BACKWOODS ENCOUNTERS 2021 A “Festafarian’s” Guide to the Galaxy | JamBandsOnline.com

BACKWOODS ENCOUNTERS 2021 A “Festafarian’s” Guide to the Galaxy

Review by

Photos by Lori Sky Twohy &

It was a long time coming to make it back to Mulberry Mountain.  Center earth, in between it all in Arkansas. The Ozarks have such a stayed quiet, but not on this weekend. Not at all. The Music Festival assures so. And I am here to say that this was for certain with the 2021 installment.

The grounds naturally featured itself per usual, starting with a breathtaking winding drive in, which opens to mountain views combined with canopies of trees that bask the ride as you ascend to the top of the mountain to the site. As you approach and turn into the Mulberry Mountain Music Park, it all opens up with great vantage. You take it in with a deep breath. It all comes into view; the cars, the heads, the camps, the shakedown, the stage, the sound, the lights, the camera, THE ACTION!

Things have seemed so quasi as of late. Music has taken its own care during the times of pandemic and the result is new names that need heard live and also healthy supplies of new music that have been unheard in live settings. 

This always excites me, no matter who? or what? or where? Give me the new-nu! To be part of a birthing experience with any artist always provides special glory. I make this statement because in all the sets that I saw from all the various artists, this was in common. I adored it and I will say that it won me over again and again knowing that I was sharing this not only with the fans, but artists as well.

Thursday night was simple; Lotus & Andy Frasco.  

was great. The groove specialists that make it move. They held enough bass-tech for the younger majority crowd that were getting there via rowdy town, and provided plenty enough jam-funk-tronica for me. And this was all a good thing. That’s right, now we had a good thing going.

I have confused Andy with comedian Eric Andre for years, but no more my friends. This guy is a pure entertainer.  His stage presence takes over and takes everyone with him. The first to heed is his band, The UN. These guys are all top shelf with stripes on sleeve. Blue collar guys. Leaving it all on the stage. The set was highlighted by a “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” for Charlie Watts (The Stones were being played in tribute by various artist sets through the fest as expected). Wholly though, it was lead after lead with antics that combined a completely stoned debauchery with the likes of Laurel & Hardey. To be honest, I feel Andy could be a great comedian, but we love him as a musician and he was a definite prize for a festival opener. 

Much of the scene as of late is BASS driven, and what offers is no exception. Friday seemed to have focus on the electronic portion of the lineup with major plays from ATLiens, G Jones and Ganja White Night (GWN). With new focus we dilate the aperture and let the light flow in. This is the new age of festival goer with great admiration in the art of digital music production and low-end theory. And so it goes as the ear adjusts right along with the eye to capture a new type of feel. That’s right, the new-nu.

Sunsquabi started things off for the night sets on the Motherland (main) stage. I had heard great things about this band and was excited to hear them. They did not disappoint as the heat broke and the festival took its first breath of Friday night. 

I found myself having to consult some younger heads to get geared up on many of these new acts to me. To find that vibe, not to figure on some artist information scrolled through a Google search. Rather engage with some cool cats on the feel of things. What they were digging on? What they were showing up for? 

I came up with a different result than intended. G Jones was the man of hour. GWN was the closer, and I spent much of my prep coming into the festival sampling their music and was on it.  But after the intrigue from some festovorian-wooksplaining on things, I really took to the G Jones set. 

His light and projection show are a simplistic approach of black and white, giving it this art typic bit byte style that simply brought all emphasis to the sound at hand. It really caught my ear, rather than my eye. ATLiens had moments with a more south urban womp and cut loose edge, but I do not think the crowd was warmed up enough, or maybe a little reserved to blow top, saving that for the later acts.

So, then it was Saturday. As the sun started its way out over to the tree line, the music came on real strong. Starting with Arkansauce on the Circus Casino Stage. The home-team as one might say of this event. Since last in 2019, I have caught these guys on their runs through Oklahoma City and just love them to pieces man. But I am one rootsie-bluegrass-lovin troubadour. This has never seemed to do me anything but have a great time tearing up some rug. If this sounds like you, then these guys may be your next listen.

As we moseyed over to Papadosio on the Motherland Stage, a great taking over of bliss body occured while having some very pure new memories of a dear friend that had passed a few years ago.  A coherence to be exact. Seth Maness was a huge friend and fan of these guys and was always pushing to get them on our Eye Dawg festivals.  I really was excited to finally see them. It was early night, under a darkening amber sky, and they really owned the slot. The crowd got up and moving. You could feel the place coming alive. The 535 was in the sky for sure and I had my hands held high my sweet brother.

Then it was back to the Casino for Spafford. They made this stage fun. Their music was flow and they really turned the crowd over into the night. A good band with a rock nature. They were solid. But again, we were on the move back to the Motherland.

And there we were with a feeling that was straight out of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”. An airy loft and breeze blowing through the gazers with the stage sitting there like some space vessel.  Everyone was approaching their space to fill in the blank. And then the Biscuits became visible and began snatching them all up. Like the misplaced stolen face that their set came to be. Not here or there, but everywhere. Outside the constraints of time. 

Just another night at the Disco. Two sets ta boot, busting out a new tune (Lake Shore Drive) and other tasty delights, warping the greater part of like parsecs of light being transported to the Motherland. Such fun! Not much more to say here but remain in light. It was my first Disco Biscuits show since 1, The Maiden Voyage back in 2004. Glad I showed back up no doubt. One more Saturday night in the books.

After catching a part of Fractal Sky, dub from Fayetteville (another local favorite), I used early Sunday afternoon to enjoy the particular nature of Mulberry Mountain. Hiking to the falls where, although the creek was mostly dried up, there was still enough water flowing and gathering for a jump and swim. Love this day scene where heads are all spread out through the rocks, in the caves, jumping the falls, chillin’ in the water, music playing. Vibes and feels. I also took a drive into Ozark National Forest, pulling up a few places and just allowing myself to set inside the scenery. It was truly fantastic and highly recommended anytime of any year. The festival scene is only kind of a bonus.

There was a little rain to laden the air around five o’clock cooling the night down by a few degrees. It made less dust get kicked up, so really was not bad at all. It did delay things a little, but not enough to shake it up too much. 

There were impressive plays by Com Truise and Clozee, whose sets ran into each other from different stages. I made a good call by splitting time on them. Clozee had a polished quality to her sound. She was professional and I would like to see her on a solo play in a club setting. 

It was a little after 9 o’clock and I found my self posted in front of the speaker for my Circus Casino Stage finale. Keller is my boy. When his set got washed away by the microburst in 2019, it was a tough blow for me. The festival was torn and left a little tattered that year. His set seemed to really bring a healing power. Not just from the pandemic, but from the loss that occurred on the mountain in 2019. 

I love what he does when he does it. I don’t care where. I love looking at his toes pressing pedals to whimsically cascade guitar harmonics into free form play. Loop it bro, I got time to see what is to come. In the meantime, I’ll be that freaker down by the speaker. 

As we came around to the final stretch, to my surprise, the best display of light and laser spectacular of the festival came from Greensky Bluegrass. Beams of light firing off to all points into the distance that fronted a blazing set of their brand of grass that has become the now frontier for much of the new grass around all these parts. 

The Motherland Stage was brought down by the Floozies and their ‘Day glow Funk’. This was the closer and you give them what they want. That is how it works, and this was that. Sure, the show came to an end, but these guys left it wide open.

And we will see what will come of from here. I can only hope and imagine. As far as 2021, it is a wrap. Another job well done by all volunteers, production crew, sponsors, supporters and artists alike. Media was not so shabby either, if you ask me. 

A special Thank You to Lori Sky (and her eye) of for inviting me to tag along and go Gonzo on this one.  

Keep it Real.

MOD 

Mike Modarelli, Eye Dawg Productions

“We love the music as much as you”

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