Soon in tunes: Bret Michaels, Oct. 24 at Fort Smith Convention Center

October 24th, 2014 at 12:17 pm

Bret Michaels

Bret Michaels

Television personality and ’80s rocker Bret Michaels will return to the area for a concert tonight (Oct. 24) in Fort Smith. The Poison frontman and solo artist will bring his current tour to the Fort Smith Convention Center for an 8 p.m. show. Admission ranges from $35 to $50, and tickets are available via

The weekend in live music, with Mark Stuart and more

October 24th, 2014 at 5:03 am

Mark Stuart photo by Carlton Freeman

Mark Stuart photo by Carlton Freeman

When you come back from Harvest Festival, and it takes you a couple days to get caught back up on the reality of office life, and then you sneak away for a day for some other event, the weekend comes around crazy quick.

I’m struggling to believe today is Friday, but my calendar indicates it is Oct. 24 and therefore a Friday. I’m going to go with that.

Which means its time to plot out of the course of the weekend, music wise. Which is why we’re both here, right?

So let’s run through the options, shall we?

A recent tour has found Mark Stuart doing what he originally set out to do — play around the country as a singer-songwriter. He’s been playing professionally since the age of 15, but welcomed distractions such as touring with Freddy Fender, Steve Earle and Joan Baez as a hired gun of a guitarist. He’s now on a solo tour that will bring him to the Fayetteville Underground tonight. Admission to the 7:30 p.m. show is $15.

Elsewhere the weekend — arriving nearly in time for Halloween — is a band comprised of the undead. Here Come the Mummies, a funk and soul act who perform dressed as mummies, perform Saturday (Oct. 25) at George’s Majestic Lounge. It should be a rowdy time.

Also this weekend, one-man band AJ Gaither takes over the Pied Piper in Eureka Springs. That show takes place on Saturday as well.

What’s on your weekend agenda?

The strange and beautiful from Yonder’s Harvest Fest 2014

October 21st, 2014 at 12:37 pm

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Harvest 2014 Sights – Images by NWA Media

All photos by KEVIN KINDER, NWA Media.

A record crowd came to the 2014 edition of Yonder Mountain String Band’s Harvest Music Festival. The event, which ran from Oct. 16-18, featured hundreds of performances and just as many weird and wonderful scenes.

I tried to capture as much of it as I could, from the helicopter that buzzed the campgrounds all day Saturday (Oct. 18) to the proposal that took place during the beginning of Andy Frasco‘s set on Friday (Oct. 17) afternoon.

Look through the slideshow. You might even find yourself captured there.

Photos of bands at Yonder’s Harvest Festival 2014

October 21st, 2014 at 9:21 am

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Harvest 2014 Bands – Images by NWA Media

As often happens, the amount of photos a photographer takes during an event — for me at Yonder Mountain String Band’s Harvest Music Festival, in excess of 1,000 — does not equal the amount of available space.

The photos you see above are images of bands that didn’t find their way into my posts or print.

Come back later this afternoon when I share photos of festival attendees and all the other interesting sights captured at Harvest Fest, which ran from Oct. 16-18 at Mulberry Mountain in rural Franklin County.

A recap of Yonder Harvest Festival’s third and final day

October 19th, 2014 at 12:46 pm

Railroad Earth. All photos by KEVIN KINDER, NWA Media.

Railroad Earth. All photos by KEVIN KINDER, NWA Media.

This morning (Sunday, Oct. 19), the thousands of campers/music fans at Yonder Mountain String Band’s Harvest Music Festival headed into a world with a little bit more color than the one they exited upon their arrival.

Because I swear the leaves started turning in the four days I was down on the mountain. And that makes sense — it’s fall, and the cold nights we experienced on Mulberry Mountain are the same kind of triggers that send the trees into motion.

My Saturday (Oct. 18) at Harvest Festival was a more relaxed on than Friday’s frantic schedule, where I walked several miles, took more than 600 photographs and saw half a dozen sets.

I worked in the morning, and mostly took the night off, which means I spent most of my afternoon watching music, and subsequently have fewer notes and photos.

But I did get out, and here’s a bit about the acts I caught:

Paper Bird, 3 p.m., Main Stage

Paper Bird had a fun, somewhat whimsical sound. The three women in the band played prominent roles, and the band has pop tendencies to go with their folksy roots.

Ha Ha Tonka, 3 p.m., Backwoods Stage

When the Missouri boys in Ha Ha Tonka bring out the harmony vocals, like the did for an a capella traditional tune, they can make the world go silent. They were fantastic in that regard. But they also brought the rock, too — they opted to close their 75-minute set with three Tom Petty covers, because it was a festival gig and they can do what they want.

Devil Makes Three, 4:30 p.m., Main Stage

The Devil Makes Three

The Devil Makes Three

The Devil Makes Three is indeed a trio, and one with endless potential at that. They look like bad boys (and a bad girl) with intimidating tattoos, but they also sang of world peace at one point. It’s not going to surprise me if The Devil Makes Three gets really big really soon. At least big in the the alternative bluegrass world.

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Tim Carbone of Railroad Earth

Railroad Earth, 7:45 p.m., Main Stage

I always forget how much I like Railroad Earth until I see them onstage. I don’t often listen to their recorded songs — it’s a little too jammy, and a little bit too similar from track to track for my tastes. But live, it breathes and moves. They picked and played and even brought in the winner of the festival’s mandolin picking contest for a jam during “Bird in the House.” That was a nice touch.

And that concluded my music watching at Harvest Festival.

I hope you had a great Harvest Fest. Come back soon — I’ll upload more photos as I process them. And visit us on Friday (Oct. 24) in print — I’ll write a complete recap of the festival in that format.

A review of the Friday activities at Yonder’s Harvest Fest

October 18th, 2014 at 2:46 pm

The Carolina Chocolate Drops performing on Oct. 17 at Yonder's Harvest Fest on Mulberry Mountain. All photos by KEVIN KINDER, NWA Media.

The Carolina Chocolate Drops performing on Oct. 17 at Yonder’s Harvest Fest on Mulberry Mountain. All photos by KEVIN KINDER, NWA Media.

I must change my outlook from yesterday.

The weather worsened, but only in being slightly cooler than perfection. There are now a few clouds in the sky, a major change from yesterday’s spotless day. The clouds kept the morning cool; it’s most certainly fall.

And we can feel that transition happening. A quick run around the campgrounds here at Yonder Mountain String Band’s Harvest Music Festival showed me the first fall colors are arriving. And the cool mornings and warm afternoons mark the turn of the season as well as the return of college football does.

Jake Jolliff of Yonder Mountain String Band

Jake Jolliff of Yonder Mountain String Band

Pardon me the segue here, but we’re watching the transition of Yonder Mountain String Band live and in person as well. Yonder, who has headlined this festival for four consecutive years, lost a member in the spring but gained two more with the departure of Jeff Austin and the inclusion of Allie Kral and Jake Jolliff. The Yonder Mountain String Band that I watched on the Main Stage of their festival on Friday (Oct. 17) at Mulberry Mountain is a newish, vibrant thing. Not fully new — they maintain much of the former sound and play many of the old songs.

But new in that Jolliff and Kral add new dimensions, as evidenced by the latter’s lead vocals during a cover of Linda Ronstadt’s “You’re No Good.” That’s just not a song the band could have done six months ago.

Yonder’s headlining set was one of dozens that took place during the Friday festivities of the festival, which continues through the early-morning hours of Sunday (Oct. 19) on the gorgeous festival grounds. And when I say early morning, I mean that — Andy Frasco closes the festival with a set that begins at 2:15 a.m. and runs until 3:15 a.m.

Andy Frasco

Andy Frasco

Speaking of Frasco, he was one of many acts that I watched on Friday. A recap of each follows:

Andy Frasco, 2 p.m., Main Stage

Andy Frasco threw a party. And I do emphasis party. During the course of his set, he crowd surfed to moonshine. He funneled three beers. As a soundtrack for this, he covered the Beastie Boys and a bunch of ’90s rap. You know, party music. That’s where the bulk of his original material falls too. He sings of smoking dope, rock ‘n’ roll and boasts of conquests from the party before.

He invited people to break down the barriers between the VIP area and the main stage, and people obliged. He also played a full 5 minutes past his published stop time, meaning the band that followed him, Elephant Revival, had to cut their set short. Those are the kind of things he can get away with during his festival-closing set, but not in the middle of the day.

Elephant Revival, 3:45 p.m. Main Stage

I only watched a few minutes of Elephant Revival‘s set — it took them an eternity to complete their sound check. It also took a long time to reconstruct the stage after the end of Frasco’s show, so I’m not sure they are entirely to blame.

I’ve watched the band several times before, and I know they can spin a set in any direction they want. But I was struck on Friday afternoon by how soft and dreary they were for the set. Of course, I’m not sure any set looks enthusiastic when it follows Frasco’s nonstop wildness. I’m curious what Elephant Revival will do during their Backwoods Stage set later this afternoon. I’d hope it’s a little more rowdy.

The Bottle Rockets, 4:30 p.m., Backwoods Stage

Brian Henneman of The Bottle Rockets

Brian Henneman of The Bottle Rockets

Brian Henneman, the lead singer of The Bottle Rockets, talked about how strange it was for the band to be playing rock ‘n’ roll in the woods. I have to agree with him on some levels — they were the most rock-forward group on the bill. With big guitar riffs, they played a batch of Dad rock for the country crowd. I enjoyed it.

Split Lip Rayfield, 5:30 p.m., Main Stage

Split Lip Rayfield

Split Lip Rayfield

The Split Lip Rayfield show turned into a Kansas and Kansas City reunion for the band from Lawrence, Kansas. They dropped more than a dozen songs that the band has crafted in the past 20 years, singalong numbers such as “River” and “Rig or Cross.” They also told bad jokes, and they worked the crowd into a frenzy with fast playing and silliness. Later in the set, a “Lets Go Royals” chant broke out, perhaps partially in response to mandolin player Wayne Gottstine’s Kansas City Royals shirt and the baseball team’s run through the playoffs. When’s the last time a team outside of the Razorbacks got cheered on in Arkansas?

The Carolina Chocolate Drops, 7:30 p.m., Main Stage

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The Carolina Chocolate Drops are perfectly charming, and they use that leverage to discuss situations we shouldn’t be proud of. The Drops perform many old world traditionals, which means some of their songs are slave tunes. The quartet of black musicians from North Carolina pledge to not let anyone forget that time and the damage done. Beneath any of those lessons is a band equipped with stellar musicians. And they covered the full range of American sounds — jazz, blues, folk, bluegrass and more. I was particularly impressed with lead singer Rhiannon Giddens. Her voice is a thing of beauty.

Yonder Mountain String Band, 9:45 p.m., Main Stage

I don’t know what to say about Yonder I didn’t say above — or won’t say again tomorrow morning after I see them live again tonight. They are one of many acts on my schedule today, which also includes sets by Ha Ha Tonka, The Steel Wheels and Elephant Revival (yes, again).

NWA’s first Metal Fest takes place Oct. 18

October 17th, 2014 at 3:27 pm

Savage Spawn

Savage Spawn

When a segment of the music-listening population runs away for a music festival, like many will for this weekend’s Yonder Mountain String Band’s Harvest Music Festival, there’s a void left.

A void those in the metal community are happy to fill.

Following the success of a metal show at George’s Majestic Lounge during the Wakarusa festival in June, the venue is again coordinating a big to-do featuring metal bands, this time during Harvest Fest. Pointless Promotions booking agent and owner Rubin Medina is in charge of rounding up the bands, just as we was during Wakarusa. The pairing works well for all involved, Medina says.

The venue wants to bring in an alternative, and Medina has a list of bands he’s worked with in the past.

“I want to put these bands in front of people, because they are pretty good,” he says.

For Saturday’s NWA Metal Fest at George’s, Medina has booked 13 local or regional bands.

Performing during the festival will be Antartichrist, Hellbeast, War Pigs, Chemical Discipline, Eye of the Witch, Serpentine, Savage Spawn, Izuna and more. Music will take place on the lounge and garden stages at George’s.

Yonder Mountain String Band — Traditional and new

October 17th, 2014 at 12:41 pm

Yonder Mountain String Band

Yonder Mountain String Band

This isn’t the same Yonder Mountain String Band you once knew.

And that’s never more obvious than in the lineup of the band itself. In April, the band announced a split with founding mandolin player and vocalist Jeff Austin.

The time since that amicable(?) split has been a busy one. The band added two new players, Allie Kral on fiddle and Jake Jolliff on mandolin. New music is in the works, and the band has resumed its nearly nonstop touring schedule.

That brings the group to this area for a series of shows at this year’s Yonder Mountain String Band’s Harvest Music Festival. They played a set last night (Oct. 16), and they’ll play another tonight and tomorrow night (Oct. 17-18).

I recently spoke with the band’s guitarist, Adam Aijala, about the energy the new members bring to the band and about moving forward. You can read my interview in today’s What’s Up! section, available in all five of the Northwest Arkansas Media group’s daily papers or online [Note: Subscriber content].

The band plays from 10 p.m.-12:30 a.m. today moving into Saturday and from 9:45 p.m.-12:30 a.m. Saturday into Sunday. Both sets are on the main stage.

Two-day tickets are currently $105 and are available through the festival’s ticketing site.

I’ll be down on the festival grounds through Sunday morning, so make sure you’re following along here and on Twitter.

A recap of Thursday activities at Yonder’s Harvest Fest

October 17th, 2014 at 11:34 am

Trampled by Turtles. All photos by KEVIN KINDER, NWA Media.

Trampled by Turtles. All photos by KEVIN KINDER, NWA Media.

Ben Kaufmann, bass player for Yonder Mountain String Band, might have jinxed us all. He mentioned the unspeakable — the weather at the Yonder Mountain String Band’s Harvest Music Festival. In previous years, it always seemed to rain, and I think he used the word “deluge” during a Thursday (Oct. 16) press conference.

“We’ve been swimming in mud and water for so many years,” Kaufmann said.

About this year, Kaufmann said “It is the definition of perfect.”

And I’m not sure how this year could have gotten off to a better start, at least from my perspective. Yonder’s Harvest Festival is in its fourth year; the festival operated for five years before the partnership with Yonder commenced.

This one included, I’ve been to eight of the festivals, missing only the inaugural year. I’m not sure it’s ever been this nice. We were promised a deep pool of talent, and we were promised a larger-than-ever crowd. We get no such guarantees on weather, but we’ll certainly take a present when we’re handed one.

The Oh Hellos

The Oh Hellos

I caught bits of many sets early in the day, such as Rose’s Pawn Shop and Samantha Fish, between press conferences and other work obligations. I was able to see a chunk of several shows later in the evenings, and bit on each follows:

The Oh Hellos, 7 p.m., Main Stage

Want to talk about nice weather? Well, The Oh Hellos make music that’s probably best described as “nice.” The Dallas-based band rarely performs together, and perhaps that’s because it is so hard to gather all 12 of the musicians who were on stage for their set last night. Like bands such as The Lumineers and The Head and the Heart, The Oh Hellos offer pleasing music of the loud-soft-now loud again variety. They didn’t play my favorite song of their, but I’ll give them a pass this time.

The Jayhawks, 8:30 p.m., Main Stage

Gary Louris, with his weird beard

Gary Louris, with his weird beard

I maintain an unofficial list of the top bands I’ve yet to see live — and there aren’t many left, because I’m pretty lucky in my current music-writing gig. The Jayhawks were, until last night, in second place on that list, topped only by Neil Young (with Crazy Horse, because I’ve watched him with Buffalo Springfield). It’s hard to live up to years of hype, but The Jayhawks are no ordinary band. Lead vocalist Gary Louris, in a move appropriate for a festival environment, came out in a ridiculous fake beard. They would spend the next 90 minutes offering up songs from their decade-plus-deep catalog. The band often times lacked a certain “oomph,” and tracks like “Angeline” were given with precision. But alternately, the band cranked it up for takes on “I’d Run Away” or pumped up the emotion with the surprisingly heartbreaking “Tampa to Tulsa.” The softer — or harder — moments made for the more interesting moments from their set.

Trampled by Turtles, 10:30 p.m., Main Stage

Early in the day while at my campsite, I heard Trampled by Turtles perform a soundcheck. They got a demand for an encore from the assembled few who gathered for the improptu set. It would be that kind of night for them. They came out gloriously uptempo, and they rarely relented during Thursday’s proceedings. They played smartly, and jammed without sounding too jammy. That’s a feat, and it takes a great band to pull it off. They stuck to their guns, but when they ventured away, that was beautiful, too, as they did with the cover of Arcade Fire’s “Rebellion (Lies).”

There’s much on the agenda for today, of course. I’ve got the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Yonder Mountain String Band and Dirtfoot, among others, on my radar today? What will you see?

Gary Louris, with his weird beard

Gary Louris, with his weird beard

The weekend in live music, with RJ Mischo and more

October 17th, 2014 at 5:03 am

RJ Mischo

RJ Mischo

I’ve spent the better part of the last week trying not to jinx the weather. You see, this is the time of year when we get a rainy spell or two — it’s Yonder Mountain String Band’s Harvest Music Festival time, and that event has a history with weather, up to and including getting walloped by the remnants of a hurricane.

So I dare not talk about it, even as the rainy weekend that always seems to fall at this time of year may have just past. Have you seen what’s coming in the next three days? I mean, it looks, well … I can’t say it out loud, but take a look.

Get out this weekend, will you? We’ll continue our festival coverage throughout the weekend, so how about things for those staying home?

Acclaimed local bluesman RJ Mischo returns with a new album he’ll celebrate tonight (Oct. 17) at George’s Majestic Lounge. The harmonica player’s 12th release, “Everything I Need,” includes nine originals and three covers. “Everything I Need” was recorded in Minneapolis and was released on Oct. 1. Joining him for the evening will be his Red Hot Blues Band, a group assembled fresh for each show, this time featuring Zack Bramhall. Admission to the 6-8 p.m. show is $5.

This is also craft fair weekend, and that brings thousands to the area. Some of the events even have music.

Here’s one of those. At just 10 years old, Tennessee native Emi Sunshine already has credentials that would make many lifelong musicians jealous. She’s performed on the “Today” show, and she just took the stage at the Grand Ole Opry in August. Emi and her family band are booked for shows today and Saturday (Oct. 18) at the Ozark Regional Craft Fair at the Washington County Fairgrounds in Fayetteville. She performs at 2 p.m. today and at noon Saturday. Other acts scheduled to perform during the craft fair include the Southern Sirens and the Cow Patty Creek band. Admission and parking are free.

Another, and different, option takes place in Fort Smith.

One-time Fort Smith resident Jonathan Karrant returns home for a show on Saturday night at the Blue Lion. For this appearance, the jazz vocalist will be backed by the Don Bailey Quartet for an evening called “Celebrating America’s Crooners.” The group’s repertoire for the evening will include works by Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin and Michael Buble. Tickets to the 8 p.m. concert are $30 and are available through

Elsewhere, the Sweet Water Gypsies offer a set up on Sunday (Oct. 19) at Chelsea’s Corner Cafe, and Brennan Leigh and Noel McKay perform tonight at Fayetteville Underground.

What’s on your calendar?