Floydfest 2018 (The Heart and Soul of the Blue Ridge)
Being a Virginia native, I have always heard of Floydfest and it's eclectic lineup of Rock, Bluegrass and even, Alt-Pop-Rock. This year’s lineup caught my eye quite early on and I am so glad to finally be reviewing this festival for blueridgerocks.com Unfortunately, I couldn't make Thursday's events and seeing the lineup of Lukas Nelson and Govt Mule, I kicked myself for missing it. Early Friday, I headed down the Blue Ridge Mountains, taking the scenic route and getting on the parkway, as soon as, I could. The view from this festival is the first thing that comes into my mind when I reminisce about last weekend’s events but the music is the real memory that will last. The one of a kind musical collaboration and improvisations, the late night sets and meeting new friends and old, this is what music festivals are all about. All of these things can be found in abundance at Floydfest. Below are my thoughts and review for the festival.
Friday's Floydfest Favorites
While, there was plenty of music on Friday for patrons to consume, I really just want to start with The Antibalas, who brought their unique and energetic vibe to Floydfest. I always find myself dancing uncontrollably by the end of every one of their sets. I was highly impressed with the sound quality and beauty of the main stage and the venue itself. It was easy to get from stage to stage and there was always music being played somewhere.
Up next, Leftover Salmon was on the Hill Holler Stage. They would play "Liza" and can go from Progressive Jam to Bluegrass, in an instant. "Valley Of The Full Moon" was played while, the full moon shone overhead. Vince Herman got the crowd howling at the moon and the band went into a more Jam-Fusion sound for most of the show but returned to Standard Bluegrass at the end.
I checked out some of Foster The People but decided not to wait around for them to play "Pumped Up Kicks," the only song, I forcibly know from their catalogue. I walked over to see Magnolia Boulevard, with many of the older crowd. Magnolia Boulevard did a great cover of "Fire On The Bayou" a Meters funk classic. The lead vocalist caught my ear and delivered a great performance while the band did their best to keep up.
I checked out about half an hour of Greta Van Fleet, I wasn't entirely impressed but I saw some potential. The crowd seemed to eat them up and I can see why but as a music purist, I see too many blatant derivatives from early rock to be but so intrigued; It's been done before and better. The Broadcast kept me up until all hours of the night with their explosive vocalist Caitlin Krisko. I want to check this band out again and do a full review. I am super impressed with all the female vocalist taking charge at Floydfest 2018.
Saturday's Musical Extraveganza
Erin And The Wildfire, a Charlottesville, Virginia based band, was first on my list to see during Saturday's festivities. Here again, I am always impressed with the rising female vocalist in this scene and Erin is at the top of that list. I was only able to catch a short part of this bands set but what I did see, made me excited for a full review soon.
No BS Brass Band brought a horn heavy sound to Floydfest. I have seen these guys before but they have included several vocalists, which really adds to this bands powerful performance. All the excitement from the horns and all that energy are immediately transferred to the crowd, as they dance and throw their hands to the sky.
Coming out with a quote from Frank Zappa, “Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.” How could I not be entranced by the Infamous Stringdusters, as they immediately tease the Grateful Dead’s "Terrapin Station" but instead transition into Phish’s "Possum" and would continue into "First Tube?" I would honestly rate this set as the best Stringdusters set, I have ever seen and one of the best of the festival. I was excited to see them again on Sunday.
The event of the weekend was by far the Buffalo Jam, which featured Host extraordinaire, Keller William, The Antibalas, Leftover Salmon, and three beautiful vocalist: Erin Lunsford, Caitlin Krisko and Lindsey Lou. This super group would open with Lou Reeds, "Walk On The Wild Side" and continued on into "Wild Horses," the Rolling Stone classic. "War Pigs" was one of the best renditions I have ever witnessed with Vince Herman on vocals, summoning the power of Zambi himself. The Antibalas would take over and perform "Open and Close." Some other highlights from the set were Aretha Franklin "Rock steady" with Caitlin Krisko on vocals. “What it is?" “Come On In My Kitchen" featured blues banjo from Leftover Salmons, Andy Thorn. "No Sugar/New Mother Nature" was a lot of fun with Keller taking the lead and “Superstition” with Erin Lunsford on vocals was funky and vibrant. This was easily one of the most unique and impressive collaborations I have ever seen live and truly a once in a lifetime experience.
I started my day out with Monophonia, an attention-grabbing progressive rock mixture, reminiscent of Zappa and perhaps, King Crimson with thoughtful and comical lyrics. I would like to check this band out again and give them a full review but what I did see was interesting enough to captivate my attention.
Keller Williams Petty Grass featuring the HillBenders was just as I suspected it would be, Tom Petty songs arranged into Bluegrass format and while, I've never been a total Petty fan, it was interesting to hear Keller and the Hellbenders, throw a twist into his catalogue of songs. Keller can basically cover anything and I am ok with it. I even recent looked up some of his other amazing Grateful Dead covers. This man can do it all!
The Travers Brothership, whom I have covered in a previous review from Roanoke Go Outside Festival, where they opened for moe were one of the best performances of the day. Last time, I was unable to gauge a full idea of their sound and abilities but after what I saw at Floydfest, I am sure they will continue to gain followers with there Jams and progressive abilities. They can take their sound to the next level by adding some lyrical and vocal qualities that accentuate their uniqueness.
The Little Smokies, was a bit slow for my taste but they brought a huge crowd to the Main Stage where they played some standard, progressive bluegrass songs. Nothing notable but they had a fun stage presence. The Infamous Stringdusters again, blew me away; going out on a limb, trying new things and manipulating the standards of Bluegrass all together. They have truly grown as individual musicians and band mates. My first Dusters show was New Years 2012 and they grown exponentially since then. I look forward to seeing this band again whenever I can.
Old Crow Medicine Show has truly made quite a career out of one great album of music and they continue to draw a large audience around the country. While, my musical tastes have grown since my last Old Crow Show, it was fun and nostalgic for a short time. It wasn't the most exciting end to the festival but I had to get back home and traverse the Blue Ridge.
The only thing I regret about Floydfest is that I couldn't see all the music! There is truly something for everyone at Floydfest and I have never been to a festival like it. The unique lineup and diverse band schedules keep patrons coming from all over Virginia, the East Coast and Country. The ride up the Blue Ridge parkway alone is worth the journey but once you get to the festival grounds, you are on top of a mountain ridge. I would suggest Floydfest to any musical and festival lover. It is truly one of a kind. The Heart and Soul of the Blue Ridge.
Jam Band Purist
The Peach Music Festival 2018 Review (Jam Juices Overflowing)
It's always a pleasure to gain admission into such prestigious festivals like, The Peach Music Festival, which boasted one of the best lineups of the summer 2018 and that may be, a modest understatement. This year, I had to take the plunge to Montage Mountain, Ski Resort and Water Park very close to Scranton, Pennsylvania. With “The Office” theme song on an endless loop in my head, I anxiously anticipated Friday's stacked lineup but was still bummed about missing one of my favorite Jam acts, The Marcus King Band, and Marcus's various sit-ins, which always highlight his versatility and ability to improvise. For those that got to see Marcus, lucky you! I look forward seeing him, as soon as, musically possible.
Friday Highlights and Montage Musings:
Arriving at the festival location, I had to park off-site and take a shuttle to the venue. This was not the easiest experience, as I was nervous and excited to get into the festivals and see some live music! I suppose I could have bought an onsite parking ticket but seeing as I was covering this event, it's difficult to spend all my hard earned dollars on extra services and fees. No camping pass was provided and no media accommodations were available but the show must go on!
When I arrived within the pavilion area, I was confronted with quite a mess of festivalgoer’s vying for coveted seats within the pavilion. This was a much different festival atmosphere than I was used to but after getting somewhat situated, I attempted to enjoy moe. one of my all time favorite bands. moe. would bring out the Turkuaz horn section for The Bands, "Ophelia." The horns would definitely add some sonic compliments. "Maybe we should have ended on that one," said Rob but out of nowhere they cover Rush’s, "Tom Sawyer;" Rob thrashing the bass with an octave pedal on full blast. I was completely lost in the music and ready for more moe. the following day and had forgotten about the seating fiasco.
Past the lazy river and beyond the lodge, at the Mushroom Stage, The Main Squeeze was my in-between before settling in to catch Leftover Salmon. The Main Squeeze seems heavily influenced by R & B and classic rock. The lead singer had a great stage presence and I was impressed by the guitarist’s full force, Game Of Thrones cover.
Leftover Salmon was up on the Mushroom Stage, which is adjacent to a wave pool, where patrons can cool off and listen to music. I got the opportunity to meet Vince Herman before their show. What a great experience and kind man. Leftover would play many of their original songs, which have lots of energy. I particular liked “Gulf Of Mexico,” “Liza” and “Aquatic Hitchhiker.” Their sound is Bluegrass, mixed with Island (Calypso), Reggae, and throw in some New Orleans Zydeco for a tasty musical gumbo and you will have Leftovers. This band is raw, eerie and danceable, the last few songs were extremely Jammy and improvisational, with very progressive movements.
Phil Lesh and The Terrapin Band, began the night with a solid but easy rendition of "China Cat Sunflower" into “Mr. Charlie" with Midnight North vocalist, Elliott Peck, accentuating the original blues quality of the early Dead. (Pig Pen style) Again, the band followed up with another older catalogued number, "Tennessee Jed." Jason Crosby’s piano playing shines through flawlessly. “New Speedway Boogie” continues this bluesy song selection but they end that musical streak with "Throwing Stones" which turned into a yelling cacophony right until the end, when they progressed into a slower rendition of "He's Gone." Never stopping, they continue into "The Other One" with Phil forgetting the lyrics but that's ok, at 78, he can do that. Grahame Lesh took the lead on the guitar and has grown up humbly and professionally. Taking these songs to a sonically singular level with the addition of a flute (Gotta be Karl Denson) to the song structure and transitioning beautifully into "Bird Song" and then returning again into "The Other One." "Truckin'" was up next and the crowd sang along at the top of their lungs. "The Wheel" and "Sampson and Delilah" rounded out the end of the set with "Sugeree" bringing it home. The audience wanted an encore and the band rejoined onstage for one final song and of course, it's Phil singing "Box Of Rain."
As I was trying to get some water from this giant water tank, in anguish with the thirst of the day, I got caught in a jazz traffic jam with horns and drums blocking my every path. At that moment Umphreys McGee comes on like a panic attack; I get anxiety just thinking about some of their songs. I did my best to make it through but in the end, my nerves can't handle the twist and turns this band brings like, a bi-polar Van Halen on Meth. While I must admit they are talented and present a much more a psychedelic experience than most of the other bands that played during the day sometimes, I just have to call it a night.
Saturday’s Musical Experience (ie; Little Feat and moe.)
Repeating the shuttle process to the festival site and having very little sleep, I continued on to catch Aqueous at the Mushroom Stage. I always have a great time with this band, they have an eclectic sound and span various genres. The Turkuaz horns join the band for the "Power Of Love" by Huey Lewis and The News followed by "The Median" and ending with an extended jam, "Don't Do It." If you haven't checked out Aqueous, reverse this song and do it! They are one of JBP favorites. (pew pew)
Staying at the Mushroom Stage for Ghost Light, I was excited to see my second performance from this very improvisational group. Warming up with Tenacious D’s "F*** Her Gently," The Turkuaz horn section would join them immediately on stage for one of their originals, "If You Want It." Tom Hamilton is the consummate bandleader, calling out the shots and leading the other musicians including: Holly Bowling, Scotty Zwang, Steve Lyons and Riana Mullen into new territories. Their compositions like "Winter War Games" and "Untitled D Riff" are intense in all the right places and can bring some solid blasting Americana Rock. I will always check out Ghost Light, any chance I can and hope they return to 5 Points Music Sanctuary soon.
I tried my best to get a good pavilion seats before the mass exodus of people beginning to descend upon the Main Stage for moe. and Little Feat. This was compacted by the fact that the rain began to come down harder and without proper VIP credentials for the 100 row seating, it was almost impossible to find any room to accommodate reviewing the performance. I was lucky enough to have found a pavilion seat with a giant beam directly blocking my view but at least I was out of the rain for this amazing feat.
This performance was the main reason I had drove 5 hours to Montage Mountain and traversed the Pocono’s at 2:30 AM. Little Feats seminal live album 'Waiting For Columbus' is one of my all time favorite records and with hit after hit, I knew moe. and the remaining members of Little Feat plus The Turkuaz horn section, would knock this one out of the park. The show begins of course, with "Join The Band” which is sung acappela. Jim Laughlin's mallet cat was the first thing that stood out to me as they went into "Fat Man In The Bathtub." Billy Payne taking over, while Al Schnier holding his own, killing on the slide guitar. Both bands kept it coming on strong, recreating these classic songs and revisiting this album. The group of musician began to jam during "Day Or Night." With Rob Barraco and Fred Tackett leading the way, skipping "Mercenary Territory" and going straight for "Spanish Moon." "Willin'" saw the Montage Pavilion singing along with Rob Derhak, arms raised towards the sky. Rearranging “Dixie Chicken,” Billy Payne brought his progressive Fusion piano skills to the table. All and all, it was a fun and solid set but I would have loved to have heard: “Mercenary Territory,” “Sailing Shoes” and “Rocket In My Pocket.” I guess I'll just have to see Little Feat again ASAP!
Joe Russo’s Almost Dead has been gaining a lot of followers within the Dead/Jam community and for good reason. They are constantly morphing, shifting and transitioning into and beyond the cosmic space of The Grateful Dead’s musical catalogue. They begin with "Cats Down Under The Stars" which goes on for, well over 15 minutes until, at the snap of the finger, they switch into "Big River." "Row Jimmy" didn't diverge from the original at all and stayed pretty low-key while "Loser" felt like it could have morphed into anything at anytime. During JRADs second set Tom Hamilton and Scott Metzger began dueling on guitars, Russo keeping time and Benevento sweeping across the keys. This band has gone further than any I have I have heard before and I look for them to continue gaining mass appeal with all audiences.
Having to choose between Dark Side Of The Mule and Spafford was almost sacrilegious but I stayed for some of Dark Side Of The Mule (Govt’ Mule covering Pink Floyd, which is kind of self-explanatory) before bracing for the rain and catching Spafford. Spafford has been really gaining a lot of support, as well in this community and it was good to see so many people dancing and braving the rain. The band had some hard times dealing with the weather but they brought the jams, they just played a lot of improvisation and instrumental. The set was filled with jams like, “The Postman,” “Slip and Squander,” “Electric Taco Stand” and “Virtual Bean Dip.” Some serious Spaffnerds that I talked to really enjoyed this set and were talking about how great the improvisation was. As I am not the most familiar with the catalogue, it all sounded like Jams to me and that’s a good thing. Hopefully, I will be checking these guys out again at Lockn’ Music Festival next month.
Sunday: (The Spirit Of The Allman Brothers And Beyond)
The Allman brothers theme is visible throughout this festival but I wasn't sure to what extent this festival actually represents ABB. I can assure you the spirit of the Allman brothers is alive in well at The Peach Music Festival. We may not be in Georgia but these were some juicy musical peaches.
Sunday was filled with Allman Brother songs and many members of the bands iterations, it became a true celebration of their spirit with Dickey Betts closing out the night, Oteil and friends and of course, Waking Up With Warren. It's hard to comment on all the great collaborations but notably, Brandon “Taz” Niederauer would really impress me yet again, sitting in with various musical acts at The Peach Music Festival. While the rain subsided for some of the day, it was still quite a mess at all the stages but I don’t want to get specific here for my Sunday review. Instead, I want to take this opportunity to talk about The Allman Brothers, their legacy and the losses we have all endured over the past few years musically.
My first concert was ABB almost 15 years ago and I haven’t stopped since. It was something that truly changed my life and my outlook on live music. I daresay, I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for The Allman Brothers Band. While, I never got to experience Duane or Dickey with Gregg, what I did see was a wonderful iteration of the bands spirit and legacy; Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes intimate keepers of the flame. I did however, get to see Dickey Betts and Great Southern once and while it wasn’t such a grand experience as ABB, it was still great to see a founding member. I was always hung-up on dreams Id never see and after Gregg passed last year, things would never be the same again, I never thought I would see a celebration with that same spirit. Was it that lost forever? Not by a long shot. The Peach is the ultimate commemoration of ABB their formidable legacy will never die. The Peach may be lacking in a few overall technical issues but the music truly shone through. While the logistics were kind of a nightmare due to media limitations and overall expenses, I would return as a patron, as there are always, one of a kind musical collaborations that occur every year. I look for another solid, staked lineup next at The Peach Music Festival.
Eat A Peach,
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Editor: Robert (R.A.) Fadley
Freelance Writer, Musicologist, Music Journalist, Music Critic, Music Writer, Author, Musician, Singer-songwriter, Composer, Guitarist.