I Prefer My Jam to Taste Mountainy

One of our assistant editor’s Mountain Jam Journal

Upon finding out that Assistant/Web Editor Jess Friedlander and I were able to cover the Sunday event for this year’s Mountain Jam, I had certain expectations for my first time Jamming: I looked forward to hippies, sunshine, maybe a little sunburn, a smooth drive (more people would probably leave on a Sunday than drive up, no?), and a somewhat-early ending to the show.

Well, at least I got my hippies.

The ride up to Hunter was gorgeous, but driving through the mountains on narrow, winding cliffs in my fiancé’s pickup truck made the experience a bit nerve-wracking (how do people dare attempt those roads in winter?). We nonetheless reached our destination an hour early, found a quick parking spot, and walked up to the ticket area just as it began to rain.

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We took cover in the lodge, where the fine folks at WDST let us watch and photograph a live acoustic set singer-songwriter Michael Franti was performing for the station. Everyone lucky enough to be there clapped along as he sang “Sound of Sunshine,” and just as the song ended, the clouds broke and out peeked the sun. Everyone cooed at the coincidence. It was cute. But later, during his larger, full set with Spearhead, Franti shouted to a rambunctious crowd that if we all whipped around our hats and shirts, we could make it rain. As swirls of colored cloth filled the horizon, the skies opened up and the rain fell in sheets. People were screaming and dancing, chairs were flying; it looked like some sort of midday shamanistic ritual. The announcers stopped the set and encouraged people to take cover in cars, makeshift tents, or if all else failed, to get naked (which of course drew whistles and cheers from the masses). When the worst of the brief storm passed — leaving us soaked to our skivvies — the crowd regrouped, covered in flecks of ruddy clay mud. Soon after the music started back up again, Franti played the plugged-in version of that aforementioned song about sunshine; three guesses as to what happened in the sky. I’m convinced: Michael Franti can control the weather just by rocking out.

As much fun as it was to play around in the rain, the harsh reality of high-altitude evening temperatures quickly settled in as the air soon dropped to a brisk 40-something degrees. We searched the vendors (or “gypsies” as I lovingly dubbed them) for woven blankets or ponchos, and I convinced Jess to attempt bartering with the gypsies for a deal. As it turns out, cold cheese fries and hugs from two straggly-haired editors equals a $10 discount. (Score!)

Every performance we caught was great. But as the day wore on, I felt myself starting to drag. Blame it on soggy clothes in cooler climates (or my lack of physical endurance making my lungs feel like used punching bags), but by the time we were singing “happy birthday” to Levon Helm (okay, maybe only Jess sang, while I griped about the pain in my ankles from standing on a downward slope) I was even feeling bitter towards the fun-loving hippies. (Listen up, you shirtless young men: I don’t care how long your dreadlocks are or how natural your hemp sandals — if the underwear poking out from the top of your patchwork shorts reads Calvin Klein, clearly you can afford a bar of soap!) And by the time Helm said good night, I was already on the hunt for a cup of coffee to quell my chattering teeth.

We climbed back into the truck and I huffed, and puffed, and got stuck in traffic (what’s that saying about negativity attracting negative situations?). But we made it back safely by a quarter-to-two, providing five hours of sleep before zombie-ing my way through work later that morning.

Next year, Mountain Jam, I’ll be ready for you.

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