FreshGrass May 19-20 brings roots, Americana and more to Momentary

FreshGrass May 19-20 brings roots, Americana and more to Momentary

The “freshest” bluegrass, soul, funk, pop and so much more will be at the Momentary next weekend.

FreshGrass festival will bring performances from Mavis Staples, Caamp, Elle King, Alison Brown, Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway, The Del McCoury Band, Tank and the Bangas, Cimafunk, Willie Watson, Sierra Ferrell and more. Regional favorites Melissa Carper, Willi Carlisle, Arkansauce Combo Chimbita, The Jacob Jolliff Band, Alsarah & the Nubatones, and Mesafa will also perform during the May 19-20 weekend.

“Our aim is to offer a diverse lineup of trailblazers and emerging artists right here in the Heartland. Our live music programming is dedicated to spotlighting music of the moment, infused with new ideas across a variety of genres,” says Emily Neuman, associate marketing strategy director at Crystal Bridges Museum & the Momentary.

The House of Songs in Bentonville also steps in to create “music of the moment,” with the annual FreshSongs sessions presented on the first evening of the festival. For these sessions, a small group of musicians lives together at The House of Songs in Bentonville for a week while working on material that will be presented at the festival.

“It’s one of my favorite projects that we do all year long,” says Graham Weber, artistic director for the nonprofit music organization.

“Everyone gets to write with everyone; everyone has their own pairings,” he explains. After writing a collection of songs, artists will record demos of the songs at Haxton Road Studios in Bentonville.

“Then on Friday, we’ll put together the best of those songs and make sure that everybody has equal stage time,” Weber explains.

This year’s lineup includes old friends and new faces, among them singer-songwriter Judy Blank from The Netherlands. She performed an award-winning duet “Never Said A Word” with local country crooner Dylan Earl in 2021. She has also worked with The House of Songs before on a project similar to FreshGrass, Weber explains.

Americana singer-songwriter Shannon Wurst and musician Billy Keene of Western Massachusetts, who have worked with The House of Songs before, will welcome new faces such as Jesse Aycock, a musician out of Tulsa, and Toronto-based artist Kaia Kater.

“She’s a banjo player and plays guitar. She’s a great songwriter, a great singer. She’s done a couple of other projects like this with us in the past,” Weber adds.

“Then another new artist to us is Lizzie No, and she’s based in Brooklyn. She’s been touring the country playing great rooms, and she plays the harp as well as guitar and is a vocalist and songwriter as well,” Weber says.

Another familiar face at this year’s FreshGrass Festival will be Willi Carlisle, who has participated in FreshSongs in the past.

“Willi is not officially part of our cohort this time, but he’s become one of my best friends over the years,” Weber adds. “That’s the best part of my job. We’ve been able to work with Willi for years and offer some different opportunities for him in different parts of the world. He’s so talented, and really taking advantage of every opportunity that’s been given to him.”

Carlisle will perform on the main stage starting at 4:30 p.m. May 19. He teased a new album via social media earlier this year and is currently playing sold-out shows nationwide.

Following Carlisle on the mainstage will be regional favorite Melissa Carper, who just announced that she will debut at the Grand Ole Opry in July. Her latest album, “Ramblin Soul,” was released late last year. The collection of songs expands upon Carper’s early honky tonk sound tinged with contemporary themes and sometimes cheeky lyrics.

Adding to the local music, Fayetteville’s own “newgrass” maestros Arkansauce will perform at noon on Saturday. The Ozark string quartet just independently released, “OK to Wonder,” an 11-song collection of energetic instrumentals, the straight bluegrass barnburner, “My Home in Arkansas,” and a collection of the feel-good singalongs that are the hallmark of Arkansauce’s songwriting.

“New elements for this year include FreshGrass Concertos, where we’ll explore a reinterpretation of the classical music form, the concerto, into the modern world of roots music,” Neuman picks up the story. “This year’s FreshGrass Concertos will feature Becky Buller, Jacob Jolliff, and Brittany Haas with Paul Kowert and Jordan Tice.”

There will be square dances in the Tulip Barn on Friday and Saturday. Participants are also invited to make their own music at FreshGrass, too.

“We’ll also have dedicated spots for picking circles and instrument workshops. Folks are encouraged to bring their own fiddle, banjo, guitar, mandolin — even a washboard and spoons! Instrument check will be available,” Neuman adds.

Another “fresh” offering is the conceptual country music project “Moheb Soliman: We’re back!” — a 22-minute film by Moheb Soliman with Josh Theroux (composer) and James Irwin, Matthew Million and Allan Luchenitser. The work will play every half hour during the festival in The Fermentation Hall at the Momentary.

“Following his presentation at FreshGrass, Soliman and his collaborators on the ‘We’re Back!’ project will convene for a two-week residency at the Momentary for the development of a future full-length album,” Neuman adds.

Another draw for movie lovers will be the annual FreshScores the afternoon of May 20 during which musicians will provide live music to silent film. Performing this year are Mesafa, Melissa Carper and Michael Daves in the Røde House.

Current Momentary exhibitions will be available to visitors during the festival, including “What a Time to Be” by Chicago-based artist Yvette Mayorga; a large sculptural installation that invites visitors to traverse passageways and travel through time and space by Firelei Báez; and [siccer] by Will Rawls, a video installation that experiments with stop-motion filmmaking techniques to consider how Black gestures are relentlessly documented, distorted and circulated in lens-based media.

Exhibitions are free to view with no tickets required. The RØDE Bar will also be open. Outside there will be local food trucks such as Onyx Coffee Lab, Kettle Corn, Masa, Southern Sippin, Wookie Dogs, Wright’s BBQ and Nosh/Delta Biscuits. The WYLDE Market will offer clothing, accessories art and more.





May 19

4 p.m. — Gates Open

4-9:40 p.m. — Moheb Soliman: We’re back!: A conceptual country music project, The Fermentation Hall

4:15 p.m. — The House of Songs presents: FreshSongs with Billy Keane, Shannon Wurst, Jesse Aycock, Lizzie No, Kaia Kater and Judy Blank in the Tulip Barn.

4:30-5:10 p.m. — Willi Carlisle, on the Mainstage

5:15-5:55 p.m. — Melissa Carper, No Depression Stage

6-6:55 p.m. — The Del McCoury Band on the Mainstage

7-7:40 p.m. — Combo Chimbita, No Depression Stage

7:45-8:40 p.m. — Sierra Ferrell on the Mainstage

8:45-9:30 p.m. — Tank and the Bangas, No Depression Stage

9:40-10:55 p.m. — Elle King, on the Mainstage

11 p.m. to midnight — The Lil Smokies, No Depression Stage

May 20

Noon — Gates open

Noon to 9:10 p.m. — Moheb Soliman: We’re back!: A conceptual country music project, The Fermentation Hall

Noon to 2:30 p.m. — Local bands in the Tulip Barn

12:30-1:10 p.m. — Arkansauce on the on the Mainstage

1-2:15 p.m. — FreshGrass Concertos with Becky Buller, Jacob Jolliff and members of Hawktail at Røde House.

1:15-1:55 p.m. — Alsarah & The Nubatones, No Depression Stage

2-2:40 p.m. — Willie Watson on the Mainstage

2:45-3:25 p.m. — Hawktail, No Depression Stage

3:30-4:10 p.m. — Miko Marks on the mMainstage

3:45-4:45 p.m. — Alison Brown in the Tulip Barn

4-5 p.m. — FreshScores: Live music from Mesafa, Melissa Carper and Michael Daves paired with silent films in Røde House

4:15 – 4:55 p.m. — Jacob Jolliff Band, No Depression Stage

5-6 p.m. — Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway on the Mainstage

6:05-6:55 p.m. — Becky Buller Band, No Depression Stage

7-8 p.m. — Mavis Staples on the Mainstage

8:05-9 p.m. — Cimafunk, No Depression Stage

9:10-10:40 p.m. — CAAMP

Tickets are $400 for two-day VIP adult passes; two-day general admission is $156 adults, $40 for ages 7-16; Friday general admission is $87 for adults, $22 ages 7-16; Saturday general admission is $97 for adults, $22 for ages 7-16; free for children ages 6 and younger.

Learn more at

Categories: Cover Story