There’s something special about new festivals, a sort of energy that comes with being a part of something when it’s still fresh and growing. Last year was the first ever Phases of the Moon Festival. It took place in Danville, Illinois and the consensus from pretty much all who attended was overwhelmingly positive. Earlier this year the organizers of Phases announced that the festival would be changing locations and merging with a more established and highly respected one, Harvest. Part of the deal means that Phases would be taking place on the lush Arkansas mountaintop called Mulberry that is home to Wakarusa and Harvest. It has also been moved to Harvest’s prime fall time slot, taking place October 16-18. Plenty of people are curious to see what the merger between Harvest and Phases will be like, and the best way to do that is to get in the car and go! But if you’re just not sure or need something to convince your friends, here are 8 reasons why this year’s Phases of the Moon Festival is well worth the trip…
Remember that time not long ago when festivals didn’t cater to the legions of shallow, selfie-taking teeny boppers? Remember when Bonnaroo actually booked jam bands? The folks behind Phases do. Sure, the scene has changed a lot over the years, but one look at the Phases lineup makes it clear that they are aiming to appeal to the jam-loving crowd, the kind of people who used to get strange looks when they told someone they had just spent the weekend at a music festival. The Phases lineup is packed with a mélange of acts, most of whom are associated with the jam scene in some way, ranging from the trance-fusion of the Disco Biscuits and STS9, the straight up rocking jams of moe., Yonder Mountain String Band’s bluegrass grooves, and the almighty lion of jam Warren Haynes, who will be backed by his Ashes & Dust Band, which includes Jeff Sipe and the guys from Chessboxer. Of course, there are loads of other funk, bluegrass, Americana, and Grateful Dead-tribute sets planned.
2. Location, location, location!
It’s on a goddamn mountain! What else is there to say really? If you’ve been to Wakarusa or Harvest Fest you know, but for those who haven’t, Mulberry Mountain is nestled in the heart of the gorgeous Ozark National Park. Savoring jams under the stars feels so much better when you’re closer to the sky, plus the festival site actually feels like it’s far from society, which is nice.
These days pretty much every festival makes a point to include at least a few art pieces. However, often times they are just thrown up to provide a little extra scenery without any sense of quality and curation. This is not the case with Phases. In their first edition they invited artists from around the world to contribute major installations, plenty of which had been to Burning Man and other events of that nature. This year will see the same close attention to detail and quality. The festival treats art more as a part of the overall environment as opposed to just trippy scenery. Don’t worry though, there may be a little of that too!
4. Positive Causes!
Last year in an interview with Phases founder Sam Shear, I was enlightened to the fact that much of why the festival was started in the first place was rooted in using it to benefit a number of good causes, and also to raise awareness of what organizations are worth supporting. As opposed to mega festivals where corporate greed can be seen everywhere, the folks behind Phases are interested in using the event to do good beyond just getting people to buy new products.
5. Festival in the fall!
Foliage, oh sweet foliage! Ok, I just like any chance to use that word, but seriously, the Ozarks in autumn is truly a thing of beauty and the only way to truly experience it is by immersing yourself in sweet ol’ Mother Nature. Cool, crisp air and colors of red, gold and orange in the trees around you. This is starting to sound like a Dead song, but you get the idea. It’s freakin’ gorgeous up there. Oh yeah, and if you get a chance to take a helicopter ride as I did at Harvest Fest a couple years ago, do it.
6. Go easy on the womp ‘n untz!
Wait, so you’re telling me Skrillex and that Aoki guy won’t be engaging in douchebaggery and dancing on a DJ table while the sounds of digital diarrhea pollute the ears of everyone unfortunate enough to be within an atom bomb radius? Nope! Phases prides itself on delivering a lineup of “100% organic, feel-good music”. That means real musicians playing real instruments. Compared to last year, which stayed pretty rootsy, this year’s lineup sees a few more jamtronica type acts being brought into the mix, but at least the Disco Biscuits know how to rock it out a bit, and STS9 will be performing their stripped down Ax The Cables set. It’s hard to state how refreshing it is to see a lineup not soiled by DJs, and even though I may sound like a cranky old guy waving my cane from the porch, I think I’m hardly alone.
7. Lack of corporate involvement!
Don’t expect to find an AT&T or Honda stage at this fest. For the most part, Phases is still something of a family venture. Sure, there are sponsors – every festival needs them – but I can promise that when you walking the festival grounds you won’t be surrounded people handing out promo products that have nothing to do with the joy of seeing live music, or booths trying to sign you up for some new service. What you will find is people actually dancing and enjoying live music far from the grip of the marketing claw. This may seem insignificant and the corporate presence may not bother you, but trust me that it will make the experience far more pure.
8. The vibe!
Just in case it wasn’t conveyed in the last seven points, I’m going to get a little hippie here and mention my favorite part of a festival like Phases: the vibes maaaan. This year the festival announced it was merging with Yonder Mountain String Band’s Harvest Festival. If you’ve been to Harvest you know that it is one of the best festivals when it comes to the friendly, laid back attitude of those who attend. Everyone is cheerful and welcoming, and for the most part you’re not surrounded by narcissistic scenesters. The positive attitude of the crowd reflects in the bands, who seem to treat it more like a musical getaway than a paid festival gig. I imagine that much of the Harvest vibe will be alive and well at Phases. Based on the lineup, there could be more people than at Harvest, but it still promises to be intimate compared to Bonnaroo or even Wakarusa.
Phases of the Moon Music & Art Festival takes place October 16-18, 2015 at Mulberry Mountain in Ozark, Arkansas. For passes and more info check out phasesofthemoonfestival.com!
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