Mountain Jam 2015

So I’m packing my bags for the misty mountains….

where the spirits go now

Over the hills where the spirits fly….

It’s years in the making. I’ve been an avid festival goer for many years; at this festival for almost each time. Last year we were gigging on the west coast. My dear friend Lauren called throughout the festival with updates and sound bites. I tuned into the Allman Brothers set on Sunday through the webcast. It wasn’t the same but no so far removed. This started out as an easy regional festival which catered to the Hudson Valley and NYC music lovers but before long expanded to the tri-state area and now really gaining recognition as one of the best national festivals of the summer. It was about 3 years ago that I began plugging Zepparella to the the powers that be. It was an easy argument for booking us; they really didn’t have faith that a Zeppelin cover band from California would draw any crowds in upstate NY. Although, I spent the majority of my life living and playing music in the Hudson Valley – it wasn’t proof enough that we could carry the weight. Oh yeah…. And we’re just a cover band.

If you don’t know the story of how it all came to be- let me back up a bit. I was a singer in a variety of bands in the early 90’s in the Hudson Valley. The first being an original funky, jazzy jam band called Funktional Loonacy; we played locally for 7 years, recorded a cd and had a family of fans who came to every show. I sang backup with Wyl Muchrison on the lead vocal. He would become my singing partner for the next 18 years professionally. After Funktional Loonacy disbanded a new disco funk cover band was born called Monica’s Kneepads, featuring members of Funktional. Yes – it was during the Clinton scandal and no – I was not Monica! It was an eclectic revolving door of about 8-10 people. We played every kind of gig imaginable and had a sordid reputation but in the end it was really all about bringing joy and encouraging people to let loose. It was a very festive fully costumed band; with the exception of one of our bass players who’d rather play naked. It went on for 10 years before I moved out to California permanently.

This story has been told many times but for those of you just tuning in – here goes:

It was the spring of 2011; I went to the Greek theater in Berkeley for a Robert Plant show with the Band of Joy. It was a chilly clear night; the show was amazing! As I waited on the line to go back stage I started chatting with a gorgeous redhead. The conversation started because she said she liked my jacket. I can’t remember the specifics but it was generally ‘a you’re cute, no you’re cute’ chat in a more sophisticated badass kind’ve way. Eventually, she told me that she was a musician and that she played in a Zep band called Zepparella. The funny thing is that they just had played in my town and my brother in law had asked me if I wanted to go. I was back in NY so I missed it. I had no idea what was about to happen next. Clearly we had a great connection but no numbers were exchanged.

I think it was August or late July; I was driving past The Powerhouse Pub in Folsom when I saw Zepparella listed on the marquee for a Saturday night show. I had some friends and their kids coming for the weekend. I thought I could kidnap my friend Anne on Saturday night and check out the band. Well Friday night rolled around, the friends came up with the kids and we played music to the wee hours of the morning. The next morning their kids got up at the crack of dawn so by 9pm on Saturday night the entire household was asleep and I was the last one standing. I’m not one of those people who feels intimidated about going out alone! Thank Goddess, I would have missed out on some of the greatest experiences of my life! So I got myself ready and headed to the Powerhouse. When I arrived they were on a set break; but I immediately saw Gretchen and we totally connected once again. After the set, it was revealed that they were looking for a new singer; by the way, I hadn’t mentioned that I was a singer until then. Gretchen lit up and quickly introduced me to Clementine. The next morning, my house full of guests woke up- not knowing that I even left the premises. “I think I got a new gig last night”- was our breakfast conversation….and what if I stayed home! Anyway, several convincing phone calls led me to audition and the rest they say is history. Gretchen likes to think that I was indeed hand delivered by Sir Robert himself!

From my earliest commitments with the band, I have wanted to bring them back home. I feel so grateful and proud of this musical venture and I knew that we would be truly embraced by everyone back home. We are embraced everywhere we go; never have I experienced such gracious, genuine and kind hearted fans! So the campaign began! Every time I went back I did my best to spread the word and the word kept spreading independently of me. We were getting a lot of attention in other places and then put together a U.S. Summer tour.

We landed a hometown show in Poughkeepsie, NY – which was off the charts – as far as support and yes being embraced! We made a special stop back to Poughkeepsie in March of this year which topped the first show! That was when we announced we were playing at Mountain Jam. Thank you to everyone for helping us get here and for the continued support.

Why was this gig so important to me you ask? This festival is like a backyard party of my closest friends and yet has unbelievable musical magic! The caliber of musicians that grace those stages is some of the finest I’ve ever witnessed. Every year it rains and every year Michael Franti seems to pull out the sunshine and sometimes a rainbow. I’ve spent a lot of time playing in the lodge at my friends – Joy and Keith’s stage. They have set up a place where anyone can sit in and have their own set. I can honestly say that some of my favorite musical collaborations have happened there with strangers and friends alike. Truth be told, I’ve missed acts on the big stage because I haven’t wanted to leave what was happening inside! Then, there’s the Karma Wash – which is a colorful karmic rendition of a car wash. This was an idea that was started years ago at a Dead show ( not a Grateful Dead show but the Dead) in upstate NY. The idea is to be able to walk through and release or be washed of your karma. We spent hours crafting the idea, the actual structure and the shtick to go with it. It first debuted at Gathering of The Vibes when it used to be held at the biker camp in NY. Since its inception, the legacy of the karma wash has lived on at this festival and many festivals with a whole new generation of clowns and karma washers to serve your cleansing needs. It’s the rainbow structure in the middle of the field behind the soundboard and worth every penny – FREE! I’m sure that I will hop in at some point to reprise my role. So not only am I thrilled to be a part of the festival…. But this year.. Robert Plant! I have seen this incarnation of Robert’s band and blown away each and every time. The entire lineup feels different from previous years which is new and refreshing. Led Zeppelin is always a part of Mountain Jam! Warren Haynes is clearly a big fan and never fails to give us all some Zep love. The past two years they’ve had other Zep bands on the bill but it only makes sense to have Robert Plant come and give us all the real thing. I am most grateful to Robert Plant for his music and inspiration. I would be lying if I didn’t admit that singing his songs in front of him will be both exhilarating and terrifying; if he should stick around for the show. If you’re heading up to the mountain- bring your warmth, your rain gear and your spirit. It’s gonna be an incredible weekend!

Two more days! Safe travels!