Susquehanna Breakdown Review

May 9-10, 2015, Scranton, PA

By Cait Deane


Susquehanna Breakdown is an bluegrass festival held this year at Montage Mountain May 9th and 10th, 2015. This was the Cabinet’s third annual music festival held at the pavilion showcasing a variety of musical acts, local craft and food vendors, and family friendly activities.


Friday night I arrived at the venue. Montage Mountain was easy to find as there were festival goers happily waiting at the entrance. Returnees lead the way to the venue and staff helped make parking and orientation an easy task. The weather was wonderful, even as the night cooled, a light sweater was all that was needed to keep yourself from the chill of the evening. The entire weekend had temperatures fluctuating between the upper 60’s into the 80’s, confirming my thoughts that May is about the perfect time for a music festival.


Cabinet played four sets over the weekend. The band’s following is a great group of people, with most singing along to lyrics or excitedly dancing to the beat of favorite tunes. Friday’s music concluded at about midnight with an upbeat Cabinet set. Attendees found their way back to the campgrounds to head to bed or mingle and meet their neighbors. Spirits were high as folks chattered in anticipation for the full day of music and activities ahead of them.


The festival grounds were well tended to, and easy to navigate. Camps were set up on the infamous slope of Montage Mountain’s grassy hill, and I myself found that I had rolled to the front of the tent by morning- all part of the experience though! Veterans of Susquehanna Breakdown mentioned that they had arrived early themselves to locate spots in the camping area that were particularly flat.


Saturday, May 9th, was the day that the true magic of the festival occurred on. The first set was ‘Perk up with Pappy’ from the Cabinet- and it was a super refreshing way to start off your morning. Pappy’s humor and skill are exhibited during his solo bluegrass sets, as he performs, he speaks about his personal research on the song writers, and kept an approachable, friendly energy. Jay Noble was the next performer to start the day. He was fantastic- his voice sent shivers down my spine as I gathered in the front of the stage to sit while listening to him sing. Radiating with emotion, his songs had a presence that captivated the crowd.


Later in the day we were treated to performances by bands like King Radio, who played a mellow, trance-like set with a super kickin’ sound, Grand Ole Ditch, a progressive Maryland based bluegrass band, Citizens Band Radio, who played soulfully (But still energetic!) and Hoots & Hellmouth, a Philadelphia based band that played a set that was both peaceful and powerful. These musical acts added great variety to the event. Pigeons Playing Ping Pong performed in the evening and really blew me away. It seemed like they had the entire stage area filled in a matter of two minutes- people jumped up and down to their super groovy and fun set. Pigeon’s music is incredibly danceable.


There were two stages in use during the event- a ‘Breakdown’ stage by the entrance and the ‘Susquehanna’ stage, the main stage. More intimate acts like Saturday morning’s performances and all of Friday night’s music took place on the Breakdown stage. Another  side stages was available to VIP members of the festival, this stage was host to private performances by artists like Jay Noble. To the left of the Breakdown stage, a children’s area was set up to provide family friendly activities for the young (and young at heart!) Activities included a performance by a magician, and lots of chalk and art supplies to explore with.


My only concern with the festival was the lack of general knowledge among the staff about water. On the festival website, it clearly states that there is a water refill station on site. Being environmentally conscious, I brought along a refillable water bottle to stay hydrated (dancing that much takes a lot out of you!) Friday night, I asked several different staff members if they knew where the refill station was, and none of them had a clue. I even went to the main information desk, and medical tent, and they were not sure if they had one at the venue- but did inform me that I could buy  water at the bar for 5$ per bottle. Saturday morning, I did find the one station on my own accord, however, it was in the back corner of the festival and out of site. It is dangerous to have an event with so many people in the heat of the day or the fun of night to be in an area where they cannot have easy access to water.

With a large children’s area, quiet camping, and big production from Live Nation, this festival is the perfect family outing to kick off your summer season. If you are a huge bluegrass fan or just a lover of a great time outdoors with family and friends, Susquehanna Breakdown is the place to be!