The Hills Are Alive

The Hills Are Alive

Bluegrass favorites return to the Ozarks


The fifth edition of Hillberry Music Festival returns to The Farm outside of Eureka Springs with some refreshing additions and one of its strongest lineups yet for Hillberry: The Harvest Moon Festival starting Oct. 11. The five-month process of converting “The Jerry Shrine” — formerly a platform on the grounds used for late night performances and jam sessions — into a full second stage, along with confirmation of new excursions and activities into and around Eureka Springs will offer festivalgoers even more connection with the area and with each other.

Photo courtesy David McClister
Trampled By Turtles performs at Hillberry at 9:30 p.m. Oct. 12.

“We have all kinds of activities going on throughout the day,” including a kids’ tent with a full schedule, explains Jon Walker, CEO of promotion company Deadhead Productions. “I mean, this will be the largest bluegrass/jamgrass festival in the Midwest, and that is the draw, but we’ve got all kinds of stuff going on. That’s why people really love to come out [and stay] the entire four days.

“There’s a lot of energy that’s behind this festival and, I don’t know how it got there, but it’s just one of those things where everybody kind of knows each other; they do this year after year, and we’ve kind of become a family,” he adds proudly.

In addition to some of the region’s most beloved acoustic and jam bands, resident Hillberry headliners Railroad Earth return for another year of back-to-back evening performances. Pointing to the contrast in established and up-and-coming performers on this year’s lineup, Walker is delighted to see community excitement continuing to build through the year in preparation for their return to the intimate festival.

“The Ozarks really encompass bluegrass music — it’s part of the Ozarks; part of the flavor. And that’s really what we’re trying to create with Hillberry. It’s more progressive, it’s maybe geared for a little bit younger demographic,” meaning somewhere around 25 to 55, he says with a laugh. “But we’ve got a really great crowd. Everybody takes care of each other. And what I enjoy most about doing this is seeing people happy and seeing all the enthusiasm and passion.”

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Photo courtesy Jamie Seed
Hillberry Music Festival is back at The Farm outside Eureka Springs Oct. 11-14, bringing a new stage and a full weekend of activities for all ages.

Four Minutes, Four Questions

Accompanying Railroad Earth in their return to the Ozarks are bluegrass/country/folk/rock local favorites (truthfully, nationwide favorites) Trampled By Turtles and The Infamous Stringdusters. Both bands are in different stages of new beginnings: The Turtles’ most recent and ninth studio album, “Life Is Good On The Open Road,” was released in May — their first release in four years following a hiatus from the band — and The Stringdusters finished recording their forthcoming album this summer, which they expect to drop some time in the spring. Bass player Tim Saxhaug with TBT and guitarist Andy Falco with TIS both answered some questions for What’s Up! as they prepare for their return to the magic of the Ozark Mountains.

Q. Congratulations on the new album. What can you tell me about the process for this album and how it differed from your previous projects?

ANDY: It was really a fun record to make. On this one, I feel like more than maybe any other record, we kind of zoomed out a little bit and we’re looking at it as a whole. And we actually knew going into the studio the order that was going to be on the record, and we recorded in order. It was an interesting way to do it; it really gave you the feeling like you were living inside of, in real time, the record. I hope people enjoy it as much as we enjoyed making it because it’s really, I feel like, the next evolution of The Stringdusters.

TIM: With this one, compared to the one before it, we didn’t work with a producer or anything. This was pretty much just a getting-back-to-the-basics type of thing — just us in a room, very little overdubs or anything like that on the album. Basically, just a few instrumental parts here and there and the background vocals.

Q. Does the live show reflect that as well?

TIM: I don’t think so. I actually think live shows are like this whole separate basket all the songs get put into, because the new songs fit in with the old songs on the live setlist just like they were any of the other ones. In that way, they don’t feel that different. But that was one of the things that came out from the album, is we feel it sounds the most like “us.” So, for that reason, they’re a good contribution to the live shows.

Q. How do you feel your music has evolved over your career?

ANDY: Everybody [in the group] has such respect for each other and our band, and so it just makes the journey so much fun and it’s been great to feel more and more connected to our deepest musical DNA. As we grow, too, you start to shed all of the worries about expectations and just be able to dive really deep into the heart of the music and what, ultimately, is the best representation of who we are as a group. [When] you’ve been doing it for a while, you start to feel a little bit better about actually making up your own rules, or throwing rules out the window. Allowing all of the deepest influences and all of our experiences to come out, I think as songwriters that’s been fruitful for us to dig deep into that. The more free you can be, that’s the ultimate goal.

Q. People always talk about the “magic” of being at, or involved in, a music festival, no matter its size. Is there a bit of magic for you as well on the stage side of a festival?

TIM: It is, but it’s not as individualized I think as, say, a festivalgoer’s [experience] is. Like, we run into “the best festival in the world” everywhere we go, according to the promoters and the people going. And they’re usually great, so I’ve got no reason to argue with that. There’s a magic just because it’s a get-together, but if you think you’re at the best festival, if [a] town thinks it has the best festival, then you do.

ANDY: There’s a reciprocation of energy and [a feeling that] we’re all in it together. There’s some of us on stage, some of us out in the audience, and we’re all kind of doing the same thing: we’re all communicating and feeling love and energy and sharing that with each other altogether. And I think that’s fundamentally such an important need for human beings to get out and feel.

At the end of the day, you’re trying to be a part of and help contribute to a community and a culture of people. And I think that’s what it’s all about — bringing people together. Which is hard to find these days. When you get out [of the routine of everyday life], whether as an audience member or even as a musician, and you start to realize that people aren’t as different from each other as we’re led to believe we are these days, I think it’s an important state of mind to remember. This is what sort of drives [us], is feeling that, and that magic. And I think that’s something that’s very evident at Hillberry. It’s an honor to be a part of it.




The Harvest Moon Festival

WHEN — Oct. 11-14

WHERE — The Farm near Eureka Springs

COST — $60-$180

INFO — 888-762-7158,




Music Schedule

Oct. 11

6 p.m. — Friends of the Phamily

8:15 p.m. — Miles Over Mountains

10:30 p.m. — Splitlip Rayfield

1 a.m. — Red Oak Ruse All-Star Jam

Oct. 12

3 p.m. — The Mighty Pines

5:10 p.m. — Big Smith

7:20 p.m. — Billy Strings

9:30 p.m. — Trampled by Turtles

11:40 p.m. — The Infamous Stringdusters

1:30 a.m. — Rumpke Mountain Boys & Friends

Oct. 13

Noon — Drifters Mile

1:30 p.m. — Grassfed

3 p.m. — Grace Stormont

4:30 p.m. — The Squarshers

6:45 p.m. — Wood Brothers

9 p.m. — Railroad Earth

12:40 a.m. — Lettuce

2:10 a.m. — Arkansauce

Oct. 14

11 a.m. — John Henry picking contest

12:30 p.m. — Steamboat Bandits

1:30 p.m. — Julian Davis

2:50 p.m. — Dirtfoot

4:40 p.m. — Arkansauce & Friends

6:50 p.m. — Sam Bush

9 p.m. — Railroad Earth

midnight — Opal Agafia & The Sweet Nothings



New In 2018:

Hillberry Excursions

• Riverview Resort & Country Store

— White River Float Trips, $40/canoe

— Free shuttle: Friday, Saturday & Sunday, 9 a.m.–2 p.m.

— Meet at shuttle pick-up station; do not need reservations

• Bear Mountain Stables Horseback Rides

— $30 plus tax/horse. Shuttles provided

— Up to 5 people in each group

— Based on availability.

• Ozark Mountain Zip lines

— $89 plus tax/person

— Cut off 48 hours in advance

— Based on availability

• Railway Winery Tastings

— 1 Mile away, no shuttle provided

— Try first 3 wines for free

• Holiday Island Golf

— Thursday afternoon; Friday-Sunday 8 a.m.-6 p.m.

— No shuttle provided

— Discount offered using the name Hillberry: green fee and cart $29 before 12 p.m.; $19 after 12 p.m.; driving range $5

— Golf club rentals available

Categories: 'Tis the Season