Ogden Music Festival hits town this weekend, bringing bluegrass and more

Thursday , May 31, 2018 - 5:15 AM1 comment

OGDEN — The organizers of the 2018 Ogden Music Festival say they had no idea how they were going to top last year’s lineup.

But now they think they may have actually done it.

The annual three-day love letter to bluegrass, folk and acoustic music kicks off Friday, June 1, at Fort Buenaventura, 2450 A Ave. It continues through Sunday evening.

Raychel Johnson, marketing director for festival organizer Ogden Friends of Acoustic Music, said this year’s headliners will wow those in attendance.

“Every year we bring in these award-winning artists — it’s crazy how we’re able to up the ante and bring in higher-caliber musicians every year,” Johnson said. “I’m just not sure how we’re going to top this year’s lineup.”

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Headliners for this year’s festival are Lake Street Dive, Steep Canyon Rangers, and Molly Tuttle. Other notable performers include Mandolin Orange, The Arcadian Wild, and Sugar & the Mint.

Johnson says there are a variety of ways to see the Ogden Music Festival. Day passes are available, as well as an all-festival pass that covers admission to the three days of music. Festival-goers can also set up camp at the event.

“We are a camping festival,” Johnson said. “The RV camping is completely sold out, but tent camping is still available. And the county just opened up five additional acres of camping. If you feel like bushwhacking, there are now tons of remote places to camp.”


Gates open at 4 p.m. Friday, although Johnson says campers can arrive as early as Thursday and stay as late as Monday. The music starts at 6 p.m. Friday with Michelle Moonshine, the festival’s local spotlight. This Salt Lake City-based artist, who creates country-driven Americana, has appeared on NBC’s “The Voice” and “America’s Got Talent.”

The Lil Smokies take the stage next, at 7:30 p.m. Friday. This five-piece band from Missoula, Montana, takes traditional bluegrass and creates a melody-driven sound of its own. The group has taken awards at a number of festivals and events, including the International Bluegrass Music Association and the Telluride Bluegrass Festival.

Friday night’s headliner, Lake Street Dive, goes on at 9:15 p.m. Lake Street Dive, named for an avenue of seedy bars in Minneapolis, creates music inspired by a love of ’60s classic pop.

“They don’t fit the typical OFOAM sound,” Johnson said. “They don’t have that traditional bluegrass sound, but they’re more along, like, the folk-pop range.”

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Day 2 of the festival will feature the future of bluegrass, with up-and-coming younger bands, according to Johnson.

“At OFOAM we try to inspire youth to pick up instruments,” she said. “And it’s going to be really youthful music on Saturday.”

The day begins just after noon Saturday with Brograss, a young duo from Orcas Island, Washington. Brothers Tashi, 15, and Kaj, 12, cut their baby teeth at local weekly Irish sessions, as well as the Suzuki violin method.

At 1:30 p.m., the members of Sugar & the Mint will perform their blend of new old-time, contemporary bluegrass, and indie-folk music. The Prescott, Arizona-based sextet ranges in age from 17 to 21, and originated as a youth cultural music conservatory group. They were winners of the prestigious Telluride Bluegrass Festival Band Contest in 2017.

At 3 p.m., The Arcadian Wild performs, combining three-part harmony with guitar, mandolin, ukulele and banjo. The trio formed at Nashville’s Lipscomb University.

At 4:30 p.m., Molly Tuttle will offer the first of her two performances over the weekend. The vocalist/songwriter/banjo player/guitarist is the first woman in the 27-year history of the International Bluegrass Music Association Awards to be nominated for Guitar Player of the Year.

“What’s special about Molly is she has finally been able to break through the good old boys club at the IBMA,” Johnson said. “She’s the first woman to be nominated — and win — and she’s only 24.”

At 6 p.m., Mandolin Orange plays its modern American roots music that is a mix of folk, country, bluegrass, gospel and pop. The Chapel Hill, North Carolina, duo has a dedicated following, according to Johnson.

“A lot of people are coming to the festival just for Mandolin Orange,” she said.

At 7:30 p.m., Balsam Range performs. Described as one of the genre’s most award-winning artists in recent years, the band has appeared at the Grand Ole Opry a number of times.

Saturday’s music concludes with a 9:15 p.m. performance by Steep Canyon Rangers, the night’s headliner. The Grammy Award-winning six-piece from North Carolina has spent nearly two decades blending bluegrass with pop, country, folk, rock and more.

The band may be best known for its collaborations with comedian/actor/banjoist Steve Martin.

“They’re Steve Martin’s backing band,” Johnson said. “Unfortunately, he will not be there at the festival, but you could always pretend.”

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The final day of the festival begins with a “treat for those who are religiously inclined,” according to Johnson. Sugar & the Mint will perform a gospel set beginning at noon Sunday.

“Gospel and bluegrass go hand-in-hand,” she said.

At 1:30 p.m., the Colorado-based band FY5 will perform its mixture of bluegrass, honky-tonk and country swing.

At 3 p.m., Mandolin Orange plays a second set.

At 4:30 p.m., Tylor & the Train Robbers will take the stage. The Boise, Idaho, band fuses gritty Americana with outlaw honky-tonk.

“They’re different from the typical OFOAM music as well,” Johnson said. “They’re more country-sounding.”

The three-day festival concludes with a second performance by headliner Molly Tuttle.

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As part of the Ogden Music Festival admission price, several of the bands will be offering workshops on Saturday and Sunday.

“Bands come to the pavilion and break down their songwriting, as well as different methods of playing,” Johnson said.

The Saturday workshop schedule includes The Arcadian Wild with Taylor Canyon Elementary Choir at 1 p.m., FY5 at 2:30 p.m., Balsam Range at 3:45 p.m., and Steep Canyon Rangers at 5 p.m.

Sunday’s workshops will be Mandolin Orange at 12:30 p.m., Molly Tuttle at 1:30 p.m., Sugar & the Mint at 2:30 p.m., and Brograss at 4 p.m.

Can’t swing the admission price for the Ogden Music Festival? On Saturday and Sunday, from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. both days, the Utah State Instrument Championships will be held. The competition is free to watch, and will feature open and novice divisions in fiddle, banjo, mandolin, flatpick guitar and fingerstyle guitar.

One of the best parts of the Ogden Music Festival, according to Johnson, is the music being made after-hours among the festival campers, who often sit and play music late into the night.

“The jamming around the campfire is great,” she said. “People have turned this festival into their own tradition, and that makes us proud.”

And Johnson said even those who can’t play an instrument are welcome at these impromptu jam sessions.

“There always needs to be that section that stands there and claps along to the music,” she said.


If you just can’t get enough bluegrass music at the festival, Johnson says a couple of the artists will be featured in a free OFOAM outreach concert at 6 p.m. Monday, June 4, at the Ogden Amphitheater, 343 Historic 25th St. The concert will feature Molly Tuttle, as well as The Arcadian Wild and the local Taylor Canyon Elementary Choir.


Concert-goers are welcome to bring chairs and blankets, as well as portable shade — however, Johnson said there are quite a few trees, and organizers will set up a few shade structures at the back of the venue.

Coolers are welcome, but no glass containers or alcohol may be brought in. (Beer and wine are available for purchase at the festival.) An array of vendors will offer food and drink, including Lucky Slice Pizza, Miss Kitty’s Outlaw BBQ and Roosters Brewing.

Arts and crafts booths will feature everything from jewelry and soap to woodworking and tie-dye dresses.

Also at the festival will be an “instrument petting zoo,” and the Utah DrumBus. A bike rodeo for kids is planned for Saturday.

Johnson said OFOAM is encouraging environmentally responsible practices and invites people to ride FrontRunner to the festival; a shuttle, sponsored by Snowbasin Resort, will run between the train station and the fort.

“You can come to the festival and not even have a vehicle at all,” she said.

For those who have only one day to attend the festival, Johnson offers a little advice.

“If I were to have to pick a day, it’s always going to be Saturday,” she said. “It’s going to be youthful and whimsical, with everyone from Mandolin Orange to The Arcadian Wild.”

Festival-only tickets are $40 per day, or $75 for a three-day pass. For those interested in camping, add on $30 per day, or pay $105 for a three-day festival pass with camping.

Tickets are available online at OFOAM.org.

“Every year I say this is the most incredible thing Ogden can do,” Johnson said. “The festival ties in for me all that I love about this place — good friends, good tunes, in a beautiful setting. It’s the quintessential Ogden festival.”

Contact Mark Saal at 801-625-4272, or msaal@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @Saalman. Friend him on Facebook at facebook.com/MarkSaal.

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