In Focus: Amy Helm and Mavis Staples shine at Dirt Farmer Festival

On Saturday, May 21, the Dirt Farmer Festival returned to the Arrowood Farms. The day was beautifully
clear, hot and picture perfect. This is the second Dirt Farmer Festival to be held at Arrowood Farms.
This festival has deep roots in the Hudson Valley. The first festival was originally held at the Arrowood
Farms on August 19, 2018 and for several years prior, the Levon Helm Band played a series of free fall
concerts at Gill’s Farm, just a few miles up the road, in Stone Ridge, NY.

This concert festival was greatly anticipated and the show was everything anyone could possibly hope it
would be, and then some. This day, this festival belonged to Amy Helm and it also belongs to Levon
Helm and his legacy of supporting the local farming community. Amy made the day special. It’s not easy
to look glamorous when the sun is strong enough that you can overheat just standing in place. How does
Amy Helm do it? She does it with poise, a warm smile, a love of the music and the musicians, her friends
and family and everyone in attendance. From the main stage, introducing Oliver Wood, Amy suggested
that everyone should drink lots of water available at the bar area water station and stay hydrated.

Arrowood Farms is a huge field with several buildings, hops growing on the west side, a brewery with
an excellent locally brewed beer selection, an open air bar area and a relaxed easy going
atmosphere. For this event, there were two concert stages, one is a permanent main stage and the
second stage, a mobile stage wagon brought in for the event. There were nine scheduled performances
alternating between the two adjacent stages.

The performances ranged from full-on electric high energy dancing and boogie music to acoustic relaxed,
let’s sit down, kick-back, enjoy the beautiful day and the live music. The show highlights, and there were
a ton of great musical moments, but if one stood out, it was #1 Mavis Staples and #2 Mavis Staples and
also, make no mistake, it was Mavis Staples. She is loved and adored. Her voice is strong and she played
to her audience knowing she had full command of the stage. For the final song of her set, the crew and
all the musicians in attendance piled into the front of the stage area to share the moment. You could
feel the love, you could see the love. Seeing Mavis perform, everyone knew this was a special moment.

The load-out and load-in between the Connor Kennedy Band and the final performance of the festival,
the Midnight Ramble Band, was like watching organized chaos come together in a massive effort to get it
right and do it on the fly. The musicians and stagehands, the sound crew, were all participating, unwinding cables, plugging-in and checking the sound. When you see Teresa Williams moving her own monitor, you know the division of labor went right out the window and it’s an all hands on deck effort. This was very clearly a local one-off concert and nothing like watching a national tour stage set-up. This one was for friends and family and it all came together for the Midnight Ramble Band’s set.

The day absolutely belonged to Amy, but of course she could have not have done this all by herself. To
all of the Levon Helm Studios staff and to everyone that worked diligently to make the Dirt Farmer
Festival a successful event, thank you. The effort is greatly appreciated. Arrowood Farms,
let’s do it again next year.

Amy Helmdirt farmer festivalLarry Campbell