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Friday, October 31

Review: Yonder Mountain String Band’s: Harvest Music Festival - October 16-18 2014 - Mulberry Mountain - Ozark, AR

Two weekends back was the 9th year of Mulberry Mountain’s Harvest Music Festival, an annual celebration of music and art that takes place in the beautiful mountains of Ozark National Forest.  The adventure starts on the drive there going through twenty-some miles of continuous steep winding roads until all of the sudden it opens up and you’re there: one of the most scenic music festivals in the country.  This year’s festival even offered helicopter rides to give a great aerial view of the luscious green forest and campgrounds. And that always a roller-coaster weather forecast brought back nothing but Indian Summer Blue Skies!
Trampled By Turtles
Wednesday’s early arrivals were treated to music by eight bands including Dumptruck Butterlips and Deadman Flats.  Thursday was the first official day of the festival and was mostly a mix of bluegrass, folk and Americana with bands like Mountain Sprout, Donna the Buffalo, The Jayhawks, Trampled by Turtles, and the first of many Yonder Mountain String Band sets.  
Tea Leaf Green
Friday had a more eccentric lineup with bands like Elephant Revival, Cornmeal and Split Lip Rayfield leading the way to the brisk evening acts.  Papa Mali’s set featured bass aficionado, Reed Mathis, and slightly overlapped the Carolina Chocolate Drops set on the main stage.  As cool turned to cold, Joplin-based funky, jazzy, reggae band, Totojojo, had people staying warm as they danced their way to the next Yonder Mountain String Band performance that featured a sit-in by Jerry Douglas.  Immediately following Yonder Mountain was Railroad Earth in the Harvest Tent.  To me, Railroad Earth’s music is the perfect summary of all the types of music you hear at Harvest Fest featuring instruments like acoustic guitar, mandolin, violin and stand-up bass but getting into groove-heavy 10+ minute improvisational jams.  Starting at nearly 2:30am, Tea Leaf Green had perhaps the most energy and stage presence I saw at the whole festival.  From the classic power-rock guitar poses to standing on speakers and chairs, they had the entire crowd into it until almost 4am.
Ha Ha Tonka
The last day of the festival featured some of the bigger acts like Zach Deputy, Ha Ha Tonka, The Devil Makes Three and Lettuce.  After the sun disappeared for the night it was time for another amazing Railroad Earth set, this time on the main stage where the backdrop is the thick forest lit up by colorful stage lights.  This year’s festival featured the 4th annual Fiddlin’and Pickin’contest where the winning mandolin player got to play on stage with Railroad Earth for a song.  Following Railroad Earth was Yonder Mountain String Band’s last 2 sets of the festival.  Did I forget to mention that violin-virtuoso Allie Kral played with the group all weekend?  What an addition to the band, temporary or not.  One of the many highlights of the festival was Allie singing Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon”.  The music and atmosphere was perfect and her soft, sweet voice carried through the cold fall air and into warm hearts and souls.    After the perfectly-placed cover they brought up Railroad Earth violinist Tim Carbone leading to some great Allie/Tim violin interaction for 2 songs.  Even though it was the last night of the festival there was no shortage of late night entertainment as 5 bands played after Yonder Mountain ended at 12:30am.  The Everyone Orchestra, featuring various members of different bands, played a crowd-guided improvisational set until almost 2am when acts like Andy Frasco and Mouth were just getting started. 
Tim Carbone of Railroad Earth
What a weekend.  Nearly every type of music you could imagine combined with art, beautiful people and scenery that would be worth the trip alone.  It has a completely different kind of feeling than the summer time festivals and not just because of the 40-50 degree nights and hay bale and corn stalk decorations.  It’s because it takes a special kind of person to make the journey through the long winding roads and cold fall nights making it a weekend filled with special people who are truly there for music, art and community. 
Check out a video of “Taught to Be Proud” from Tea Leaf Green’s late night set here: http://youtu.be/WVg_HV5sxdU
Words: Adam Parker  
Photos: Dgold
 ©Grateful Music LLC