Tuesday, July 28, 2009

FloydFest 2009

We were fortunate enough once again to attend one of the premier music festivals in the country: FloydFest 8. The event is held right off the Blue Ridge Parkway a little southwest of the Town of Floyd and the Crooked Road. Its quite a sight driving along the parkway and seeing the top of the main stage surrounded by trees with the festival's parameter snaking towards the road. FloydFest runs over four days; however this year we were only able to participate during the two weekend days. To make matters more interesting I was accompanied by our 4 year old - time to see how other families cope - enjoy the festival with children. Needless to say I did not get a chance to see a fraction of the artists as last year; but from the dozen we watched a few observations. Donna the Buffalo is the bomb; they played throughout a nasty thunderstorm without a break and even played longer than scheduled as attendees emerged from hiding after the storm. The Belleville Outfit continues to impress and we were able to watch three of their multiple sets. And finally, why haven't I been listening to Yarn - these guys are good - Cross Canadian Ragweed, Reckless Kelly, and Randy Rogers rolled into one package with a little bluegrass sprinkled in.

We arrived Saturday with hundreds of other attendees in a mad rush to see the afternoon artists. Despite a brief backup at the off site parking - the buses couldn't get through the line of cars - we were able to grab a Starr Hill hefeweizen and watch Yarn in the Beer Garden. FloydFest does a nice job providing beer and wine to their patrons at the Beer Garden with its own stage and the new tent next to the main stage. The two neighboring wineries, Chateau Morrisette and Villa Appalaccia, provide the wines with Starr Hill, Magic Hat Brewing Company, The River Company Restaurant and Brewery, and Foothills Brewing providing beer. Getting back to Yarn, these guys are good. A week before I listened to their latest CD at the Purple Fiddle where they were scheduled to play before Floydfest. How does a band from New York City get such an authentic alt-country sound?

Afterward we ventured to the Dance Tent which always provides a more intimate and fun show and people were dancing away with R.I.S.E.. This is another act we will put on our radar and we followed sisters over to the Children's Village as they were scheduled to perform in front of the youngsters. The Children's Village is located adjacent to the quite camping area so that families have easy access from their temporary living quarters. The main attraction seemed to be Noah's Ark, but the village also contained a performing tent, covered sand box, and activity tents. Plus childcare services - at $7/hour - not a bad deal; this came in handy Sunday. Before we became to comfortable in the village I forced our way back to the Dance tent to hear Forro in the Dark, a group of Brazilian New Yorkers, play their style of "party" music - as in forró. The tent was shaking as the band used a pifano, timbau drum, zabumba drum, and a couple guitars to create a hypnotic sound. Who knows what they were singing - and who cares - it's more exotic to hear Portuguese singing. Another plus for FloydFest - more diverse styles of music. After catching our breathe, it was time for The Belleville Outfit. The Dance Tent continues to be the place to be. We first witnessed this Austin and South Carolina based group at Merlefest and love their fusion of swing, blues, jazz, and plain old Americana. With clouds threatening, and a child sleeping, we moved towards the main stage anticipating Donna the Buffalo and found a clearing next to a nice couple's tent. As soon as the rain started we were invited inside and stayed relatively dry while holding down the tent's support. Others were not as fortunate as they raced to the beer or vendor tents. Through it all, Donna the Buffalo kept playing - blowing amps - and even ruining a scrub board. How is that possible? They are easily my favorite band - welcome to The Herd. Their music is slightly cajun, slightly jam band - and worth the 5 hour drive itself. After about a half hour the storm blew over and a rainbow appeared right behind the stage - a new beginning to the day. Soon they started in with the very appropriate "Blue Sky" and our favorite "It's Love Time". The encore of "New Tara Zydeco" and "Hot Tamale Baby" was awesome, with Christian Dugas of The Duhks jumping in on the scrub board. As soon as the set ended we hurried to join Sol Driven Train in the children's parade through the festival grounds. This band had performed a few times in the Children's Village and New Orleans styled dancing music as we tramped across the field. After another trip to the Beer garden and a The River Company hefeweizen we finished the day at the rock climbing wall and then to The Duhks on the Holler stage. This Canadian band also rocks - incorporating Arcadian French cajun and zydeco into their repertoire. Being bilingual has its benefits. And it was the first time I heard "I like this band" from the little boy.

The one benefit of traveling with a child is you get to bed early - there was no staying up for the Blues Traveler or even The Lee Boys late night jam. We started Sunday, little guitar in hand, anticipating our friends, Oneside, but recurring van troubles forced them to cancel. "Why don't they just buy a new car like we had to when ours broke" was the response that I had to listen to all day. A side affect of this scheduling change was a chance to watch Yarn again, this time on the main stage, in addition to Adrienne Young. Back at the Children's Village, we watched a theater performance of Dragon Scales & Faerie Tales; I was fearing a dull and pandering performance, but it was actually funny and clever. The children and adults were laughing out loud and the laughter continued on the ride home. Nice. It was now time to utilize the child care services so that I was free to watch The Belleville Outfit again on the Holler stage. On the way, I noticed a jam session in the Dance Tent and found Holy Ghost Tent Revival just starting a short set. What a sound; a combination of old time classical music then jolted by hard rock jams. But its not just noise that you get from some jam bands - this is music with a purpose that oscillates between a classic 40's-50's sound into rock and roll. These guys from Greenville got it. We look forward to hearing more from them at the Sunflower festival in October. Moving to our intended target, The Belleville Outfit provided another set of great music - this time to a larger audience. I just love their sound and possibly a crush on Phoebe Hunt. Another storm was a brewing so I returned to the Children's Village and spent the next 20 minutes playing in the covered sand box as families scurried about. Once the rain subsided to a drizzle I returned to the dance tent to hear David Schultz who benefited from the weather and played before a full tent of attendees seeking a dry spot. It was a solid set and I'll keep these guys on our horizon if they travel up Interstate 95 from Richmond to play in our area. After a Foothills Brewing IPA I spent the reminder of my child free time listening to the great Peter Rowan performing traditional bluegrass music. This is another great aspect of Floydfest - they combine the new and established artists - and Rowan played his classics as well as those from Clarence Stanley and some of the other fathers of bluegrass. With the day winding down, we headed to the main stage to finally hear The Lee Boys and their peddle steel sound in the tradition of Florida gospel music. Shades of Robert Randolph, this is dance music with a gospel spin, although there was no dancing among us. Despite the loud music, it was nap time so I watched from the ground. The final act of the day was to see a couple of acoustic songs from The Belleville Outfit at the Front Porch stage. I can't wait until they tour the east coast. By now FloydFest was done and time to carry the still sleeping boy to the car and the ride home. No Railroad Earth for us.

What a great trip; thanks to Across-the-Way Productions for a job well done. Already looking forward to next year. More pictures are available at the MyJoog facebook page.

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