night Life” and four songs from the Hank Williams catalog: “Jambalaya (On The Bayou),” “Hey Good Lookin’,” “Move It On Over” and the set closing “I Saw The Light.”
Newer songs “It’s All Going to Pot” and “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die” got big ovations from the festival crowd, as did the gospel medley “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” and “I’ll Fly Away.”
Grateful Dead drummer Kreutzmann and his band, Billy & The Kids (with Tom Hamilton from American Babies on guitar and vocals, Reed Mathis from Tea Leaf Green on bass and vocals, and Disco Biscuits’ Aron Magner on keyboards and vocals), played songs associated with his late band mate Jerry Garcia such as “Reuben & Cerise” and “He’s Gone.”
The band really hit its stride with “Eyes of the World” and “Slipknot!” before finishing its 80-minute set with “The Wheel,” “Bird Song” and “Cumberland Blues.”
About 25 minutes later, singer and guitarist Weir joined the band for “Feel Like a Stranger,” “New Minglewood Blues” and “Cassidy.”
Rumors swirled that Dead & Company cohorts Mickey Hart and John Mayer would join in for a preview of the new band’s Halloween shows at Madison Square Garden, but Kreutzmann and Weir did just fine as they continued on with “Estimated Prophet,” “Brokedown Palace” and “Stella Blue.”
Sunday’s abbreviated fourth day of the Peach got started with Keller Williams Grateful Gospel at 1:00. The Virginia-born multi-instrumentalist led a nine-piece group on Grateful Dead staples such as “The Wheel,” “St. Stephen” and “Ripple.”
Weir, who was scheduled to appear with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band later in the afternoon, joined for fabulous versions of “Eyes of the World” and “Samson and Delilah.”
Preservation Hall’s bassist and tuba player Ben Jaffe (son of founders Allan and Sandra Jaffe) told the crowd the traditional jazz band opened for the Grateful Dead in 1969. The current incarnation of the group that has been together for more than 50 years began its set with the gospel tune “I’ll Fly Away” and later thrilled the crowd with a medley of the Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back” and Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke.”
Weir joined the band to play guitar and sing the traditional New Orleans tune “Iko, Iko,” and sing background on a somewhat bawdy version of the traditional “Corrine, Corrina.”
The fourth-annual festival was then capped by Santana, the 11-piece blues rock band fronted by guitar virtuoso Carlos Santana. Carlos was in fine form Sunday, dressed in a Miles Davis T-shirt and playing a yellow guitar on his band’s hits such as “Soul Sacrifice” and “Evil Ways.”
Following “Evil Ways,” he went into a long sermon on the mountain, telling the crowd everything is made up of “light and love.”
“With light and love, you create blessings and miracles. This here is a blessing, and it is also a miracle. God bless you, be kind to one another and thank you for being here.”
Santana then led the band through a cover of John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” and brought out his son Salvador for the younger Santana’s original “Summer’s Day.”
Brad Patton has been reviewing concerts and writing about music for the Times Leader and Weekender for more than five years. He also hosts a two-hour radio show on 88.5 FM-WRKC (Radio King’s College) every Tuesday at 7 p.m.