From the Blog

Hillberry 2016 Preview – Day 3

It’s almost time for Hillberry 2016 to begin at The Farm, are you ready? Saturday October 15 begins the third day of the Harvest Moon Festival and it’s packed full of music and activities.


9:00AM – Activities Tent // Chompdown

“What is a Chompdown? The Chompdown was created at the Wakarusa Music Festival in 2007. Many of the Wakarusa Forum members wanted to gather together and enjoy a good breakfast. It was a chance to meet each other and just get a good healthy meal in. It was then suggested that “why not make this a way to meet each other and then feed others.” One of the founding members, Rabbit, suggested that everyone should bring enough to feed themselves and others. It did not take long for this idea to spread like festival wildfire. Soon people were committing to bringing food, stoves, coffee makers, deep fried oreos, bloody marys, posters, and BACON. It was set for June 8th at 9am. A myspace page was created to gather names of people that were going to attend. It was through the myspace page that a band Dirtfoot contacted Rabbit and together they worked it out so the band would play during the feeding. Soon, another band Grazgrove joined the cause and so the idea of bands and free food was born. What really happened that day in June??? Well, it was 8:30am and slowly people began to converge on the small shelter house. Pauly’s Cheese, BillyMFH, Strider, April, Bogmonkey and his brother, Harper, Lula, algernon, Vernixx, Andrea, libs, and a slew of others began to set up. Each had brought enough food for themselvesand a few others. There were plates, reusable silverware, cups, cleaning materials, and food….lots of food. Then around 9:15 Grazgrove appeared and began to play. The feeding had begun. Sometime after about three hours, Grazgrove and Dirtfoot had played, about 250 people had come with everything from eggs to a side of beef and eaten, children and women danced, and a general good time was had by all. After the dust had cleared (those Dirtfoot guys really had some people moving), the core group of people relaxed and thought about what had just happened. They had pulled off a giant feat. They did something that none of them, the day before, knew would happen. They created a movement. They knew they had to do it again.”

Chompdown will take place this year at the Activities Tent at The Farm beginning at 9AM. Donations will grant you entry to the front of the line! Bring some bacon, some eggs, whatever you can bring this is one special event you cannot miss out on! For more information please contact Chompdown directly on their Facebook.



12:30PM – 1:50PM // John Henry & Friends

“John Henry & Friends was formed when John Henry and longtime friend Brennan Johnson went in search of musicians to help them make a roots album. With John on guitar and lead vocals and Brennan on percussion they needed a few more pieces to make the sound they wanted. They found those pieces in Adams Collins on banjo and Tom Anderson on upright bass. After the release of the album Songs of These Hands the group would remain together.

John Henry & Friends hails out of Fayetteville, Arkansas where the lush hills of the Ozark mountains give rise to a sound all it’s own. They interlace seemingly timeless melodies with a raw american roots sound that is sure to get your feet stomping. John Henry’s strong, smoky vocals tell meaningful stories while complimented by powerful harmonies. Terrah Baker of The Free Weekly may have put it best saying, ‘When you listen to John Henry and Friends, you listen to a story. The mood is set by the folksy sounds of Henry’s voice and twangy string instruments, while the scene is described by soulful lyrics.’ ”



2:25PM – 3:50PM // Dirtfoot

“Eight years ago, a tornado blew through Shreveport and Matt was standing on his porch, shortly after a tree decided to test the landlord’s homeowner’s policy. J walking by, initiated conversation and amidst cracked countertops and scattered shingles, the two musicians became friends.

It’s more than a bit ironic that a powerful, hard-to-predict weather system marks the creation of Dirtfoot. Their music can be as dizzying as a twister, volatile and uproarious.

It is their lack of restraint, their raw musical impulsiveness and high energy delivery that can be so arresting to the people who have heard them play. They stomp their feet. Matt makes primal noises and intentionally mumbles his lyrics. They let otherwise well-rehearsed songs meander off the beaten path, or right off an auditory cliff, its finale laughably lost, the structure sacrificed for the sheer playfulness of it all.

The members of Dirtfoot seem to all secretly delight in how different they are, in how something so oddball and outlandishcan still be appreciated, if not entirely understood.

This band has a truly engaging and eclectic sound! They are a delicious, spicy, dirty band that will make you stomp your feet, shake your ass and yell like a lunatic on a full moon night.”



4:30PM – 6:05 PM // Fruition

“The first time they ever made music together, Fruition’s three lead singer/songwriters discovered that their voices naturally blended into stunning three-part harmony. Eight years after that impromptu busking session, the Portland, Oregon-based quintet has grown from a rootsy, string-centric outfit to a full-fledged rock band with an easy but powerful grasp of soul, blues, and British Invasion era pop. On their new album Labor of Love, Fruition shows the complete force of their newly expanded and electrified sound, matching their more daring musicality with sophisticated, melody-minded songcraft. With Anderson, Asebroek, and Naja trading vocal duties and offering up their own singular brand of gutsy yet graceful songwriting, Fruition infuse each track on Labor of Love with timeless urgency and three-part harmonies that never fail to enthrall.

All near-lifelong musicians, the members of Fruition came to Portland from varied corners of the country and gradually crossed paths by way of their adopted hometown’s music scene. “Mimi and Kellen were going to busk one day and I went along with them, ‘cause that’s what we always did to pay for that night’s dinner and drinks,” says Anderson. “So we started playing and just instantly nailed these three-part harmonies, to the point where we’d get done with a song and burst out laughing at how good it sounded.” The magic of those harmonies ended up proving instrumental in rounding out the rest of the band. “The first time I ever played with them, we were jamming in a friend’s attic and the harmonies surrounded me,” says Thompson, who joined Fruition in 2011. “I had goosebumps for an hour afterward,and I decided right then I was quitting my other band and moving to Portland.” Releasing their debut EP Hawthorne Hoedown in 2008, Fruition devoted the coming years to relentlessly writing and performing, The band moved from busking on the street, to scraping their way onto the lower levels of festival lineups, to opening tours for bands like ALO and Greensky Bluegrass and onward to being invited to play bigger festivals with ever bigger billing on those lineups. Last year saw them appear at Bonnaroo, Northwest String Summit and Telluride Bluegrass where Rolling Stone cited their artful choice of covers and “raucous originals filled with heartfelt lyrics and stadium-worthy energy.” This year will see them share a Red Rocks bill with JJ Grey and Mofro and The Infamous Stringdusters, along with a full headline tour of the United States.

That breadth of touring experience has steadily reshaped the band and ultimately allowed them to achieve a sound they’ve long aspired toward. “A few of the songs on the new album actually came from years ago, in an era when we were much more of a string band,” says Thompson. “We’d imagined the songs in a particular way but didn’t have the ability or experienceto get them where we wanted to be—we didn’t even own the right instruments.” But despite broadening their repertoire, a certain spirited simplicity still forms the heart of Fruition. “We all tend to write on acoustic guitar and let things start in the same stripped-down, folky sort of way that we always did,” says Naja. “So where the songs come from hasn’t really changed much at all. What’s different is where we let them go from there.”



6:45PM – 8:20PM // Elephant Revival

That simple line atop Elephant Revival’s Facebook page contains only five words, but reveals volumes about the band’s reason for being. Music unites us in ways that no other medium can. Even when we don’t understand one another’s languages – we can be moved by a rhythm, soothed by a song. Brought together by a unified sense of purpose – the spirit of five souls working as one, in harmony, creating sounds they could never produce alone.

The five souls in Elephant Revival are Bonnie Paine (washboard, djembe, musical saw, stompbox); Bridget Law (fiddle, octave fiddle); Charlie Rose (banjo, pedal steel, guitar, horns, cello, double bass); Dango Rose (double bass, mandolin, banjo); and Daniel Rodriguez (guitar, banjo, double bass).

This Nederland, Colo., quintet are, needless to say, quite a sound to be experienced – especially when they fall into the pocket of a groove containing elements of gypsy, Celtic, Americana, and folk.

The Indie Acoustic Music Project simply labeled their sound “progressive edge.” At least, that’s the category in which it placed the band when it gave their Ruff Shod/Nettwerk Records release, BREAK IN THE CLOUDS, a best CD of 2011 award. Elephant Revival’s later THESE CHANGING SKIES (Thirty Tigers) release went on to win best CD of 2013 in the same category. It’s as good a label as any to convey what Dango Rose has described as their mission: “to close the gap of separation between us through the eternal revelry of song and dance.”

Elephant Revival also shares a commitment to responsible stewardship of the planet and its inhabitants, working with organizations such as the Conscious Alliance, Calling All Crows, Trees Water & People, and other nonprofits supporting humanitarian causes. Their very name was chosen out of empathy for a trio of zoo pachyderms who, upon being separated after 16 years, died within a few months of each other. The band related that heart-rending story during their April 2012 debut on fellow Coloradans Nick & Helen Forster’s internationally syndicated“eTown” radio show – like Elephant Revival, a blend of music and social consciousness.

Sitting in the audience during their performance, one music blogger was moved to write, “Elephant Revival serenaded the crowd with arabesque melodies, harmonies and rhythms that braided and coiled into a sublime aural tapestry. Their instrumental dynamics, verse, and even the harrowing story that inspired their appellation, invoked the majesty, mystery and sorrow of Mother Earth.”

Campout for the Cause festival organizers put it this way in an affectionate shoutout on their Facebook page. “We love Elephant Revival so much,” they wrote, “not just for their incredible music and conscious lyrics, but for their commitment to living up to the standards they set forth and setting positive examples.”

It’s a paradigm worth spreading, and that’s what Elephant Revival members intend to continue doing as they carry their music around the world, speaking one song at a time. ”



9:00PM – 12:00AM // Railroad Earth

“There’s a great scene in The Last Waltz – the documentary about The Band’s final concert – where director Martin Scorsese is discussing music with drummer/singer/mandolin player Levon Helm. Helm says, “If it mixes with rhythm, and if it dances, then you’ve got a great combination of all those different kinds of music: country, bluegrass, blues music, show music…”

To which Scorsese, the inquisitive interviewer, asks, “What’s it called, then?”
“Rock & roll!”



Clearly looking for a more specific answer, but realizing that he isn’t going to get one, Marty laughs. “Rock & roll…”
Well, that’s the way it is sometimes: musicians play music, and don’t necessarily worry about where it gets filed. It’s the writers, record labels, managers, etc., who tend to fret about what “kind” of music it is.
And like The Band, the members of Railroad Earth aren’t losing sleep about what “kind” of music they play – they just play it. When they started out in 2001, they were a bunch of guys interested in playing acoustic instruments together. As Railroad Earth violin/vocalist Tim Carbone recalls, “All of us had been playing in various projects for years, and many of us had played together in different projects. But this time, we found ourselves all available at the same time.”

Songwriter/lead vocalist Todd Sheaffer continues, “When we started, we only loosely had the idea of getting together and playing some music. It started that informally; just getting together and doing some picking and playing. Over a couple of month period, we started working on some original songs, as well as playing some covers that we thought would be fun to play.” Shortly thereafter, they took five songs from their budding repertoire into a studio and knocked out a demo in just two days. Their soon-to-be manager sent that demo to a few festivals, and – to the band’s surprise – they were booked at the prestigious Telluride Bluegrass Festival before they’d even played their first gig. This prompted them to quickly go in and record five more songs; the ten combined tracks of which made up their debut album, “The Black Bear Sessions.”


That was the beginning of Railroad Earth’s journey: since those early days, they’ve gone on to release five more criticallyacclaimed studio albums and one hugely popular live one called, “Elko.” They’ve also amassed a huge and loyal fanbase who turn up to support them in every corner of the country, and often take advantage of the band’s liberal taping and photo policy. But Railroad Earth bristle at the notion of being lumped into any one “scene.” Not out of animosity for any other artists: it’s just that they don’t find the labels very useful. As Carbone points out, “We use unique acoustic instrumentation, but we’re definitely not a bluegrass or country band, which sometimes leaves music writers confused as to how to categorize us. We’re essentially playing rock on acoustic instruments.”
Ultimately, Railroad Earth’s music is driven by the remarkablesongs of front-man, Todd Sheaffer, and is delivered with seamless arrangements and superb musicianship courtesy of all six band members. As mandolin/bouzouki player John Skehan points out, “Our M.O. has always been that we can improvise all day long, but we only do it in service to the song. There are a lot of songs that, when we play them live, we adhere to the arrangement from the record. And other songs, in the nature and the spirit of the song, everyone knows we can kind of take flight on them.” Sheaffer continues: “The songs are our focus, our focal point; it all starts right there. Anything else just comments on the songs and gives them color. Some songs are more open than others. They ‘want’ to be approached that way – where we can explore and trade musical ideas and open them up to different territories. But sometimes it is what the song is about.”

So: they can jam with the best of them and they have some bluegrass influences, but they use drums and amplifiers(somewhat taboo in the bluegrass world). What kind of music is it then? Mandolin/vocalist John Skehan offers this semi-descriptive term: “I always describe it as a string band, but an amplified string band with drums.” Tim Carbone takes a swing: “We’re a Country & Eastern band! ” Todd Sheaffer offers “A souped-up string band? I don’t know. I’m not good at this.” Or, as a great drummer/singer/mandolin player with an appreciation for Americana once said: “Rock & roll!” ”



12:40AM – 2:10AM // Turkuaz

“Turkuaz is a 9-piece “Powerfunk” outfit from Brooklyn, NY, whose modern take on the classic funk sound has established them as leaders in the funk revolution that’s currently taking place in the genre. Blending elements of Pop, R&B, and Soul with their distinct aggressive funk core, Turkuaz sounds like the musical love child of Sly & the Family Stone and Talking Heads.

With the release of their new album Digitonium, Turkuaz’s sound is more accessible than ever and poised to break out to a more mainstream audience. With a playful feel that evokes the best of 80s dance music, Turkuaz’s tightly arranged songs are built on thick grooves, driven by powerhouse rhythm and horn sections, as well as four distinct vocalists.

The group’s constant coast-to-coast touring since 2012 has earned them a passionate and dedicated national fan base that’s consistently growing. A dance band at their roots, Turkuaz’s live shows are high-energy, floor-shaking, visually appealing events filled with colorful clothing and choreographed dance moves that always leave attendees wanting more.”



2:30AM – 3:30 AM // Opal Agafia & the Sweet Nothings ~ Campfire Set

“Opal Agafia & The Sweet Nothings is an up and coming Americana Roots/Folk band from the hills of Arkansas. Lead vocalist and songwriter, Opal Agafia, entered the music scene in January of 2015. Shortly after playing in local joints with various musicians, Opal Agafia & The Sweet Nothings, developed into a full string band–fiddle, mandolin, guitar, dobro, and upright bass. Together this band puts on a high energy show while focusing on the words and instrumental combos. Over the year, Opal Agafia & The Sweet Nothings have stayed involved in the NWA music scene. They’ve played a variety of music venues and festivals.Spring 2016 saw the release their first album, “One Down, Forever To Go.” While still a college student, Opal Agafia began a songwriting collaboration with her mother, DeAnna Smith. Their songs reflect their deep roots on the Ozark Highlands, as well as their concerns for the current conditions and future of the region. They know their history, but they do not long for it so much as they explore how it influences the present and will influence the future. Their approach is both fresh and familiar. Drawing from many genres, Opal Agafia & The Sweet Nothings blend the best elements of bluegrass, gospel, blues, jazz, country, swing, and traditional mountain music into a sound that captures the past and boldly looks forward to what is coming next. Their fan base is an interesting and eclectic blend of folks who seem to find something that speaks to all of them in their particular diversities. Opal Agafia & The Sweet Nothings sound is fearlessly haunted by those who came before them, and they seek to add their spirit to new generations of listeners who come after them.”