Another Great Year for the Beautiful Fall Festival Known as LEAF

Review by Breanne Smith

Photos by Lori Sky Twohy

Lake Eden Arts Festival (LEAF) is pushing its way to the top in the way of art and music festivals across theU.S.It’s not only well known for its amazing programs with children not just in the U.S, but across the world, with its LEAF in School in Streets programs. LSS and Leaf International is a highly recognized program where professional musicians actually go into the field to help these children put their attention in arts, which is essential for the development of growth. This international recognition has attracted musical artists from all over to grace the stage at their festival which is held twice a year on the beautiful LakeEden in Black Mountain,NC.

This festival has absolutely everything, not just a selfless, giving- back attitude. This is an outreach program that puts on a festival. Nonprofit organizations throughout Asheville and the surrounding area nourish the people within our communities, caring for those in need, protecting our historic heritage, educating young and old, and nurturing our cultural soul. LEAF does it best. Western North Carolinian’s love music and festivals and they are attracted to LEAF because it makes you feel good about wanting to feel good. Jocelyn Reese, the director of LSS, says program’s primary goal is to reach underserved populations of students and increase self-esteem in children. A lot of arts enrichment programs are underfunded, she says, if they’re funded at all. She’s encouraged to see that people are realizing students need more than what they’re currently getting.

Jocelyn says none of this would be possible without the LEAF outreach programs of both LSS and LEAF International. By outsiders becoming members of this program, people are directly supporting these important programs. When people, such as you and I, become members, we help pay for artists, supplies, instruments, materials, transportation, and community collaborations.

When you walk into this festival, you are greeted by freakishly tall stilt walkers of all kinds, fairies, clowns, and animals. Once you begin walking around, you realize how large the festival grounds are. When being dropped off by bus, you have over 10 miles hiking, stages, safe camping area, Lake Eden, and the river that runs into it. You have an over abundance of local affair which includes cuisine, pottery, abstract art, clothing,

It’s almost impossible to walk through this festival without being mesmerized like a kid in a candy store. There’s always something to stop you on the way to an artist, demonstration or show. On my way to the kids village to see Sol Driven Train I stopped abruptly as I found I was mesmerized by a woman named Nadirah Rahman who was teach and African Dance workshop. While on the way to see Rising Appalachia, I was stopped by a mile long parade of LEAF circus acts and fans following in the swaying line of euphoric LEAFER’s.

Most go for the acts, and end up finding things about themselves they didn’t know before. You make lifelong friends and you’ll always have an ever-present remembrance in the back of your mind of how you felt. It’s the idea of how incredibly free and child-like you felt at LEAF. You find yourself here.

This year, the artists included The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Tinariwen, George Porter, Darrel Scott, Sol Driven Train and for the first time, The Mickey Hart Band. Mickey headlined with one solid set list that had the festival crowd on its feet from beginning to end. Mickey opened the night with “Samson and Delilah” into “China Cat Sunflower” into “I Know you Rider” and kept the Grateful Dead tunes flowing with “Fire on the Mountain” and encored with Cream song, “White Room”.

Each song was unlike any other Grateful Dead tune only because Mickey and his band encompass the Dead persona to a T. Not only does the voice of front woman, Crystal Monee Hall send chills down your spine with her overwhelming soulful, powerful voice. Her voice is an instrument that could bring you to your knees.

Before she began her solo career, Crystal was a featured vocalist with the nationally touring and Broadway productions of the Tony Award winning musical RENT, which is fact showing to show how amazing her voice really is.

Another shocking surprise on stage that brought many LEAFER’s to the stage was Dave Schools of Widespread Panic. His mythical, almost- fictional presence was hiding in stage left, sharing a smile every so often with Mickey.

Gawain Mathews is the lead guitarist for The Mickey Hart band and is one young man with a plan. He is in tune with the band, as well as masters his instrument, and stands out amongst the members. He has toured with The Utah Symphony, Ben Lee, and Transiberian Orchestra. He has toured and produced over 100 artists. Gawain says, “I enjoy many areas of music but most of all I love songs. It’s the most rewarding experience to start with a lyric/melody and add all of the musical elements, with the end result being a work of sonic art that is satisfying on many different levels.

Mickey calls Sikiru Adepoju, player of indigenous percussion instruments in the band, “the Mozart of the talking drum,” Sikiru plays anywhere from a tom to dundun, gudugudu, gome, omele, and sekere.

On drums, Ian Inkx Herman, has worked with Ray Phiri, a South African producer who co-wrote and produced some of Paul Simon’s Graceland album.

Joe Bagale is a multi-talented musician for Mickey and plays anywhere from the guitar to keys. These are just a few of his talented band mates that all graced the stage at LEAF 2012.

Billy Jack Sinkovic, performing arts director of LEAF has this to say about the performance of The Mickey Hart Band: “Judging by all the feedback we’ve received, Mickey Hart’s Lakeside show met or exceeded all expectations with a killer combo of new grooves, classic Dead, and a ‘White Room’ encore for the ages. But the real magic occurred five hours earlier, when Mickey led an inspiring LEAF in Schools & Streets drum workshop for youth from local outreach organization Children First.”

At a moment before the encore of Cream’s “White Room” the band left the stage while leaving their instruments humming. Somehow among the time they were offstage, the instruments made their own, individual notes, and made a melodic trance as the crowd awaited. The stage came alive. In a moment of solidarity and amazement, the band reappeared, collected their instruments and blew our minds for the most anticipated and crowded night of LEAF. Mickey says, “What an honor to be part of the LEAF festival last night. We finished our tour on the right note.

Check out LEAF -a non-profit organization providing art and music education for young people in need. I LOVE IT!”

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