Within your own backyard lies adventure that will transport you to a place that feels miles from home. So leave your passport behind and start exploring The Nearest Faraway Place.
The barn had finally stopped shaking, but the music wouldn’t quit.
It was November 2014, and the second incarnation of Wildwood Revival—a boutiquey folk music festival in rural Arnoldsville, Georgia—had just wrapped its last show of the weekend. It was late, and the kegs of Terrapin were getting light, but Nashville’s raspy folk songwriter Langhorne Slim had riled up the crowd from the open-air barn’s low-slung stage.
His music was boisterous, and so was the mood, as the crowd swayed and swelled toward the stage, singing Slim’s lyrics back into his face. After Slim finished, he stepped down from the stage and out the backdoor of the barn, walked a few dozen yards and settled onto one of the hay bales situated around a high-burning campfire. Grabbing their mason jars of beer, his fans and fellow musicians followed. Somebody picked up a guitar, and the music started again.
The two-day Wildwood Revival, which focuses primarily on country and folk, will return this year on August 29 and 30. Held on founder Libby Rose’s family farm, it emphasizes camaraderie and connectedness between artists and their audiences.
“I wanted to create an intimate VIP experience on [my family’s] farm, where the guest experience, the quality of the food, everything was better, and people were mingling with the musicians and it felt like a friend’s country party,” she says.
Rose’s family owns a large farm in Arnoldsville, which houses one of the largest mansions in the county (built, the story goes, by the original owner Mordecai Edwards in an effort to convince a woman he was courting to marry him) and that open-air barn. To help offset the cost of maintaining the land and antebellum house, Rose hosts weddings, often for celebrity clientele who arrive by parking their helicopters in the pasture. Come Wildwood time, that same pasture fills with teepees, which guests can rent.
“We called it Wildwood because it’s on the outskirts of the city, and we wanted to instill this sense of being away,” Rose says.
Setting foot on Rose’s family farm for Wildwood Revival is stepping into a vision of the world that she wants to create for her guests, right down to the clothes on attendees’ backs. Somehow, a memo seems to have been circulated: “Don’t forget your cowboy boots, wide-brimmed hats, colorful flannels, and maybe your off-the-leash dog for good measure.”
The perimeter of the barn, where all the music is held, is studded with those hay bale-lined campfires and a marketplace of vendors selling things like tintype photographs, flasks in handmade leather cases, and westernwear. Just a few long strides away is Rose’s mother’s outdoor catering kitchen, where farm staff works to prepare dinner using local ingredients, some of them grown right on the farm by Rose’s brother.
“It’s not an escape from reality,” Langhorne Slim says of the festival. “It’s a reality realized through dreams and being a badass and through passion. Libby had a dream that she felt compelled to do. To step into that world that came from someone’s head is a powerful thing.”
It’s that personal touch that makes Wildwood feel like such a departure from the average music festival experience. Simple choices—like providing filtered water for guests free of charge when most festivals sell bottles at high mark-ups, or the numerous little details Rose tweaks in order to reduce the carbon footprint of the event—demonstrate an underlying values system that favors responsible stewardship of the guests and the land over cost-cutting and convenience.
“There are soulful and spiritual musical experiences that I want over things that poke at my soul and fuck with me. I want to feel the real, raw deal and I want to connect,” Slim says.
Rose hopes to use Wildwood as a platform for artists that audiences aren’t hearing elsewhere. From her homebase in Nashville, where she’s intimately connected to the music industry, she has a vantage point from which to find great music from both unknown artists and rising stars.
“I’m trying to make the line-up part familiar musicians that you know and love and part people that I know and love who are working really hard and touring to find their audience. I want Wildwood guests to not be scared if they don’t recognize a lot of names on the bill. I want them to come for the experience and trust that they will walk away with a new favorite band,” she says.
After stumbling upon a campfire sing-along on your way back to your teepee—you really should spring for that teepee—you may discover that new favorite band and wonder: “How did I wind up here?” But it was all planned from the start. You’re in Libby Rose’s world now, and she made it just for you.