‘Old Friends,’ new collabs: Idlet and Richmond’s festival emphasizes music, nature and creation

‘Old Friends,’ new collabs: Idlet and Richmond’s festival emphasizes music, nature and creation

Putting together a music festival began naturally for Noah Richmond and Dana Idlet.

Both longtime musicians in Northwest Arkansas’ broad musical community and beyond, they regularly host friends — often from other bands they’ve toured with over the years — on their picturesque homestead just outside of the growing town of Prairie Grove.

Located at the “confluence of two creeks” in the woods, they call the space Old Friend Farms, named in the spirit of Idlet’s late pup, Lenny.

After hosting a few events in a small space they set up for weddings and their Creekside Concert series, the suggestion of a music festival came up as more friends were looking for places to play in and around Northwest Arkansas.

Inspired by festivals like Fayetteville Roots, which prioritized sustainability and collaboration, they started asking who might be interested in an event. Richmond says musicians signed on quickly.

“All the artists that are performing are people that we love musically and respect as artists, but also people that we love and know personally,” Richmond explains.

Even as they set up for the festival, the couple have received support not only from musicians but the community as well in building out the festival grounds.

When damaging storms ripped through the property just before Mother’s Day this year, the couple posted on social media that they needed help cleaning up. Idlet says 10-15 people showed up to help clear brush and limbs. Then local country crooner Dylan Earl serenaded the volunteers as they were treated to a rare sighting of the Aurora Borealis amidst a starry sky.

They hope that spirit of working together, magic and music will continue into the festival May 24-26.

Performers for the weekend will include well-known regional Americana artists like The Creek Rocks and singer/harpist Jude Brothers in addition to longtime Ozark folk music makers like Still on the Hill and the Bayard Blain Trio, in addition to Austin-based music makers like Little Mazarn and Creekbed Carter Hogan, Kansas City-based “freak folks” True Lions and other folk-adjacent musicians from different parts of the country. Earl will be back too.

Mike Dillon, a percussionist and vibraphonist currently on tour with Ricki Lee Jones, will be the artist at large during the Old Friends Music Festival and will perform during the festival’s after-party. Dillon, who is also from Austin, has played in Northwest Arkansas regularly over the last few decades, most recently with his band, Punkadelick at George’s Majestic Lounge last year.

“My goal and my mission is to lead a rock band with a vibraphone — AKA the dirty uncle of the xylophone, actually the nephew of the xylophone. It’s really fun because it’s wide open. I feel like there’s a lot of things that haven’t been done with my instrument in the rock ‘n’ roll context,” he told us at the time.

For the Old Friends Music Festival, he jokes that people can “expect everything I’ve ever done in one one-hour set!”

In all seriousness, Dillon says that he’ll probably base his performance on the same format of his pandemic-era livestream videos where he pulled from his own broad catalog that include elements of funk and punk rock sounds with plenty of plucky vibes.

“I’ll probably dress up, wear a costume and make my wife do a puppet show. And have our little dog with a bow tie on it or something,” he says. “That’s what we do for the livestreams.”

There will be a special kids area with music for the little ones with Candy Lee and Backyard Bugs and Woodie Guthrie’s kids songs performed by Mark Bilyeu of The Creek Rocks. Kelly Mulhollan of Still on the Hill will lead a bird calling workshop, and other educational activities like seed bomb building and art activities are planned. Writers Ava Arsaga and Andrew Squitiro will do some readings and workshops, too.

Food and art vendors will be available, but bring cash. Campers should expect to unplug completely. In fact, Richmond encourages people to bring no canned music whatsoever. Instruments are welcome though. Just be respectful of neighbors.

“The place that we live in is so special and relaxed. Any time we have people coming through, they say they’re going to wake up at 7 a.m. and wind up sleeping till 10,” says Idlet. “It seems like people are really able to just let their selves and body relax out there.”

She hopes that “blanket of calm” transfers into a deeper connection to nature and art.

“Maybe the music can penetrate a little deeper or some workshop can hit a little harder. Maybe you get out of your shell a little and play a goofy game or maybe you decide to start writing a poem or sing a song … I really want it to be not just about the musicians on stage,” she says. “I really want the audience and anyone who comes to feel like they also are part of making the festival happen, because that’s what we want. We want it to feel like everyone’s festival and everyone’s a special part of making that happen.”

“The festival is held on an 80-acre plot — 70 acres of which is just forest — so there’s ample opportunities to get a little more intimate with a natural space in Arkansas,” Richmond says.

“We encourage people to bring all their camping gear, whatever they need to be comfortable in the outdoors for an extended period of time,” Richmond says. Bring drinking water and food for camping and plan to pack trash out



Old Friends Music Festival

WHAT — Three days of music, workshops and primitive camping with The Creek Rocks, Little Mazarn, Dylan Earl, Still on the Hill, Jude Brothers, Trevor Reichman, Creekbed Carter Hogan, Hemlock, True Lions, Mary Elizabeth Remington, Fritz Hutchison Band, Bayard Blain Trio, Star Charger and more. Primitive camping; leave no trace.

WHEN — May 24-26

WHERE — Old Friend Farms, 21581 Buckhorn Camp Road, Prairie Grove

COST — $50-$100; free for kids 12 and younger. Festival is cash only with limited ATM access.

INFO — oldfriendfarms.com

BONUS — Resident Outdoors reporter Flip Putthoff shares camping advice for newbies and veterans alike each year in the Outdoors in the Ozarks section of the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Categories: Cover Story