Artis­tic Growth

Peace­maker Mu­sic and Arts Fes­ti­val ex­pands in its third year.

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - JO­CE­LYN MUR­PHY

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.

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