“You Choose the Adventure, We Provide the Soundtrack”
By Cait Deane
Photography By Cait Deane and Chris Simmens
As a fan of adventure, bluegrass music and Papadosio, I was stoked to be attending Mountain Music festival at ACE Adventure Resort this past weekend. After much research on the event, I learned that I was about to be involved in one of the east coast’s most unique and immersive summer fests. Mountain Music festival took place the first weekend of June- the weather was perfect and the drive down was picturesque- like a cruise through a nature documentary.
Upon arrival, I had the opportunity to speak with Chris Colin, the festival coordinator. This was Mountain Music Festival’s second year of operation. He told us that ACE adventure resort was always looking for cool and new things to do to bring people in for a good time, and what could be better than a music festival? They built the stage last year, a big beautiful showcase for headliners like Papadosio, The Del McCoury Band, Keller Williams, Cabinet, Big Something, (and many more). And they were right- adventure and music is the perfect combination, who doesn’t want to spend all day swimming and zip lining and then have the opportunity to see your favorite bands perform in the evening?
The gates opened for entry at 4pm on Friday. Camping was spacious with options spanning from your run-of-the-mill outdoor experience tent camping to the luxurious cabin housing. We perused the grounds and explored the vending tents, food stations, and wonderful art gallery. The vendors took the traditional role of offering a variety of products ranging from the classic Grateful Dead tee shirt to hoops and crystals. One vendor that truly caught my attention was Lorrin Webb’s handcrafted clothing from her company Wanderite. Her hand silkscreened designs on carefully selected organic clothing stuck out amongst the crowd of crafts as bold and beautiful. After I had settled into the venue space, I began my search for food before a long night of dancing and joy. That’s when I discovered Ticas Tacos, the best eatery at the Festival. Run by the ever helpful and talented Jessica Mattioli and Mario Sabillon, the dynamic duo served up a meal to be reckoned with. Their shrimp taco was super-awesome-fantastic-superb, with the seafood grilled to perfection and a crisp texture that exploded with flavor once it hit your mouth. Their dishes had a real authentic Mexican taste- with my photographer describing their burrito (which was packed so full it was literally bursting at the seams) as “bangalicious!”
The art gallery was in a prime location between the entrance and the stage, and wall to wall art illuminated the space. The art tent was just erupting with talent, including visual artists like Ellie Paisley, Bryan Bailey, and Ashton Hill. It was great to see so many of my friends immersed in their paintings. Attendees gathered around these performers as the sun set, and were captivated by the color and creativity.
The Larry Keel Experience was the first act of the night that I caught. Larry performed in a band with himself, Will Lee, and his wife, Jenny Keel. They looked like they were having an amazing time on stage and the crowd reflected the emotion. My new friend Kirby exclaimed to me that he thought Larry Keel was the future of Bluegrass! I thoroughly enjoyed their performance and it kept the night’s energy high. I feel incredibly lucky to have also caught The Del McCoury Band’s set. What a great group! His performance was Bluegrass to the core. A delightful stage presence, Del’s smile was contagious as he sang songs from his fifty year musical repertoire. At 76, he had impressive stamina and kept the entire performance lively. Singing songs like “I need more time” he sang his feeling out from the stage and the audience sang along, blissed out by his voice. Another favorite song of mine sung that evening was his song “High on the Mountain.” After the tune concluded I heard the man next to me say to his buddy, “I haven’t had a song emotionally rock me like that in years!”
Saturday was the day of the beach party- and it was a blast. Bright sand covered the edges of the lake, creating a neat trim to bask in the sun on. The lake itself was packed with colossal floating toys, mini mountains to climb, a 40 foot water slide, a zip line, and a launch bag, better known to the attendees as The Blob. The zip line was my favorite activity there, I rode it twice- it was a super exhilarating feeling to be racing across the lake high in the air and gently splash down into the water. When I went to return my harness I exited via the 40 foot water slide that thrust you back down into the lake. Many conquered the iceberg- a huge white floating mountain centrally located in the lake. It took a great amount of strength to climb it, but once you reached the peak, you were rewarded by an invigorating plummet to the lake below. The whole time these beach activities were going on, live music graced the airwaves from a stage by the picnic area. It was a very cool to be able to participate in live music swimming.
After we had had our fill of swimming, we returned to the campsite and got ready to see Saturday night’s performances. Shrub, a reggae band from Ohio, was the first of the evening to perform. Their band consisted of two guitarists, a bass player, and a vocalist. They had a super fun set, almost everyone in the band had a tune where they took the reins singing and it made for a really cool assortment of songs. I couldn’t stop dancing during their set, and looking around the crowd, I could see that everyone was enthusiastic about dancing along with the music.
Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band came on after Shrub. I could tell that these guys were going to be a wild time from the moment they stepped on stage. Colorfully clad and sharply dressed, these guys grabbed your ear from the first note and held on until they were finished playing. Their lively personalities helped pump out the funk during their set, I haven’t been a part of such an engaging musical experience in quite a while- band members hopped on speakers and flipped into the crowd, jumped down from the stage and sang at all different levels making it a totally uncommon performance. The band recently came out with a new album, Funk Life, and the band played us a few selections from the collection. It is really hard to pick a favorite, but I think their song 24/7 was my favorite piece they played.
Papadosio packed the venue. It felt like almost every attendee at the festival was there planted in front of the stage anxiously waiting for the band to come on. When Papadosio plays, they have a really magical way of bringing people together, opening up your heart, and filling it with positive energy. These guys are always super professional, sound crisp and brilliant, and have a light show that is clear, beautiful and perfectly timed to their music. Every part of Papadosio’s performance is catered to giving the viewer a marvelous and memorable time, allowing the listener to get lost in a sea of sweet sound. Their set was a blend of newer (and not so new) songs, and even included a selection from their first album.
Mountain Music Festival was a weekend like no other. With activities like zip lining, whitewater rafting, and swimming, Ace Adventure Resort put on a party that added a unique new edge to the classic festival experience. My recommendation is that you do whatever you can to make sure you’re here next year, because it’s a celebration you won’t want to miss!