A Northwest Arkansas Music and Food Festival.
And the Lord God waved a hand over the Ozark mountains and said, “Let there be joy.” And so it was.
Roots Fest reigns supreme. A unique, five day mix of Salty tears, belly laughs, and tantalizing tastes; an experience empowering everyone to feel accepted, wanted, and loved. This is good.
Chefs bonded, breaking bread. Musicians shared notes. Root’s intimate environment is an all encompassing feeling of a comfortable home, one you never want to leave.
The brainchild of organizers Chef and Restaurateur, Jerrmy Gawthrop and bluegrass songwriter Bryan Hembree is nothing less than brilliant perfection.
The festival opened her arms, Wednesday, at dreamy Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. A community event featuring culinary tastings, live painting, and music from Raina Rose, Matt The Electrician and Jacob Joliff Band. The blend of extreme jam grass, live art, and food, in one of the most mindful architecture structures, in the world, yes I will.
Thursday, everyone showed up in good spirits, even the weather. Of course, Bentonville showed up first (The retail capital of the World starts at 4AM.) Crystal Bridges hosted Explore Northwest Arkansas, whilst what may be the best trio in the south, came together to present a life event. P. Allen Smith (hero), Chef Matt Bell (South on Main), and Chef Anne Carroll (Farmer’s Table Cafe) hosted the “Feed Communities Lunch, at the gorgeous Pratt Place, just off U of A campus, in the heart of Fayetteville. Wow.
VIP, Pratt Place, extraordinary. The perfect ensemble of good people, weather, food, music, aesthetics, beer, and elbow room. Lines were short, beers were tall, and not a musician, nor a chef missed a note. Without hesitation, the Universe applauded all attendees for their gratitude, humbleness, and sheer joy of life. It’s not an easy ticket, but it’s worth downsizing to experience.
The River Whyless, Jacob Joliff Band, and The Wood Brothers, all close enough to touch, from your blanket. The tiny dance floor, absent of everyone, except the plethora of acrobatics and dancing from children under ten years of age. Yes, I will.
Teaming local chefs with national master’s of the same craft was brilliant. Combinations of rabbit and pickled trout, with a side of boiled prawns paired well with a few local craft beers from Ozark, Core, Bike Rack, and too many others for me to sample them all. Also lovely, was the Uber presence. A short ride from Fayetteville to Bentonville is $20 each for 2 people
Of course, Friday started early in Bentonville. Brightwater: A center for the study of food, hosted culinary classes from morning to late afternoon. The beauty of Northwest Arkansas is not only landscapes, but also, the diversity of cultures. When Bentonville starts happy hour, Fayetteville is just waking up, and do they ever wake up.
Artist, Matt Miller opened the day with live painting, music dropping in the back light, and bohemians learning the art of organic and sustainable farming. At the same time, the main stage in Town Center was digging deep.
Few left Joe Purdy without tears and Smokey & the Mirror, geez, who doesn’t love Smokey. The days continued with entertainment, education, and inspiration. But, what happened at 11PM, in George’s Majestic is somewhat unexplained.
Enter, Mandolin Orange. The duo was formed in 2009 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and consists of the group’s songwriter Andrew Marlin and Emily Frantz.
The few hundred in George’s expected something special, but not this. No one expects to fall in love at first sight. It just happens.
By midway through the second song, you could hear a pin drop, except for the angel and wizard on stage. Emily Frantz and Andrew Marlin, we love you.
In Fayetteville, late night is special. A jam session, hosted by Joe Mack, a secret late night bluegrass and foodie jam with Jason Paul and a mix of jam grassers second to none, more open jams, Elephant Revival’s foot stomping, head bobbing gig, Bayard Blain, Shannon Wurst…and it’s now Saturday in Fayetteville.
Farmer’s market’s in Northwest Arkansas are revered. Joe Mack playing in the background, live screen-printing from Kayln Fay, Kids and Family concert, New South Co-op from the likes of Chef Steven Brooks and Chef Matt Bell, and a Chef cook-off. Topping it off, just before noon, with a belly full of healthy goodness – Taste to Talk Series: Bean to Chocolate. Yes I will.
“Know your Axe” guitar workshop, a pop-up bistro, and a public collaboration of Northwest Arkansas Brewers Ozark Beer, Bike Rack, Apple Bolssom, Lost 40, and Charcuterie by Bentonville Butcher and Pint’s Travis McConnell. Sure, why not.
Artist, Matt Miller’s live painting at 2PM. 2 Chefs and a Farmer with famed Bansley’s Berkshire Ridge Heritage Pork followed by…”wait for it”…Mandolin Orange, at 3PM. Mind Blown, yes I will.
Only one way to follow up this half-Saturday. How about a 4:20 concert by Dead Man Winter (Dave Simonett of Trampled by Turtles), Nick Offerman (yes, the first to bring tears to listeners, at Roots, last Friday), Dylan Earl, and Iron and Wine taking the stage at 9PM. Wow, yes I will.
From 9PM to the wee hours of the morning, Joe Mack hosted another jam session, bluegrass reigned, and Ozark Highballers made an appearance, another secret late night with Chef Jason Paul and tag along jammers Joe Purdy, Smokey & The Mirror with The Honey Dewdrops. After midnight, Arkansauce and their local tribe of good people proved true bliss. Another jam session at 1AM, and a stoner-food pop-up by some of the best Chef’s in the South, because they can.
Sunday, the Lord’s day. A day of rest. Try Cycle Farm’s hosted “Food Recovery” A Gospel Brunch with pop-up biscuit-and-gravy bar by Blackboard grocery and beer mosas by Lost 40 Brewing. It’s not even noon, the gates are not open. They will.
“Never miss a Sunday Show.” Guy Clark was on everyone’s mind and it was special. Traditional instrament workshop by May Bell Music, another live painting by artist, Matt Miller, a mix of artist jam commemorating Guy Clark, Dig in Food and Farming workshop, The Stray Birds … and a dinner break. It kept going, well into Monday. It may still be going.
Charles Kochel writes about life.
Roots festival is amazing. I can’t say enough about Jerrmy Gawthrop and Bryan Hembree. They are pure energy, mindfulness, heart, and soul.
Thank you to the Chefs, Musicians, Artist, and most of all, our community coming together, not only to make it happen, but make it the most intimate, interesting, and joyful festival, in the world.
If you need me, I’ll be fly fishing, somewhere in the Ozarks or working with WhyteSpyder to change the world. #JobWellDone. ~ck
It’s almost autumn in the Ozarks. Football, Fishing, and Fantastic Music.
Two black men riding white horses down Dickson Street dismount in front of Walton Art Center. Together, they step on stage, pick up their guitars and start playing music and telling stories.
It’s a style Keb Mo and Taj Mahal have mastered, like no other in history. A decade of difference in age, the folkie blues & modern soul artists share striking similarities; mastering multiple instraments before guitar: piano, trombone, clarinet, French horn, steel drums, harmonica, and standup bass. Although both began their careers in California, they understand the deep south’s delta blues and modern soul.
Taj Mahal started his career with Rising Sons, and Keb Mo played with famed violinist Papa John Creech of Jefferson Airplane. Both have reached the top of their respected art, as individuals, and now have partnered to create the duo, “TajMo” – a diverse platform of brilliant artistry. When playing acoustic, they drive us towards a deep emotional journey.
The two join forces September 19th, at Walton Arts Center on Fayetteville’s playful Dickson Street.
With your tank refilled by TajMo and the sophistication of Walton Art Center still lingering, ByrdFest peaks her bohemian head from around the mountain, inviting you, September 22 – 23, to kick off your birkenstocks, and enjoy all things outdoors.
One of the Ozarks prized festivals, ByrdFest offers an array of history, experience and tribute. The Grateful Dead Experience – The Schwag, Led Zeppelin Tribute: Hindenburg Project, Undertow: A tribute to Tool, The Driftaways, Molly Adamson, and one of Arkansas’ hometown favorites, Freeverse will all be on stage performing for hula hoopers, fire dancers, and disc throwing families.
Byrdfest is hosted by Byrd’s Adventure Center. This is a rain or shine event (oddly is seems many prefer the rain.) Camping and RV parking is available on the banks of aesthetically pleasing Mulberry River.
Autumn in the Ozarks, it doesn’t get any better than this. Whether you’re into sophistication and deeply rooted acoustics, or psycho jams, we know one thing for sure. The Ozarks is the place to be in Autumn.
Turn off the TV (except for the Hogs game) and leave your phone in the VW van, because the fall is upon us and there is no other place I’d rather be, than right here at home, in the Ozarks.
Charles Kochel lives in the Illinois Watershed and fly fishes.
I write, play mandolin, and hang with my family. I don’t use the phone much, but often watch leaves float downstream.
The Ozarks have become home for me. I work here, play here, and raise my children as good bohemians.