Positive Vibes From Backwoods At Mulberry Mountain

When a music festival announces it is going to take a hiatus, that is usually the kiss of death. Often times the break stems from financial issues or simply that the venue didn’t want the patrons coming back. Backwoods Music Festival is one of the few festivals to go on a hiatus and come back strong. The new Backwoods at Mulberry Mountain welcomed thousands of amazing people. The festival brought nothing but good vibes and great music to people who truly love the beauty of Mulberry Mountain and its sense of togetherness.

Brief History

In 2015 and 2016, a local festival called Backwoods Bash got an upgrade. Tatanka Ranch opened its doors to thousands of people for the first time to welcome the new Backwoods Music Festival. Unfortunately, the venue didn’t want these patrons returning. So Backwoods took a break and reassessed the issue. Announcing new dates and a new venue, the festival spent the next year and a half creating Backwoods at Mulberry Mountain. With a new name, a new venue, and a new date, the festival was bound to be something we hadn’t seen before. The festival took over the same grounds that held the late great Wakarusa, and the vibes stuck around. With trails leading to a nearby stream and waterfall, it was the perfect move for the people of Backwoods. Mulberry Mountain is a gorgeous part of middle America that everyone should see. The helicopter rides from the previous Backwoods returned, with an exhilarating (slightly terrifying) run across the festival grounds.


Art was as important at Backwoods as the music. From the vendors to the music stages themselves, every aspect of the festival involved art. Each vendor seemed perfectly catered to the crowd attending Backwoods. From flow clothing to Third Eye Pinecones to every hat pin you could think of, all the heady gear was present. It was difficult not to purchase at least one item at the festival. Every piece was beautiful.

The stages were each hand built by a talented group of artists and carpenters on site. Each stage had a different personality and style. The Motherland Stage had a Mother nature theme with tree branches reaching from root to roof. The Globe Theater had a found object feel to it, with mismatched picture frames at the perimeter and candles and pearl necklaces hanging from the top of the stage. The Space Station stood as a futuristic pyramid at the bottom of a hill in the forest. The archway at the entrance mirrored the geometric shapes that built the pyramid, connecting the themes. The entire festival remained largely open, aside from the stages where the security checkpoints stood. It was nice because the problem of long lines disappeared.

In between the vendors and the Globe Theater, there was an art garden with interactive art installations that were out of this world. Throughout the festival, larger-than-life inflatable chandeliers illuminated the walkways. These unique glowing shapes were a wonder. The back of the Globe had a true speakeasy. Anyone could walk through the door at the left of the stage to see a den with upholstered chairs, a typewriter, a bookshelf and several paintings on the wall. The bookshelf was the next step, which was a secret door to the bar behind the stage. Once inside, attendees needed to obtain the password in order to purchase a drink, which they whispered to the bartender. The passwords were so odd that each turned into a game of telephone throughout the day as people would tell their friends. With a decent trade, the bartender was willing to help with a hint.


Music Mentions

The music at Backwoods was an eccentric mix of jamtronica, folk, eclectic bass music and whatever may be mixed in between. Each person at Backwoods had a favorite at the festival that they simply had to see. It was easy to follow the music and find something amazing.  The Getbye showed true gusto as they filled the Globe with a sound that blended The Beach Boys with Dropkick Murphys. It was an upbeat romp everyone will remember. Muzzy Bear entered with some questionable standup comedy as he waited for the lost DJ equipment he was supposed to use. Short DJ set aside, he remained on stage during the entirety of GRiZ‘s set. The two brought the perfect blend of live music and electronic dance that could be appreciated by all fans at Backwoods. The huge line to enter the stage for Papadosio spoke volumes about their following and their set. Figure and Snails brought back-to-back chop/riddim sets at the Motherland before GRiZ killed it. The number of people at STS9 in the pouring rain spoke volumes about their popularity and talent. Anthony Motto created an infectious dance party in the middle of the day at the Globe on Sunday. People gathered from all over the festival to the sound of his house grooves. The dancing never ceased until the music was shut off. LYFTD kept that dance party going immediately after. Michel Menert played a heavy bass-filled set and brought his beautiful voice to the stage. Emancipator, the masters of chill, brought the cool vibes with the perfect blend of electronic music and live violin. To finish out the festival, the Floozies brought a spectacle of live singers, horns, and production. The all night after party at the Globe with Andy Frasco was a little overenthusiastic as Frasco drank random drinks and boasted “never shutting this place down!” Alas, it was a great time.

Michal Menert


Backwoods Music Festival at Tatanka Ranch had hula hoop, staff, and fire performers at every stage. Backwoods at Mulberry Mountain took this concept up another notch. Hula hoop and poi dancers, staff performers, pole dancers, stilt walkers, and even acro-yoga couples took the stage and performed around the festival for an immersive experience unlike any we’ve seen before. Performers received a free ticket and a chance at their 15 minutes of fame, which was a dream come true. Backwoods organizers understand their audience and successfully integrated their talents by allowing them to be part of the action.

Weather Hiccups

The weather at Backwoods could have been better, but it wasn’t exactly “Swamparusa”. Temperatures reached no higher than 75 degrees but got as chilly as the 40’s at night, which caused some huddled crowds during headliners. Saturday started fantastic, with a 12 hour non-stop rainstorm beginning at 5 PM. The relentless water caused flash flooding at some stages, causing delays to ensure the safety of everyone. However, this didn’t stop attendees from buying out every poncho and blanket on site to continue the party. The General Store actually ran out of blankets. They bought every blanket in stock from the nearest Wal-Mart and had to travel farther for more. The water created some muddy camping situations, but most people stayed in good spirits regardless.

The People/Vibes

As festivals become more popular, one sees more of an influx of people who are at the festival for the wrong reasons. While some are still attending the festival for the music and the art, others are there simply for the party or to profit from its attendees. The latter was not the case at Backwoods. Every person at Backwoods welcomed their neighbor with open arms and everyone spread love and good vibes. Smiles were abundant this year and regardless of the poor weather, attendees remained in good spirits, excited to be there. It’s rare these days to see every person in attendance dancing in the rain and cold. People were pumped to return to such a beautiful place where so many great memories have been made.

Ashley with Anthony Motto

Despite some chilly wet weather, the occasional sun and abundant good vibes made the return of Backwoods at Mulberry Mountain a total success. Organizers are determined to create the best festival for its attendees so we believe things can only get better. We’ll keep our readers posted on the future of this amazing festival. See you next year!

Ashley Cizek

Went to school at UW-Madison, graduating with a BA in psychology. I hula-hoop, I write, I enjoy sunlight.

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