Bluegrass & BBQ 2018 Lineup Preview: Opal Agafia, Grateful Bluegrass Boys, Aaron Kamm & More

Tickets for this fall’s Bluegrass & BBQ festival are now on sale, and the lineup is smokin’ for the September 28-30 event that coincides with Northwest Arkansas’ region-wide Bikes, Blues & BBQ. 

Performers will include Opal Agafia & The Sweet Nothings, The Grateful Bluegrass Boys, Aaron Kamm & The One Drops, Circus No. 9, Whiskey For The Lady, and DimeTrip.

Bluegrass & BBQ, in its second year, is held at The Farm Campground and Events near Eureka Springs – also the home of the Mid-South’s premier progressive bluegrass weekend, Hillberry The Harvest Moon Festival, held in October. 

ABOUT THE FARM

The Farm Campground and Events is the home of Bluegrass & BBQ, Hillberry The Harvest Moon Festival, Highberry, Spaceberry, and other events over the last few years. The Farm is operated by Deadhead Productions, which has held various music festivals at numerous venues over the years and now is headquartered at The Farm. 

Bluegrass & BBQ festival tickets are on sale now at Stubs.net. Tickets are $30 for a single-day pass or $55 for the full weekend; camping is included, and RVs are welcome.

The Farm is located in the beautiful Ozark Mountains just a few miles from historic Eureka Springs, amid rolling mountaintops on a largely wooded, privately owned, 160-acre property; it is 26 miles from Rogers/Bentonville and 50 miles from Fayetteville. The venue boasts beautiful 360-degree panoramic views from its perch atop 160 acres that back up to Mark Twain National Forest. Beaver Lake, Table Rock Lake, and the White River are all within 5 miles of The Farm, offering popular spots for floating, hiking, swimming, and picnicking.

But without ever leaving the property, festival attendees can enjoy mountain biking and hiking, plus art installations, crafts vendors, food trucks, and of course plenty of BBQ.

The Farm also has an on-site general store selling snacks and light groceries, beverages, ice, and various sundries; the property also boasts a new 3-mile mountain bike trail for cycling and hiking and an 18-hole disc golf course available for use at no extra charge. Additionally, canoeing/kayaking opportunities abound with the White River and Kings River each just a few miles away with multiple river outfitters in the area. Table Rock Lake is less than 5 miles away, and boat rentals are available at the nearby Holiday Island Marina.

ABOUT THE SCHEDULED ACTS

OPAL AGAFIA & THE SWEET NOTHINGS

Opal Agafia & The Sweet Nothings, based in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, embodies the sounds of the Ozark Mountains: a little soul, a little roots, a little rock-and-roll, a little old-timey swing – and a lot of heart. Opal’s voice is packed with power and emotion; her lyrics are sophisticated yet accessible. The band made up of four seasoned musicians provides a consistently tight backdrop that pushes every song forward, compelling listeners to pay close attention, lest they miss a single minute of this show.

The result is music that’s irresistible, no matter the listener’s background.

Opal, already a skilled songwriter, holds nothing back – she couldn’t if she tried. Every Opal Agafia & The Sweet Nothings performance seems like their best of the year as the band’s commitment to their music shines. Watching them perform her dozens of originals – with a few covers and jams thrown in now and then – is riveting, as Opal soars at leading the gifted players, effortlessly displaying a commanding stage presence that is as rich as it is rare.

Drawing from many genres, Opal Agafia & The Sweet Nothings blends the best elements of soul, blues, jazz, gospel, country, swing, and traditional mountain music into a sound that captures the past and boldly pushes ahead. The band’s fan base is an eclectic and broad blend of folks from all walks of life, stretching from across the West, Midwest and the South, where they have established successful tour routes filled with enthusiastic fans and supporters.

Opal and crew – who have just been named alongside John Fullbright and Turnpike Troubadours as performers at this year’s Woody Guthrie Folk Festival – recently wrapped production on their second album, due out in early June; an album release show is scheduled for June 2 at George’s Majestic Lounge with opening act Old Salt Union (also a Hillberry alum, and a nationally touring prog-grass band).

THE GRATEFUL BLUEGRASS BOYS

The Grateful Bluegrass Boys are gaining serious traction as the group of seasoned roots and rock musicians perform the much-loved music of the Grateful Dead and other classic rock hits (think Zeppelin) through a bluegrass lens. The band’s lineup rotates somewhat but for Bluegrass & BBQ, it will include members of Hot Buttered Rum, David Grisman Band, and Poor Man’s Whiskey, among others.

The Grateful Bluegrass Boys have been touring the country for the past year, making lots of Dead fans happy and turning younger fans on to the world’s most famous jamband.  

AARON KAMM & THE ONE DROPS

Aaron Kamm & the One Drops will be back again this year breaking the bluegrass mold by merging flavors of roots, reggae, Mississippi River blues, improv-laced jams, and soulful vocals into a high-energy performance.

The Riverfront Times of St. Louis (the band’s hometown) named Aaron Kamm & the One Drops the Best Jam Band of 2011, writing this about their sound:

“Stylistically, Aaron Kamm and the One Drops does not conform to the jam-band template pioneered by the Dead and Phish; instead, the band’s reggae tendencies and Kamm’s expressive melodies put the trio in league with Sublime and the Police. Yet the group has been embraced by the Schwagstock crowd, and there are more similarities than a mutual love for a certain herbal supplement. The band stretches tunes into jazz-informed improvised territories beyond the seven-minute mark, and bassist Andy Dorris and drummer Sean Raila make a fascinating rhythm section – Raila’s ghost-notes on the live staple ‘For Today’ are particularly impressive. Aaron Kamm and the One Drops can be intellectually stimulating or achieve hippie transcendence, but the group always burns its sacrifices at the altar of the groove.”

CIRCUS NO. 9

Circus No. 9 is East Tennessee’s exploding progressive-bluegrass outfit, blurring the lines between bluegrass, jazz, jambands, and more. Described as “John Hartford meets John Coltrane,” the group has appeared alongside artists including David Grisman, Bryan Sutton, Larry Keel, and others. Comprised of musicians Matthew Davis, Thomas Cassell, and Vince Ilagan, Circus No. 9 is one of the most exciting new bands on the acoustic music scene today. 

Banjo extraordinaire Matthew Davis is the winner of both the National Banjo Championship and the Rockygrass Banjo Contest, not to mention the earning of those “wings” at just age 18. Davis has performed on the Grand Ole Opry, among many other venue stages around the country. 

On the mandolin is Virginia native Thomas Cassell, who was the winner of the 2016 Rockygrass Mandolin contest. He has performed alongside such artists as Darrell Scott, Bryan Sutton, Aofie O’Donovan, Mike Marshall, Julian Lage, Billy Strings, and more. 

Holding down the low end for Circus No. 9 is Knoxville’s Vince Ilagan; he also holds a Bass Performance degree from the University of Tennessee and has racked up years of studio and touring experience. Ilagan has performed with artists such as Justin Townes Earle, Jeff Sipe, Scott Miller, and many others. 

WHISKEY FOR THE LADY

Whiskey for the Lady has been a fixture in the Kansas City “newgrass” scene for 6 years, and they’ve earned a reputation as a stellar, high-energy melting pot of eclectic musical styles loved by young punk rockers and old time bluegrass-lovers alike.

DIMETRIP

DimeTrip, based in Eureka Springs, sounds kind of like jamgrass crossed with Sublime, featuring soulful harmonies, upbeat tunes, and an uplifting message.