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Posted by Tony Reyes |

Music is glue that binds Highberry fans

GRAV WELDON

Special to The Free Weekly

Photos by Grav Weldon Highberry Music Festival returned to The Farm near Eureka Springs this year.

Photos by Grav Weldon
Highberry Music Festival returned to The Farm near Eureka Springs this year.

The neighborly music festival known as Highberry came home to The Farm this year. And while each of the three years I’ve attended has been different, one thing never changes: community.

To understand camping music festivals such as Highberry, you have understand their culture. When I first started going to festivals like it five years ago, I went as a journalist — observing and photographing the bands and their fans. I thought it was about the music. It wasn’t until my first Highberry that I came to understand the music is only the glue which binds the larger festival culture together.

Photo by Grav Weldon Sunshine DeLassio and Kevin Smith perform at Highberry.

Photo by Grav Weldon
Sunshine DeLassio and Kevin Smith perform at Highberry.

A wide variety of people attend these festivals: “festy kids,” old hippies and everything in between. It is not unusual to see some scantily dressed 20-somethings covered in body paint dancing beside a gray-bearded man in an outfit straight out of “The Beverly Hillbillies” next to some dude in a video game costume. Everybody, within reason, is free to be whoever they want to be at these festivals. This freedom and the love of music is what bonds people who would not normally have much interaction, much less become a community together. It is this community which makes these events so incredible. One year’s lineup may be filled with your favorite bands, and the next may only hold a few you know, but you go anyway. You go to bond with your community and be yourself, and often you end up discovering a few new favorite bands you didn’t know existed.

Photo by Grav Weldon Rob Eaton is guitarist for Dark Star Orchestra, considered by many to be the premier Grateful Dead cover band.

Photo by Grav Weldon
Rob Eaton is guitarist for Dark Star Orchestra, considered by many to be the premier Grateful Dead cover band.

It was like that for me this year at Highberry. The lineup was good, just not my favorites. I went to be with a few thousand people that feel like my people. I wander during these festivals, and I always seem to find friends both new and old. I drift through a constant soundtrack of not just the bands on stage but also individual musicians playing in their camps — the sounds of one flowing into another. The musical background usually starts up in the late morning and doesn’t stop until just before dawn. The vibe is exquisite, and the experience no less profound than if all my favorites had been booked.

Photos by Grav Weldon Fire dancers light up the night at Highberry.

Photos by Grav Weldon
Fire dancers light up the night at Highberry.

I had a few surprises at this Highberry. One of the headliners was The Floozies — who almost always put on a good show and played a late night set on Friday. The music was spot on, but what really made the experience was the light show shining through the rain. At times it was like dancing in a rainbow. It turned out to be impossible to catch properly on camera — some things in life can only be experienced in the moment.

Photo by Grav Weldon Fire dancers light up the night at Highberry.

Photo by Grav Weldon
Fire dancers light up the night at Highberry.

The other band that surprised me was Dark Star Orchestra. Dark Star Orchestra is considered by many to be the premier Grateful Dead cover band. I am not the biggest Grateful Dead fan in the world, but these guys really impressed. They re-create whole Grateful Dead concerts, and play the music like it is their own. They played for over four hours with only a brief intermission for a fireworks show. They were immediately followed by Dopapod, making for an incredible six hours of music and merriment.

If you did not make it to Highberry this year, consider coming next year. It has become a July 4th tradition for many. We look forward to seeing you next time, neighbor.

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