Harvest Music Festival - Ozark, AR (October 13-16)

After our little Midwest run - ending with the big Summer Tour closer at Red Rocks, we felt like it would be ages before we got to see Yonder again.  In reality, it was only two months, and we were on the road again.  As we drove south through the fall colors and into Arkansas, our excitement was so strong, it could hardly be contained.

We got to the festival as doors opened for early arrival on Wednesday.  We figured that since we spent a bunch of money on VIP tickets, we were going to be at the festival right when it opened, and stay until it was all over.  It rained a bit that morning, but by the time we got through the gates and found our campsite, the skies cleared and it turned into a beautiful day.

Our camp grew as more Kinfolk arrived, and with the arrival of Michael, Steve, Theresa, and their trailer, our camp became a home.  Wednesday was spent meeting new friends, setting up camp, hanging out, catching up, eating food, and laughing, laughing, laughing.

By noon on Thursday, all of our friends had arrived and we were ready for some music. Michael Walker surprised me with some bumper stickers commemorating my 100th show that night.  Seriously, Michael Walker is the best.  Those of you who know him understand.

Our first show of the festival was the Dead Winter Carpenters on the Backwoods Stage. We had heard about this band for quite a while, so it was fun to finally see them.  It was a really good show, and I can't wait for my chance to see them again.

After DWC, we saw Mountain Sprout on the Main Stage.  My first time seeing them was just a couple months ago with Yonder and Split Lip in Kansas City, and I was super excited to see them again.  They put on a great show, with a lot of slightly drunken banter between songs.  It was a really good set in the hot Arkansas sun.

We hung out at our camp and played with stick bugs for a little while before heading to the Harvest Tent for Todd Snider and Friends, including Vince Herman, Jeff Austin, Ben Kaufmann, and Tim Carbone.  It was a pretty neat mix of musicians, and it was fun watching them have such a good time together.  Especially Vince Herman... seriously, does that guy ever NOT have a good time?

I left this show a little early to get up to the main stage for Yonder.  We had a great time at this festival last year, but we didn't go VIP and our crowd experience was pretty miserable.  This year was the complete opposite.  Being able to walk right up to the stage without saving spots all day was well worth the extra cost.  This space got pretty crowded during Yonder, but it was still comfortable and you could walk around pretty easily.  

The show started, and as Jeff and Adam played the opening of "Cuckoo's Nest", I felt the familiar joy that comes with seeing my favorite band.  It never gets old, as Michael Walker would say, and as this was my 100th show, I would have to agree with him.  As the crowd cheered for "Cuckoo's Nest", Adam started playing "Dawn's Early Light", and my smile got even bigger.  This was the first Yonder song that really caught my ear all those years ago, and I still love it as much as ever.  It turned into a bit of a dirty Jeff rap before... "ONE TWO THREE FOUR!"  And Ben's bass took us into "Angel".  I love how a band with no drums can have such a heavy beat.  I just have to stomp my foot to this song.  Also, it was apparent right away, but by this point I was just in awe: Dave was on FIRE.  

At this point, Jeff took the time to thank everyone for coming to the festival nice and early, and Ben spoke about the next song being the first thing he would get to sing all night.  "You never get a second chance to make a first impression."  But he jumped the gun a little and it was actually Adam's turn to sing "Spanish Harlem Incident", another of my favorites.  It was starting off as a pretty great night.  After "Spanish Harlem", Ben stepped up to the mic and tried again.  "You never get a third chance to make a second impression."  "Things You're Selling" was the next song.  I always forget how much I love this song until I hear it and just lose myself in it.  That Ben Kaufmann sure knows how to write a song.  

Dave sang "Don't You Lean On Me" before Jeff invited Todd Snider and Vince Herman to join them for the Rolling Stones tune "Far Away Eyes".  This was a nice treat, and after the song Jeff announced to the crowd that it was my 100th show and told everyone to get real sweaty and give me hugs - thank you everyone for NOT doing that.  He also said some really nice things before the band went into what might have been one of the most moving versions of "Looking Back Over My Shoulder" I have heard.  It really meant a lot and at that moment I felt so much love from the band.  

It's was Dave's turn again with a wonderfully rockin' "Fingerprint".  My favorite part of this song is Adam's distorted solo.  Man, it's awesome.  But damn, Dave was just tearing it up on the banjo.  His playing was so tight and deliberate.  I love how after so many shows I'm still just in awe of the talent we get to witness again and again.  I was having so much fun, I wasn't really thinking of what the next song would be, but they made my night when they busted out "Snow on the Pines".  How can I describe what I love about this song without listening to it with you? I can't; but some of my all-time favorite riffs belong to this song.  They're just little blips of music that put the biggest smile on my face.  Tonight's "Snow on the Pines" stood on its own and wasn't sandwiched around any other songs... just a tasty jam where Jeff got to play around with his new pedal.  The beginning sounds of "Girlfriend is Better" started coming through the end of "Snow on the Pines", and I made my way through the crowd to boogie next to Carin for one of her favorite songs.  

After "Girlfriend", they wasted no time and played "Good Hearted Woman".  This is one of the only specific songs Yonder played from my first show that I really remember.  I love it.  "Jail Song" was next.  I remember when we barely ever got this song.  Now we get it all the time.  No complaints here.  Then Dave rocked it with "Little Lover", my new favorite song.  I can't even describe how much I love this song right now.  I'm just blown away by everything about it.  

Before we knew it, it was nearing the end of the show; but we were sent out right with "Traffic Jam"> "After Midnight"> "Traffic Jam".  Whenever I hear “Traffic Jam” now, I think about taking my best friend to her first Yonder show and her face when she saw the crowd start jumping to this song.  Priceless.  How could they make this sandwich any better?  By throwing in a little "Muppets Theme", that's how.  I love it when they do this.  It really gets people riled up.  Then the transition into "After Midnight" was seamless, and somehow people started dancing even harder.  I think people have trouble controlling themselves during this song, because they dance like lunatics (myself included).  Traffic Jam wrapped up and the show wrapped up, and I was left completely satisfied with my not only my 100th show, but with all 99 that came before it as well.  Thanks, Yonder.  You guys rule.

I don't know about anyone else, but I never have the energy for a late night show after Yonder.  On this night, however, I made it to most of the Split Lip Rayfield late night show in the Harvest Tent.  It was a super fun show - as if Split Lip could put on a bad show.  Yeah right.  Wayne's son joined them on guitar for a few songs, which was pretty cool.  And Jeff came on for a few as well.  It was a really fun way to end the evening.

Friday morning came, and no one could believe that it was still so early in the festival. There really wasn't anything most of us were dying to see until later in the day, so we spent a lot of time just hanging out together at our camp.  It was a really fun day.

I headed to the Harvest Tent to help get the Kinfolk party set up, while everyone else headed to the Main Stage for some Emmitt-Nershi Band (including Colin, who got some great photos).  The Kinfolk party was fun, as usual.  It started slow, but folks started trickling into the tent as the Emmitt-Nershi Band set ended.  We met a lot of really cool folks, put some names and faces together, and with the start of Darol Anger's Republic of Strings, we had some of the best music we could have asked for.  The Yonder boys even made an appearance, hanging out and chatting with folks while we all watched Darol and Scott Law play.  

Most of us headed back to camp after the Kinfolk party, once again to hang out and eat lots of good food.  Seriously, we eat better when we're at a festival than when we're at home.  We definitely didn't need the food provided by the festival for VIP.  I think this night we had beef stew.  Yum.

Colin, Anitra, Junk, Annie, and I raced down to the Backwoods Stage after dinner for one of my favorite musicians - Danny Barnes.  There's no one like Mr. Barnes. He played a couple songs before inviting Darol Anger and Scott Law on stage (seriously, these guys were everywhere).  As Danny introduced "Get it While You Can", many of us cheered, and he asked if we were thinking of some other song. Danny's a funny guy, and watching him on stage, you can tell that he has so much fun playing music.  I could just sit and watch him play the banjo for hours and hours.  Unfortunately, he only had an hour and fifteen minutes, and we had to race from his set to get to the Main Stage in time for Yonder.

As we got up to the Main Stage, it was obvious that many more people had gotten to the festival since the previous night.  There were many more people in the VIP viewing area, and it was a bit more crowded than before.  But that didn't really matter.  We were there, together, ready for night two - which started one of the best ways a Yonder show can start - with "Part 1 (Lord Only Knows)", then busting right into "What the Night Brings".  Darol was sitting in for the entire show, which is always a treat.  The crowd was already in a frenzy when Dave, "Providing banjo servitude since 1994", shredded it on "Irondale".  I mean really, Dave, save some for later!  It was then Adam's turn with "Another Day".  I love this song.  Especially the line, "When the rain is fallin', you can hear me, Colin".  At least, that's the way I sing it.  A favorite of many, "Ragdoll", came next, and was followed by an unexpected shout-out for my 101st show.  It’s "a new era" indeed, Jeff.  A teensy "One More" tease came before a killer "No Expectations".  That was really cool.  

Ben stepped up to the mic again to sing Danny Barnes' "Funtime".  I think Danny was supposed to be on stage with them by this time, but was off wandering in the woods somewhere.  Still, I love the way Ben sings this song, and Darol's fiddle rounds it out perfectly.  Afterwards, Ben spoke with us all a little bit about the joys of festival living.  "It was so nice and warm, and nobody got bit by any snakes."  Then Jeff thanked Railroad Earth, saying "We'll play this tune for all those guys", before playing "Northern Song". They jam on this song harder and harder as the years go on, and lately they just nail it. Then add Darol to the mix and it's just perfect.  Finally, Danny showed up for the final song of the first set, "Pretty Daughter".  Yes!  I knew they would play it this weekend, since it's one of their most popular new (cover) songs, but I was so happy to see Danny up there playing it with them.  It was awesomely dark and ragin', like usual, and was a great way to set us off into the set break, anxiously awaiting more music.  

As we waited and waited during what felt like the longest set break ever, we saw them setting up a drum kit, and we could only hope and guess as to who it was.  As the band came back out, our suspicions were confirmed.  Bill Kreutzman was joining them on drums!  Those of you who know me know that I really don't like drums with bluegrass.  I mean, I REALLY don't like it.  But, there are always exceptions to the rule, and this was definitely an exception. Once the music started, and I heard the opening guitar riff for "Althea", I looked over at Adam and couldn't believe that in all the excitement I didn't notice he was playing an electric guitar.  How awesome is that?  I've seen that only one other time, but it was my 3rd Yonder show and I didn't know any better... this time I fully enjoyed what was being fed into my ears.  After a rockin' "Althea", they played an extended "New Speedway Boogie".  I definitely enjoyed myself during these two songs with Bill Kreutzman, but the best part was witnessing such a great moment for the Yonder guys.  They were in heaven.  They play so many shows that it's got to be awesome to have guests to play with, but to have someone from a band who has done so much to influence them (and many others) has got to be a dream come true.  

After Bill Kreutzman left the stage, it took the band a minute to regain their composure.  "My mom is so happy right now", Jeff stated before dedicating the next song, "Eli Renfro" to Ben Hines for his 40th birthday, just a couple days before.  Then Ben introduced Dave to sing us a song in "the people's key, the key of G" - "You're No Good".  I don't know why I love it like I do... but I love this song.  Dave cut loose on this one.  Then we dove into "Mother's Only Son".  Like always, it was great hearing this song.  We were all dancing, grooving, and having a good time, when all of a sudden it went into "On the Run".  Yes.  Jeff's new pedal started coming in heavily during the "On the Run" jam, and led us into the funkiest "Criminal" I have ever heard.  What was going on?!  For a second I thought it was just me, maybe my ears were playing tricks on me, but it was real... and it was incredible!  Where did this come from?!  Well, wherever this came from, I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Then it was back into "On the Run", and at the end of the song Ben wasted no time and picked up the bass line to "Mother's Only Son" to finish the sandwich.  Seriously.  That really happened.  It wasn't even the end of the set, either.  My favorite new Adam tune, "All the Time" was next, then Jeff introduced Drew Emmitt to join them for the last tune of the second set, "Boatman".  This was way fun, and got the crowd dancing like mad.  It seemed like such a short time to have Drew on stage, but luckily for us, he came back out with Darol and the Yonder boys to rock out "My Gal" for the encore.  This song is always a treat, and Jeff paired up with Drew for a little "Over the Waterfall" after Ben's "Well a rich girl, she drives in an automobile".  They were having a lot of fun playing back and forth at each other, and Drew just didn't want to stop.  Ben then sang, "Well you know a poor gal, she'd love to do the same", and Adam and Darol played a beautiful duet.  It was amazing, and I could have watched the two of them play together for hours.  But we had a song to get on with, "But you see... my gal's got her own private seat in the back of the sheriff’s car, and she'll get around just the same".  Bam!  "My Gal".  

This was an amazing night and the perfect way to celebrate 101 shows.  I put down the camera for most of this show and just had a good time with my friends, so a bunch of the photos from this night were taken by Colin.  After Yonder, we headed back to camp for a little while.  Colin and a few others headed down to 7 Walkers, and after a while Scotty came and whisked me away to the show as well.  I couldn't believe I was still awake and standing, let alone "dancing" at this late night show.  But it was a pretty darn kick-ass show.  And we made it to bed very late.

Saturday morning came and we all slept a little later and had a little more trouble getting up and around.  Festival life is fun, but it wears on the bones.  We just needed a little good food, some caffeine, and a little early afternoon Darol Anger and Scott Law set.  It seemed that we weren't the only ones feeling the effects of the festival, because when we got there almost the whole crowd was sitting down.  

We sat and enjoyed the music and the company of our friends for a while, but left early to see Adam Aijala and Larry Keel in the Harvest Tent.  Their set last year was so much fun and I was really excited to see them do it again.  Before they started, I told Michael that I felt it in my heart that they were going to play "Groundhog"... they did.  Not only did they play it, but they played it for Michael, who made them some of his famous Brunswick Stew, "Here comes Michael with a snicker and a grin, Here comes Michael with a snicker and a grin, Groundhog grease all over his chin..."  That was so fun!  Adam played banjo on a few songs, and it was so cool watching him play.  Just like the guitar, he made it look effortless.  

I was feeling pretty drained from boogying so late the night before and from the tiny amount of time I had spent in the sun that day, so I went back to camp and listened to the music from there for the rest of the hottest daylight hours.  This included the McCourys with Peter Rowan.  Now, I try not to live my life with a lot of regrets, but I must say that I regret not going up to the Main Stage for this set.  I love Bill Monroe, and I heard song after song of his as I sat in the shade of our camp and listened.  Oh well.  I know I would have felt miserable for the rest of the night if I had baked in the sun, so it was probably for the best.  But damn, what a show to miss.  At least Colin was there, and he got some pretty darn good shots.

After a few hours, it was time for the other McCourys set, this time with Adam on guitar. We headed to the Harvest Tent and couldn't believe how few people were there.  But, do not worry, the tent soon filled up as the sweet bluegrass sounds filled the air... and Cornmeal finished their set on the Main Stage.  Now, I don't mean to be tellin' tales outside of school, but this set was one of the best of the whole weekend.  Adam fit in so well with the McCourys (he wore a collared shirt and everything), and as the guests came to the stage, some pretty neat things happened.  Scott Law played a song or two with the band before Jeff Austin joined on mandolin, Larry Keel joined Adam and Scott on the guitar side of the stage, and Darol Anger and Bridget Law joined Jason Carter on the fiddle side for the coolest "Vamp in the Middle" I have ever seen.  

Wow.  Most of us needed food and rest after that incredible set, and by Yonder time we were ready for one last show at the Main Stage.  The band came to the stage, along with Darol, and got right down to business with "Casualty".  This song has some of my favorite solos in it, and they rocked it out, like usual.  I also like that they started the set off with a high energy song, because everyone seemed completely exhausted from the amazing few days we had all spent on Mulberry Mountain.  The next song was "Steep Grade Sharp Curves", which got everyone into a nice little groove.  Afterwards, Jeff stepped up to the mic, "Let's play some banjo music for all you folks out here tonight."   Dave introduced the song with, "Yeah, this one kinda came to me one morning, I had this crazy dream about some slot jockeys and a pair of albatross.  Really weird, man."   And Ben added his two cents with, "Dave you are one of the stranger people I've met in my life... in a good way."   Then Dave banjo rolled us through a crazy awesome "Mental Breakdown".  Dave is always kick-ass, but sometimes he almost has super powers he plays so well.  This was one of those weekends. 

Ben then introduced Adam as the "Second hardest working man at the festival this week."  He then went on to say, "You may be familiar with him from such international touring acts as Larry Keel and Adam Aijala perform the hits of Larry Keel and Adam Aijala, and also the Del McCoury Boys featuring Adam Aijala."  That was fun, and it meant that it was time for Adam to sing "Left Me in a Hole".  After that it was time for one of Jeff's newer songs, "Lay it on the Line".  I'm really digging this song.  There's a lot of feeling in it, and the intro does a good job of setting the mood and the tone for the song.  Then you add Darol into the mix, and you get something truly spectacular.  "Finally Saw the Light" was next, and I knew that lots of my Kinfolk friends were in heaven with this one.

Jeff took a minute to talk about how wonderful of a time they had had at the festival, and to thank all of the fans and bands for coming.  "You know what's cooler than having the Flecktones here?  Is getting them all out to play some music with us."  We had seen that a drum kit had been set up behind the band, but we just couldn't figure out who would be playing it.  We definitely didn't expect it to be Futureman.  With all of the Flecktones on stage (and Bela and Dave looking like twins), they played a really great "2 Hits and the Joint Turned Brown"... with a little bit of "Mama's Little Baby Loves Shortnin' Bread", which the crowd (including myself) went crazy over.  The Flecktones stayed for one more to finish the first set - "Shake Me Up".  This was another great choice to put with drums.  The beats sounded so authentic to the songs, it was as if the songs were always meant to be played that way; yet another example of drums with bluegrass that I can get behind.  And even though Futureman was on a kit, it still sounded exactly like him - like he was playing his drumitar.  Now that was awesome.  It was also awesome to watch Victor Wooten play.  Of course, you can't have Victor Wooten on stage with Ben Kaufmann without having a bass duel.  Oh, and did I mention they were both playing Ben's bass.  Yeah, that happened.  Then the band blew back in with the end of "Shake Me Up".  What a fun first set.  Jeff said it best, "We're gonna take a short break and figure out what the hell just happened!"

As the final Harvest Fest Main Stage set began, we all welcomed to the stage Bridget Law, Allie Kral, and of course, Darol Anger, and we knew we were in for some bluegrass fun.  "Well I was born in the southland, some 20-odd years ago..." Jeff started singing.  "And then what happened?!" Darol asked.  The band whipped into "Freeborn Man", and I knew we had to get a "Wheel Hoss" in there if we had so many fiddles on stage.  Thank goodness I was right, because I love me some "Wheel Hoss".  After Bridget and Allie left the stage, I heard Darol say, "That was the beginning of the set?!"

"Dave, you look like you wanna say something."  Adam said from across the stage.  "I was given no assignment for this set, so I have nothing to say."  Dave replied.  So Adam started the swinging "Ripcord Blues".  I love this song so much.  I also love "Damned if the Right One Didn't Go Wrong", which they played next.  The whole crowd just bounced as they played this one.  As the band's banter turned into the beginning of "Dreams", I made my way up to the Hawks Nest to take in the view and take some photos.  It was really amazing, and kind of scary, standing above the band as they played.  I lost my glasses out of a train window when I was a little kid, and this has always stuck with me, so I made sure not to lean out too far.  It's also always a fun experience when I get to watch all of my friends dancing, singing, and laughing while watching Yonder play.  It just makes me happy inside.  

After "Dreams", they played Darol's "Ewie With the Crooked Horn".  Yes!  It's always a treat to hear this song, with the intense fiddle screeches, and pounding beat.  It's just an amazing song, and always a highlight of any show.  Ben changed to his electric bass for "Complicated", during which I took the last of my Hawk's Nest photos, and I must say, Ted's lights looked incredible.  They always do, but it's hard to see the full scope of the lights from the rail.  The downside to Ted's groovy light show is the dizziness it can inflict upon unsuspecting victims.  Let's just say that walking down the stairs from the Hawk's Nest wasn't the easiest thing I had done that day.  But it was completely worth it.  

I joined my friends back in the VIP pit right in time for "Troubled Mind"> "20 Eyes"> "Troubled Mind".  Wahoo!  This is always a crowd-pleasing sandwich, but with Darol's fiddle, it was that much better.  Ben then stepped up to the mic and said, "You know folks, there comes a time in every evening... don't ya think?" "Max agrees, totally." Jeff responded, and we got probably my favorite "Polka on the Banjo" since its return last fall (thanks to Max).  The last chunk of music was dedicated to Yonder's crew: Scotty, Ted, Todd, Ben, and Kevin for kicking ass for the past few days... and I would have to agree, that Yonder has pretty much the best crew ever.  The final chunk of music was "Peace of Mind"> "King Ebenezer"> "Peace of Mind", which got all kinds of dark and dirty, including scary-voiced Jeff introducing "King Ebenezer".  "Peace of Mind" came back in perfectly and brought with it a sense of completeness and warmth from all of the great times we had and lifelong memories we made at Harvest Fest that week. The band came back out for their encore, and after some laughs, they played "Holdin". I usually don't like this song as much, mostly because they would play it a lot, but also because there's no bass, and I really gravitate to the bass, but tonight's "Holdin" was really refreshing and fun.  They finished the show with a loud and energized "East Nashville Easter", and we were all left feeling pretty satisfied with the weekend of music.  

By this point in the festival, there was no way any of us were going to make it to a late night show.  We didn't even make any food; I just ate a bunch of Halloween candy and went to bed.

Sunday came upon us, and as we all got up, we saw that some of our friends had already left for home.  It's so hard to spend the day saying goodbye and watching everyone leave, and as our friends packed up and drove away throughout the day, we were left with a sad reminder of what used to be our mighty Kinfolk camp.  

We caught the Larry Keel & Natural Bridge set, and most of the Peter Rowan set. They were fun; I really like watching Jenny Keel play the bass.  We saw our friends Rick and Melissa, and got to wish Rick a Happy Birthday and sign his sweet card.  When we got back to our campsite, we said goodbye to the last of our Georgia friends.  The few of us that were left had a little bit of the VIP food before deciding to eat the rest of our beef stew (the beef stew was a much better choice), then caught some of the Greensky Bluegrass set before calling it an early night.

We were completely physically and mentally exhausted after this long festival weekend, and it was one of the most amazing times I have ever had.  The caliber of the musicians was off the charts; we were so lucky to be able to see so much good music in one place.  We also had one of the best campsites that I have ever been a part of, and if it wasn't for the great music, we would have all been content to sit at our camp and hang out for five days.  Our Kinfolk family just keeps getting bigger and bigger, and I can't even imagine doing what we do without this community of amazing people.  Thank you all for being a part of my life, and for being as passionate about the music as I am.

Finally, I want to thank Yonder Mountain String Band and their crew for being such an amazing group of people and for being so good at your jobs that you keep us coming back for more again and again.  

Written by Dorothy St.Claire

Yonder Mountain String Band
10/13/11 Harvestfest - Mulberry Mountain, Ozark, AR

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Yonder Mountain String Band
10/14/11 Harvestfest - Mulberry Mountain, Ozark, AR

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Yonder Mountain String Band
10/15/11 Harvestfest - Mulberry Mountain, Ozark, AR

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