Live Review: Wildwood Revival at Cloverleaf Farm, Saturday, July 19

I’ve been skeptical of summer music festivals since Bonnaroo 2004, when I was gifted the most horrendous sunburn you could imagine. The sound is usually never on point for outdoor stages, either. Call me crazy, but I’m just not fond of sweating it out while also not being able to hear a band that well. 

To be clear, the Wildwood Revival is not your traditional summer music festival. It would be better described as a private party held in a barn with a cover charge. With the exception of the event’s headliner, The Whigs, the bands roster leaned mostly toward the Americana and country genres. 

Banditos were closing out their set when I arrived just before 3 p.m. to the farm, which is located only 20 minutes outside of downtown Athens. I caught bits and pieces of Rolling Nowhere’s junk-country (not a criticism—one of their members was literally banging on a tin coffee can and a skillet for part of the set) while wandering around the small area that comprised the event grounds.

Honky-tonk harbingers J.P. Harris & The Tough Choices brought their smoking licks to the inaugural “anti-festival.” The Nashville group produced some of the most enthusiastic yelps of approval from the crowd. Harris and his band have a Kickstarter set up to raise money for a publicity campaign to generate interest in their forthcoming album, due in September. If you weren’t there for the band’s Athens debut, it’d be worth chipping in to support those folks in hopes they make it back to town real soon. 

Kudos to Wildwood for planning two breaks in the music so famished folks could get their supper. In contrast to the $10 slices of pizza at other festivals, the barbecue-centric meals served Saturday (which were under $10, I should note) were more than adequate. It was also refreshing to see one of the event organizers, Libby Rose, working the counter and serving meals to attendees—another sign that the intimacy of the event wasn’t just a put-on. 

After the first break, Atlanta’s Whiskey Gentry took to the barn stage to incite dancing by way of fiddle-based country tunes. The Deslondes, from New Orleans, brought the small crowd close together for a slowed-down set of tunes in the vein of Woody Guthrie and other folkies. If there was a band on the Revival roster that took a truly purist approach to folk music, it was this one.

The Whigs closed out the evening with a set culled mostly from this year’s Modern Creation, songs that show the band at their raw and distorted best. Although the band’s three-piece garage sound was something of an outlier on the lineup, Revivalists stuck around to catch a rousing cover of David Bowie’s “Rebel, Rebel,” ending the music for the evening on an explosive note before indulging in a bowl of fresh gumbo.