Festivities at Music on the Mountaintop got an early start Saturday morning as the sun rose over the misty Boone hills and drowsy campers rubbed the sleep from their eyes.
Although the early crowd was light, they arrived refreshed and attentive for another afternoon of hometown favorites like Southern Exposure, Doc Aquatic, The Naked Gods, Do it to Julia and Snake Oil Medicine Show. But Saturday’s jam-packed lineup also included a slew of national acts that drew more than 5,000 music fans to the lush green valley for an afternoon that saw crowd-pleasing performances by Larry Keel and Natural Bridge, Acoustic Syndicate, Toubab Krewe, Sam Bush and Railroad Earth.
However, it was the string of daytime shows by up-and-coming Boone acts, not the evening shows by festival mainstays, that proved most noteworthy during Music on the Mountaintop’s closing day.
The Naked Gods, whose bluesy mix of melodic indie-rock and noisy, feedback-ridden jams were a refreshing contrast to the weekend’s predominantly bluegrass and Americana lineup. After an energized set of abrupt jumps between ethereal breaks and earsplitting rock and roll, the Boone five-piece wrapped up their set with an extended ambient intro that featured eerie lap steel slides before slipping into epic, country-tinged rock, securing their place as a band to watch.
Do it to Julia, who teased the audience during soundcheck with a few bars of “Whole Lotta Love” before opening with the anthemic tones of “White Green.” “It’s a beautiful day here in Boone,” observed singer/guitarist Ryan O’Keefe. “By god, it sure is good to be back!” Throughout their set, which drew hundreds of enthusiastic onlookers in from the campgrounds, the band gracefully walked the line between folk and indie-rock, frequently steering their harmony-laden choruses into rowdy jams that highlighted the sometimes frantic, always pleasing fiddle of singer Halli Anderson.
Snake Oil Medicine Show, who was greeted with deafening applause for their homecoming to Boone. Their bouncy, family friendly performance inspired throngs of sun-scorched fans to dance and sway to the infectious tones of jazz, swing, bluegrass and bop, providing a much-needed boost to the mid-afternoon crowd. “This song’s been rolling around these hills for a little bit,” banjo player Andy Pond offered before ending the performance with “Bluegrass Tafar I.”
Toubab Krewe, whose unmistakable blend of rock jams and world music echoed through the festival grounds as the increasingly congested knoll surrendered to the music and danced like no one was looking. Their set included several tracks from the forthcoming TK2 — recorded at Echo Mountain studios in Asheville — and also featured an appearance by Larry Keel, whose flatpicking guitar style was a seamless addition to the band’s eclectic, ever-evolving mix of instrumentation.
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