Long-awaited music festival expands culture and community – The Free Weekly


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After multiple postponements and years of preparation, Momentary in Bentonville will finally host its very first music festival, FreshGrass, on October 1-2. The festival debuted in North Adams, Mass., At the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) in 2011 and has been on its way to a Bentonville premiere for some time.

Momentary staff have worked closely with MASS MoCA since the inception of the multidisciplinary art venue, and visitors from both will notice many similarities between the two institutions, shares Emily Neuman, Senior Director of Communications. On the one hand, both have brought creative new life to industrial spaces, turning old factories into community cornerstones that encourage works of art that cross borders by bringing together the visual and performing arts into one. central location.

“FreshGrass always offers a diverse lineup encompassing the best in acoustic music – from traditional masters and iconic pioneers to musical discoveries,” details the music festival‘s website. The bluegrass / roots music festival celebrated its 10th anniversary Sept. 24-26 at its flagship location in North Adams, Mass., Just ahead of its southern debut Oct 1-2 in Bentonville. (Photo Courtesy / Caleb Blansett, via MASS MoCA)

“There have been a lot of visits to MASS MoCA, conversations with this team, research we’ve done with them on what it means to bring this type of space to an area that maybe didn’t have it. not before, and the successes they’ve seen and how we might apply that here at Momentary, “Neuman details.” You could almost say that the conversations [about the festival] started when we even started looking at what Momentary could be, what we wanted to do with this space, what we wanted to bring to our community.

The FreshGrass Foundation, the non-profit organization behind the organization of the festival, was created to celebrate and create innovative popular music. Artists from across the country at “very different levels of their careers” will converge on Bentonville for the two-day family festival.

“It’s been a wonderful collaboration,” enthuses Neuman. “We can bring together some of the local and some of the most seasoned musicians who live across the country and show what bluegrass and roots music is all about here in Northwest Arkansas. [and] what it is on this larger scale.

If this philosophy sounds familiar to you, maybe it’s because another arts organization based in Bentonville, via Austin, has been facilitating collaboration between artists from around the world for over a decade – and they’ve been participating in the festival as well. The nonprofit House of Songs established its second permanent location and new national headquarters in Northwest Arkansas in 2017. Through artist residencies, songwriter summits, songwriter sessions, co-writing, musical series and artistic service efforts, House of Songs has established itself as an intermediary to bring cultures closer together through the universal language of music.

With that in mind, House of Songs has partnered with FreshGrass to organize a group of artists who will create performances as part of the FreshSongs festival series.

“The format will be very similar to [our Songwriter] Highs of the past, ”says Graham Weber, program director for The House of Songs. Three artists with close ties to northwest Arkansas were chosen by THoS, and three from the northeast region of the country were chosen by FreshGrass to stay together at the Bentonville home.

“They will live together, each artist will be paired with the other five, to have the possibility of creating 15 new compositions, if not more”, continues Weber. “They’ll bring the new songs to a recording studio (in this case, Haxton Road Recording Studio in Bentonville) and get versions of those songs (performed by the songwriters).”

The intention of the Summits is to create a new collaborative intellectual property for the catalogs of the artists involved, and to take artists out of their comfort zone by collaborating with artists of different styles to create something new for both artists involved, explains Weber.

New works from previous summits have been presented at venues as prestigious as Folk Alliance International (Kansas City / Montreal / New Orleans), AmericanaFest (Nashville) and AmericanaFest UK (London). With the Bentonville home only a few blocks from the Momentary campus, this group of six artists participating in the FreshSongs project won’t have to travel to start their new work.

“The Ozarks meant everything to me. Due to the poor soil, harsh people and old habits, many people here have not entirely lost all of their vernacular music and cultural heritage. … “Ultimately, as a writer, my teachers and folk heroes in the Ozarks caused me to give up lyrical poetry and focus on folk music, which seems to make a difference: it’s on the left and it is on the right, it is political and social, it is anarchic and traditional. Everyone wants to feel anchored in space and time. Frankly, most of the roots music doesn’t do that for me, but rather means grounding it with costumes, accents and sound signatures. The Ozarks, with several generations of self-aware hillbilly tourism, its deep well of border autonomy, and its slow adoption of postmodernity, is a place where that grounding is still evident to me. It means a lot to me that a cultural institution like Momentary is the champion. – Willi Carlisle willicarlisle.com (Courtesy Photo / Willi Carlisle)

Regional artists invited to participate are Willi Carlisle, Kalyn Fay and Bonnie Montgomery.

“With a project like FreshSongs, or one of the collaborations that we facilitate, it’s important to The House of Songs that we choose kind people who are open to the collaborative process,” Weber said after highlighting how three artists were wonderful. are both musicians and human beings.

“Otherwise it would be unfair to the other participants, and by examining and getting to know the artists we work with, we can provide the best opportunity for a successful end result. Hopefully this is a new piece of music or an unexpected new turn of phrase, but more importantly a new relationship that will continue to benefit all parties involved in the future.

“House of Songs was (and, frankly, continues to be) a lifeline for me during the pandemic,” admits Carlisle, multi-instrumentalist, folk singer and songwriter. “As the opportunities dried up, there were phone calls to be made, connections to be made and real discussions of how to get the most out of things. I don’t owe any of the songs from my last album – nor any, for that matter – directly to the House of Songs collaborations, but what I owe them is something deeper: a connection to the process and someone who says : “Hey, stop worrying about bills for a second, here’s a chance to make something.

“I believe taking the time to work with artists from an international perspective helps me see and hear the world with a larger lens, which ultimately helps develop my personal art into collaborative and expansive understanding,” not just singular, ”Cherokee folk artist Fay adds of his own involvement with the House. “The collaborative writing process helps me be more sensitive to the experiences of others, not just my own, when writing and performing. “

In addition to the main stage lineup, FreshGrass will also feature pop-up performances, kids’ activities, a picker’s zone, workshops and more. Each piece is another layer that will celebrate culture, music and community – inside and out, says Neuman.

“What that means for Momentary, I think this kind of launch of some of these events and festivals that we haven’t been able to do yet, and I look forward to doing more and more over the years.” , she recalls. “So I think it will be great to see everyone come together and come together in a safe way, to enjoy the music and to enjoy each other and to enjoy our community.”


“As a new resident of the Ozarks and coming from Oklahoma, [the region’s musical heritage] has taken on a different meaning here. I certainly see it less as a specific musical genre and more as a way of telling stories influenced by the region, of recording the current moment and of remembering historical moments through song. It’s been interesting to see how it intersects with my Indigenous understanding of storytelling. From my personal Indigenous perspective, the place is not inherently important, it is made important by the relationships we build with the land and the people in the place, the experiences we share and the exchange of knowledge there – low. I also feel like this rings true in the music of the Ozarks. It was cool to see how two different cultures can find common ground through music. – Kalyn Fay kalynfay.com (Courtesy Photo / Kalyn Fay)

FreshGrass | Bentonville

WHEN – Doors open at 5 p.m. on October 1 and at 10 a.m. on October 2

O – The Momentary Green, 507 SE E St. in Bentonville

COT – Day tickets: $ 64 to $ 80 / adults; $ 23 to $ 28 / age 7-16; children under 6 free. 2-day pass: $ 39 / child; $ 96 – $ 120 / adults

INFO – 367-7500, themomentary.org; Freshgrassfoundation.org

For Info – Find more information about House of Songs projects at thehouseofsongs.org.


for your information

FreshGrass | Bentonville

Full range

October 1st

Old Crow Medicine Show

Steep Canyon Rangers

Aoife O’Donovan & Noam Pikelny

Flor de Toloache

October 2

Billy Cordes

Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue

Alison brown

Leyla mccalla

Martha redbone

Homage to Sister Rosetta Tharpe with Felecia Collins

Smokey and the mirror

The Highballers of the Ozarks

The Lions of Irie

FreshScores: film with live music by Alison Brown, Leyla McCalla and Smokey & the Mirror

FreshSongs: with Willi Carlisle, Kalyn Fay, Bonnie Montgomery, Mamie Minch, Sage Nizhoni and Billy Keane


for your information

Covid Policy

Proof of full covid-19 vaccination or negative covid-19 test result within 72 hours of festival entry will be required to attend FreshGrass | Bentonville 2021. In accordance with Momentary’s covid-19 policies, masks are mandatory for all visitors aged 2 and over for all indoor programs, and recommended during FreshGrass outdoor programming when social distancing cannot occur. Masks will be available free of charge.


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