October 13th, 2012 at 1:22 pm
Editors Note: This post was composed Friday (Oct. 12) morning. Due to internet connectivity issues, the post did not go up as scheduled, and photos took prohibitively long to load. I’ll have the accompanying gallery of Thursday (Oct. 11) photos up soon. I promise.
Early into his band’s set that would close the main stage activities on the first day of Harvest Festival, Jeff Austin, mandolin player for Yonder Mountain String Band, offered the following lyrics: He was hanging “with all you freaks in the field” he told us during the track “Sideshow Blues.”
The freaks don’t come out in as great of volume or ferocity as they do at Harvest’s companion festival, Wakarusa, but they do arrive.
Thousands of music fans, both of festival namesake Yonder Mountain String Band and the approximately 75 other acts at the festival, have made their way to the grounds.
Many fought through rainstorms to be here, and those who did were rewarded with a sunshiny, warm fall day. I didn’t make it to everything — how could anyone? — but I did see a lot of music. Here’s a roundup of what I saw:
1:30 p.m. Delta Rae, Backwoods Stage
North Carolina band Delta Rae find themselves on a fast track — the band played “Conan” and “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” recently — and they have a new album to push. Even so, it would have been hard to expect the wonders of the band’s show, just the second of the festival. They got a late start because of a lightning delay at the beginning of Pert Near Sandstone’s set earlier on the same stage. The power went out during Delta Rae’s set. Instead of asking questions, demanding apologies or establishing themselves as prima donnas, the band members just started to sing a capella and play acoustically. The vocalists came to the front of the stage; the bass player grabbed an acoustic bass on the side of his stage and the drummer found a stomp box he could use instead of his kit.
When power didn’t come on immediately after the song concluded, the band left the stage and went into the crowd, which circled around them. Delta Rae performed three songs in this manner, including their hit “Bottom of the River” and a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain.” Both were beautiful, and done so well you would have guessed the band practiced at home for just such an occasion.
They finished the set back on stage after the power returned, but they’d already turned the show into something the fans — and likely the band members too — will never forget.
Rose’s Pawn Shop, 4 p.m., Harvest Tent
They performed a series of somewhat light-hearted country rock, cranking up the volume on their guitars for jams whenever they wished.
Dirtfoot, 4:45 p.m., Main Stage
Dirtfoot has played at Harvest Festival for years, often multiple times the same year. On the main stage, and with a sun-loving crowd in front of them, I was surprised by how percussive the band can be. Droning waves of bass, xylophone and drums washed over the crowd. I enjoyed their set at Chompdown, the annual campground potluck which took place early this morning (Friday, Oct. 12) than I did their main stage showing.
Bronze Radio Return, 6:15 p.m., Backwoods Stage
Also unexpectedly jammy was Bronze Radio Return, a Connecticut band that plays a riff-heavy, nerd-friendly, light version of math rock. They too swarmed the stage with guitars, including several solos. They peppered their songs with alternately with banjo and harmonica runs.
The most disappointing thing about the show was the crowd size — I counted just 16 in attendance at one point early in the set.
Joe Purdy, 7:15 p.m., Harvest Tent
A songwriter in the truest sense of the word, Joe Purdy, a Northwest Arkansas native, often plays as a solo artist. For his prime spot at the Harvest Tent, he employed The Giving Tree Band as his backing group for the night. That group, with banjo, pedal steel, fiddle and more, countrified and electrified his songs. Purdy looked happy to have a full band; the band looked as if they enjoyed adding heft to his songs.
Punch Brothers, 8:30 p.m., Main Stage
The Punch Brothers put on a clinic during their Main Stage set. It was a clinic in several fashions — they are fantastic musicians, and they deftly swung between old material, new material and covers that would give the crowd a charge. I enjoyed all three of the covers just as much as the material offered from the band’s excellent new album “Who’s Feeling Young Now.” The take on The Strokes’ “Reptilia” showed their speed and dexterity. The cover of Radiohead’s “Kid A” showed their imagination and willingness to try something ridiculous on their instruments. And the closing number, a reading on The Band’s “Ophelia” showed their reverence for Americana.
A great show, through and through.
Yonder Mountain String Band, 10:30 p.m., Main Stage
Yonder attracts a major following. This festival isn’t their only such event, as they are heavily involved in the Northwest String Summit in the Pacific Northwest. The crowds came out again for the group as they closed out the festivities on the main stage for the night. Their two-hour-plus set Thursday night will likely be their shortest of the festival, where they will play two more sets, one each remaining evening.
For the Thursday night festivities, Yonder brought out fiddle player Darol Anger, and they jammed with him throughout the night. They started quick and never relinquished. Among the many things Yonder deserves credit for is the energy they bring both to the festival in general and the stage show they present.
They’ll bring it back again tonight, as will dozens of other acts. Music has started again, although rain has hampered many of the events.