The festival started on Friday and ran through Sunday closing out with the Sam Bush Band. Unlike past years, the festival consisted of just one stage nestled between the picturesque views of the mountains in Foscoe County located near Boone NC. Surrounding the stage were vendors of all sorts. Gifts of stain glass, beautiful jewelry and clothing for all could be purchased here. Food vendors were in the area as well to cure our hunger.
Music started around noon on Friday with the Black Lillies and was followed by the formal locals of Boone called River Whyless. I recognized the beautiful vocals and amazing violin playing as a band I had seen in the past as Do It To Julia. They now call Asheville NC their home. Next up was Greensky Bluegrass, who are one of my favorites. Unfortunately they were quickly halted when the beautiful sky opened up with rain and thunderstorms. The music was thrown into delay mode while the storm raged. I was bummed when they announced that Greensky had to go due to future planned events.
The staff quickly cleaned the stage of water and was able to get the music going again. JJ Grey and Mofro captivated the audience with his story telling and quirky personality. You’ve got to love him. He kept the crowd entertained with his first appearance at the festival. Next up was Dr. Dog, who I was not familiar with before but seemed to be a favorite with the college crowd that attended with their indie beats and fun tunes. Closing out the night was Railroad Earth, who always put on a great performance.
JJ Grey and MOFRO / Railroad Earth
Unlike past years, the festival offered workshops throughout the weekend lead by different musicians that attended. Audience participation is always a highlight of workshops. My favorites were “Strange Instruments” and “Meditation with Tim Carbone”.
Saturday started off with beautiful weather. “I love the Mountains” sayings were seen everywhere in sticker form or as a temporary tattoo on peoples arms, legs, etc. It’s not just a saying, in these mountains, it’s a way of life. Families and students alike were enjoying the beautiful day playing games of all sorts. Frisbee throwers to hula-hoopers to sun bathers were scattered throughout the field. I noticed that the festival’s attendance was a bit less than prior years, however those present made up for it with their positive energy.
Monroeville started the day off with some mighty fine picking followed by the rollicking sounds of Holy Ghost Tent Revival, who have attended the festival almost every year. With their fast pace playing and jumping movements on stage, no one in the crowd was still. Next was Rose’s Pawn Shop followed by the Naked Gods. My favorite, The Hackensaw Boys started the late afternoon. By this time the crowd was primed. Everybody was dancing to the sounds of the banjo, fiddle, guitar, stand up bass, and some good ole washboard. Dust was rising as the crowd scuffled and clogged their feet into the sunset. Futurebirds changed it up a little with their rocking sounds wailing on the guitar. The Dirty Dozen Brass Band brought a new wave of energy with their up tempo New Orleans sound. It was a great mix of music to suit everybody’s needs on this mighty fine Saturday. Railroad Earth closed out the second night. I love Railroad Earth! The band really gets into the music and it shows when they play. The energy was felt by both the musicians and the spectators making it a surreal experience for all. Their performance was enhanced by fabulous lights and stage props including owls floating overhead and a giant bear back drop. Owls and Giant Bears…oh my! The night ended at 11 which is unlike any festival I have attended but that gives you plenty of time to roam around and mingle with new friends and find campfire parties scattered throughout the campground. My thanks to the Festival Taxi crew who had golf carts to transport you around. Making it easy to get your things to your campsite and also moving you around safely in the dark.
The Dirty Dozen Brass Band
Sunday was another beautiful mountain morning. The good ole mountain dew coated everything. This was the last day of the festival. The music started out at 10am with the Stoney Creek Boys and Salem Speaks. Larry Keel and Natural Bridge were next. I never get enough of these guys, who I now call friends. Always a treat to see them at every show not to mention they are truly mighty fine musicians! With it being Sunday, I was glad to see that some new people came in for the day and the weekend festival goers were sticking around. The Railroad Earth Superjam featured a Woody Guthrie tribute. Members of Monroeville, Larry and Jenny Keel and Sam Bush participated in the jam. The festival ended with the Sam Bush Band. He was introduced on stage a bit late due to a stomach virus. He fooled me. He looked and played like he was having the time of his life. Might be one of the best performances I have seen of him and his band. I hope to attend this festival again in the years to come. It’s a fun, family friendly, and laidback festival that focuses on the love of music set in the beautiful mountains of “THC” The High Country.