Monday, August 4, 2008

FloydFest Day 1: Friday

A few days before the beginning of FloydFest, we were informed that we had received passes to cover the event and cleared our schedule for the remainder of the event – at least starting Friday. I took my time driving the 5 hours, listening to First to Last from Oneside and even stopping at Lexington Valley Vineyards, where you can read about the visit at My intention was to reach the festival in order to witness Oneside’s 5:30 show and with a little creative driving – I reached the shuttle lot at 5:25. Fifteen minutes later, I had taken the shuttle, checked in, and was seated in front of the Streamline Hill Holler stage watching the band perform. Having listened to their debut CD on the drive down, I was very familiar with their material. However, I doubt the remaining festivalgoers – who were dancing and clapping along - were as familiar. What I noticed first about Oneside is that the banjo is encapsulated into the overall sound and is not overbearing – interestingly even when Chris Hersch played a solo with “Four Corners”, the sound is subtle – not in your face. I really liked that song. I also liked “Lisa” – supposedly their only love song on the menu. After the band finished their set – the promoters requested a second encore and the band launched into Johnny’s Cash’s Cocaine Blues with Grafton Pease taking over vocals. The crowd exploded with approval with even Railroad Earth front-man Todd Sheaffer sand and danced along. This set was a great start for my festival experience – and Oneside acquired numerous new fans.

After saying hello to the band, I headed into the interior and heard people cheering and running to the Blue Ridge & Beyond Dance Tent. Oh yea, The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band was scheduled next. We later christened this venue the “Revival” Tent because over the course of the next three days, Reverend Peyton made this tent their domain. I found an open spot near the stage – sneaking through the back of the tent and witnessed the greatest performance of any musician I’ve seen in a number of years. I mean that; The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band is the real deal. And basic. The band consists of Reverend Peyton playing various guitars, his wife Breezy on the washboard, and his brother Jayme on the drums and pickle bucket. I had read a few reviews from their recent tour with Flogging Molly, but nothing prepared me for the four shows of rock, blues, gospel, zydeco and everything else the band pumped out. Besides the music – there’s the incredible stage presence exhibited by Reverend Peyton and Breezy – sometimes smiling with soft eyes - and then grimacing – while stomping and picking along. And then there are the lyrics. With titles such as Mama's Fried Potatoes, DT's Or The Devil, The Creek's Are All Bad, and my favorite: Your Cousin's On Cops; how could you not laugh and scream along. Let’s not forget the gospel tunes: Glory Glory Hallelujah; their original, Blow That Horn; and Let Your Light Shine. My favorite songs of the set: Worn Out Shoe and My Soul to Keep. After 60 minutes of dancing and hollering and screaming, I was as exhausted as the band. And I knew this set was special – possibly the best of the weekend – and the beginning of a new relationship. Afterwards I proceeded directly to the merchandise tent for a Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band tee shirt and their two CD’s Big Damn Nation and The Gospel Album. Their next CD, The Whole Fam Damnily, should be released this week and includes most of the great songs we heard over the weekend.

I had missed the first 45 minutes of New Monsoon, but walked through the large crowd to see the band on the Dreaming Creek Main Stage. I was sorry to miss the entire set, for this San Francisco bands is one of our favorites. They combine roots country, blues, and rock into an amazing sound, plus we love their choice of instruments, which include a banjo and mandolin. The crowd loved the set with people dancing on the lawn and those up close singing along with each song. After the set ended, hunger set in. I noticed several people eating freshly made ice cream and soon found the Mill House Ice Cream tent, where the family owned business was making ice cream on site. Really. They used a 1920 made Hercules Engine to churn the cream next to the main stage. This antique engine can run 20 hours on only 1 1/4 gallon of gasoline. By the long lines, they needed each hour to satisfy demand. The peach ice cream was incredible - fresh peaches blended with vanilla ice cream. After grabbing a sandwich I noticed another band starting in the now completely empty “Revival” Tent. I sat down to eat and watched as 3 Minute Lovin’ started playing their rockabilly repertoire. I was really impressed with this local band – hailing from Blacksburg. Even with a virtually empty tent they played as if the tent were as full as with Reverend Peyton. I guess, if you play, they will come – because over the course of their first few songs – the tent slowly filled where I could no longer see band. That was well done. Couples danced along to vintage 50’s music as I left to see Railroad Earth on the main stage. I plan on looking for this band on our next trip to the area.

I arrived at the main stage in time to get in the front row because I was really enthusiastic to hear Railroad Earth. I have followed the band closely after getting into several email exchanges with their Street Team leader Gayle. And their latest CD, Amen Corner, has been a long term tenant in my traveling CD case. I was really surprised to see the diverse crowd surrounding me; there were as many college aged fans as grown-up fans. The band started slowly, playing a couple slow songs and as the crowd grew impatient – wanting to dance – the band got into their groove and the party began. But for some reason my mind wasn’t into the music and it kept thinking about The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band; maybe because they were playing completely on the other side of the festival at the VA Folklife Workshop Porch. I knew this was my only chance to see Railroad Earth – but I find myself pulled backwards. Luckily the acoustics to the main stage were excellent and I could hear the band ¾ of the way to the porch. I arrived in time to hear the story behind the Persimmon Song and Jayme’s relationship with the Canadian Border Patrol. Their version of The Creeks Are All Bad was even more powerful in an acoustic setting than in the earlier jam. The gospel songs were also excellent in this environment. After the show, I drifted back to hear the last few songs from Railroad Earth – watching jugglers and parents holding sleeping children. Starting to feel a little homesick and tired, I bailed on Tea Leaf Green and headed to find my hotel. My day was done.



I truly feel that RAILROAD EARTH is one of the most creative bands ever ! The ebb & flow is amazing, the writing is fun and real and each song has its own feel. One song you have not heard of yet is LUXURY LINER. TRY IT . Thanks BILL