BETHEL — Mountain Jam is being born again in 2019, as demonstrated by the choice of Willie Nelson to headline the event, festival founders said Thursday.
Mountain Jam founder Gary Chetkof confirmed Thursday that the festival that has been located at Hunter Mountain for 14 years will take place in the hippie mecca of Bethel at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts.
The festival website was unveiled Thursday morning, announcing part of the lineup for the festival, which will be held from June 13 through June 16.
The move from Hunter Mountain is a big change, but was necessary for the rebirth of the festival on the 50th anniversary of the legendary Woodstock Music and Art Festival held in Bethel in August 1969, Chetkof said in an interview Thursday.
“This was a big move. We always loved Hunter Mountain,” Chetkof said. “We thought holding the festival at Bethel on the 50th anniversary of Woodstock was a good time and place for the festival to have a fresh look and fresh feeling. Mountain Jam came out of the Woodstock era and this will be the first rock-and-roll camping festival in Bethel since 1969.”
Bethel Woods plans to host a Woodstock anniversary festival from Aug. 16 through Aug. 18, the dates of the original 1969 festival.
“That festival will be two months later and will not have on-site camping,” Chetkof said.
Besides acknowledging the peace-and-love era by location, Mountain Jam is going back to its musical roots with a host of loyal artists including original founder and long-time jam-band guitarist Warren Haynes, who will introduce the festival after being absent from it since 2016.
“We called him up and told him we really missed him and that Mountain Jam needed his presence,” Chetkof said. “He was excited to come back, and he said he missed us, too.”
The lineup announced Thursday has Haynes’ band Gov’t Mule playing two sets over the weekend and brings back the Avett Brothers and the Revivalists.
“We are going back to our roots and giving our fans what they’ve been asking for,” Chetkof said. “A lot of our friends are coming back.”
Haynes, who co-presented Mountain Jam’s first 12 years, said, “Having been there for the foundation and development of Mountain Jam including the curation of artists and music over the first 12 years and headlining with Gov’t Mule, Warren Haynes Band, The Allman Brothers Band, Phil Lesh & Friends and sitting in with countless others, I am pleased to be returning for the festival’s 15th anniversary.”
In addition to the artistic and geographical changes, Mountain Jam is heading in a new business direction.
The festival parted ways with promoter Town Square Media and joined forces with LiveNation, Chetkof said.
“Town Square and I decided that Radio Woodstock take over Mountain Jam, and they can keep Taste of Country,” Chetkof said. “These are our relative areas of expertise. It was the best thing for the festival.”
As for the venue, Chetkof touted Bethel Woods’ built-in amphitheater, flatter, more spread-out terrain, on-site parking that ends the need for shuttle buses, and more camping space that allows concert-goers to park one car at their campsite.
“Bethel is a spectacular site,” Chetkof said. “We hope that we will get new fans from the southern part of the state, but we are really hoping our loyal fans will come along for the ride. There is a lot to digest here. But we are really excited and we hope our fans will come check it out.”
The Bethel Woods Museum will remain open throughout the festival, Chetkof said.
Mountain Jam is a major artistic and economic coup for Bethel Woods.
“We are thrilled to be hosting Mountain Jam at Bethel Woods during the golden anniversary year,” said Darlene Fedun, CEO of Bethel Woods Center for the Arts.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to bring music, community and art to the historic site,” Fedun said. “Mountain Jam will be one of many exciting opportunities to visit us throughout all of 2019 and we are truly looking forward to providing diverse programming for our friends, supporters and guests from near and far.”
Mountain Jam organizers will add another headliner and several more bands to the lineup. An announcement will be made in the spring, Chetkof said.
Early-bird tickets for the four-day festival will go on sale at 10 a.m. starting at $159 for a four-day general-admission pass. The second-tier early-bird pass will be $179 and the regular general-admission price will be $199. Camping passes including various car camping sites and RV camping and glamping sites will also be made available Friday. Camping pass prices can be found on the festival website.