Music on the Mountaintop
Live music, breathtaking scenery and good vibes – call it the unofficial lineup for this year’s Music on the Mountaintop.
The ever-popular Boone-born music festival returns for its fifth year Aug. 24 to 26, held again at the Grandfather Mountain Campground in Foscoe.
This time around, popular Americana-Newgrass outfit Railroad Earth is hosting the festival, aptly dubbing it “Railroad Earth’s Music on the Mountaintop,” promising three days of music, art, awareness and, according to event founder Jimmy Hunt, “a step in the right direction.”
“They reached out to us (last) September and said, ‘Hey, look, out of all the festivals we play on the East Coast and across the country, we would like to take a more active role and put our brand and name on it,’” Hunt said, “because they believe in the value of our festival and what it can become.”
For starters, it’s become a three-day festival, as opposed to the traditional two, and Railroad Earth has dipped into its arsenal of contacts and label artists, including names like the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Dr. Dog.
Hunt, who founded and manages Yellow Dog Entertainment, which presents the festival annually, was happy for the assist.
“We knew we couldn’t grow without having some new types of bands,” Hunt said. “Having performers like the Dirty Dozen Brass Band … we just wanted to push forward and continue to grow. And getting a band like Dr. Dog – it’s a no-brainer. This is one of the first years where I’m literally excited about every single band.”
Top acts are balanced with the up and coming, such as indie rockers Futurebirds and Americana group Monroeville.
“If you look at the lineup this year, you’ll finally see us coming into our own, as to what types of music we want to go into,” Hunt said. “This year is a good toe in the water.”
On Friday, festivalgoers can expect headliners Railroad Earth, Dr. Dog, J.J. Grey & Mofro, Greensky Bluegrass, River Whyless and The Hackensaw Boys.
Saturday’s lineup includes headliners Railroad Earth, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Futurebirds, Naked Gods, The Black Lillies, Rose’s Pawn Shop, Monroeville and Holy Ghost Tent Revival.
Sunday will see performances from Railroad Earth, including a super jam with Sam Bush, Larry and Jenny Keel and members of Monroeville, as well as sets from Sam Bush, Larry Keel and Natural Bridge, Salem Speaks and Stoney Creek Boys.
Setting the Stage
As the festival host, Railroad Earth is calling for a big sound, meaning an even bigger stage.
This means Music on the Mountaintop has upped the size of its main stage, but at the cost of its smaller stages.
“We scaled back to one giant stage,” Hunt said. “It’s twice as big as in years past. Since Railroad is putting their stamp on (the festival), their biggest thing is sound and quality of product, so we decided to focus on one giant stage with top quality sound and lighting.”
Festivalgoers can still expect music in between sets, as well as performances at the Foscoe Community Center Pavilion, located near the campground’s main gates.
“We’re putting together a little, local pickin’ stage … to showcase and highlight some of our local people … some of the guys who’ve been picking around here a long time,” festival liaison Bill Herring said.
Some of those performers include Pete and Phil Washburn from Lost Ridge Band, Jeff Moretz from Upright & Breathin’ and Fitz McMurry III, the son of Acoustic Syndicate drummer Fitz McMurry, to name a few.
“They’ll be our base, a core group of pickers, if you will, and then we’ll bring in some of the artists from the main stage – some of the guys from Railroad Earth and Greensky Bluegrass – to sit in with them,” Herring said.
Music at the pavilion will be nonstop, Herring added, and all musicians are welcome to stop by for a tune or three. However, festivalgoers can expect some of the larger acts to perform there from 3 to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Aug. 25 and 26.
“We just wanted to give folks who weren’t able to get on stage the opportunity to show off their skills and play a bit,” he said, “… and get some of the bigger artists sitting in with our local guys and doing some jamming down by the creek.”
Throughout the festival, Railroad Earth members will host a series of interactive workshops “designed to complement the festival and bring fans closer to their creative process,” organizers said.
The workshops, which run throughout the entire weekend at the Foscoe Community Center, include “Zen and the Art of Improvisation,” featuring Railroad Earth’s Tim Carbone, Greensky Bluegrass’ Anders Beck and Railroad Earth’s Andrew Altman; “Introduction to Weird Instruments,” featuring Railroad Earth’s Andy Goessling; “Mandolin 101” with Railroad Earth’s John Skehan, Sam Bush and Andy Goessling; and “Morning Meditation” with Tim Carbone of Railroad Earth.
Times and dates will be available at the festival.
“The workshops are something we always wanted to do, but never had the manpower to do it,” Hunt said. “And you know, we’ll just have cool stuff going on, like (Railroad Earth violinist) Tim Carbone leading a morning meditation. Railroad Earth is being so innovative, and they really don’t want to just come and say their name’s on it – they’re offering themselves. That kind of artist interaction with fans is really rare this day. Between the workshops, they’ll be leading late-night jams, bluegrass jams and will be walking around, having a good time.”
As with festivals past, Music on the Mountaintop will bring back its environmentally centered “Green Village,” featuring nonprofit organizations, likeminded vendors, workshops and exhibits. Plus, a portion of the festival’s proceeds benefit area nonprofit Appalachian Voices.
Camping and Parking
General camping comes with a weekend pass and is available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Amenities abound, however, as Grandfather Mountain Campgrounds comes complete with shady campsites, bathhouses, public restrooms, a general store and plenty of potable water.
RV camping is sold out, but pop-up camping is still available for an additional price.
As for parking, more than 400 spaces are available on site for $15 per space for the duration of the festival on a first-come, first-serve basis. Parking proceeds will benefit the Foscoe Community Center and a local nonprofit organization.
Abundant parking is available in a satellite lot, located less than five miles away. A complimentary shuttle service will run throughout the festival to taxi patrons to and fro.
Not including fees, general admission tickets for all three days cost $99, while single-day tickets cost $50 for Friday, $50 for Saturday and $40 for Sunday.
VIP passes cost $300 (with no additional fees) and include admission to all three days, VIP camping, late-night show access, access to a VIP lounge area with food and cold beverages, location parking, pit access and a Music on the Mountaintop T-shirt.
Summit VIP three-day passes cost $420 (with no additional fees) and include admission to all three days, VIP camping, late-night show access, access to the VIP lounge, pit access, a Music on the Mountaintop T-shirt, on-site parking, an artist meet-and-greet and more.
Tickets are available online at http://www.musiconthemountaintop.com, and the festival will take place rain or shine.
Once again, Music on the Mountaintop is presenting the Ascent Series, a prelude to the festival that showcases area music.
This year’s series will take place Thursday, Aug. 23, at Galileo’s, located at 1087 W. King St. in downtown Boone. Performers include Yaddatu and Alex Ball, with more to come. The music starts at 9 p.m., and concertgoers are encouraged to stay throughout to vote for their favorite. The winner wins a slot at next year’s Music on the Mountaintop.
Music on the Mountaintop takes place at Grandfather Mountain Campground, located at 125 Riverside Drive in Foscoe. For more information on the campground, call (828) 963-7275 or visit http://www.grandfatherrv.com.
For more information on Railroad Earth’s Music on the Mountaintop, visit http://www.musiconthemountaintop.com.