Photo Credit: Kristin Karch
The Darnell Boys at last year's Wildwood Revival.
Wildwood Revival is the music festival for people who either loathe camper-friendly music festivals or have had way too much of a good yet oversaturated thing by late August.
Entering its third year, the event takes place at the 30-acre Cloverleaf Farm in nearby Arnoldsville. The land is owned by the family of siblings and event organizers Libby Rose and Jesse Collier, adding to the festival’s down-home feel. It’s out in the country enough for the desired ambience, but it’s still conveniently located near Athens and Atlanta. With just 1,500 attendees allowed, there’s no risk of visitors’ rural getaway feeling as cluttered as a big-city block party.
“The festival is designed to be a sort of staycation for people coming in from Atlanta,” Rose says. “You don't have to drive too far to get out of the city, but once you're there, it feels like you're far away.”
The three-day festival’s lineup celebrates the roots of rock, blues and country music, calling on upstart touring musicians and like-minded locals instead of the typical indie-rock stars and nostalgia acts of bigger events. Rowdy Texan Shakey Graves and his band headline this year’s event, while past lineups have featured Americana legends Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings and country outsider Margo Price.
Rose works at other festivals throughout the year. When she and her brother first decided to put together their own event, she looked to her experiences and sought feedback from festival-goers to craft a more fan-friendly experience.
“We wanted to create a festival atmosphere without the unpleasantries of high-dollar bottled water and food, folks crammed mercilessly into a cattle-call like environment with hundreds of thousands of people, and trash everywhere,” she says. “That is what so much of festival culture has become… So we took some of the things we liked about the others and rolled in some ideas that we thought would create a more communal environment.”
The incorporation of regional microbreweries and locally grown vegetables furthers the event’s sense of community. “We wanted to take the feeling you get from visiting places like small-town juke joints, honky tonks, farmers markets, swap meets, front porch parties and supper clubs, and bring those elements to the farm in the form of a festival,” says Rose.
Wildwood’s audience has grown organically since 2015, according to Rose, with marketing kept to a minimum to control crowd sizes. Word has spread to all sorts of interested parties, including beneficiaries of Georgia’s booming film industry, with Woody Harrelson spotted around the campfire one year.
Other events include yoga, lawn games, a bluegrass jam session, workshops, dance parties, campfire singalongs, an artisan market featuring vintage and handmade goods, and live-band karaoke.
Rose seems particularly fond of the karaoke element, which debuted last year. “It got shut down an hour and a half into it, because we have to shut the music off by 10:30 because of our permit,” she says. “When we ended it, everyone was having such fun that they were bummed and wished it’d gone on a few more hours.”
Wildwood’s performers get star treatment, as the artists’ area is in an 8,000-square-foot antebellum mansion with a private bar. And though a VIP ticket option is available, the general-admission experience has been improved since the first year, with the addition of outdoor showers and permanent bathrooms in place of unpopular porta-potties.
Rose says her goal is to make the event small yet elaborate enough so that everyone feels like they’re getting preferential treatment. “Just being around the festival… allows [everyone] to feel like a VIP,” she says.
WILDWOOD REVIVAL Day one of the Americana festival, featuring The Bones of J.R. Jones, Durand Jones & The Indications, Shakey Graves and live-band karaoke with Heath Haynes and The Hi Dollars. See story on p. 19.
WILDWOOD REVIVAL Day two of the Americana festival, featuring Zach Schmidt, Nicole Atkins, The Quaker City Night Hawks, The Cactus Blossoms, The Wild Reeds and JD McPherson. See story on p. 19.
WILDWOOD REVIVAL Day three of the Americana festival, featuring a "gospel brunch," plus The Darnell Boys and Early James. See story on p. 19.