Gov’t Mule. Image from Mountain Jam’s daily blog

Gov’t Mule marked its first show at the 6th annual Mountain Jam with a range of covers of special guests. Warren Haynes, who co-presents the Hunter, NY-based festival each spring, nodded to Sunday’s headliner Levon Helm by covering The Band’s “The Shape I’m In” earlier in Gov’t Mule’s set. The group’s set also included covers or extended teases of songs by such artists as the Beatles (“She’s So Heavy”), Nirvana (the grunge band’s version of “Where Did You Sleep Last Night”), Pink Floyd (“Fearless”) and Jimi Hendrix (“The Wind Cries Mary”), among others.

The group’s parade of guests emerged partway through Gov’t Mule’s second set. Les Claypool sat in on a song he co-wrote and recorded for Gov’t Mule’s Deep End Volume 2, “Greasy Granny’s Gopher Gravy. After an extended drum segment by Matt Abts and “Inside Outside Woman Blues,” longtime Derek Trucks Band member Kofi Burbridge played flute on “Raven Black Night.” Grace Potter also appeared on a set-closing cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Gold Dust Woman.” The band brought its show to a close with an extended encore featuring “Inside Outside Woman Blues,” “Any Open Window” and
“Steppin’ Lightly.”

Mountain Jam experienced some last minute schedule changes Friday afternoon. Festival veteran Dr. Dog canceled its scheduled appearance after keyboardist Zach Miller was hospitalized.

“We’re writing with some unfortunate news,” the band said in a statement Friday. “The story ends with us saying that we will not be playing our scheduled show at Mountain Jam this afternoon. Zach spent most of yesterday in the hospital with a medical issue. We had hoped that he’d begin feeling better as the day went by and that didn’t end up happening. The good news is that Zach is going to be just fine … we’re just not quite sure how long it will take until he can play a show again. The folks up at Mountain Jam have been truly amazing and have worked to try to accommodate us in anyway they can, while offering all the support in the world for getting Zach better. They’ve offered to let us play tomorrow afternoon if Zach begins to recover throughout the day today.”

The group’s slot was filled by Toots & the Maytals, who were originally scheduled to perform at the Mountain Jam Saturday but faced scheduling conflicts of their own. The reggae legends peppered their set with a number of hits, including “Sweet & Dandy.”

The rest of the day’s festivities went off as planed. Garage rock trio The Whigs played two sets at the festival—an afternoon set on the festival’s main stage and an early evening set in the enclosed Colonial Hall. The Athens, GA-bred group described their audiences as older than usually and treated fans to two almost entirely different setlists.

Likewise, the Avett Brothers, a favorite on Mountain Jam promoter WDST’s radio station, made its debut at the festival. The group leaned heavily on its new breakthrough release I and Love and You but also peppered its set with some older material. Several of the band’s songs made reference to New York, including I and Love and You ’s title track. After his set, Scott Avett told Relix that playing New York for the first time was a daunting experience for the North Carolina group, which informed some of the album’s lyrics. He also connected his band to the Allman Brothers Band because of the two groups’ southern roots direct connection with their fans. “We are both used a slower pace but got real busy,” he admitted.

Two festival circuit regulars drew some of the day’s biggest crowds. Grace Potter & The Nocturnals played to a packed main stage crowd. The band dressed its stage with red roses and offered its trademark cover of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit.” Later in the day, festival circuit king Les Claypool played an outdoors late night set with his current band featuring vibes master Mike Dillon. Claypool and his band performed in masks and brought out Warren Haynes to jam around 1:30 AM. The Primus bassist also mentioned that he had a “spectacular” time playing with Gov’t Mule

Other highlights included Trombone Shorty and the New Mastersounds. Mountain Jam continues today.