Levon Helm Studios’ Dirt Farmer Music Festival Returns Next Month | Sponsored | General Arts & Culture | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
Last Updated: 08/22/2019 9:41 am
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Great, honest music flowed through the veins of Levon Helm like a mixture of warm Southern honey, cool Catskill Creek water, and fine dandelion wine, spreading joy to everyone lucky enough to have seen him perform. When the Band drummer and long-time Woodstock local passed away in 2012, some perhaps momentarily lamented that his musical flow went with him. But, of course, such questioners would have been wrong. Wonderfully wrong.

Helm’s indominable spirit and musical love continues to live on, through the recordings he left us, the ongoing, world-famous Midnight Ramble events he began hosting at his home/studio years before his death, and the living art of his gifted daughter, singer Amy Helm. And add one more avenue to the legacy of Levon: the Dirt Farmer Festival, which will take place for the second consecutive year at Arrowood Farm Brewery in Accord on September 6 and 7.

Named for the Arkansas-born musician’s Grammy Award-winning 2007 album, Dirt Farmer, the two-day, family-friendly event transposes to a larger, outdoor venue the same blend of intimate warmth and jubilant, high-quality music for which the Midnight Ramble is so beloved—a combination that was itself inspired by the traveling medicine shows and raucous rent parties of Helm’s youth.

In addition to Amy herself and the mighty Midnight Ramble Band, the 2019 Dirt Farmer Festival will feature performances by Phil and Grahame Lesh; Steve Earle; Mercury Rev; Sherman Holmes; a Dr. John tribute set by his long-serving band the Lower 911 directed by Marco Benevento; Anders Osbourne; Jimmy Vivino; Birds of Chicago; the Restless Age; and more. Ahead of the event, Amy Helm answered a few questions for us, below.

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In terms of the feel of the festival, what makes it different than the other new music festivals that have been starting up lately?

This festival was directly inspired by the concerts by dad used to play at the pumpkin cannon launch event at Gill’s Farm Stand on Route 209 in Hurley every fall. He really loved the idea of that, an event with fantastic music that gathers the community together. And he always wanted to have a music festival that did that, so that’s what we wanted to do with the Dirt Farmer Festival.

What we’re going for is to recreate the vibe that’s specific to vibe in the Barn [AKA Levon Helm Studios] while the Midnight Ramble is happening there: this completely welcoming feeling, where there’s no pretension and it’s just an easy hang for anybody who comes. Also, we really want to keep it fluid, in terms of the different genres of music that we have.

A special component of this year’s festival is the segment called “Sweet Confusion,” which is a tribute to Dr. John AKA Mac Rebbenack, who we lost this year. As someone who grew up with and performed with him (Rebbenack was the companion of Amy’s mother, Libby Titus, for several years), what was it that made him such a unique and special artist?

Mac always knew where the heart of the song lived, and he could elicit that feel from the other people he played with. I saw him at his best and his worst, when he was struggling with drugs and when he was sober and doing well, and he always did that—stayed true to the song, no matter what. It’s not something that can be faked.

This year is the 50th anniversary of the original Woodstock Festival. Is there anything associated with that event that you’re hoping to carry over to Dirt Farmer?

Well, there won’t be any brown acid—instead, we’ll have corn dogs, funnel cakes, and artisanal pizza. [Laughs.] Of course, we want to keep the same feelings of peace, love, and happiness that people think of when they think of Woodstock. But we also plan to make sure everything runs on time. [Laughs.]

For tickets and information about the second annual Dirt Famer Festival, visit https://www.dirtfarmerfestival.com/.

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