Peacemaker Music and Arts Festival expands in its third year.
Board members for the Peacemaker Music and Arts Festival in Fort Smith have been trying to get acclaimed American rock/jam band Gov’t Mule to Riverfront Park since the festival’s inception. For the event’s third year, they did.
“People in that area are music fans, you know?” says Grammy-winning singer/guitarist Warren Haynes, who has played the region several times. “They love live music; they love kind of the same approach to music that we love, which is blending a lot of different genres together. So we’re excited to be there.”
Though their headlining shows can be upwards of three hours long, as part of the festival, Gov’t Mule will keep it a bit under that while giving the audience a taste of material from each point in the band’s career. What started as a side project for Haynes and original bassist Allen Woody, then members of The Allman Brothers, Gov’t Mule is now in its 23rd year and released its 10th studio album, “Revolution Come… Revolution Go,” in June to the best debut week in its history.
“There was no pressure of even doing a second record or staying together or any of that stuff … so every decision we made was just based on what would be the most fun for us to do,” Haynes recalls of the group’s early days. “It turned into a band organically, on its own, and maybe that’s the best way for something like that to happen. Our mission I guess is to try and incorporate as many of our influences into the music as possible — we’re a rock band that’s influenced by jazz and blues and folk music and soul music and psychedelic music and even reggae.”
“We try to bring something a little different to the table each year, exposing people to different genres of music. We want to expand everyone’s tastes,” shares Bill Neumeier, talent coordinator for Peacemaker. “I’ve been doing live music in Fort Smith for 30 years, and I think I’ve got a good knowledge of what this market likes. I would definitely say Fort Smith [has] maybe a wider range of music genres that they support.”
This may be evidenced by the festival’s growing popularity, drawing some 3,000 guests per day its inaugural year and around 4,000 per day last year. Neumeier says the response leading up to this year’s event has already been greater than in the past. To accommodate for growth and continue “upping their game,” Neumeier reveals additions for Peacemaker’s third year include large video boards on either side of the stage to project the performances, as well as a partnership with The Unexpected mural festival, which moves to July for its third year.
“People are going to get to view some artists at work while the festival is going on,” he says. “I think it’s going to bring a lot of cosmetics to the festival.”
That spirit of community the two festivals hope to facilitate may be felt from the stage as well. Though Haynes
admits there are some tongue-in-cheek political connotations to Gov’t Mule’s new music, he says the larger message, like much of the music they choose for their festival performances, is more upbeat.
“‘Revolution Come… Revolution Go’ is really more about people coming together and solving the problems and knowing that’s really the only solution,” he offers. “It’s kind of like a ’60s mantra, to say that we all gotta work together, we’re all in this together, but it’s the truth, and I don’t think we can depend on politicians to fix it.”
With the stage and parts of the bridge over Riverfront Park all lit up, the live music and the public art from The Unexpected festival, Neumeier says 2017’s Peacemaker Festival will be a sight to see.
Fresh off their 2,000th performance together, rock/jam band Gov’t Mule headlines the third annual Peacemaker Music and Arts Festival July 28-29 in Fort Smith.