Sons of Bill headline the inaugural Campout East.
William Walter & Co will show up at Camp Barefoot 5 and FloydFest X.
PHOTO BY TOM DALY
Who hasn't begged Mom and Dad to let them take a roadtrip over a summer weekend to catch their favorite bands or been thrilled to see multiple artists performing on the same bill? And what great artist hasn't packed up the van and festival-hopped across the country, hitting Lollapalooza and Pitchfork in Chicago or Bonnaroo in Tennessee or Coachella in California?
But it's not just the artists and audiences that benefit. A music festival injects life into a town, if just for a weekend, as fans flock from across the state or country to camp, bands book up hotels and restaurants, and the local music industry is jolted to its core. For Charlottesville, the rise of area and regional festivals has added depth to an already ambitious music scene.
"We're at the beginning of something very exciting," says Michael Allenby, who launched The Festy Experience last summer in Nelson County. "There's killer infrastructure," he says. "At this point, it's up to the artist to push the scene."
From the Festy, which took place at the Devil's Backbone Brewery, and the ever-popular Crozet Music Festival, to the Dave Matthews Caravan in New Jersey and Camp Barefoot in West Virginia, music festivals have put spark in the regional music scene. We survey eight festivals coming your way in 2011 and chat with seven festival-minded artists.
Crozet Music Festival
The Crozet Music Festival is classic Charlottesville, from the setting at the Misty Mountain Camp Resort to the participating artists – past favorite have included Alligator, William Walter, Mariana Bell, and The Sometime Favorites. Three days of folk, rock, and bluegrass, in the heart of Crozet– what more can you ask for?
Keep your eye out for: Full schedule to be released.
Bartow, West Virginia
This West Virginia festival combines three stages, arts and crafts showcases, and events for kids into one rollicking weekend. The fifth annual festival aims to promote independent artists as well as appeal to families, and a portion of the proceeds go to the local Humane Society. This year's festival will include a VIP pre-show and camping period, so buying tickets early might be smart.
Keep your eye out for: Perpetual Groove, William Walter & Co., DJ Williams Projekt, Kings of Belmont
The first Campout East is yet another festival in the Crozet area– but never fear, fans of the Crozet Music Festival, this one promises to bring diverse interests and music to the scene. Featuring art and food alongside artists like Sons of Bill, Cracker, and Camper Van Beethoven (the three festival co-hosts), this summer festival will add a little zing to Crozet while we wait for the fall festivals.
Keep your eye out for: Sons of Bill and Those Darlins
Down By The River
This two-night festival, tucked away in Roanoke, is full of all-around fun for the whole family. From kid's events and arts and crafts to on-site camping and open fields for dancing and carousing, Down By The River is just that: frolicking and live music near the banks of the Roanoke River. Performers range from nationally renowned indie artists to regional rock talent.
Keep your eye out for: Neko Case and Manassas acoustic folk band Momentary Prophets.
Dave Matthews Band Caravan
Atlantic City, New Jersey
Wasn't this supposed to be the summer the mega-successful Charlottesville-based band stayed home? It turns out that DMB will anchor four three-day festivals across the country. Cohorts include experimental bands, indie-folk-pop artists, and any other genre you'd associate with the Dave Matthews brand. Most of the line-up are big name acts, many of whom have stopped by Cville on their own tours through the years, so that might make the trek to Atlantic City (other stops are New York, Chicago, and Washington state) well worth the effort.
Keep your eye out for: The Flaming Lips (Charlottesville Pavilion favorites), O.A.R., Dr. Dog, Thievery Corporation, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Fitz and the Tantrums, and, of course, the Dave and the boys.
The Festy Experience
Roseland, Nelson County
The Festy is more than just a music festival– it's an outdoor adventure with on-property camping (beginning on Thursday, before the music starts), a 5K/10K trail run race, and the Devil's Backbone Challenge mountain bike race. And, of course, three full days of bluegrass, folk, and rock at the Devil's Backbone Brewery. "It's the outdoor experience you wouldn't get in a club or amphitheater," says Festy producer Michael Allenby. The brainchild of the members of the jambandy bluegrass ensemble The Infamous Stringdusters, the Festy is a carefully curated mix of gold-standard music, raucous personalities, and high-energy performers.
Keep your eye out for: The Festy has not released its full lineup, but look for Carl Anderson and Love Canon to be among the local performers.
FloydFest X, as festival promoters are dubbing it, presents the best bluegrass, indie rock, and folk of the past decade as the this southwestern Virginia mainstay hits its 10-year anniversary. Known for rowdy and diverse line-ups as well as a picturesque Blue Ridge setting, FloydFest attracts national acts, regional favorites, and even some kitschy side shows– trapeze, anyone?
Keep your eye out for: Old Crow Medicine Show, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Larry Keel & Natural Bridge, William Walter & Co., Toma Que Toma, Morwenna Lasko and Jay Pun
Rooster Walk 3
Now in its third year, Rooster Walk brings together more than 20 bands for two days of roots rock, folk, and soul. Voted one of the best regional festivals by the Roanoke Times, the Rooster Walk donates all proceeds to the Penn-Shank Memorial Scholarship Fund at Martinsville High School.
Keep your eye out for: Gunchux and Kings of Belmont
The Bands (in their own words)
Band love story: Rob was playing with the Nice Jenkins, and Chad and Tucker were holding it down with Butterhouse. We played together a couple of times, and Gunchux was formed.
Pre-show warm-up: Generally, we like to loosen up with a beer or glass of wine and take a moment to think about the poor faces we're about to melt away.
On-stage presence: We try to let the music speak for itself –Adam Long.
Highlight of 2010: Rooster Walk 2– a lot of great people and a lot of great music. Our highlight of 2011 will be our album release in a couple of weeks…
Favorite festival experience: Smaller festivals like Rooster Walk are awesome, but, man, Bonnaroo will knock your head off. –Tucker Titus
Best thing ever said about your band: I can't believe I just saw you in a bar. You should be playing in front of thousands of people. –Rob Cheatham.
Creepiest groupie moment: Well, we're all married, so we don't really deal. We do, however, get offered free weed on a regular basis. –Tucker Titus
A piano, tambourine, or hand clap makes any song better.
Four albums we'd need on a desert island: Jeff Beck, Blow by Blow; Radiohead, The Bends; Audio book on "How to Get Rescued From a Desert Island for Dummies"; 311, Transistor
Why are music festivals so important to the local music scene? A ton of music? Camping with friends? New bands on the main stage? Oh– and a ton of music? What isn't important about music festivals?
Morwenna Lasko and Jay Pun
Band love story: We met in 2003 during the last semester at Berklee College of Music in Boston. We were in two cultural classes together– "Music of India" and "Intercultural Communications," which kind of illustrates the kind of music we make.
Why Cville? Cville's a great home base for us– we can tour up and down the East Coast and then come back here and still feel like we have normal lives. Also, Peter Chang's restaurant is here.
Pre-show warm-up: A nice five-mile run on a day we play ensures great energy and positive vibes for an amazing performance. –Morwenna.
I'm usually running around making sure everything is in order, but I'd love to have at least 15-30 minutes before we play to listen to music that inspires both of us. –Jay.
On-stage presence: Very focused, meticulous, professional, heartfelt. We enjoy taking our listeners on a musical journey.
Highlight of 2010: Back in November, we played at The Frontier Cafe in Brunswick, Maine, where I got to share the stage with my dad and was honored to have Ned Steinberger (the maker of my five-string electric violin) in the audience. –Morwenna.
We played The Festy with our quartet this past October, which was one of the best times we've had as a band. –Jay.
Favorite festival experience: Before we started playing venues and festivals, the Horizons of Rock Developing Everywhere Tour was my introduction to the festival scene– it was so cool to see bands all day long and see so many people coming together because of music. –Jay.
Best thing ever said about your band: Mary Monsieur of FloydFest said, "When you play, I think angels dance."
Craziest groupie moment: We played a festival in Kansas this past summer, and one of our new fans surprised us with some fried alligator! Considering Morwenna is a pescatarian, we thought it was a pretty funny gift– the rest of us had to try and finish it even though it was some tough meat!
An upright bass and a singing K9 make any song better.
Three albums we'd need on a desert island: U2, Joshuatreeachtungbaby; Pierre Bensusan, Solilai; Joni Mitchell, Hejira
Why are music festivals so important to the local music scene? They're a great way for bands to plant seeds of their music, meet other musicians, and reach new audiences. It's also a wonderful way to create a buzz outside the band's place of origin.
Toma Que Toma
Band love story: I saw Peter performing at the University Chapel and was so excited to find a great flamenco and Latin guitarist after moving here from New York. I waited about six months before giving him a call. We started practicing together, and over the last seven years the group has grown to what it is today. –Kristi O'Brien.
Why Cville? It's small and yet loaded with music and art. You can get an "urban fix" or a "nature fix" in an easy day trip. –Kristen Eberly.
Where else is there? –Tracy Verkerke.
Pre-show warm-up: Stretching, set of technical exercises, then get the belly full with Maya deliciousness. –Berto Sales.
Food, wine, stretches, scales, a little joking around to create a certain relaxed vibe, then– bam!– come out swinging. –Peter Richardson.
On-stage presence: Relaxed, house-party fun, with attitude and passion.
Highlight of 2010: Performing at Maya Restaurant every other Thursday. What we do has become about the community that comes out to see us and sit in regularly and not just about what we bring– that's really what flamenco is all about.
Favorite festival experience: The Mercado Cultural in Salvador, Brazil– an international festival with talent from all over the world on stages and theaters throughout the city for one week– inspirational! –Berto and Madeline Sales.
Best thing ever said about your band: I was in Sneak Reviews wearing our t-shirt, and a guy said, "Toma que Toma, that's a great band."–Tracy.
Creepiest groupie moment: I had someone grab my hand while I was playing, because he didn't like my guitar playing. –Peter.
We love it when people from the audience dance, but one time a well-endowed lady with a short skirt shook it a little too close to my face. –Jorge Carrizosa.
An electric bass and solid groove make any song better.
Three albums we'd need on a desert island: Bari, Ojos de Brujo; Jose Merce, Del Amanecer; Gerardo Nunez, Jucal
Why are music festivals so important to the local music scene anyway? You might go to see three bands and come away having discovered ten.
Music love story: I remember in seventh grade, my friend across the street played guitar and taught me a few chords. I got a band together, played a talent show, and I was hooked. The idea of doing it for a living is very romantic to me.
Why Cville? It's a known fact that Charlottesville is a great place for music. It's also central to quite a few other major markets– NYC, Philly, NC, SC.
Pre-show warm-up: Relaxing with a few good tunes on the iPod and enjoying a beer never hurt anybody.
On-stage presence: It's really important to make the audience comfortable, and if that means making a couple of cheesy jokes, then so be it. I took my shirt off once– but that was a long time ago.
Highlight of 2010: The release of my first solo EP, 20 Something Blues. We had a great double release party at the Southern with Sam Wilson in February. I'm immensely proud of the work– it was a big step for me personally.
Favorite festival experience: When I graduated from high school a friend and I drove out to Colorado for the Telluride Bluegrass festival. It was unbelievably beautiful, and the music was top notch.
Best thing ever said about your music: Someone said I reminded them a bit of Tom Petty right after I'd watched the documentary Runnin' Down a Dream. While I didn't totally agree, I did feel pretty cool.
Creepiest groupie moment: One time a girl called me from South Carolina out of the blue to tell me that she liked one of my songs. I was flattered, but mildly weirded-out just because I wasn't sure where she found my number.
A harmony makes any song better.
Three albums I'd need on a desert island: Anything by Justin Bieber
Why are music festivals so important to the local music scene? They give exposure to the area and inspire people to play.
Music love story: I've wanted to be a musician since the fifth grade– I'd record demo tapes and give them to my teachers. I hope none of them ever surface.
Why Cville? I have not been asked to leave yet.
Pre-show warm-up: Beer curl-ups– 1 and 2 and 3 and 4– throat-coat hot tea is great too!
On-stage presence: I'm actually more nervous at hometown shows than the out-of-town shows because here it's mostly friends, and some of them make it very clear that they intend to judge me the entire time!
Highlight of 2010: The iTunes "Indie Download of the Week" last year was great! I still get updates from people all over the world downloading Swan Dive!
Favorite festival experience: My favorite thus far has to be FloydFest– going there to hear the musical diversity is very refreshing.
Best thing ever said about your music: Friends getting speeding tickets listening to my CD is always nice to hear.
Harmonies make any song better.
Three albums I'd need on a desert island: Definitely the White Album (awesome because it's actually two CDs); Faith No More's Angel Dust (so dark and beautiful); maybe a blank CDR to record the experience of what it's like to be so totally screwed on a desert island.
Why are music festivals so important to the local music scene? It really gives us something to look forward to all year.
Sons of Bill
Band love story: Well, Sam, James, and Abe share parents, so they go way back. James and Seth met in our glory days at JT Henley Middle School. Abe and Todd and Seth met playing in bands around UVA in the early 2000s.
Why Cville? It's one of the best places in live in the whole country.
Pre-show warm-up: Make fun of Todd doing snare rolls on his practice pad. Tune up. Say a prayer. Hit the stage.
On-stage presence: We're just ringleaders; the crowd is the main event.
Highlight of 2010: Recording our third album with David Lowery at Sound of Music Studios in Richmond. Hopefully it'll be out this summer.
Favorite festival experience: I went to one of the first Bonnaroos when I was about 19 or 20. It was crazy. I went to see Primus play the 2-5am show. I woke up lying on my back in the mud– I was stone sober, but had fallen asleep standing up from pure exhaustion. –Seth.
Best thing ever said about your band: We got a guy through his divorce.
Best groupie moment: We were playing South by Southwest in Austin, and some girl from Ohio shows up with a handmade "Joey's Arm" [a popular SofB song] t-shirt.
A bass drum makes any song better.
Three albums we'd need on a desert island: We would kill the boredom of being on a desert island by arguing about which albums we should have brought. If we compromised, it would be Exit 0 by Steve Earle, Darkness at the Edge of Town by Springsteen, and Tom Petty's Greatest Hits. Or maybe Metallica's Black Album– that's made a popular resurgence in the van recently.
Why are music festivals so important to the local music scene? Music should be about community. That gets lost or diluted in the Internet age, but it just smacks you over the head when you're at a festival. And it's the best place to get drunk and sunburned without having to pretend you care about horse racing.
William Walter & Co
Band love story: The usual– we all got really hammered one night and woke up together, with our instruments on, jamming out in our sleep. So it seemed natural to stay together after that. –Stuart Holme. I'm in love with Tucker's mom. –William Walter.
Why Cville? It's a great place to be if you're interested in the arts, but what this area has to offer is far more than that in the way of organic local farms, wineries, and awareness of the handcrafted. It's just beautiful country. –Tucker Rogers.
Pre-show warmup: Moving the equipment, PA, and lights to the stage. Definitely gets the blood flowing. –Stuart. Usually a shot and beer and a few minutes to hang out with all the players beforehand to lock in the vibe. –Tucker.
On-stage presence: Honest, committed to the music much more so than the drama. If you want drama and theater, go see Lady Gaga. If you want to see some guys play great tunes and take them somewhere cool, come see us. –Stuart.
Highlight of 2010: Stage right speaker stack toppled over by a crowd in Richmond and narrowly missed killing keyboard player Adam Silvers. –William.
Favorite festival experience: FloydFest. It was laid-back, beautiful, and had plenty of reggae bands. To now be playing that festival is incredibly cool, fulfilling, and fun. –Stuart.
Best thing ever said about your band: "It's good to hear a band like they used to be in the '70s." –Stuart. Someone said something good? –William.
Best groupie moment: Woke up married. –William.
An [acoustic] bass drum makes any song better.
Three albums we'd need on a desert island: The last three live recordings so we could all listen to the mix. –William.
Why are music festivals so important to the local music scene anyway? Because live music never goes out of style, gets old, or tries to be anything but what is right there in front of you. –Tucker.