Susquehanna Breakdown Review

May 20-21, 2016 at Montage Mountain, Scranton, PA

Written by Cliff Tyler

Photos by Alligator’s Attic

            This past May 20th and 21st, emerging Pennsylvania bluegrass act Cabinet hosted their 4th annual Susquehanna Breakdown in conjunction with Live Nation.  The event is held at Montage Mountain in Scranton, Pa., which is also home to The Peach Music Festival, an electronic based gathering known as Camp Bisco and also features a conventional permanent pavilion style concert venue that hosts a variety of acts through out the year.  Susquehanna Breakdown is designed to be a bit smaller and only uses a portion of the grounds and also happens to double as a ski resort in the winter.

When arriving, we were delighted to find that parking was included in the ticket price and we were quickly directed to a nice flat gravel area.  Susquehanna Breakdown does not offer car side camping so at this point we began loading all of our equipment and walking it up to the camping area located approximately 1000 yards from the parking area.  In this smaller setting, the lawn of the main concert area is used as the campground so all of the headline acts can be heard clearly right from your tent or you can also get down into the general admission portion of the pavilion for a closer view.  There was also an additional smaller stage located between the entrance gate and the vending area.  The “Breakdown Stage” hosted all of the Friday night music and the lion’s share of Saturday’s too.

The festival kicked off with two fine sets from the Dishonest Fiddlers and Coal Town Rounders respectively. These both groups hail from Penn’s Woods so it’s very cool to see Cabinet showcase some up and coming talent from their home state.  Next up, Larry and Jenny Keel provided a set of their brand of picking that was highlighted by a rousing version of the Grateful Dead’s “Brown Eyed Women”.  Cabinet’s first appearance of the weekend was billed as “Cabinet and Keel”.  You guessed it, Larry Keel joined the band for a whole set mostly comprised of standards, covers, and Cabinet tunes.  Never ones to embrace a short performance, next Cabinet added a handful more songs with their regular lineup before handing the stage over to Flux Capacitor.  Based out of Philadelphia, Flux Capacitor blends elements of jam, electronica, and funk to create something very special.  Their cover of The Zombies “Time of the Season” was a highlight of the night for sure!

Infamous Stringdusters


Saturday featured music on both the Susquehanna Pavilion Stage and the Breakdown Stage.  Performances did overlap but the stages are pretty close together and very surprisingly the sound did not noticeably compete. You could very easily switch viewing areas to take in the band of your choice. Pappy, the main vocalist and banjo player from Cabinet did a very fun morning set.  Everyone was still shaking off the haze from the night before and it was pretty cool to do it together in the intimate setting provided by the Breakdown stage.  Cornmeal started things up on the main stage in the early afternoon.  The quintet was a perfect way to begin festivities in the pavilion as they got the crowd dancing and singing along right in front of the stage.   The Infamous Stringdusters, Railroad Earth and Twiddle all graced this pavilion throughout the day.  The host band also added two performances.  The first was dubbed “Cabinet Acoustic” and featured members of the band who were eventually joined on stage by 20 or more family and friends for a heartwarming sing a long.  The other was a full band Cabinet set, the second of the weekend, which featured many of their crowd favorite originals.



Several other great shows occurred over at the Breakdown stage including a great set from Fruition and the festivals final performance billed as “Pappy and Friends”.  Featuring members of Cabinet, Coal Town Rounders, Fruition, Dishonest Fiddlers and also featuring guests Justin Mazer, Roy Williams, and Sean Haggerty, this performance showcased a full set of country, bluegrass, and rock n roll covers.  The crowd sang along to every word and enjoyed their last dance at this years get down.

Susquehanna Breakdown is a great mixture between a regular concert and a camp out style festival.  Permanent facilities offer great amenities and localized camping keeps you from walking all day.  The host band Cabinet played multiple sets over the two days including special solo and duo pairings and even included some of their side projects on the Breakdown stage.  All of the rest of the performers were top notch and a pleasure to watch.  The crowd was happy and fun to party with.  What a great weekend!  If you like Cabinet and regional and national bluegrass you need to attend Susquehanna Breakdown next year!  For more information please check out their website at