Old Cemetery Road: a festival for the ears

Adam Galliano, Staff Writer

When I think of summer, I am always compelled to thoughts of swimming and playing in the water, backyard barbecues laden with tasty treats and aromas of grilled foods filling the air. The camping trips and outdoor excursions in a uniform of T-shirts and shorts, summer in Idaho yields countless open air adventures and experiences, including music festivals.

Worldwide, some of the first festivals were comprised of choirs performing the music of famed composers at cathedrals in the 18th century, and historical evidence supports organized performances in Ancient Greece and Rome.

The first notable music festival in the United States was the Newport Jazz Festival in 1954, located in Rhode Island. With famed jazz performers of the time such as Dizzy Gillespie and Billie Holiday performing, this event is regarded at the foundation for the modern festival. In the subsequent years, notable events like the Monterey Pop Festival and Woodstock to the more recent concerts like Lollapalooza, Ozzfest, Coachella and SXSW festivals have grown to become major cultural endeavors bringing throngs of fans to experience diverse music, art and food.

Local music events can provide the same experience as their popular bigger counterparts, only in a more intimate setting. Idaho, while not commonly known as a hotbed of musical activity, hosts a great many events that provide and showcase music. From state and county fairs to city anniversary celebrations, there is a wide array of venues and opportunities to enjoy live music across Idaho.

Every year in Boise, Idaho, music lovers flock to downtown (known as BODO) for the Treefort Festival. This past March, attendees had the opportunity to watch from 432 different bands and solo artists. That event drew more than 20,000 participants and gave artists and performers alike a chance to showcase their talents.

From the National Old Time Fiddlers festival in Weiser to the Highway 30 music festival in Filer, Idaho featuring nationally renowned country musicians, there are concerts and events year-round. Lewiston hosts its own live music spectacles including the Barge In Music Fest, weekly summer concert series and the annual Rockin’ on the River. This year’s headline act was Vanilla Ice!

To close out my summer, I wanted to hear great live music. I was persuaded to attend a small festival located in Eastern Idaho in the town of Roberts, about 20 miles north of Idaho Falls. Sweetening the deal, one of my close friend’s bands was slated to play one evening. So I eagerly made the three-hour trip from southern Idaho to Roberts.

Deemed the Old Cemetery Road Festival, this local concert event is planned and coordinated by Adam and Krissy Clark. What began as a small, family event on the Clark’s property five years ago has evolved into a gathering of family, friends and musicians from all around Idaho and the Northwest. This year’s event marked the first-time festivities would be held in a new location in Mustang Park and held Aug. 16 – 18. My $10 ticket included an overnight camping permit.

From the gate attendants to the vendors to the fans, the atmosphere was friendly and welcoming. A cold drink was placed in my hands after exchanging hellos, and I felt like an old member of the family after the first few minutes there. After settling in, I walked my camp chair towards the stage and was planted myself about 40 feet back in line with the speakers for the best acoustics. I held this position for the better part of the day, and over the course of the next 6 hours I got to experience firsthand the musical stylings and talents of multiple bands, and the hospitality did not end there. The dog-friendly arena boasted an ample lineup of food stations featuring BBQ, street tacos, pub food and adult beverages.

The Clarks played a personal role facilitating the event with poise, roaming among the bands, technical staff and checking with the attendees at regular intervals. Adam Clark must have stopped by my spot five or six times just to make certain I was enjoying myself and to thank me for attending.

Matthew and the Hope out of Salt Lake City, a three-piece ensemble with a country-rock style, took the stage first. One amazing performer stunned the audience with his incredible fiddle playing. One of the last acts of the evening was low-fi group. Based out of Boise, Idaho, the four-piece ensemble intermixed indie with folk, rock and funk. Their talents have blown me away each time I have seen them. They played with a smooth flow, a confluence of Fernando’s lead guitars providing melody and Kevin’s drumming keeping a slick beat for Josh’s bass. Todd Sloan’s vocals and guitars rounded everything out in a cohesive way.

Hearing great tunes and visiting with my musician friend made this three-hour trek worth the effort. I look forward to attending the Old Cemetery Road festival again next year. Summers are ripe with live music, so go out there and discover those local festivals and concerts because quality auditory pleasure is often only a few hours away.

For more information on the Old Cemetery Road Festival, please visit their Facebook page @oldcemeteryroadfestival. To hear low-fi, visit their Facebook page @lowfimusic.