Moonshine, Mandolins, and Mountain Fest: A Live Review

By DJ Lady Lotus

Fall is finally here and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than with moonshine and live music in the heart of downtown Gatlinburg. As the mountains start to paint themselves colors of red, orange and yellow, we came together to celebrate them and the great outdoors at Sugarland’s Mountain Fest.


The party in the mountains began Thursday night with The Tennessee Whiskey Experience. Guests sampled whiskeys from all over Tennessee at the Park Vista Hotel. Knoxville local Guy Marshall kicked off the festival Friday afternoon. 

As the sun was setting, the abundance of Grateful Dead t-shirts grew larger and larger for Jeff Austin Band and The Travelin’ McCoury’s. Jeff Austin played Half Moon Rising, a song some may remember from his days with Yonder Mountain String Band. Then The Travelin’ McCoury’s took the stage and whipped out a John Hartford cover of “No End of Love.” Both bands played a set before joining together for the Grateful Ball, which featured everybody’s favorite Grateful Dead tunes to finish off the night.

grateful ball

Saturday afternoon featured acts from The Royal Hounds, Dead Horses, Whiskey Shivers, Knoxville local Josh Oliver and many more. Billy Strings took the stage late afternoon and played songs off of his new album Turmoil & Tinfoil, which can be heard on 90.3 The Rock.

A highlight for many was Elephant Revival’s set. Although having one of the founding members recently announce her departure from the band, they were still able to stay true to sound. Bonnie Paine made the hairs of many stand straight up with her chillingly raw vocals and a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Have A Cigar.” 

As day turned to night, it was time to whip out your flannel and enjoy a relaxing set with Mandolin Orange. The duo’s performance was right in tune with the crowd’s energy and you could feel it all around. Aftering kicking back with Mandolin Orange, Hard Working Americans took to the stage. With an all-star lineup, featuring Dave Schools from Widespread Panic, Neal Casal, Duane Trucks and Todd Snider, one can only expect an immense amount of jamming from the band. Hard Working Americans definitely know how to party and did a perfect job finishing off the night. 

The final day of the festival featured a Levon Helm tribute from the New Familiars and a square dancing party for all to enjoy.

elephant revival

Almost a year since the wildfires destroyed the homes of many and much of Great Smoky Mountain National Park, forcing thousands to evacuate, we drink to having been able to rise from the ashes. Recovering from this tragedy would not have been possible without the communities of Eastern Tennessee sticking together through troubled times. So cheers to the Smokies, Gatlinburg, and Mountain Fest! Hopefully next year we’ll be partying in the mountains together again.