Saturday was a beautiful evening at Tussey Mountain Amphitheater, where more than 1,000 people set in for a night of live music by Rusted Root and local openers Mysterytrain and The Perkolators.
The Perkolators began the night with an energetic set of reggae-jam fusion, which had people dancing from the gate. The band brought their A-game and infused some funk into the mix. Ed Colby laid down the bass hard and admirably during a featured solo spot. His energy was infectious throughout the performance; he danced along on stage while slapping out notes like a pro.
Keyboardist Eric Kapusta seemed completely in his element as he set up the Perkolators’ world of sound. Lead singer Crisee Gordon was extremely confident and lovely, crooning along with the songs while moving her body to the undeniable rhythm.
Mysterytrain held the vibe as the second opening band. Its show highlighted a folk/jam element reminiscent of Grateful Dead, Phish and James Taylor, a welcome offering for the eager 21st-century flower children.
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Vocalist/ keyboard-player Gina Riggio has such an extremely lovely voice; I would have liked to hear her sing more backup on some of the songs. Her piano riffs on a number of the songs were captivating and brought a fullness to the sound.
For my tastes, Mysterytrain jammed out on a number of parts considerably too long, whereas the Perkolators tastefully introduced their jams and moved on to the next song. I would maybe complain that the Perkolators’ set was a hair too short and Mystertrain’s set a little too long. But for my ears, the best songs I heard from both these bands were their original creation. The bands’ original songs give me hope for the local music scene, a dream where original local artists hold as much weight as the jukebox cover bands.
Headlining band Rusted Root began its set unexpectedly mellow, easing the audience into a groove. I was surprised at the easy, melodic waywardness as the band snuck on stage and started playing its set. A glance to the stage showed one that Rusted Root brought a plethora of instruments.
For “Send Me On My Way,” the band brought out the Penn State Children’s Choir to join them on stage as backup singers while wearing rabbit ears and rattling along on shakers. It was a memorable rendition of Rusted Root’s classic hit, if not also a respectful “thank you, State College” from the band for the loyalty they get from these parts.
Some of the best songs the Pittsburgh-based band played were off its most recent album “The Movement,” which after listening to them play live, I might consider some of their best work to date. Rusted Root is continuing to grow as a band and a listening experience and masterfully blends world/roots/arena rock with some radio-friendly pop elements.
Lead singer Michael Glabicki’s voice sounded great and his upbeat presence nearly lit up the stage by itself; every song the band played seemed like a joyous event to him. I was particularly a fan of his harmonic yodeling and Bee-Gee’s esque falsetto. Bandmate Liz Berlin was entertaining as she played a different instrument in just about every song, including percussion support and recorder.
In the end Rusted Root put on a fabulous show and had the audience in the palm of their musically gifted hands by close. Sound tech Nate Prosek and his crew did a wonderful job running the sound boards. It was surely a magical and musical night spent on the mountain.
Who knows when Rusted Root will schedule another local performance, but I am sure we will see more from the Perkolators and Mysterytrain throughout the summer.