By Michael Lello

Photos by Jim Gavenus

The second annual Peach Music Festival kicked off in fine form Thursday night, with high-energy performances highlighted by Rusted Root and Cabinet on the Mushroom Stage — the festival’s secondary stage situated at the Montage Mountain water park.

New to this year’s Peach, the free kickoff show whetted the appetites of thousands of fans and was just a taste of what the weekend holds.

Pittsburgh jam favorties Rusted Root opened with the tuneful “The Movement,” the title track from its latest album, before the Celtic/Latin mix of “Martyr.”  With the Michael Glabicki-led collective taking the crowd back to the band’s mid-’90s “When I Woke” heyday, a cool breeze blowing over the mountain and fans dancing on the hillside, it felt like Peach had officially begun.

Other highlights included a jammed out “Cat Turned Blue,” another “Woke” track; Rusted Root opened the song with a quick “Superstition” tease, a foray into “All Along The Watchtower,” a snaky 1970s Grateful Dead-flavored jam and trips back into and out of “Superstition.”

The group closed its set, which featured a nice balance between quality songcraft and the percussive, tribal beats that made Rusted Root stars nearly 20 years ago, with its two most well-known selections:  a lilting “Send Me On My Way” and “Ecstasy,” arguably the band’s signature tune.  As “Ecstasy” came to a close and the dancers began to cool down, Glabicki thanked the audience, saying, “We’ll see you again next year, hopefully.”

Most of the crowd stuck around for local favorites Cabinet, which started their set at around 11 p.m. after a drawn-out soundcheck.  Pappy Biondo led the group through the taut roots rock of “Diamond Joe” and “Poor Man’s Blues,” while JP Biondo took lead vocals on “Doors.”  After Pappy retook the helm for “You Don’t Know My Name,” guitarist Mike Mizwinski emerged for the hot instrumental bluegrass of “Pike County Breakdown” as well as “Wine and Shine,” which also featured Roy Williams on keyboards.  Mizwinski took a nice flowing solo on the latter, and throughout his stay on stage, nicely fit in with Cabinet soloists Pappy (banjo), JP (mandolin), Todd Kopec (fiddle) and Mickey Coviello (guitar).  Cabinet, who will perform again on the Mushroom stage Saturday with guest saxophonist Ron Holloway, wrapped up its set with “54-46 Was My Number,” “Nashville Blues” and “Heavy Rain.”

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