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
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Editor: Robert (R.A.) Fadley
Freelance Writer, Musicologist, Music Journalist, Music Critic, Music Writer, Author, Musician, Singer-songwriter, Composer, Guitarist.