Yonder Mountain String Band's Mulberry Mountain Harvest Festival
by Reillot Weston
First off, I missed Thursday in its entirety due to
conflicting schedules-- my real job threw a fit over time requested
off, even though I had requested the time off six weeks (at least) in
advance. We got the truck loaded to the edges and then added more
coolers and a lady's antique schwinn cruiser with gold ribbon on top to
keep everything in place. Perhaps this is why I was followed
closely by local law enforcement. Or maybe they just wanted to see us
off properly; there's nothing like a uniformed escort. We cruise
down south about 15 miles before we run into Madison County cops who
promptly turn around and follow us so closely they could probably see
my tickets on the dashboard. Eventually they turned around too, just
short of Withrow Springs. I was so nervous I could barely speak,
much less listen to music. You know what it's like to have a
sweaty brow because the cops are so close behind you their headlights
are refracting off the curvature of your windshield creating a glare
impossible to navigate the highway around? Yeah, that close. We
arrived at the front gate of the festival too late. It was after
midnight; "You're not allowed in past midnight."
"Thanks, lady, why don't I just go fuck myself, right?"
"Sorry for the inconvenience, go sleep in the campground down the road."
"I'm supposed to be camping right down there…" as I looked past the
gate keeper person down on the festival grounds. I try to think
of myself as a calm person but I nearly lost it. What are you going to
do? So we took off down the road a few miles contemplating sleep at
Turner Bend. I went a few more miles south and picked a spot on a
northbound pull-over area. Thankfully my sweet girl brought a
big, purple down comforter in the cab with us. We didn't have to freeze
in the truck while we were missing all the music that started after
midnight (I heard the 3am Honky Suckle show after Dead Man Flats was
very exciting). I barely slept. At all. A contortionist's game,
sleeping in the truck. Gates opened at 8 am and I awoke at 7. Got out
of the truck, stretched, did a few jumping jacks and got back in. Fired
up the truck and took off towards Mulberry Mountain for the second time
in 8 hours. Every parked car of festival goers I passed I honked at to
get the move on! I arrived, first in line. "It'll just be a moment,
"Yeah, thanks." From parked at the top of the hill I
saw the entire festival grounds spread out before me. I could see the
sun in the distance rising and burning off all the fog from the night
before. A layer of clarity rising up over the tents and vans with flags
and school busses. We waited for what seemed like an eternity
before we finally got our wristbands. We were waved through the
gates, drove down the hill about 3/4 of a mile and were stopped to wait
in line again to be searched for glass and contraband. The Franklin
County guys seemed to be enjoying themselves, shaking down the most
obvious festival revelers. In the future, do not attempt to circumvent
the search gate if both windshields of your car are filthy and hiding
four dudes with dreadlocks. The cops love that stuff, especially when
they find nitrous oxide tanks and cases of beers in glass bottles. We
were allowed to pass through without much baggage turnover.
Around a couple corners and our friends saw us and called us over. I
parked the truck and retired the keys for the weekend's duration.
It seemed like we missed some excitement while
camping on the side of the road. All my friends I encountered were wide
eyed and bushy tailed, ready, steady, go, go, go. I observed a
three-legged race, with options for more legs, and a long lost friend
emerge from his sleeping quarters within a 55 gallon can liner trash
bag mobile residence. After setting up camp and enjoying a big lunch we
finally got around to catching some music. Never heard of Donna the
Buffalo, but I won't forget. Gotta love some washboard action-
"Positive Friction." The weather could not have been better, 80 degrees
F and sunny and clear. Awesomeness! Most of my musician friends
playing the festival were still sleeping due to Thursday night/Friday
morning activities. Donna was playing a pink fiddle and her organist
had a fedora with a pink flower, they did some call and response with
sweet swirling sounds that washed over the crowd in the afternoon sun.
After her set finished we got back on the bicycles, rode past a group
of friends on a quilt in the grass. They had met some new folks and we
were all carrying on when I realized one of the girls was topless. Fine
weather conditions, indeed.
We caught up with the friendly rickshaw operator and
he helped us straighten out a few corners. Next up were Split Lip
Rayfield whom performed one of my favorites: "She Used to Call Me Baby,
Now She don't Call Me at All." We kept on the move, experiencing
all the festival had to offer. People to see, bikes to ride… Leftover
Salmon was excellent as always. Bonnie from Elephant Revival joined
them. They did a great Rolling Stones cover, "Let it Bleed." That shit
was so killer I overheard someone say "Bonnie makes Leftover Salmon
taste good." An apt assessment. I was smiling ear to ear. We were
smart enough to bring a firepit so our time was split between sets on
stage and said fire. Yonder's first set Friday night was pretty epic.
The details escape me, I didn't really keep notes during that one. "A
Little Help from my Friends" was a fantastic choice. My first Yonder
show, I was very impressed with their virtuosity. We stirred ourselves
about and headed to the tent to see Honky Suckle.
I've been friends with these guys for a couple years
now and have seen numerous shows. These guys are HOT right now.
"Biggest Swingin' Dicks" is another name that they're known by.
Swingin' for the fences, the home run grand slam, mofo banjo, blowin'
the tent's ass right out from underneath us! It's 2 am. I'm honored to
know these guys and cherish our times together laughing about nothing
in particular. "I Miss my Friend," sang for the first time since a dear
friend's memorial, he suffered an Iron Horse fate. Stirring and
heartfelt, everyone in the tent could sense it. After they wrapped we
prepared for the return of Dirtfoot! These guys really know how to rock
the party! It's difficult to describe exactly what Dirtfoot does
because it's complicated. A whirlwind of joyful sounds encompass your
body and you let yourself go. That's about the best way to describe the
initial reactions. "My Bed is on Fire/ I ain't even drunk." I know
exactly what that's like, don't most of you? Their sax player took a
sip out of his beer earlier in the day and a hornet stung his lip. I'm
pretty sure his sax vibrations killed the hornet by exhaustive
combustion. Poof! Dust in the air, Dirtfoot.
Saturday the weather was even prettier and mild.
Slept pretty late and had a big breakfast burrito to start it up.
Elephant Revival for brunch to wake it up. "Love me in the Morning."
True that, as we were all dancing, feeling good in the sun. I always
love seeing them. We went and saw Dead Man Flats later on and
jumped around like fools, lots of energy follows them. Amazing fun and
games with DMF!!! From there on to see Keller Williams. I've loved
Keller Williams from the first time I saw him live on Dickson Street in
Fayetteville. He opened with "Freaker by the Speaker" a fan favorite
and party starter mood setter. He did some choice covers as well: "Sex
and Candy", "Switch and the Spur", and an all-time favorite "Pancho and
Lefty". Great ideas, loved them all. We were all starting to lose
touch at this point. Someone spilled coffee on my foot and his hand,
entirely missing both cups, dang. My friend and his sis were arguing:
"Now you see how good you'll be for someone." His response: "Now you
see how bad you will be for someone." Ouch! Everything remained
friendly, but we were all drained and stranded by our wicked ways. We
sat fireside and giggled about all the things we saw. Many people
stopped by the fire to warm their hands and talk about pretty much the
same thing. There was constant coming and going, back and forth, swing
and sway all through the night. We were camped in the fields. The
people camped in the trees had a much dustier time. By festival's end
there was a lot of what I like to call Dusty Lung. If you've ever had
it you know exactly what I mean. That was about the worst of what I
heard about. Everyone was smiling, waving, hugging, partying, and
singing. I slept with a smile on my face.
P.O. Box 82
Perry, AR 72125
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