Music on the Mountaintop
It's not often you see a mountain grow.
But Boone's own Music on the Mountaintop is an exception.
Be it ever so humble, the music festival has grown dramatically and organically since its 2008 debut - a daylong celebration of music, environmental stewardship and fellowship.
Those core elements remain, but founder and organizer Jimmy Hunt has upped the ante.
As headliners grow to feature more nationally prominent acts, including festival newcomers Railroad Earth and Toubab Krewe, Hunt realized there's simply too much tuneage to fit in a single day. Like so, Music on the Mountaintop 2010 runs two days, and tickets are already on sale.
"We conducted a bunch of polls, pulled from a bunch of fans from over the past few years, and that was their biggest request," Hunt said. "They wanted the big-time festival feel, and we thought it made the most sense if we were going to grow and change."
And, to Hunt, it feels right and then some.
"It's all very organic and natural to go two days," he said. "It's double the work, but it's also going to be double the fun, making a whole weekend out of it."
Scheduled for Aug. 27-28 at the Old High Country Fairgrounds, with camping again available, this year's Music on the Mountaintop features a slew of artists, national, regional and local, like Sam Bush, Keller Williams, Railroad Earth, Acoustic Syndicate, Larry Keel and Natural Bridge, Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band, Toubab Krewe, Josh Phillips Folk Festival, Snake Oil Medicine Show, Holy Ghost Tent Revival, The Dirty Guv'nuhs, The Mumbles, Uncle Mountain, The Native Sway, Farm Vegas, BPL, The Moderate, Big Daddy Love and more.
Naturally popular among the 4,000 fans who attended last year's festival, it's also a permanent dot on the radars of certain returning artists.
"Sam (Bush) is coming back," Hunt said, "and the coolest thing about that is Sam actually called me in December and was like, 'Hey, man, do you want me back?'"
Though popular headliners help rally the crowds, Hunt's not one to place emphasis on them alone. He lost sleep waiting to hear back from Railroad Earth, he jumped for joy when Toubab Krewe confirmed, and he's just as stoked for the regional and local acts.
"I'm personally excited about those guys as anyone else," he said, mentioning names like Do It to Julia, Doc Aquatic and Mama's Love. "Take Holy Ghost Tent Revival, who brings this great energy, and Snake Oil Medicine Show, who have very close ties to Boone, and then the Josh Phillips Folk Festival, the old singer-songwriter from the Booty Band. Those are our 'second- and third-tier' bands, and those guys are phenomenal - it's crazy."
And when the music's over, don't turn out the light. Per the local noise ordinance, amplified music must stop by 11 p.m., but Hunt's got it covered. Acoustic sets by surprise artists will take the stage, offering live entertainment (at lower decibels) into the wee hours.
"We're not going to announce who they are yet, but we're going to get some of the bigger acts to sit in and basically make these super groups," Hunt said. "And then on Saturday night, we're having a big super jam, with Sam, Railroad Earth, Keller, Acoustic and Larry, so that's pretty damn exciting."
Hunt's also introducing Aug. 26's Ascent Music Series, akin to FloydFest's Under the Radar Series, held at various local venues and showcasing bands that didn't make the already crowded billing.
"We're teaming up with about five or six venues in downtown Boone," Hunt said, mentioning Our Daily Bread, Black Cat Burrito and Galileo's, to name a few. "It's basically a showcase of these good bands ... before they're billed on the festival."
These concerts are free to the public, with Yellow Dog Entertainment footing the bill, and music-lovers can participate in raffles for ticket giveaways, T-shirts, autographed guitars and more. Fans can vote for their favorite bands, with the winner earning a cash prize and a slot in Music on the Mountaintop 2011.
"It's good for us, because it's taking our two-day festival and making it into a three-day festival," Hunt said. "And this is good for the town, because we're putting people on King Street."
And despite the festival's ever increasing magnitude, Hunt's glad to see it retain its intimate feel, with community outreach playing a significant role.
Last year, Hunt and his company, Yellow Dog Entertainment, donated $5,000 of the festival's proceeds to the Appalachian Institute for Renewable Energy (AIRE), a grassroots organization seeking to reduce the region's dependence on nonrenewable energy sources.
This year, Music on the Mountaintop is teaming with environmental advocacy group Appalachian Voices, what Hunt called a perfect fit.
"Some nonprofits approach things in a hierarchy, but these guys are so down to earth and real with what's happening - they work hard, they work all day and all night," Hunt said. "Our goal is to give $20,000 back, and if we can make a good amount, then we'll have that much to give."
And like last year, festival attendees can pitch in. With the South Fork of the New River running near the fairgrounds, volunteers can get their feet wet with river cleanup. "Last year, we collected 20-some tires from there, and three big truckloads of garbage," Hunt said.
The festival's also boosting its educational outreach, with Appalachian Voices, Two Rivers Community School and other nonprofit organizations hosting workshops throughout the day, including vermiculture and energy conservation, geared toward participants of all ages.
It's in keeping with Music on the Mountaintops humble beginnings, what Hunt called a cornerstone. While Yellow Dog recently pulled off the acclaimed All Go West Festival in Asheville, with the larger Peach Music and Arts Festival slated for 2011 in Atlanta, Ga., Hunt intends to keep Music on the Mountaintop local.
"Music on the Mountaintop will always stay here," he said. "If we're lucky enough, we'll cap it at 10,000 people and just sell out every year. We don't ever want to be Bonaroo. Boone's perfect the way it is."
Music on the Mountaintop 2010 is scheduled for Friday and Saturday, Aug. 27-28. Two-day passes cost $65 for general admission, and two-day passes with camping cost $75. One-day passes for Friday cost $35, while Friday passes with camping cost $45. One-day passes for Saturday cost $40, and Saturday passes with camping cost $50. Students receive a $5 discount on all of the above.
For tickets and more information, visit http://www.musiconthemountaintop.com.