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Annual music festival brings in new, returning bands

For half a decade, the High Country has been graced with the presence of a music festival that features national and local artists, all put on by an Appalachian State University alumnus.

Yellow Dog Entertainment founder and owner Jimmy Hunt will team up with New Jersey Americana group Railroad Earth to present Railroad Earth’s Music on the Mountaintop Friday through Sunday.

The festival will take place at Grandfather Campgrounds in Banner Elk and tickets are still available as of press time.

“I think you’re going to see a very eclectic lineup fused with traditional Americana, folk and bluegrass music,” Hunt said.

As hosts, Railroad Earth will perform each night at the festival. Other artists, such as Dr. Dog. Sam Bush, River Whyless and Naked Gods will take their place on stage as scheduled. The festival closes with Bush and is preceded with a Railroad Earth Super Jam featuring Bush, Larry and Jenny Keel, members of Monroeville, special guests and more, according to musiconthemountaintop.com.

Although the festival kicks off the weekend right after classes start, it’s not stopping junior environmental science major Ginny Gills, who has been the past two years, from taking part in the three day, outdoor music fest.

“I’m going because you can’t really beat live, string music on top of a mountain,” she said. “It’s the perfect festival.”

Gills has been to several music festivals, including Beech Mountain’s Gnarnia, and looks forward to lineup of artists all set for this weekend.

“I’m obviously looking forward to the three nights of Railroad Earth,” she said. “Larry Keel and Sam Bush always put on good shows. I’ve never seen the Hackensaw Boys live, so that should be fun, and of course I look forward to dancing to Dr. Dog with all the Boonies.”

One of this year’s biggest names is indie rock band Philadelphia natives Dr. Dog, whose first appearance in Boone last November resulted in a sold out show at Legends.

“It was pretty wild,” said Scott McMicken, Dr. Dog guitarist and vocalist. “We’re definitely very excited to come back to Boone.”

While Boone is a long way from Philadelphia, McMicken said he enjoys returning to the Tar Heel state.

“I love the mountains and North Carolina and I just genuinely love North Carolina,” McMicken said “There’s such a great feel in the air there and I mean playing outside anywhere is better than playing in a club, so it’s definitely going to be awesome.”

In fact, with Dr. Dog on the lineup, Hunt said he sees this festival’s tickets selling very well.

“I think 100 percent, we are going to sell out this year,” Hunt said. “I think with Dr. Dog on the bill our festival has got a new light.”

Some of the more familiar faces include Boone-based, prog-punk group Naked Gods, who will take the stage for the fourth year at the music festival and was named one of Paste Magazine’s “12 North Carolina Bands You Should Listen To Now.”

“For freshmen in college, it’s a fun and magical experience,” said Christian Smith, guitarist for Naked Gods.

And folk group River Whyless, formerly Do it to Julia, played under their current name for the first time at Music on the Mountaintop last year and are returning this year after releasing their first full-length album “A Stone, a Leaf, an Unfound Door.”

“It’s one of the most beautiful music festivals you’ll go to,” said Ryan O’Keefe, guitarist and vocalist for River Whyless. “We love nature.”

Vending for nonprofits and businesses will set up on the festival grounds, including the Appalachian State Solar Club.

Pop-up camping, VIP and RV tickets are sold out but admission tickets are still available and can be purchased at musiconthemountaintop.eventbrite.com or in the University Bookstore off students’ Express Account.

More information and the latest updates on last minute changes and ticket availability is at musiconthemountaintop.com or on Music on the Mountaintop’s Facebook page.

Story: MICHAEL BRAGG, Senior Arts and Entertainment Reporter

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