August 15th, 2009 at 10:17 am
As I stood watching the Thursday night (Aug. 13) activities at the Mulberry Mountain Harvest Music Festival near Ozark, it sure looked like there were fewer people at the festival than the year before.
Had the change in date got them? Did last year’s hurricane condition — and rain at previous festivals, too — dissuade people from coming?
The difference in attendance between Thursday night and when I returned to the festival site in the early afternoon hours of Friday (Aug. 14) was remarkable. And people just kept coming.
When I arrived again on Friday, I was forced to park at the outermost of the camping grounds. Just an hour later, after watching the bands, my campsite was engulfed, just another spot in a ever-widening army of tents and cars with out-of-state plates.
It’s hard to say how many people are currently on the Mulberry Mountain site, which is located on Arkansas 23 about 8 miles south of Arkansas 16.
But it’s clear that the beautiful weather, coupled with the prospect of seeing bands such as The Avett Brothers, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and dozens of other acts, were too hard to resist.
Click the ‘more’ link below to continue reading about the Friday-night events at the Mulberry Mountain Harvest Music Festival.
Festivals are a unique experience. At one point last night, sitting at my campsite, I could distinctly hear three band playing at the same time. You’re forced to pick and choose, and there are always some that get left behind, even acts you really want to see. Here is what I caught:
5:15 p.m., Split Lip Rayfield, Downhome Stage
At this point in time, it might be appropriate to offer a disclaimer: I’ve seen Split Lip Rayfield far too many times to be considered a casual fan, and this show would mark my second time in two days.
In the heart of the midday sun, which, despite complaints from the fans, was never unbearable, considering what a day in mid-August can sometimes reach, Split Lip offered a different set than the one they played just 20 hours prior at a stage next door.
Sure, they included several of the songs that would be considered their hits, such as “Redneck Tailgate Dream” and “Kiss of Death,” but they also offered some that they didn’t the evening before, stompers such as “3.2 Flu” and “Little More Cocaine Please.”
It was as robust and enthusiastic as the evening before, despite the temperature and a crowd that had to chose between them and popular festival draw Railroad Earth.
6:40 p.m., Tea Leaf Green, Main Stage
I didn’t get to stay for the entirety of the Tea Leaf Green set, due mostly to the fact that I was hungry and wandered off for something to eat.
They spooled off several jams as I meandered about, relying alternately between keyboards and guitar as the focal point. Late in the set, as I was walking back toward the concert area, they invited Tim Carbone of Railroad Earth to join them.
8:45 p.m., Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Main Stage
Harvest Festival director Dewey Patton told the Times prior to the start of the event that he hoped the addition of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and The Ozark Mountain Daredevils would expand the festival’s demographic base and attract a few older than the typical 20-somethings that dominate these events, age wise.
It looks to be a success.
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, who originated in California in the late ’60s, drew a sizable crowd to watch them play a series of songs from all of the decades since.
They played the early stuff, such as “Mr. Bojangles,” the Bob Dylan song that they covered early in their career and helped launch them as a commercial act, and new songs, too, such as “The Resurrection,” which lead singer Jeff Hanna declared would appear on a new studio album the band plans to release next month.
They also played a few covers along the way, including “Some Dark Hour” by the Grateful Dead (it is impossible to attend a music festival and not have some band, somewhere, play a Grateful Dead song) and also a snazzy, downtempo version of The Beatles’ “Get Back.”
Whatever song they were playing, the highlight was John McEuen. His mastery of three instruments — mandolin, banjo and fiddle — is greater than most achieve on any. About halfway through the set, he stopped to tell jokes, and played a solo banjo medley that included traditionals such as “Turkey In The Straw” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” that amazed and inspired.
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band setlist: 1) 2) Long Hard Road; 3) The Resurrection; 4) Going to the Country; 5) Rippling Waters; 6) Some Dark Hour [Grateful Dead cover]; 7) My Walking Shoes Don’t Fit Me Anymore; 8) Return to Dismal Swamp; 9) Get Back [Beatles cover]; 10) Working Man With Nowhere To Go; 11) Mr. Bojangles; 12) Bless The Broken Road; 13) Traditional banjo medley; 14) did not catch the title 15) Fishing In The Dark; 16) Baby’s Got a Hold On Me 17) American Dream 18) Bayou Jubilee 19) Cadillac Ranch
11 p.m., The Avett Brothers, Main Stage
Here is what you need to know about The Avett Brothers: They are any kind of band they want to be. Some of their songs are tender. Others are heartbreaking. Some are rollicking. At some points, the band was fully electronic, with guitars, bass and drums. Others, it was just the two brothers harmonizing over a single guitar.
And here is what else you need to know: Their reputation as a sensational live act is deserved, and it stems from the fact that they pull it off. They are ferocious when they want to be, soft when they need to be and utterly convincing at both. During songs such as the new “Kick Drum Heart,” their boisterous behavior carries the speedy tune. On others, such as “Shame,” they are heartbreak epitomized, an astonishing act of confessional honesty.
Highlights included the moving balladry of “Murder in the City,” and “November Blue” and the stomping, gritty, “Hard Worker.”
The brother duo from North Carolina along with bandmate and bassist Bob Crawford (and also with part-time contributer Joe Kwon on cello), alternately tore through old and new material. They played two songs off an album that won’t be released until September, and it’s a good indicator at how fast this band is moving into the public consciousness. They have recently signed to Columbia Records to work with famed producer Rick Rubin, who will release the new album under his own offshoot American Recordings.
Here’s why it’s telling: Their album won’t be out for seven more weeks, and only one of the songs has been released as a single, and even then, only briefly, but already hundreds were singing that song, “I And Love And You,” when it was played Friday night.
As their set concluded the main stage performances, the fans screamed for an encore that would never come. Seth Avett simply came out, pointed at his watch to indicate they were out of time and went about his way.
And if my campsite and those around me were any indication, everyone in the crowd went on to talk about The Avett Brothers.
The Avett Brothers set list: 1) Please Pardon Yourself; 2) Famous Flower of Manhattan; 3) did not catch the title; 4) Late In Life; 5) (The) Living Of Love; 6) Paranoia In B Major; 7) Denouncing November Blue (Uneasy Writer); 8) That’s How I Got To Memphis; 9) Hard Worker; 10) Pretend Love; 11) I Killed Sally’s Lover; 12) not sure of the title; 13) Swept Away; 14) Salina 15) I And Love And You; 16) Kick Drum Heart; 17) Murder In The City; 18) Shame; 19) Colorshow; 20) Down With The Shine; 21) November Blue
1 a.m., Cornmeal, Downhome Stage
I sort of listened to Cornmeal. They were playing not far from my campsite. I know they played at least two covers, bluegrass style: “You Should Be Dancing” by The Bee Gees and “Alabama Song (Whisky Bar)” by The Doors. Really.
I know they were playing at 2 a.m. But there were other concerns. It was time to sit back and relax and enjoy the Arkansas evening and recount the concert victories we’d all experienced during the day.
There needed to be a little rest, too.
There is plenty more music happening today.