Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Festy - October 9 - 10 - Nelson County, Va

"The Festy Experience" happened on October 9-10 in the backyard of the Devil's Background Brewery in Nelson County, Virginia. Located at the foot of the mountain where the Wintergreen resort is located, this first time music festival had a great debut and hopefully will become a regular annual event. The musical hosts were the Infamous Stringdusters who played both Saturday and Sunday nights. We camped on site with friends in our handy pop up camper while a group of other friends rented a house a few miles away up at Wintergreen.

Despite the awkward name (apparently "Festy" is a derivative of the Stringdusters guitarist Andy Falco's nickname "Cresty")

The festival site was very nice, the weather was perfect, and the music was outstanding. I was anticipating that there may be logistical problems, given that this was a first time festival, but the organizers pulled it off without a hitch. There's a nice write up on Facebook (search for "Festival Project") about what it takes to put on a good festival. Michael Allenby, one of the organizers, is quoted as saying, “This is a prototype, a rough draft and we turned it in and got an A-.  The teacher was happy.  There were a couple things we would do differently, but we nailed it, for a rough draft.”  I couldn't agree more. All of the basic essentials (e.g. parking, camping, food, drink, restrooms, stage and sound) were done well, and most importantly there was a festival "vibe" that permeated the all of the volunteers and patrons. Everyone was warm and friendly, enjoying the music, and happy to be together on a beautiful fall weekend. That is, by definition, "festival". 

On Sunday there was even a bike race. If it had been a bike "ride" I would have signed up, but I'm not into the racing thing. But Travis Burns, bassist of the Stringdusters is, and apparently he did pretty well in the event. You can check it out here .

There was a main stage and between acts there a second smaller stage at the opposite end of the field. The acts on the second stage were very good, but I got into a sort of rhythm where after each act on the main stage I would head back to the campsite to take a break and enjoy a cool beverage. What about the music?  Well the Saturday line up was incredible. 

Robinella started things off, singing and playing guitar with her husband. She has more of a late night, smoky club, jazz feel to her voice and songs, it was nice but seemed out of place in the middle of a sunny day. But a good start nevertheless. She was followed by Crooked Still. They've played at other festivals I have attended, but this was the first time I sat down and really listened to them. Well worth the effort, it was quite entertaining. Aoife O'Donovan's beautiful vocals and the rest of the band's instrumental prowess were very impressive. Back to the campsite for a Bubba, then right back to the main stage to see Old School Freight Train, one of our favorite "newgrass" bands. They came on with plenty of energy and enthusiasm and raised the musical bar another notch. These guys have a great song catalog, and like Railroad Earth, they are hard to classify as they rock out much more than the "grass/string label" would imply. Then the pace changed as bluegrass legend Tony Rice took the stage with his band, the Tony Rice Unit. Straight, classic, pickin'. Done right, the way it's supposed to be. As the sun set, the Infamous Stringdusters came out and did a fun, uplifting set. You could tell they were just as excited about hosting the Festy as we were about being there. The Saturday night closers were Railroad Earth, who released their latest CD two days after this show. They played a great set as always, featuring a couple of songs from the new album. We especially liked "The Jupiter and the 119" and "Black Elk Speaks".  October 9 would have been John Lennon's 70th birthday and the band commemorated that with a beautiful version of "Across the Universe" with Aoife from Crooked Still helping out on vocals. I was spent after hearing all of this music, but the Bird went on and checked out the late night jam on the second stage, featuring "Love Cannon Super Jam" playing nothing but top hits from the '80's in bluegrass style. Rick Springfield's "Everybody's Working for the Weekend", Thomas Dolby's "Blinded Me with Science", ZZ Top's "Legs",  and many more. Wish I could have seen that!

Sunday morning we had a very nice breakfast buffet at the Devil's Backbone Brewery which included a first for me, a make your own Bloody Mary bar! Great way to start the day. Then we were packing and driving so I was only able to catch Larry Keel and Natural Bridge, a super talented guitar player who deserves way more attention than he seems to get. I was sorry that I didn't get to stick around for another set by the Stringdusters and to see Toubab Krewe, but I still left satisfied with all of the great music that we saw on Saturday. 

We'll definitely be putting the Festy Experience on our rotation for the 2011 festival circuit!

No comments:

Post a Comment