Set in the immaculate Ozark Mountains, the Yonder Mountain String Band’s Harvest Festival is an event like no other. Sure, it’s a music and camping festival, and there are tons of those. Still, there’s something special about this one.
Taking place Thursday, Oct. 11, through Sunday, Oct. 14, this is the perfect time of year to grab camping gear and spend a few days off the grid. Located on the Pig Trail (Hwy. 23), Mulberry Mountain is nestled in the heart of the Ozark National Forest, and serves as the perfect setting for a celebration of this nature. Vast scenic landscapes filled with the colors of autumn, surround the festival grounds providing breathtaking backdrops in literally any direction that you turn. The crisp fall air plays host to warm days that give way to chilly evenings and nights perfect for bundling up and sleeping outside. There’s no reason to worry about baking inside your tent at 7 a.m., or the extreme heat overshadowing the weekend’s festivities, as is all too often the case at summer mega-festivals.
While this event is much smaller than its sister festival, Wakarusa (held in the same location), Harvest Fest is by no means boring. The same colorful characters you expect will be there, along with families and music lovers old and young. This is an intimate gathering that feels more like a huge house party where everyone is welcome. By keeping the crowds controlled, Harvest Fest promises to be a friendly event, with enough space to keep everyone comfortable and loads of room for the knee slapping dance frenzy that the music is sure to inspire.
Started in 2006, this fest was known as the Mulberry Mountain Harvest Festival until 2010, when Yonder Mountain String Band and Pipeline Productions (the same folks that bring us Wakarusa) took the reigns. What started as primarily a local event has grown into an occasion that brings in fans from across the nation. With YMSB attached to the project, it’s no surprise that they act as the headliner of the festival.
Playing all three nights, fans will get hefty dose of YMSB’s no-holds-barred approach to traditional music. Bluegrass provides the framework for their sound, but woven throughout are traces of progressive and psychedelic rock, Jamband, country and even a little reggae. With a traditional lineup of instruments, at first glance, they appear to be a typical bluegrass band, but minutes into their set, it becomes clear they have pioneered a sound of their own that transcends any particular genre.
Along with YMSB, Harvest Fest brings along many more heavy-hitters to its stages. With a theme that leans towards Americana, bluegrass, roots and folk music, the sounds of banjos, mandolins and fiddles will fill the mountain air, but this is not strictly an acoustic string fest. Plenty of today’s modern roots musicians are pushing the boundaries of the traditional genre by incorporating electric instruments, drums and alternative instrumentation. And, while the bulk of the performers do fall into a roots/Americana category, this lineup also has Jambands, funk/groove projects, electronica and straight up rock and roll thrown in for lots of variety. The Gourds, Sam Bush, Mickey Hart Band, Leftover Salmon, Splitlip Rayfield and North Mississippi Allstars are just a handful of names that you can expect to see from this year’s lineup that is varied and extensive.
Harvest Fest is an entire experience where all the elements involved work in harmony together. A festival amongst the wandering nature carved in the woods of the wild Ozark National Forrest, the gentle season of fall, the welcoming staff, smiling patrons, music that evokes images of a simpler time as well music that evokes a frenetic party, and on and on. Come see what all the fuss is about, and join in on one of our area’s most-loved musical traditions. As Harvest Festival veterans say, “See ya on the mountain!”
For ticket information, full lineup, stage schedule and more, visit www.yonderharvestfestival.com.