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 brownpapertickets.com.

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?

A quick update from Yonder’s Harvest Festival

October 16th, 2014 at 2:03 pm

Yonder Mountain String Band’s Harvest Festival is underway. Or will be soon, depending much on which bands you want to see.

The Main Stage opens in about three minutes with Eureka Springs’ Mountain Sprout, a blend of high energy bluegrass and dirty jokes.

As for everything else so far, it’s been a fantastic morning. It started on the chilly side this morning — something like 42 degrees. It’s only gotten warmer, and if there are clouds in the sky, there aren’t many. In other words, it’s a fantastic start to the day.

I’m off to see Mountain Sprout, The Jayhawks, Trampled by Turtles (who sounded fantastic during their sound check, by the way) and Yonder Mountain String Band. And no doubt some others along the way.

Come back early tomorrow, when, Internet connection permitting, I’ll post some photos and a review of the Thursday shows.

The 10 bands you must see at this year’s Harvest Festival

October 15th, 2014 at 9:47 am

Music festivals feature a never-ending assortment of choices. If you haven’t thought about what to pack, what to wear and what to eat and drink while at Yonder Mountain String Band’s Harvest Music Festival, well, you haven’t spent as much time thinking about the festival as I have.

And that’s before ever getting into the music, a dizzying array of tunes that rarely stop. What’s worse, the shows sometimes conflict because there are four stages, often operating simultaneously. Music technically starts at 7 p.m. today (Oct. 15) for early arrivals, and it continues through the early morning hours of Sunday (Oct. 19).

I can only make suggestions on what to pack and wear, and I can likewise only make suggestions about what to see.

But I can tell you my Top 10 most anticipated sets of the festival. Look for me at all of these. I’ll be the one dancing like a madman.

10) The Oh Hellos — 7 p.m. Oct. 16 at the Main Stage

This folk-pop group from Texas rarely plays together. You’ll like them if you like The Lumineers or charming vocal interplay.

The Oh Hellos perform “Hello My Old Heart”:

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9) The Bottle Rockets — 4:30 p.m. Oct. 17 at the Backwoods Stage

One of the pioneers of the alternative country movement, The Bottle Rockets play music with big flourishes.

The Bottle Rockets perform “Radar Gun”:

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8) Everyone Orchestra — 12:30 a.m. Oct. 19 at the Harvest Tent

The Everyone Orchestra includes just about everyone on the festival grounds. It’s unpredictable, but often charming.

A sample from the Everyone Orchestra‘s performance at last year’s Harvest Fest:

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7) Carolina Chocolate Drops — 7:30 p.m. Oct. 17 at the Main Stage

This band’s pure take on traditional music is a throwback, yet it also breaks new ground at the same time.

Carolina Chocolate Drops perform “Leaving Eden”:

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6) The Devil Makes Three — 4:30 p.m. Oct. 18 at the Main Stage

One of those bands that just keeps growing in popularity. The Devil Makes Three will be much bigger than they are now, and soon. Trust me on this one.

The Devil Makes Three performs “Do Wrong Right”:

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5) The Steel Wheels — 1:45 p.m. Oct. 18 on the Main Stage

The Steel Wheels have previously visited the area for sets at The Fayetteville Roots Festival, and I’m glad to have them back. When they launch in to vocal harmonies, it’s breathtaking.

The Steel Wheels perform “Valley”:

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4) Yonder Mountain String Band — several to choose from, but I’m going for 10 p.m. Oct. 17 on the Main Stage

The festival’s namesake offers nearly eight hours of music during the event, split over three days. I’m curious to hear the Colorado group play with their new lineup, which debuted this summer.

Yonder Mountain String Band covers Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”:

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3) Andy Frasco — 2:15 a.m. Oct. 19 at the Harvest Tent

Andy Frasco throws a party. If you think you can’t stay up until 3 in the morning, Frasco will prove you wrong.

Andy Frasco covers the Talking Heads’ “Road to Nowhere” at last year’s Harvest Festival.

Notice – this one has some rock star language:

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2) Trampled by Turtles — 10:30 p.m. on the Main Stage

Trampled by Turtles blend the best of old-grass and new-grass. These guys can play any speed and any style they choose.

Trampled by Turtles perform “Repetition”:

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1) The Jayhawks — 8:30 p.m. on the Main Stage

I’ve loved The Jayhawks for a decade, but a hiatus and a departure of a member stopped them from touring before I could see them live. I was heartbroken when they canceled their scheduled 2012 appearance at Harvest Fest, and I expect to be overjoyed on Thursday when I finally see them.

The Jayhawks perform “The Man Who Loved Life”:

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What you need to know about Harvest Fest 2014

October 14th, 2014 at 12:19 pm

The Carolina Chocolate Drops, one of about 50 playing this weekend at Yonder Mountain String Band's Harvest Music Festival.

The Carolina Chocolate Drops, one of about 50 bands playing this weekend at Yonder Mountain String Band’s Harvest Music Festival.

As we near the beginning of Yonder Mountain String Band’s Harvest Music Festival, I really don’t know what else to say.

If you like Americana and bluegrass music, you should go. If you like camping, you should go. And if you like scenic Arkansas, well, you should go.

14x8_5 - Inside - Landscape - Double ParallelHarvest Festival’s combination of these elements makes the event, as festival director Bret Mosiman describes it, the perfect weekend to get your camping gear out one last time. I spent some time talking to Mosiman about the festival, and I published a story [Note: Subscriber content] in Friday’s What’s Up! section that previews the event, which begins Thursday (Oct. 16) on Mulberry Mountain north of Ozark on Arkansas 23. The event concludes in the early morning hours of Sunday (Oct. 19).

Here are a few tips for those of you heading down to the mountain:

Ben Kaufman of headlining act Yonder Mountain String Band

Ben Kaufmann of headlining act Yonder Mountain String Band

• The weather at Harvest Festival is notoriously fickle. You might have even viewed a long-term forecast that shows perfectly clear skies. But it rained a tremendous amount in the region in the days leading up to the festival, so I’d pack some rain boots just in case. The worst that happens is you have to leave them in your vehicle all weekend.

• Ditto on a light rain jacket. Pack one just in case.

• Festival organizers have put together a pretty handy travel guide, with packing tips. It summarizes it as well as I can: yonderharvestfestival.com/travel-guide/

• The travel guide mentions this as well, but I’ll emphasis it again — drink a tremendous amount of water.

• Pack a camping headlamp. They are invaluable for late-night trips to the restroom.

• Music is the focus, but there are plenty of other things to do in the immediate area. There’s a nearby waterfall hike everyone should make. The trail head is near the main stage.

P.S. Come back tomorrow, when I’ll preview the festival’s Top 10 must-see acts.

Soon in tunes: Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Oct. 16 at George’s

October 13th, 2014 at 10:49 am

Chris Robinson Brotherhood photo by Matthew Mendenhall

Chris Robinson Brotherhood photo by Matthew Mendenhall

Better known for his work with The Black Crowes, Chris Robinson has taken his band-leading duties to his own project, the Chris Robinson Brotherhood. It’s that project that will visit George’s Majestic Lounge on Thursday (Oct. 16) for a show in support of the band’s latest release, “The Phosphorescent Harvest.” Admission to the 9 p.m. show is $18.

Concert review (kinda) — Foster the People at the AMP, Oct. 9

October 10th, 2014 at 1:31 pm

Fitz and the Tantrums. All photos by KEVIN KINDER, NWA Media.

Fitz and the Tantrums. All photos by KEVIN KINDER, NWA Media.

All the gear was onstage, and the soundcheck was complete, or very nearly so. A roadie had already placed a full setlist on the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion stage, and I know this because I was three feet away from the edge of the stage in the photo pit. I even took a photo of the setlist in preparation.

And then … nothing.

Well, not nothing. Lightning and rain and winds postponed the start of the Foster the People the show last night (Oct. 9), and this was after Fitz and the Tantrums cut their opening set short due to the same weather concerns. They said they wanted to give the crowd as much time as possible with the evening’s headliner. The set change commenced, and then we waited.

When venue manager Brian Crowne stood before a crowd of 5,000 or so packed into the Rogers venue and told them the show would be delayed, he got a smattering of boos.

The setlist that almost was...

The setlist that almost was…

But you know what? I think officials at the AMP got this one right. Or at least mostly right.

It may not have been the concert many people envisioned. French multi-instrumentalist Soko played her full set. I got there too late to catch most of it, but the crowd seemed enthusiastic. Fitz and the Tantrums roared out of the gates with energy that never flagged until they shut it down on accord of the incoming weather. They played a too-short blend of soul and ’80s-inspired pop, a rare band without an electric guitar that still captures my interest. A lot of that enthusiasm is owed to dueling lead singers Michael Fitzpatrick and Noelle Scaggs. They rarely stopped moving, particularly Scaggs. Foster the People had a lot to live up to, considering.

Then the rains came.

To my knowledge, the conditions never reached published severe weather thresholds, officially defined by the National Weather Service as a storm producing winds 58 miles per hour or greater and/or hail an inch or larger in diameter. But there was lightning, and no one wants to be caught in a large open structure with water in the ground in such conditions. The Southeastern Conference, of which the Arkansas Razorbacks is a member, postpones a game by 30 minutes any time a lightning strike is recorded within eight miles of a stadium. That kind of thing isn’t exclusive to sporting events, of course — Glastonbury, the massive music festival in England, shut down some stages earlier this year due to storms. The AMP has a weather policy — events are rain or shine, but that blanket statement doesn’t cover severe weather. Those situations are monitored in consultation with a meteorologist as they develop.

Michael Fitzpatrick of Fitz and the Tantrums

Michael Fitzpatrick of Fitz and the Tantrums

What resulted from the situation on Thursday evening at the AMP were condensed versions of the sets by both Fitz and the Tantrums and Foster the People. Fitz played for about 45 minutes. I understand Foster the People got about an hour of stage time after a delay of slightly more than an hour. But I took off for my home in Fayetteville when the delay was announced. Several left at the same time I did, and I’m not sure how many waited around.

That meant a less-than-idyllic concert experience, but I’m not sure how else the situation should have been handled. If we can all agree that the venue needed to be cleared out for a while — and let’s agree to that, shall we? — the safer option is inside a car, which is where AMP officials instructed everyone to go. The only folks who didn’t comply promptly and orderly were those holding a still-full beer. Every fan still in the venue five minutes after the weather warning was trying to suck down a beverage.

The only problem with the “get to your cars immediately” edict comes for those who don’t have cars, and I know I saw some teenagers who were dropped off early in the evening and were huddled near the gates as I left, hoping for shelter or an earlier-than-expected ride home. In such an event, there must be a safe spot for the displaced to go, and I’m not sure where that was last night.

The assembled masses were initially told to expect a 30-minute delay, and when 30 minutes passed and there had been no update, people started flooding the venue’s social media channels seeking answers. They got one about 20 minutes later, telling fans that the delay continued. Ten minutes after that update, the start of the show was announced. The AMP should have provided a more immediate update at the 30-minute mark — fans were just sitting in their cars waiting, after all.

But waiting for the worst of it to pass and then moving forward seemed to be the best available of some less-than-desirable options. One option, of course, was to try and reschedule the whole thing, but that made very little sense, considering two of the bands had already played and this was the last event on the outdoor venue’s calendar for the year. I really think everyone would rather be at the AMP during an October rainstorm than during a January ice storm.

Another recourse would have been a cancellation and a refund, but that’s not ideal either. Some people didn’t get the full concert they anticipated on Thursday (it was shortened by 30 minutes, maybe), but I suspect the thousands of dollars that would have went out as a refund would have cut into the venue’s booking capabilities for the following year. Which would you rather have — one fewer show next year, or a reduction by a third of one in the current season?

Perhaps there are third and fourth options I don’t know or didn’t think of.

But we learned a couple things last night — this region is ready to support larger indie rock acts, and you still can’t predict October weather.

P.S. If your night was radically different than the one I experienced, I’d love to hear from you. Comment below, or email me.

The weekend in live music, with Phantogram and more

October 10th, 2014 at 5:03 am

Phantogram photo by Timothy Saccenti

Phantogram photo by Timothy Saccenti

It’s been quite the week for live music.

I watched Santana to kick off the week.

I watched J. Roddy Walston and the Business on Wednesday (Oct. 8) night. That concert got a little rowdy. Rock ‘n’ roll lives.

I also watched Foster the People and Fitz and the Tantrums last night (Oct. 9) at the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion. More on that later (Hint: Check back soon for a review).

That does not mean the music stops. In fact, it just keeps going. That’s what you’ll find in the list below.

Electro-pop rockers Phantogram are on the bill this weekend at the Austin City Limits Festival in Austin, Texas. They’ll take a pit stop on the way to their Sunday show for a Saturday night (Oct. 11) gig at George’s Majestic Lounge in Fayetteville. The New York-based duo earlier this year released the album “Voices” to critical acclaim. Phantogram will be joined by Lia Ices for the 9:30 p.m. show. Admission is $20, but good luck getting tickets for that price — this one sold out early.

On the same evening, local rockers Brothel Sprouts will release their debut EP. The band draws from influences such as Modest Mouse and The Clash for their original songs. The release party for “Good Enough” takes place Saturday at Backspace, located just off the Frisco Trail between Meadow and Church streets in Fayetteville. The show starts at 9 p.m.

The Ozark Folk Festival continues this weekend. We profiled it this week, but as a reminder, know that Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Brewer & Shipley and Danny Cox have headlining duties at The Auditorium in Eureka Springs. That show takes place on Saturday night, but there’s plenty of music happening prior to that event.

Speaking of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils, former member Randle Chowning is in town this weekend. He plays at 6 p.m. Sunday (Oct. 12) for a Eureka House Concerts show. Admission is $15.

And in a rare hip-hop show for the venue, Flow Game and Big Lowe are performing on Saturday night at The Lightbulb Club.

What’s on your weekend agenda?