For the last three summers, Music on the Mounds has been hosting concerts and festivals on 10 acres against the backdrop of the Mima Mounds.
If you haven’t heard of the venue, it’s no surprise. It’s a bit of a secret, with the address revealed only to those who buy tickets.
This weekend, Music on the Mounds hosts the fourth annual Deep Blues Festival Northwest, inspired by the Deep Blues Festival held in Clarksdale, Mississippi. That festival celebrates outsider and alternative blues and roots music, which ranges widely through folk, punk, metal and yes, country — though not the music that commonly bears that name these days.
Indeed, although cowboy hats abound among the musicians featured at the Northwest festival, country seems to be a dirty word.
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“We’ve never had typical country, like pop country, here,” said Dina Sayers, who runs Music on the Mounds from the Littlerock home she shares with her partner. (“He’s a silent partner,” she said.)
The 10-acre venue, adjacent to Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve, boasts a home, a barn, two stages and plenty of room for tents and RVs.
It hosts an event or two a month from spring through fall, celebrating music and musicians and welcoming serious music fans. Camping is encouraged, as is bringing your own food, chairs and games. Overindulging in alcohol is discouraged.
“Our backdrop is Capitol Forest and the Mima Mounds,” Sayers said. “Our yard is full of mounds, and we’ve left all the natural Douglas fir.
“We’re right in the midst of it, basically.”
“It’s a beautiful setting,” said Andrew Poultridge, who helps produce the shows.
He met Sayers at a Hillstomp show at the Olympia Ballroom and was intrigued by the idea of concerts in the country.
“It’s real up close and personal,” he said. “You can hang out with the bands afterwards, play Wiffle Ball, see them when they’re bleary-eyed in the morning.”
From the beginning, Sayers has run Music on the Mounds like a business, though she emphasizes that the venture is definitely not for profit. After expenses are covered, proceeds go to the performers.
“We are really just a glorified house concert,” she said. “We’re trying to create another spot for musicians to be able to play music to all ages and not have it be so much focused on things like alcohol sales.”
“We do very few shows,” she added.
The musicians who play on Music on the Mounds’ two stages, she said, “end up being who we’re listening to, who our friends are listening to.”
Among the biggest names at this weekend’s festival are Possessed by Paul James, whom The New York Times called a “one-man folk wonder,” and Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, who combine punk and old-time country with fire and brimstone, Juli Thanki wrote in Pop Matters.
Thanki wrapped up a review of 2008’s “Cipher” with a bit of financial advice: “If you really want to be entertained, check out Slim Cessna’s Auto Club live; chances are it’ll be the best money you’ll spend all year.”
“There are some really good names this weekend,” Poultridge said. “There are some people I’ve seen before and some bands that have been on my radar. I’m really looking forward to it.”
DEEP BLUES FESTIVAL NORTHWEST
What: The fourth annual festival of alternative blues and roots music has moved to Music on the Mounds, a private venue adjacent to the Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve.
When: From 4 p.m. Friday (July 31) to 8 a.m. Sunday; gates open at noon Friday.
Where: Music on the Mounds, Littlerock.
Featured bands: Austin Lucas, Left Lane Cruiser, Possessed by Paul James, The Good Luck Thrift Store Outfit, Slim Cessna's Auto Club, The Shivering Denizens, McDougall, WhiskeyDick, Ghostwriter, Lonesome Shack, Marieke and The Go Get ’Em Boys, GravelRoad, Darci Carlson and Deception Past.
Tickets: $50, including camping, available only in advance at deepbluesnorthwest.bpt.me; ages 16 and under admitted free.
Also: People younger than 25 must be accompanied by, as the listing on Brown Paper Tickets puts it, “a responsible adult.”