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FloydFest, Floyd, VA – 7/26-29

Photo by Jeffrey Dupuis

Hidden deep within the Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia’s FloydFest is one of the best kept secrets of the summer festival season. Amidst a stunning backdrop of white pine trees and rolling hills, the 11th annual event drew such artist as Allison Krauss and Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas, Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers, Jackson Brown, Anders Osborne, and a charming mix of other rock, Americana, funk, reggae, and bluegrass acts.

FloydFest hosted around 15,000 attendees this year. The venue itself is situated on a plateau off Blue Ridge Parkway, a picturesque stretch of National Park near the small, artsy town of Floyd, Virginia. Most festival goers camp onsite for 3-4 days in a beautiful area shaded by tall trees and cooled by a sweet-smelling breeze. There are two main stages, four smaller stages, various tents for workshops and performance art, a fantastic children’s area (FloydFest has been called one of the most family friendly festivals in the country), even an area for trapeze artists to entertain the crowd. The venue has compost and recycling areas throughout the site, and organizers take great pains to run an environmentally conscious event.

The festival has grown in popularity over the past decade, but, perhaps because of its remote location, its numbers are still kept small enough so that the experience is an intimate one for both fans and artists. Though many associate the festival with bluegrass and Americana, the lineup becomes more musically diverse each year. Some of the standout performances this year included Latin, funk, big brass bands, and gritty blues.

Though he’s already had an incredibly busy year supporting his latest release, “Black Eye Galaxy” (Alligator Records), singer/songwriter/blues guitarist and New Orleans hero Anders Osborne made the trek out to the mountains of Virginia with his band and gained hundreds of new followers with two powerhouse sets. He spoke to Relix about playing at smaller festivals such as FloydFest, noting that at this particular event, “You get really professional listeners, which can sometimes be nicer than just a horde of people.”

However, Osborne admits that his connection to the audience doesn’t change with the size of the venue – “I feel just as connected to 50,000 as I do to 50.”

FloydFest fans may come out to see certain artists, but they are also treated to a number of spontaneous sit-ins as artists invite friends onstage to jam out with them, creating some of the most memorable moments of the weekend. When asked about the significance of this type of live collaboration for himself and also for less experienced artists, Osborne feels that, “For me personally, it’s crucial. I don’t mind playing solo from time to time, but when you play with somebody else, now you’re having a conversation, so now what I play reflects through the other player and it means I start to reflect over what they just played. Then it changes, and evolves, so I think there’s more progress and faster progress when you play with a lot of people.” In his first set of the fest, this “conversation” resonated through the hills as Osborne played with Drew Emmitt and Marco Benevento. And it seemed fitting that the rain began to pour down in torrents on the crowd as he sang about “Louisiana Rain”.

The themes of community and collaboration continued throughout the weekend. Thursday offered up a fun and impressive set from Garage-A-Trois as Benevento, Skerik, Mike Dillon, and Stanton Moore got the party started with their rambunctious blend of jazz, rock, and punk. Drew Emmitt whet the appetites of those who couldn’t wait for Leftover Salmon.

When summer festivals need just the right dose of funk these days they call on go-to New Orleans collective Galactic, and the band didn’t disappoint, playing with energetic front man Corey Glover. Closing out the first full day was the seemingly ageless Jackson Browne, whose crystal clear vocals and touching lyrics thrilled many who hadn’t been able to see him perform in years.

On Friday, blues dominated the afternoon with Anders Osborne’s soulful sound and Gary Clark Jr. wailing on the guitar in a short but sweet set. Rising stars Toubab Krewe brought out a huge crowd who couldn’t seem to get enough of their unique blend of world beats, bouncy funk, and infectious percussion. For those wanting a taste of something new, Oregon’s MarchFourth Marching Band was a theatrical show not to be missed, which included dancers on stilts, outrageous costumes, and a mixture of electric bass and guitar, blazing horns, drums, drums, and more drums. Marco Benevento played an impeccable, melodic set and The Dead Kenny G’s, another Mike Dillon project, whipped the crowd into a frenzy later that night.

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Comments

There are 6 comments associated with this post

Greg August 22, 2012, 22:21:06

Sunday at Floydfest was absurbly oversold. 100’s if not 1000’s of ticket holders were unable to get into the festival because offsite parking was 10 miles down the road from the actual festival site and the shuttle system was inadequent to move those who were depending on the shuttle to get them into the festival site. We gave up after waiting for 2 hours in line and Bruce Hornsby set had already started. Floydfest did refund our money though.

Tstopowski August 23, 2012, 08:15:15

Kids were not the only ones who came out for Michael Franti & Spearhead. He was one of the main draws for many! The Rogues opened the day on Sunday with a procession and then an amazing energetic performance that got everybodies energy flowing. Not even a mention of The Rogues? And Megan Jean brought people to the tent who stood and danced in the rain because her voice and sound was off the charts fantastic!

Bob Adamek August 23, 2012, 10:32:29

Spot on Christina!!! This largely summed up my four days of fun on the mountain!

DMC August 23, 2012, 11:21:49

I saw this lineup and was delighted to see it was so close to home. I had been hyping it up since early spring to friends and family to try to get them to buy tickets and join me. Each day, I had my must-sees and the little surprises that came up and I took home with me as a new part of the soundtrack of my life. Camping in this setting was fantastic. Food was great. The outdoor excursions such as hikes, tubing and disc golf were enjoyed by many from our group. The people were great and I’m looking forward to next year.

Karen September 8, 2012, 17:33:02

Franti drew my daughter and I there. We r dedicated fans. I loved all the music. I couldn’t see it all. This was a family friendly festival. She did her thang and I did mine. We camped off site . Great to see my 15 year old in awe of the possibility of exploring other genres of music. Best time ever for us. She is now the hula hoop queen. beautiful area. returned last weekend for Floyd’s First Yoga Jam too. That was awesome as well.

Karen September 8, 2012, 17:34:09

Franti drew my daughter and I there. We r dedicated fans. I loved all the music. I couldn’t see it all. This was a family friendly festival. She did her thang and I did mine. We camped off site . Great to see my 15 year old in awe of the possibility of exploring other genres of music. Best time ever for us. She is now the hula hoop queen. beautiful area. returned last weekend for Floyd’s First Yoga Jam too. That was awesome as well.

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