Floyd Fest is next weekend. Here's what the Richmond paper had to say about it. We'll be headed over there for the weekend. I'm thinking that Iris Dement is just some sort of karmic retribution for me. ( And yes, karmic retribution in the positive sense)
Vibe travels 37 years to hip county in the Blue Ridge Mountains
BY REX BOWMAN
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER
Jul 23, 2006
No doubt about it, rural Floyd County is one of the hippest places in Virginia, with the latest generation of hippies, artists, nature lovers and every sort of laid-back refugee from the urban rat race living shoulder to shoulder with the easygoing local farmers.
The place has become part paisley, part pasture; half hemp fashion, half hayfield.
And one reason Floyd has gotten so hip is FloydFest, a musical extravaganza held every year in a wide field surrounded by woods and mountains where thousands gather to groove nearly nonstop to the sounds of dozens of bands and singers over several days.
Mix folk, bluegrass, blues and gospel with rock, punk, progressive roots music and even a little klezmer on seven stages, then make space for music fans to set up tents and campsites, practice yoga, get a massage, attend sessions on composting and ethical consumerism, and drink wine from local vintners and beer from local microbreweries -- then you've got a FloydFest. And somewhere in all that there's belly dancing.
If it sounds a little like Woodstock to you, you've got the right idea.
"FloydFest is pretty groovy," said Brian Gearing, publicist for FloydFest 5: Roots Alive, which runs Thursday through next Sunday.
"I think what Woodstock was trying to accomplish, in terms of getting people together and creating a sense of community for a generation, FloydFest actually succeeds in doing. Not for an entire generation, but for the people there for the weekend."
This year marks the fifth consecutive year that thousands will flock to Floyd to imbibe the festival's funky vibe. The show is staying true to its goal of providing music for all tastes, offering roots music from sundry traditions and in myriad styles.
Sixty performers and bands are scheduled to play for the festival. Rockers include Los Lobos, Donna the Buffalo and Sun Dried Opossum. If folk is your thing, you can check out Eddie From Ohio, Iris Dement, David Bromberg or Tim O'Brien. Gospel acts include the Campbell Brothers and the Lee Boys, while the hot Southwest Virginia band No Speed Limit is among the bluegrass acts.
Other groups, such as Railroad Earth, the Drew Emmitt Band, and Adrienne Young and Little Sadie, help give the festival its roots flavor. Gabby La La, who plays electric ukulele and sitar, among other instruments, adds a weird funk to the lineup, as do Hawaiian ukuleleist Jake Shimabukuro, the eclectic Vulgar Bulgars and the jam band Still Willis.
Many of the acts have played FloydFest before.
"They love to come back because they realize we're not a fly-by-night festival," said organizer Erika Johnson. "They know they're going to get paid."
Johnson and her musician husband, Kris Hodges, dreamed up FloydFest just over five years ago. Johnson had opened up Oddfella's Cantina in downtown Floyd and brought in musicians -- including Rhonda Vincent -- to play on its small pine stage. The music proved so popular, the couple decided to create the festival on an 80-acre field next to the Blue Ridge Parkway just south of town.
The first festival drew nearly 5,000 -- though many of the attendees had complimentary tickets and attendance increased the three following years. This year, Johnson said, attendance could top 10,000 for the first time.
The festival fits in nicely with Floyd's emerging reputation as one of Virginia's most vibrant musical centers. The town is part of the state's Crooked Road, a series of bluegrass and mountain-music venues across Southwest Virginia. The Floyd Country Store, which hosts bluegrass jamborees every Friday night, has become a must-see stop on the road. On weekend nights, both music and musicians spill out into the town's streets.
FloydFest features plenty of mountain music and bluegrass, but it also aims to appeal to the counterculture communities that began thriving in Floyd three decades ago.
As Gearing, the publicist, put it, "The convergence of freedom-loving migrants and natives has created a truly unique place where the traditional mountain sounds of bluegrass and old-time music have fused with influences ranging from African makossa and Caribbean reggae to Brazilian percussion and Irish Celtic music."
Or, as Johnson said, "It's such a cool scene."
Contact staff writer Rex Bowman at email@example.com or (540) 344-3612.