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Smoky Run Music Festival 2019 – Photos and Review

June 27 thru June 30, 2019 (Butler, OH) – 

The Smoky Run Music Festival was all set for year one.

It was apparent when arriving at Clear Fork Adventure Resort this was aligned for a great weekend. Nestled in the hills surrounding Butler (OH), this Americana-Bluegrass Jam was right at home. The location was previously a ski lodge and lent this event a natural amphitheater set up.

Smoky Run Music Festival ©2019 Allen Heimberger – Please do not alter the image

Offering plenty of onsite camping for RVs and tents, many in attendance were prepared for the entire weekend’s festivities. This festival seemed to be more of a lifestyle for those attending. Many of the followers we ran into have attended similarly styled festivals all throughout the country. This commonality lent a family feel all weekend. Generations of families were in attendance, with plenty to do for the young ones and adults alike.

As the sun beat down, the bubbles flew through the air, and the sand was getting up-turned, almost 40 hours of music filled the air. Also, not many festivals feature a late night portion, following the headliner, and go until 1 in the morning. Those not brave enough to battle the over 90-degree weather during the entire day definitely welcomed sun down and cool night temperatures. Umbrellas, misting fans, and water were aplenty throughout every day.

Topping off the experience was the amazing security staff, volunteers, and production that were brought in to support the weekend. Everyone was gracious, happy, and willing to offer whatever was needed to make sure the day was the best it could be.

Smoky Run Music Festival


But what about the entertainment itself? Nothing short of stellar. If you are not familiar with the lineup as a whole, it was kind of like watching Bluegrass, Rock, and Americana through Grateful Dead tinted glasses. It was definitely apparent when the festival culminated with The Grateful Ball on Sunday. As The Larry Keel Experience and The Travelin’ McCourys joined forces on the main stage to provide a finale worthy of its own show.

Featuring some serious weight with Saturday’s headliner Gov’t Mule, the entire festival was great from top to bottom. As the mood stayed consistent, the artists rotated through a variety of styles, some traditional bluegrass was served up, with most of the performances featuring alternative takes using traditional sounds.

From the early bird Thursday night performances, through Sunday, the music kept you engaged, and at times in awe. All of the acts did an outstanding job, but some of the highlights were actually unexpected, which is the very reason one should attend a festival and listen to all of the bands.

All you need to do is look at the solo performance of Chicago Farmer. He had the early crowd on every word as he traveled through his stories, and after running out of stage time, performed on more song in the grass surrounded by fans. The Way Down Wanderers provided us with a great vibe and original take on Americana. With triple performance duties, Dead Winter Carpenters take home the award for most fun performance, as they weaved in and out of some original and radical cover tunes, including a cover of 2Pac and Dr. Dre’s hip-hop classic California LoveSarah Shook and The Disarmers provided us with the solo Outlaw Country set of the festival, as she delivered her take on the ills of this world with a raw and precise delivery. Mark Lavengood put on a fun and upbeat performance worthy of checking out again. The performance of the weekend should go to Sierra Hull. Not wanting to pick a favorite (shh, but I think I just did). Her performance was so technically perfect, quaint, and heartfelt, you could hear a pin drop at times. I’ve never experienced such a powerful and beautifully quiet performance – the power of perfection was breathtaking.

Those were some of the acts one might have overlooked if they were not super familiar with this vein of musical territory. They deserved a mention because when previewing the acts I was unfamiliar with, only one really stood out, Sarah Shook. But live, they transcended what they accomplished in the studio. They were a huge reason why the weekend had the vibe it did.

Mix in the top-notch performances by every single one of the other bands, and it was a weekend not to forget. Of course, the familiarity should not exclude mentioning the expected stellar performances by Gov’t Mule, Son Volt, Trampled by Turtles, and Deer Tick while giving the festival a little more kick.

The Travelin’ McCourys took to the stage on Sunday and let everyone hear what big traditional bluegrass sounded like. As their sound poured off of the main stage, it was apparent they had it in their blood.

I could ramble on for days, but if you really wanted to know everything about the festival you should have gone… *snicker*. But seriously, festivals are great to see whether you know one band, six bands, or all of the bands. My guess is, you will actually have a better time not knowing the entire lineup. It’s the discovery of the unknown while playing live, amongst a group of like-minded people – creating an extended family.

You are in luck though if you slept on this Inaugural Festival. As I talked with the festival coordinator late Sunday night, he said he was ready to start planning year two. I hope that’s true because I am pretty sure a lot of people realized they missed a great opportunity for a spectacular weekend.

Photos from the Weekend

Click on an image and hit play. The entire gallery run time is 3-1/2 minutes.

Want the feeling of the festival? View the gallery while listening to Victory by Trampled by Turtles.

Full band galleries are on Facebook. Check out the links in the band listings below.

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Gov’t Mule

Southern Rock, Blues Rock, Hard Rock, Jam Band

Facebook Photo Gallery HERE!


Trampled By Turtles

Bluegrass, Folk-Rock, Alternative Country – Duluth (MN)

Facebook Photo Gallery HERE!


Railroad Earth

Americana, Rock, Improvisational – Stillwater (NJ)

Facebook Photo Gallery HERE!


Deer Tick

Alternative Rock, Indie Rock, Americana – Providence (RI)

Facebook Photo Gallery HERE!


Son Volt

Americana, Rock – St. Louis (MO)

Facebook Photo Gallery HERE!


Sierra Hull

Bluegrass, Folk, Singer/Songwriter, Americana – Nashville (TN)

Facebook Photo Gallery HERE!


The Travelin’ McCourys

Bluegrass, Acoustic, JamBand – Nashville (TN)

Facebook Photo Gallery HERE!


Larry Keel Experience

Americana, Rock, Bluegrass – Lexington (VA)

Facebook Photo Gallery HERE!


Horseshoes and Hand Grenades

Progressive High-Energy String Band – (WI)

Facebook Photo Gallery HERE!


Rumpke Mountain Boys

Bluegrass, Jam – Cincinnati (OH)

Facebook Photo Gallery HERE!


The Way Down Wanderers

Alt-folk, Americana – Peoria (IL)

Facebook Photo Gallery HERE!


Ekoostik Hookah

Rock, Jam Band – Columbus (OH)

Facebook Photo Gallery HERE!


Sarah Shook & The Disarmers

Country, Outlaw Country – Chapel Hill (NC)

Facebook Photo Gallery HERE!


Dead Winter Carpenters

Bluegrass, Country, Rock – Tahoe City (CA)

Facebook Photo Gallery HERE!


The Wooks

Americana, Bluegrass – Lexington (KY)

Facebook Photo Gallery HERE!


Old Salt Union

Americana, Progressive String Music, Folk – Belleville (IL)

Facebook Photo Gallery HERE!


Chicago Farmer

Folk – Delavan (IL)

Facebook Photo Gallery HERE!


Arlo McKinley & The Lonesome Sound

Folk, Rock, Soul, Americana – Ohio & Kentucky

Facebook Photo Gallery HERE!


Rachel Baiman

Folk, Old-Time, Country, Americana – Nashville (TN)

Facebook Photo Gallery HERE!


Rev. Jeff Mosier

Bluegrass, Folk, Rock, Americana, Experimental – Atlanta (GA)

Facebook Photo Gallery HERE!


Mark Lavengood Band

Roots, Folk, Bluegrass, Americana – Grand Rapids (MI)

Facebook Photo Gallery HERE!


Ben Danaher

Americana, Folk, Singer/Songwriter – Nashville (TN)

Facebook Photo Gallery HERE!


Michigan Rattlers

Rock & Roll, Country – Petoskey (MI)

Facebook Photo Gallery HERE!


Young Heirlooms

Folk Rock – Cincinnati (OH)

Facebook Photo Gallery HERE!


Sugar Creek Bluegrass

Bluegrass – Columbus (OH)

Facebook Photo Gallery HERE!


Knot Brothers

Americana, Rock, Bluegrass, Blues, Country – Columbus (OH)

Facebook Photo Gallery HERE!

Jordan Smart

Folk, Americana, Singer-Songwriter – Salinas (CA)

Facebook Photo Gallery HERE!



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