The Music

Mason Porter revs up their 2019 Midnight Mountain Music Show: A festival [and set] recap 

by NEPAudio Contributing Writer Greg Mandata-Hoffmann “Wake up darling it’s time to go, to the Midnight Mountain Music Show…”

by NEPAudio Contributing Writer Greg Mandata-Hoffmann

“Wake up darling it’s time to go, to the Midnight Mountain Music Show…”

This past weekend was the fifth annual music and camping festival put on by West Chester based folk/jam/Americana project Mason Porter. Taking place at the Peaceful Woodlands Family Campground in Blakeslee, Pennsylvania, the festival has slowly grown into a community gathering that people put on their calendar every fall. The intimate festival takes on a family vibepeople of all ages, children and dogs alike enjoying the warm and uplifting sounds of the Philly-area bands who come to share their talents each year.  Since each crew gets a reserved campsite with ticket purchase, the campground allows festival attendees plenty of space to unwind and relax in the Pocono mountain airenjoying music all day and culminating each night with Mason Porter’s headlining set. Not to mention late-night campfire jams, painting the community mural, and the annual chili cook-off. There is always something fun to get into.

The main attraction, of course, is the talented gentleman that make up the Mason Porter project. Often confused with a solo act, “Mason Porter” consists of Joe D’Amico (mandolin), Paul Wilkinson (guitar), Tim Celfo (bass), and Josh Steingard (drums).  Friday and Saturday night the band plays a 90-minute set filled with original music, choice covers, and debuts of never-before-played songs.  

Allow me to remind you of some of the deepest jams and harmonies, or introduce you to a new style of music to soothe your ears, body, and mind.  

MMMS
Mason Porter at the Midnight Mountain Music show, captured by Lisa Schaffer Photography

Night 1 – 9/13/2019

Up In The Hills (Fake out Intro) > Timber Wolf
Good Ol Days *
Four Leaf Clover
Back To Where We Started From
Never Pick Cotton [1]
Crawdad Song ^
Snow Angel
Catalina *

Encore:
Quinn The Eskimo [2]
Dark Hollow ^
Up In The Hills 

[1] Roy Clark
[2] Bob Dylan
*Debut, ^Traditional

 

The night started off with a long instrumental jam of “Up In The Hills” off 2009’s album Thunder in the Valley. Except right when it seemed the band would go into the first verse, they pulled out a smooth transition into “Timber Wolf” and really got folks going. There was a beautiful moon that night, yet hidden behind the clouds for most of the evening; the upbeat and fast-paced lyrics gave way to D’Amico’s howling at the moon. A rowdy and energetic crowd obliged and howled until the moon appeared, and slowly the clouds faded to unveil a bright and guiding light for the rest of the evening.  

The band then debuted a brand new track “Good Ol Days,” followed by a slow Celfo song “Four Leaf Clover.” This haunting version allowed the band to stretch it out; D’Amico took a few melodic minutes with his mandolin until Celfo wrapped it up with. Wilkinson took lead with the Roy Clark song “Never Pick Cotton.” Moving into my favorite Mason Porter cover “Crawdad Song,” the audience really started moving and shaking.  Another Thunder in the Valley track, “Snow Angel” followed with a debut of “Catalina” to end the opening set.

The encore had a rowdy “Quinn The Eskimo” cover, written by Bob Dylan, and another fan favorite cover, the traditional bluegrass song “Dark Hollow” came next. The band wrapped up the night with the first song fakeout, playing “Up In The Hills” in its entirety that had fans singing along, and left them looking forward to the second night’s set.

 

Night 2 – 9/14/2019

Worry *Debut
A2B Machine
Underdog
Woman Like You
Pallet On The Floor ^Traditional
Let Me In
Sand [1]
Jack-A-Roe [2]
Somehow Anyway
Midnight Mountain Music Show

Encore:
Get Back [3]
Indian Summer
Hotel Yorba

[1] Phish
[2] Bob Dylan
[3] The Beatles
*Debut, ^Traditional

Night two was met with anticipation as the band had already come out in force with a phenomenal opening night setlist. We looked forward to some new songs, and right away were treated with a debut of “Worry” (song title unconfirmed), followed by a fast-paced and energetic “A2B Machine” off the 2015 album Key To The Skyway.  Next was a real treat. As a newer song that has made its way as a staple in the band’s setlist the past year or two, “Underdog” comes in strong and funky each time. Another uplifting song off Key To The Skyway, “Woman Like You” followed into the traditional “Pallet On The Floor,” Wilkinson led the crowd dancing into the night.  A slower folk song off the 2014 album Home For The Harvest reached new heights this evening, with a luscious “Let Me In” that features the band’s harmonizing talents. 

After was a real surprise: a cover of Phish’s “Sand.” This brought folks up front strutting and truly was a unique bust-out for the band. Next, they hit with “Jack-A-Roe” by Bob Dylan and performed by The Grateful Dead over the years. An original  “Somehow Anyway” kept the set going until its closing of the event’s dedicated track, “Midnight Mountain Music Show.” This trackwhich was released the summer prior to the festival beginning in 2015was a perfect second set closer for the band, as Mason Porter usually plays it to open the festival. This time, they used it as a singalong for the fans to set up the encore: the Beatles “Get Back” was led by Celfo before the band’s funky older tune “Indian Summer,” and “Hotel Yorba” wrapped up an amazing weekend of live music from our hosts Mason Porter. 

 

Other Highlights 

  • Friday Night Jim Gaudet & the Railroad boys came from Albany, New York to play a set full of originals they rightly deemed “are better than anything you’ll hear on the radio.”  Finishing up their set was the ZZ Top cover with a nice bluegrass spin, “Sharp Dressed Man.” 
  • Saturday morning was the annual pop-up coffee shop by the Rec Hall, where folks raise money for the pediatric cancer charity White Peacock’s Flock.
  • Treated to an acoustic Mason Porter set that featured original tunes “Blue Eyes Smile,” “Box of Answers,” and a “Shady Grove” cover, were some highlights of this early morning showcase. 
  • The Sermon!, delighted as always with a smooth blend of instrumental soul-funk, performed for their second MMMS.  
  • Playing a slew of newer originals, they sounded tight as ever with the feature of the band being the Hammond Organ led grooves.  
  • The artist formerly known as Afrobear, Soulternative surprised many in attendance with a mid-day set that brought people out of their tents and to the stage. The band was on the original lineup, but after announcing their break up, this summer left many folks in sadness.  They now have a new name and keep an eye out for upcoming shows in the West Chester area.
  • The late-night campfire jams were a hit as always, with Sammy Vile leading a Radiohead jam Friday night, and Griz & Friends along with The Jersey Corn Pickers closing out Saturday night with Dead tunes amongst others.
  • The chili cookoff had about a dozen entries this year, including 3 vegan and 1 vegetarian chili.  Always a hit, especially for the dogs who feast on leftover ground scraps for the rest of the day. 

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