Peace, Love And Americana: Music festival ‘all about having a laid-back time’

Peace, Love And Americana: Music festival ‘all about having a laid-back time’
BECCA MARTIN-BROWN
bmartin@nwadg.com

The Peacemaker Music Festival, now in its seventh year in Fort Smith, is “all about having a laid-back time enjoying the music and outdoors with your friends and family,” says Ricky Beauchamp, co-president of the event board. “Not to mention it’s also one great big party on the river — in a safe and responsible way, of course! Having one overarching genre really puts people with similar interests and personalities together to create a more uniform vibe.”

It was not always so.

Muscadine Bloodline, from Mobile, Ala., say they were influenced by Brooks & Dunn. “They were both good in their own right but better together. That’s how we feel about ourselves!” (Courtesy Photo)

“The original vibe of the festival was to be all inclusive and ‘culturally diverse,’” says Beauchamp, “by offering multiple genres of music. Over time, the genre pool became less and less diversified.”

Now, says co-president Trent Goins, “we try to create an environment that … focuses around Americana and Red Dirt music. That said, I don’t like to define the musical genres, as we’ve had some incredible rock ‘n’ roll and jam bands play the festival. We book our artists eight to 12 months in advance and are always trying to pair acts who flow well together on stage from the opening band all the way to the headliner each night.”

This year’s headliners are Paul Cauthen on July 30 — a musician Texas Monthly says “sound[s] like the Highwaymen all rolled into one: He’s got Willie’s phrasing, Johnny’s haggard quiver, Kristofferson’s knack for storytelling, and Waylon’s baritone” — and on July 31, Cody Johnson, who landed two releases in the Top 10 of Billboard’s country albums chart on his own CoJo label and earned recognition as the only unsigned artist in history to sell out NRG Stadium at RodeoHouston.

In between are Lucero, a Memphis, Tenn., band that has been mixing “heartfelt lyrics” with the sounds of early rock and roll, classic punk, country-folk, and deep-fried Southern soul since the 1990s; Prosper, Texas, singer/songwriter Tanner Usrey; relative newcomer Kylie Frey, “born and raised as country as it gets … a third-generation rodeo girl and Louisiana state goat-tying champion”; Cody Hibbard, an Asian-American who grew up on a farm in Oklahoma, worked on the gas pipeline and released his debut album right before the world shut down for a pandemic; and Austin, Texas, Americana legends Band of Heathens.

Headliner Cody Johnson landed two releases in the Top 10 of Billboard’s country albums chart on his own CoJo label and earned recognition as the only unsigned artist in history to sell out NRG Stadium at RodeoHouston. (Courtesy Photo)

Band of Heathens was among the musicians brave enough to play the smaller Peacemaker Festival last summer during the covid-19 pandemic. The group was preparing for the release of a new album, “Stranger,” Jocelyn Murphy reported in What’s Up!, but if you only saw the video for the single “Today Is Our Last Tomorrow,” you might have thought the album was created in response to the state of the world.

“‘Today Is Our Last Tomorrow’ was written before the world fell apart, but I think at different times over the past few years, we’ve all had a passing feeling that the world was falling apart,” Ed Jurdi, vocalist/guitarist/keyboards, told What’s Up! “I just don’t think anyone could have predicted the level and magnitude of the earthquake that we’re still experiencing.

“It’s impossible for the weight of the world to not have an impact on your smaller circle of family and friends. It’s inevitable for that to end up in our music,” he went on. “There’s an interesting relationship between how the big ‘outside world’ creates introspection and self-assessment of all of the smaller sort of day-to-day things that we’re going through as individuals. As a songwriter and an artist, the goal is to present my perspective, whether that’s macro or micro.”

Paul Cauthen has been praised by Texas Monthly as a musician who “sound[s] like the Highwaymen all rolled into one: He’s got Willie’s phrasing, Johnny’s haggard quiver, Kristofferson’s knack for storytelling, and Waylon’s baritone.” (Courtesy Photo/Anna Webber)

Muscadine Bloodline — made up of Mobile, Ala., musicians Gary Stanton on guitar and Charlie Muncaster on vocals — say although new to Peacemaker, they’ve been on the road “about every weekend since we started in 2015.” Of course, the coronavirus put them off their favorite venues, clubs where “you get 700-800 people packed in tight, and it’s really special,” but they’re happy to bring their “honest, harmony-driven country with a rock edge” to Fort Smith.

“We write all of our own music. You can’t be an artist unless you write it,” the Brooks & Dunn fans add. “All of our songs are from our personal perspectives.” And they say of the duo they credit for influencing them: “They were both good in their own right but better together. That’s how we feel about ourselves!”

Having given a total of $500,000 to charities since the inception of Peacemaker, the duo of Goins and Beauchamp agree they want to “just continue to build on our successes and … don’t become complacent with them,” as Beauchamp puts it. “I think I would ultimately like to see us capitalize on the brand and find new revenue avenues to continue to support our mission and charities.

“Whether this could be done by an additional festival — that could bring us back full circle to a more diverse genre lineup — other branded events, or through potential single shows at the amphitheater or other venues in town with different genres each time to continue to grow and expand to a different audience of people. I also agree with Trent as we would like to help contribute to some tangible beautification/improvement or additional amenities of the downtown area.”

Now in its seventh year in Fort Smith, the Peacemaker Music Festival has narrowed down its focus to Americana and Red Dirt music, welcoming headliners Paul Cauthen and Cody Johnson this year. (Courtesy Photo/Phil Clarkin via Peacemaker)

Meanwhile, “the experience is just as much about the music and a good time as it is exposing residents and visitors alike to the beauty of the amphitheater along the banks of the Arkansas River and what Fort Smith as a whole has to offer.”


FAQ

Peacemaker Music Festival

WHEN — July 30-31

WHERE — Harry E. Kelley River Park, 121 Riverfront Drive in Fort Smith

COST — $59.50-$249

INFO — peacemakerfest.com

__

FYI

Peacemaker Lineup

July 30

Paul Cauthen

Muscadine Bloodline

Lucero

Giovannie & The Hired Guns

Tanner Usrey

July 31

Cody Johnson

Kolby Cooper

Band of Heathens

Kylie Frey

Cody Hibbard

Categories: Family Friendly