- MOUNTAIN JAM: The Avett Brothers at the Mulberry Mountain Harvest Music Fest. Photo by Bryan Clifton.
When it comes to outdoor music festivals, I'm a skeptic. I jump at any chance I get to camp for three days, but add a couple thousand other people to that mix and I'd rather stay home. I don't care who's playing.
But the creators of the Mulberry Mountain Harvest Music Festival have a killer combo: good music in the heart of the Ozarks. The lineup included some personal favorites: Big Smith, Dirtfoot and the Ben Miller Band. It also had some big-name jam bands, like Leftover Salmon and Umphrey's McGee. The Wailers added a touch of groove to the festival.
And the proprietors did a great job keeping the place up through the weekend. Port-a-potties were cleaned out daily, and showers were made available to everyone. Recycling bags were handed out at the gates. People actually used them.
Thursday was pretty low-key, with shows from Green Mountain Grass and Hackensaw Boys starting the party. Music continued into the wee hours with spontaneous drum circles and campsite jam sessions.
The traditional “Chompdown,” thrown by Shreveport, La., band Dirtfoot, began day two. Attendees were treated to a free breakfast and a bonus early performance. Dirtfoot's self-described “gypsy punk country grumble boogie” always draws a big crowd.
On Friday, the Avett Brothers crooned to an admiring crowd. Songs ranged from upbeat dance tunes to heartfelt ballads. Leftover Salmon also did their thing Friday night, drawing a little hippie twirl out of everyone.
Saturday's standout shows were numerous. Ben Miller Band, Cornmeal and Big Smith thoroughly entertained their energetic crowds.
Hurricane Ike unleashed his fury Saturday night. The Wailers cut their performance short, much to the dismay of the folks who'd danced in the pouring rain for them. The Umphrey's McGee show moved into the Harvest Tent, but the band never performed.
On Sunday morning, the festival grounds were demolished. Wind gusts of 50 mph-plus collapsed tents, brought down trees and tipped port-a-potties.
The festival's creators hope to draw larger bands and crowds in the future. Their location and first-class stage give them the capacity to do so. But I think the smaller numbers keep it more enjoyable. Minus this year's weather snafu, the Harvest Music Festival was a great event in the Ozarks.