We originally planned on leaving Georgia 12/2 so when I saw information about this festival, I thought it would be a great way to spend a fall weekend, giving us a break from downsizing. Fast forward to me being laid off and moving up our move date, to me having surgery & now pushing it back again. Regardless – the tickets were bought before I lost my job and the time schedule got crunched & re-crunched. We are so very glad we went as we had an amazing time, and still managed to be productive in packing some more of the RV.
This is the first Harvest Moon Festival at Callaway Gardens and while I have a few suggestions on how it could improve, I was impressed at how smoothly things ran. We came mostly for the music and in that area – there was no disappointment. The schedule was nicely planned to be able to walk from the tent to the main stage, the artists slightly staggered so you could catch partial sets. Parking was easy and controlled and there was ample help assisting in crowd control.
This festival was also billed as a food festival, and this is where I think the most improvement could be made. The food was more normal festival food – Philly cheese steak, Italian Sausage, Pizza, BBQ Chicken & some other usual suspects. Only one booth carried more ‘foodie’ fare. Friday night I spied Quail, but we had already eaten dinner so we resolved to eat dinner there on Saturday. Unfortunately, dinner the next night was a choice of kabobs with couscous. Not exactly bad, but that was the only choice and I just wasn’t in a kabob kinda mood. There was also precious little in the way of snacks and we resorted to fries. I would love to see them expand on the food offerings – more tapas, or offerings that celebrate the harvest season. On the plus side, I had yummy Italian sausage which I don’t eat very often! The only other slight ding was the beer issue. We trend towards darker beers, and most definitely trend towards craft beers when possible. We were happy to see choices other than Miller Lite but by Saturday they ran out of Flying Dog, the Blue Moon pumpkin Ale and we ending up drinking regular Blue Moon for much of Saturday. It was obvious the crowd was liking the ‘better’ beers so it would be great to see the beer selection expanded as well. Done with the slight quibbles – onto the music.
The music was held in two areas – one was a pretty cozy festival tent, and the main stage was set up by the beach area. The festival tent could have used some better seating arrangements as the random tables with only a few stools. It worked out because the crowd was pretty easy going. The main stage allowed people who wanted to party on the beach in front of the stage the room to do so, and also had a crazy amount of room for lawn seating.
Our first band Friday night that we listened to put us in the right frame of mind. These guys hail from Florida but have a sweet bluegrass fusion sound. They are Red Bar mainstays and that was the only bummer of their set – they were offering to do covers & I was pleased when someone shouted out keep playing originals – because their originals held their own. I was impressed with the energy, the harmony & Balder Saunders sweet mandolin.
What a great, great folk artist. The simplicity of the guitar, the voice & the story. Most know Shawn from the hit ‘Sonny Came Home’ and while she played that song near the end, she also played an amazing amount of music I hadn’t yet heard of. I loved the clear, earnest voice and the low key but thought provoking music. Keith made sure to put her on our more music to buy list.
Friday night closed out with the B52′s and they have earned their right to be called the ultimate party band. The energy, the wackiness, the FUN. An Athens, Georgia band that formed in the late 70′s, they played the ‘big’ hits, and since I am not a B52′s junkie – a few songs I hadn’t heard of. A big bonus to a band that can make me dance even if I don’t know the tunes!
Our first artist on Saturday was Mat Kearney and he was such a joy to listen to, even though he didn’t sing my favorite song of his (All I Need). He kept the set more upbeat & just had a lot of fun. I love when artists sound exactly like their recordings (but also change it up a bit when live) and he did a great mix of the two.
We only caught a few songs from this group but what we heard, we loved. A surf rock inspired song – check. A song that I swear was a perfect Quentin Tarantino movie song – check. These young guys were so awesome, that they are high on our must purchase list.
Pure fun and energy. One of those bands that you exclaim ‘They sing this?’. And how long have they been singing this? A perfect enjoy a cold beer, snack and enjoy the evening kind of show.
Another band that’s been around, with a really great sound. We caught a few songs but decided to also listen to Infantree. Again, one of the bad things about festivals when you are interested in several artists.
A part of my teenage years, it’s always fun to listen to the Gin Blossoms. They had a ton of energy, played some of their radio tunes and generally got the crowd going. After a few songs we decided to check out an other artist – part of the downside to festivals like this. The other artist was so amazing that we didn’t get to return in time to listen to anymore Gin Blossoms, but caught the crowd as they were leaving (we had to get our chairs!) and everyone seemed to love the entire set.
So who did we leave the Gin Blossoms to see? Shawn Mullins. A-Maze-Ing. The very first song when we walked in was Twin Rocks, Oregon and from that moment on I was completely entranced. All I really knew of him was the popular Lullaby, but his performance made me want to get his entire song catalog & put it on repeat. Another artist that has an amazing storytelling ability, along with a unique ‘I’ve lived my life’ voice. He noted that he usually likes to write his own songs, but The Ghost of Johnny Cash spoke to him and the way he sang it, made me mourn Cash all over again. (on his website he explains it best: I’m not a songwriter who’s afraid to put a cover song on a record. My only rules are, it has to be one I wish I’d written, and I must be able to communicate it and deliver it like it’s mine.) He had a great ability to talk about his songs in between the sets and he had one of the funnier comments about the 4 large screens showing the Georgia college game. He usually feels bad tuning in-between songs & was bemused that you could watch the game instead. Did I mention amazing?
We got the early bird tickets which happened to be $69 pp for a weekend pass. Shawn Mullins alone was worth that. If we are ever in Pine Mountain and they do this festival again, we would gladly attend. There were several other artists that performed that we just didn’t get to see. From everyone we overheard & chatted with – no one seemed to have anything bad to say about the music lineup.