Ern’s Yonder Mountain String Band’s Harvest Music Festival Update
Mulberry Mountain is one of the most beautiful places to hold a festival and what a festival it was! I’ve taken a break from my ongoing “Defining Roots/Amercana Music” blog to cover this very cool event, the Yonder Mountain String Band’s Harvest Music Festival, located twenty some odd miles north of Ozark, Arkansaw, nestled in the heart of the Ozark Mountains. This festival had something for everyone from old codgers like me to the tiniest music fan like this young lady.
The musical lineup covered the full spectrum of Americana/Roots music ranging from Bluegrass to Psychograss, Songwriters to Indie alt -country and some hard country-rockin folks to children’s music. There were lots of activities to keep you busy…songwriter’s workshops, instrument workshops, magic, fire dancers, whopping big puppets…
The event carried on at full capacity for four days. It was a great mix of folks from all walks of life, mingling and enjoying music in the free atmosphere of the fall Arkansaw Ozarks. As my friend George Wardlaw, from Thomas Hollow Missouri put it, “expected cultural anarchy”.
I had the pleasure of emceeing the first ever Yonder Mountain String Band’s Harvest Music Festival Fiddlin’ and Pickin’ contest and I’m happy to say it was a great time and it brought out some really good pickers! The contest was open genre so the contestants were able to play whatever they wanted.
The mandolin contest which kicked off the two day contest event, was the only contest that had a scant turnout, well, let me explain. This first official contest came about thanks to an unofficial contest held last year. News of the this contest came about late in the year hampering publicity so the turnout was slow. The mandolin contest had only one entrant so Jonathan Trawick from Fayettevill, AR. walked away with that. We were careful to remind Jonathan not to go over the five minute limit. You don’t want your only entrant disqualified! The fiddle contest had three entrants and the winner was Chuck Onofrio from Eureka Springs, Ar. This was a very close contest and all three finalists were truly great.
Friday morning we were up early for the flatpicking and fiddling contest. Both fields were highly competitive with first place flatpicking going to Ian Cole from Lawrence, KS. The banjo contest was especially unique in that all of the contestants except one frailed. (clawhammer)The winner was John Gamache from Wichita, KS. John frailed a six string banjo to take the prize. This was the Harvest Music Festival’s first instrument contest and we do expect this event to grow a whole bunch for next year.
We wound up the day checking out the lineup of eclectic roots music starting with the Ben Miller Band from Joplin Mo. (might I add, visit the website at yonderharvestfestival.com and check the artists bios for all the pertinent info) this band offers it all in a tight small ensemble featuring, deep lyrics, washboard and trombone? Yep. We followed that up with porngrass afficianodos from Eureka Springs, AR, MountainSprout. This high energy trio gave us insight and inspiration about the real life with original tunes performed in an original way that can cause the ears of any bluegrass fan to perk up and listen, and the hands of any responsible parent to be ready to cover the little ones ears, then, you laugh and you ponder and you see.We wandered from the main stage over to the Harvest Tent stage to see one of best country rockin’ bands the Ozarks has ever produced, Charliehorse.These guys are super tight unit of songwriters who obviously love what they do. They keep the music going with very little down time. After a quick supper, we saw Todd Snider. Todd Snider. Need I say more. After that set we strolled the grounds to get a feel for the atmosphere. Laid back. Future mini-Winfield picking paradise coming soon! The stages are positioned and amped up to sound out throughout the entire 300 acre campground, which makes it a little harder to jam at camp but it makes for hearing the bands from the comfort of your own camp.
Eureka Springs, AR
We saw a few strolling jammers but since the stages are lined up with stellar performers, (Yonder Mountain String Band had a three hour jam set with Darol Anger, Bill Kreutzmann to name a few!) who play deep into the early morning, most folks are at the stages, dancing and chilling and generally whooopin it up. Fiddlin’ Jack Magee, from Magee MS and Tricia Spencer, wonderful musician from Lawrence Ks, two well respected and highly energetic pickers were all over the place, ready to jam and ready to visit. If you missed these two, you missed Americana/Roots in action, in the field! Check out Jack Magee at his Website and also Tricia Spencer of Prairie Acre!
Catch the next blog to sum up this event and next week we’ll get back to defining the Americana/Roots Music scene. Peace to you.