By Michael Lello
Photo by Jason Riedmiller
It’s been a busy year for Cabinet. Touring various regions of the United States. Hosting their own festival, Old Farmers Ball, at Toyota Pavilion at Montage Mountain. And this week, the Americana sextet will return to Montage for two sets at the Allman Brothers Band-headlined Peach Music Festival.
Cabinet – Pappy Biondo (banjo, vocals), J.P. Biondo (mandolin, vocals), Mickey Coviello (acoustic guitar, vocals), Dylan Skursky (bass), Todd Kopec (fiddle, vocals) and Jami Novak (drums, percussion) – will perform at Thursday’s Peach kickoff party and again on Saturday on the Mushroom Stage.
Pappy recalls Cabinet’s early set on the main stage last summer.
“I remember people filing in, because we opened up the festival. So that’s a pretty vivid memory,” he said, checking in by phone during a drive back from Vermont earlier this week. “I thought it was really cool to have a lot of our local fanbase rush in and catch our set to start it off. I think that was the highlight of last year, to bring a local group and having the local rush come.”
This year, Cabinet will feature guest players during each set: On Thursday, Mike Mizwinski (guitar) of Miz, and Roy Williams (keyboards), a fixture of several Scranton acts and a member of Gypsy jazz guitarist Stephane Wrembel’s band, will sit in, and on Saturday, renowned saxophonist Ron Holloway will jam with Cabinet.
“I think it’s pretty loose,” Pappy said of Mizwinski sitting in. “We’ve been around the local scene long enough, and he sat in with us plenty of times, and we know his music well, and he knows our music. It’s more of a vibe thing with us. He’s such a great guitarist. It’s an honor to have him on stage with us. He’s a great addition to any project, really.
“And Roy Williams on keys Thursday night, tickling the ivories. Same thing with Roy; he’s such a phenomenal musician. There’s really no stress of running over songs.”
Holloway – who has worked with luminaries from Dizzy Gillespie to Gil Scott-Heron, as well as Peach acts the ABB and Gov’t Mule – will be joining Cabinet for the third time this year.
“He just has so many great things to say about us, and his energy is contagious,” said Pappy. “World-class player. He’s really cool. We had a great conversation with him about playing with so many different groups and trying to fit into different groups. He had said that playing with us was a bit of a challenge, not musically, but trying to mix his style of playing with what we’re doing. We’re kind of bending the genre a little bit, playing reggae, bluegrass, rock, and he feels a challenge in a way to make his playing fit with us, which gets him off. He loves it, because it’s easy for him to sit in on a jazz gig.
“For us, it’s how do we lay down a nice foundation for him to take a solo? To have a true soloist in the group, it puts the pressure on us to lay a nice groove down, which is great for us.”
Pappy, who said the group is working on new material with an eye toward recording – if and when the band has some time off the road — is not looking forward to Peach just because Cabinet is on the bill.
“It will be good to see Railroad Earth again,” he said. “We haven’t seen them in a while. We linked up with them pretty early in our journey, and I’m really excited to see what they’re doing. Ratdog, Bobby (Weir), I’ve never seen, so it’ll be good to see Bob, and then just in general, hanging out. I’m really looking forward to seeing friends and family. Festivals are really about those things.
“We’ve always been a festival band since we started; I think one of our first shows was at A Bears’ Picnic. That was kind of our introduction to playing live music. For us, the festival scene is relaxing. You pull up, you get food, hospitality and beer. Setting up and pulling into a venue is a little bit of a drag to get situated, especially in the summer. Anytime you get to play outside is better.”
And with two sets scheduled at Peach, Cabinet will have yet another opportunity to turn on new listeners.
“It seems like there’s a pretty good buzz going on about us, and we’re trying to capitalize on that,” Pappy said. “People are talking about us, and we want to come out and make sure they keep talking about us.”