Photos by Bill Grenfel
Rolling into Ozark, Arkansas’s Mulberry Mountain was a beautiful autumn welcome! The brilliant fall colors surrounded the venue on this October morning and after passing the expected check point for contraband, the laid-back, hippie welcome prevailed. Yonder Mountain String Band’s Harvest Music Festival was sprinkled with expected artisans and food venders ready to sell their wares. Nothing smells quite like it and to me it was like “welcome back”! And the music hadn’t even started yet.
The lineup at Harvest was what you would expect with Yonder Mountain String Band as the headliner. It includes all the string jams you would want to hear and dance to in one 31/2 day stretch! But if you come next year, don’t forget to discover the musicians rocking all the other stages contained here. The best introductions await you there. You may also be treated to an impromptu guest appearance or collaboration of those artists that will simply rock your world!
From the folky, singer/songwriter jams, rockabilly bluegrass to the rock’n licks of the more traditional guitar and bass oriented rock–n–roll, there is truly something at the Harvest Music Festival for a variety of musical tastes.
Day one included an impromptu up close and personal introduction to Delta Rae on the Backwoods Stage. When they suddenly went unplugged, (technical difficulties), the band never missed a beat and made their way literally into the middle of the audience and continued the show. That type of showmanship epitomizes the festival experience! Up close and personal with the most amazing talent. And you never know what new, (or old), artist you may discover and add to your play list.
Highlight number two on day one for me was Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real. Lukas introduced himself with a stellar version of The Rolling Stones “Sympathy for the Devil”! And let me tell you, Willie’s boy can rock!!
The weather put a damper on things on day two but Harvest went on. The festivarians came prepared for rain and the organizers got busy with wood chips and hay to deal with the mud and the music never stopped.
One of the biggest challenges at these multi-stage festivals is trying to decide who to see and when. Harvest does a nice job with venue location so movement from one stage to the next is just a short walk across a field or down a path. So don’t get stuck at one stage! Sometimes forsaking the larger stages for the lesser known names on the smaller ones results in the best discoveries. One such experience this year was The Giving Tree sitting in with Joe Purdy. The finished product was a thing of beauty! Future collaborations are something to look forward to. Impromptu jam sessions like this are the hidden gems of these festivals. Whether the artists end up on a stage together planned or unplanned, the festivarian is the beneficiary. This is what I know for sure. These musicians come here, they are really, really good, and you should definitely check them out!
The Harvest Music Festival was well-run even as the rain poured down. The Harvest machine cranked out wood chips and straw in a relatively timely manner allowing the concert goers to move freely from stage to stage despite the weather. There were plenty of port-o-potties on hand, however flush toilets and a shower were tough to come by. VIP tickets or an RV upgrade allowed access to the modern restroom. But the other option was a $5.00 pay shower.
All in all, The Harvest Music Festival is definitely worth a trip to Ozark,Arkansas. Live music is always worth the trip and the laid back, unplugged atmosphere is a nice, and extremely entertaining, diversion from our busy lives.