~ The following is a slightly edited version of a story that appeared in The Floyd Press on July 22, 2010.
For 9 years now Floydfest has been growing its reputation of presenting quality music entertainment, arts and crafts, performance arts, healing arts, and family-centered fun. This year’s theme “Breaking Ground” refers to the progress that’s been made and the fruition the four day event is enjoying as a premiere eco-friendly festival, say its founders Kris Hodges and Erika Johnson.
Opening today through Sunday, the festival features 10 performance stages for more than 100 bands on 80 acres off the Blue Ridge Parkway (milepost 170.5). With a vibrant Children’s Universe, a Global Village, outdoor camping, dance performances and lessons, hammock stargazing, bike trails, free workshops on holistic health, homemade ice cream and solar smoothies, a food court that uses bio-degradable utensils and composts its waste, music workshops at the Folk Life Workshop Porch, a regional wine and microbrew garden, sustainability awareness and primitive life skills presentations (including a cow name Primrose for a milking workshop), the festival is about so much more than music. “It’s really like nine festivals for the price of one,” Johnson joked, playing on the number 9.
But music remains the festival mainstay and has a history of showcasing the cutting edge, the renowned and under the radar regional, national, and international acts. This year’s line-up boasts Levon Helm, best known as the drummer for The Band and lead vocalist of Band hits like Up on Cripple Creek, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, and The Weight. Helm’s 2007 solo album Dirt Farmer won him a Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album.
Other festival headliners include Grace Potter and The Nocturnals, recently named one of the ‘Best New Bands of 2010’ by Rolling Stone magazine, and Old Crow Medicine Show, who Public Radio host Garrison Keillor said was “one of the greatest bands that A Prairie Home Companion has ever had the pleasure to host.” The Harrisonburg band now based out of Nashville seems to channel early Bob Dylan in their song Down Home Girl, featured on the floydfest webpage (floydfest.com).
Americana jamband Railroad Earth will be returning for Floydfest 9, as will Charlottesville’s Hackensaw Boys, whose CD “Lookout” was reviewed as having a “celebratory but defiant sound culled from old-time mountains, backstage doorways and punishing drives through the evolving American landscape.” (Isthmus: The Daily Page).
Wayne Henderson and Crooked Road friends will be performing at Hill Holler stage. Blacksburg’s Dot Dot Dash will be playing a contra dance in the Dance Tent, and 34 bands will be competing in this year’s Under the Radar Series. The audience chosen favorite wins a monetary prize, studio time, and an invitation back to the festival to play on a main stage.
Always breaking new ground, Hodges and Johnson add new attractions every year. This year’s “must see” new highlight is Flam Chen, a performance art troupe that combines daredevil acrobatics, pyrotechnics, and a mastery of light, air, and fire. “They’ll be flying about 16 helium balloons 100 feet in the in air,” Hodges reported. “There’s going to be a stilt walker in costume raised up into the balloons doing aerial dance. We’re going to have flares, a huge light show, and about 2 dozen fire dancers below in a sort of Cirque du Soleil festival show.”
Also new this year, is a teen scene in the Global Village’s Imagine Tent, where Rebel Dharma and Inward Bound Mindfulness Education (iBme) will be hosting a place for teens to engage in conscious raising games and workshops, meditation, African drumming and dancing, spoken word performances, and more.
John Marye, who moved with his wife to Floyd from Petersburg, Virginia, in 2008 is looking forward to “the whole experience.” The first time Floydfester will be earning weekend tickets as a parking volunteer. “I’ve heard great things about it. We have wanted to go but never had the chance,” Marye said.
Also enthusiastic about attending Floydfest for the first time, Pierre Bouchard wants to hear The Budos Band. “It’s an Afro/Soul/Funk band that seems to have fallen right out of the 70’s. I’ve been following them for the past four years,” he said.
Nick Gucciardo, who says he will be juggling working at his family’s restaurant with the four day Floydfest weekend, is particularly interested in catching the music of Galactic, a jazz/funk band from New Orleans, and Konono No 1, an African band that incorporates thumb pianos (likembés), singers, dancers, a megaphone sound system, along with makeshift percussion of pots and pans and car parts.
Groundbreaking since its inception, Floydfest is still breaking ground, both musically and with its commitment to clean and green sustainability. “Breaking Ground is what we’re all trying to do and I can see it happening in my personal life and in the festival,” Hodges noted. Pointing out the past hurdles the festival has faced and the years of careful tending before its flowering, he added, “It’s all about sowing seeds of hope and healing.” ~ Colleen Redman
Post notes: The day after I interviewed Kris and Erika for this Floydfest preview story, I got interviewed by Lindsey Macdonald who was writing a preview story on Floydfest for the New River Voice. Check it out HERE. Look at photos and read about past festivals in my Floyd Festing archives HERE.