Mountain Jam, the annual rock and roll festival started and run at nearby Hunter Mountain for the past 14 years, will be moving to the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts for its 15th outing, June 13 through 16. Radio Woodstock and its owner Gary Chetkof’s concert-promoting entity Chet-5, which established the festival as a one-day 25th anniversary event in 2014, will remain as chief promoter, working with Bethel’s key promotional partner of recent years, LiveNation, as well as Mountain Jam’s original organizing force, Warren Haynes of Govt. Mule and The Allman Brothers, as co-presenter.
“This is the Taj Mahal , the greatest concert venue in the country,” Chetkof said in a quick call between a week of meetings tied to line-up announcements and planning finalization for the 15th annual Mountain Jam four months away. “It’s an upgrade, and better and easier for us all to get to as we all get older.”
Chetkof lauded the historical aspect of Bethel as the site of the 1969 Woodstock Music Festival, which the venue will also be commemorating with a three day festival in August at the same time that original festival promoter Michael Lang, a Woodstock town resident, runs his own commemorative Woodstock Festival the same weekend in Watkins Glens, NY, where an original jam band line-up including the Dead and Allmans, along with The Band, drew what many consider the largest rock concert crowd ever in 1974.
In recent years, Lang tried to lure Mountain Jam to the Winston Farm Saugerties, where he held a 25th Woodstock Festival anniversary event in 1994. LiveNation, which Chetkof is working with for his latest iteration of Mountain Jam, has been programming at Bethel Woods in recent years, including for this summer’s 50th anniversary Woodstock commemoration festival, and is considered the nation’s largest concert booking agency.
Chetkof also marked the return of Gov’t Mule front man and Allman Brothers guitarist Warren Haynes as co-presenter of Mountain Jam noting that, “This year’s Mountain Jam returns to its jamband roots celebrating the musical legacy which started 50 years ago on this iconic site. We are thrilled to be reunited once again with Warren Haynes to celebrate with our family of bands and fans who have been the heart and soul of Mountain Jam from its inception.”
An early line-up announced by Chetkov on Wednesday, February 7 listed an early round-up of acts that have been booked, which many in the rock press and social media worlds have called a return to the festivals’ original conception as a tribute to Grateful Dead/Allman Brothers-like jam bands after several years drift towards more mainstream acts. Willie Nelson & Family, Gov’t Mule, The Avett Brothers, The Revivalists, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Dispatch, Alison Krauss & Union Station, Toots & The Maytals, Lukas Nelson & The Promise of the Real, Twiddle, Mandolin Orange, Sister Sparrow, Amy Helm, Allman/Betts and approximately 40 other bands were listed for the event’s three stages, with “an additional headliner to be announced later in the spring.
Haynes, who co-presented all but Mountain Jam’s last two festivals, added that, “Having been there for the foundation and development of Mountain Jam including the curation of artists and music over the first 12 years and headlining with Gov’t Mule, Warren Haynes Band, The Allman Brothers Band, Phil Lesh & Friends and sitting in with countless others, I am pleased to be returning for the festival’s 15th anniversary. Mountain Jam is changing its home, but going back to its roots.”
Chetkof and LiveNation noted this year’s Mountain Jam in press releases as “the first rock n’ roll camping festival on the original Woodstock site in 50 years,” even though ad hoc camping took place in the site in the summers of 1989 and 1994, among other times.
News of the shift away from Hunter Mountain was hinted at in Mountain Jam website and Facebook posts since November, and only confirmed in a Hunter Mountain press release last Friday.
“While we are disappointed to see the festival move, we would like to extend our most sincere gratitude to the many supporters who made Hunter Mountain a successful Mountain Jam venue for more than a decade, including our loyal customers, the Town of Hunter and Greene County,” read a Hunter Mountain Facebook post marking Mountain Jam’s move. Newspapers in Greene County, home of Hunter Mountain, noted the millions of dollars in economic impact that loss of the festival will mean for local tax and business coffers. Much was also written about the growing amount of security on and off the site that resulted in dozens of arrests in recent years for everything from drug possession to traffic infractions.
During its recent years at Hunter Mountain, Chet-5 Festivals collaborated with Townsquare Media, a local media company with radio stations in Dutchess County that also produces Hunter’s annual Taste of Country Music Festival, as presenters.
Tickets for Mountain Jam 2019 were set to go on sale on Friday, February 8 with more information on ticket pricing, camping & travel packages available online at www.mountainjam.com. Accommodation packages will include a range of options including, “GA camping, Glamping, RV Village & VIP Camping,” plus “travel packages including hotel accommodates and shuttles to and from the festival daily,” a yoga program each morning, on-site attractions including a Ferris wheel, various dining and craft beverage “experiences,” and new exhibitions at the site’s Woodstock Museum.