Bluegrass music is one genre which sends a sense of goodness into the souls of those who embrace it. Over the weekend of Harvest Festival there was a lot of good that was spread. Located in the homely state of Arkansas, tucked away on Mulberry Mountain strings took over the echoes for Yonder Mountain String Band's festival. The band scooped up some friends and brought their instruments and invited people to come and party. Sponsored by Boulevard Beers and Greenhouse Grills out of Fayetteville, Arkansas the hospitality of this beautiful state shinned throughout the weekend. Mulberry Mountain is open year round, offering many activities and sights to see on top of the music. Camping, hiking, ATV trails and wildlife watching all included. The festival provided extracurriculars such as morning cartoons, yoga meditation, joy of poi, hoop lessons, open jams, tye dying and late night movies. This festival brought out more of a family gathering, from babies to the elderly enjoyment was found by all. Children were entertained throughout the day with planned activities. There was even a disc golf course on site which created opportunity to get in a round or two before falls end. All the activities mixed with the music made the weekend an escape. The dramatic changing fall colors created the perfect scenery to enjoy the string plucking jams which were made.
The weekend kicked off Wednesday when the gates opened up on the mountain. The first attendees began to trickle in. Music did not start until later in the afternoon. There was plenty to occupy your time with on the mountain though. Taking a moment to appreciate the environment which surrounded this festival was one of the most positive attributes. Hiking the mountain trail attached to the festival grounds or just enjoying the scenery filled up the afternoon. Later in the evening the pre party kicked off. The high spirits of the weekend lifted with the music. The trio, Ben Miller Band thumped away with their traditional bluegrass and folk ways. Different versions of musical chairs seemed to occur on stage, swapping instruments played. During their set a toast to the mountain was ordered raging on the first night. This twangy band had originality in their sound. Quite entertaining to the crowd who made it out to the mountain early. Also playing pre party Wednesday was the band White Water Ramble. The first night on the mountain was kindling for the mass bluegrass party.
Thursday October 14th
As the car loads of people continued trickling in on Thursday the anticipation for the music to start was in the air. Dirtfoot set in motion the yee-haw factor for the day by bringing their southern folk flare. Instruments included the usual bluegrass strings along with bluesy saxophone addition. The early afternoon crowd jumped around, some carrying tin cans which were created into homemade maracas. Dirtfoot certainly proved to be a one of a kind band with a unique crowd who enjoyed the early afternoon set. Comedic lyrics as well as a bit of beat boxing and yodeling all wrapped in there. As the set concluded the good cheer within the crowd was heard by,”Happy Harvest,” said while many passed.
While the afternoon sun beamed down Mountain Sprout took to the stage. This band bumped out tunes with an entangled twang, comical lyrics and a fast tempo made dancing easy. They represented performing in their home state of Arkansas for this festival. Their set highlighted the lax atmosphere which is felt within the bluegrass family present. The band in between strums commented on the elevation and beauty which surrounded. Mountain Sprout strummed through their set performing solid originals such as, “Screw the Government.” This band's laid back attitude and intensely powerful instrumental use made for a delight on first afternoon.
The next set on the main stage was the growing favorite bluegrass band from Chicago, Cornmeal. This band knows how to get a crowd going. With intense string jams infused with powerful moving lyrics and uplifting choruses. This band was the perfect pick right before sun down. The energy was as high as the elevation. The audience who consistently stomped up the dust throughout the bands time on stage. Smiles cemented onto the bands faces as those grins were reflected straight back by the attendees. The set flew by with songs such as “River Gap,” a song which bursts fast paced movements. Near the end of the set a treat was in store. Tim Carbone of Railroad Earth stepped out on stage for a fiddle duel. As the strings on stage cooled down the energy and excitement for more music was lifted. Cornmeal who left the crowd hanging for more stepped off stage as the music still lingered in the air.
Martin Sexton jumped into his set with his soulful voice full and flowing with the addition of the acoustic sounds of the guitar. This artists name proved to go along with his vocals perfectly, smooth and sexy. The set was calming and mellow in the early evening as the last sunlight sank away from the day. Sexton's narrative lyrics with relation to his life; such as the tune sung on how his wife and him met. The smooth consistency in his playing combined with moments of fast progression kept the crowd swaying. Melodies traveled from this musician were very loose and laid back. They went well with the moon entering into the sky. Martin Sexton put on a jolly one man show. The spirit of the audience was felt as attendees yelled, “Marty we love you.” Sexton's graciousness was highlighted in the performance as he concluded the set.
Performing in the Nomadic Dreams tent, Tryannosaurus Chicken brought back a classic feeling of bluegrass. The band is impressively age diversified. A single female member belted out a powerful addition vocally besides the male members. This band sincerity in their music brought out a joyful act. Unique instruments and musical skills, including a gazoo solo! This bands name has a draw just as well as the music. Entertaining and talented, a small band with large skill. They were a great set to see in between the main stage acts.
Next to hit the main stage spotlight was Brett Dennen. The American musician coming from California sent a tropical flow over the fall air with the loose beat in his music. The stage was glowing with Dennen's beautiful vocals which sent chills down your spin. A harmonious set well in tuned with the backing instrumentals as well as a dash of pop music at this bluegrass bash. Lyrics sent insightful and moving messages such as, “Its the life that you make, don't be afraid of the hands you play.” This musician was a unique delight to have on the lineup and got the crowd swaying for the next set.
The highly anticipated bluegrass band Railroad Earth lite up the evening right as the stars began to beam a bit brighter. Kicking the set off with an uplifting intro into the tune“Saddle of the Sun.” Straight from the get go the audience was revved up. This band has such a sweet yet rocking way of busting out the bluegrass music they create. The music seems closely connected to the environment, especially with the mountain tops that surrounded. Todd Sheaffer on lead vocals and acoustic guitar presents his voice with trust and nobility. As the set drifted into a strong version of “Head,” the captivated audience members never ceased to dance. The song drifted into a powerful jam, instruments relaying off one another, then the clincher straight back into “Head.” This band has a way of flowing yo