Starting Thursday, Mulberry Mountain will host the return of the annual Harvest Music Festival, which has been hosted by Colorado's Yonder Mountain String Band for the last several years. The band is shortly departing on a tour for their recent release "YMSB EP-13." We caught up with vocalist and banjo player Dave Johnston to chat about the festival and what's in store for fans this weekend. Check out YonderHarvestFestival.com for the full lineup.
Just to provide a little background to readers, how did Yonder Mountain String Band come to host the Harvest Music Festival?
You know, it's kind of a mystery to me. What happened was, we're good friends with Brett Mosiman [of Pipeline Productions], and he was throwing this party in the fall, a companion or sister festival to Wakarusa. And the availability was there and they wanted to make it more Americana and roots-oriented. And we were willing and available to lend our insight into that world and make our suggestions about the stuff that we like.
Brett certainly has his own ear and his own flair for things. It's been really great working with him, and he picks really good bands to play down there and is just a really good guy to work with. Like I said, initially, it was kind of a mystery, but we just feel really flattered that he would include us in that kind of decision-making.
How much input or involvement, or how hands-on are you guys in organizing the festival, mainly in terms of the lineup?
We don't do a lot of the organization part; we're more of the brain trust or the brainstormers, we kind of keep our ear low to ground to see if we can hear anything or pick up on any bands that we're really thrilled about and we try to make our suggestions based on stuff that appeals to us. And he's always been very open-minded to that.
How is Harvest different from Wakarusa, which takes place at the same location?
Well, I think it's got a bit of a mellower vibe going on with it, and it's got a more roots/Americana kind of thing going and it doesn't have the bigger rock 'n' roll names. Its main focus is American string music or country music, stuff like that.
What are some of the differences and similarities with the Northwest String Summit, which you guys have hosted for a long time up in Oregon?
The difference is, I think at Northwest String Summit, it feels like more regional bands, more bands from California and from the Northwest that are rootsy or string-band music, and I think that Harvest Fest kind of casts a wider net. We get a lot of people from all over the place. In that regard they're kind of different, but the vibe is pretty much the same — lots of families and there's kids out having a good time and they're both not crazy crowded and there's more room at both of those than at some of the other festivals. I think they're pretty similar.
Are there any collaborations that might be in store for this year's Harvest fest? Or do they tend to happen more spontaneously?
Those tend to happen with more spontaneity than being planned. There are certainly a couple guys I think it'd be fun to play with. We played one year there with Dan Tyminksi, stuff like that was going on and I had a really good time. And Tim O'Brien is going to be there with Darrell Scott, and we've played with both those guys before. I think that would be a fun gig, but we don't really know until we get there.
Playing as many festivals and road concerts as you guys do, I'm sure there are occasionally nights when you just want to crash early or have some down time. But are there still shows where you're just as excited as you were in the early days, either about playing in Yonder or watching other bands play? Do you still get that spark of excitement?
Oh man, all the time. All the time. I mean, you get tired and stuff like that but most of the time things are fun and good, and it's always exciting to take to the stage and play music.
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