Review | Photos | The Festy Experience | Virginia

Words by: Boo Cranwell | Images by: Roger Gupta

The Festy Experience :: 10.05.12-10.07.12 :: Devil's Backbone Brewing Company :: Roseland, VA

Full review below photo gallery!

The Infamous Stringdusters by Roger Gupta
Back in 2009, Cerberus Productions and The Infamous Stringdusters realized they had the means and the know-how to create the perfect festival. Marking its third year in existence, The Festy Experience is clearly created by visionary professionals. Located in beautiful and rustic Nelson County, Virginia, The Festy Experience is precisely that: an experience.

Pulling into the concert grounds at Devil’s Backbone, festival goers are scurrying back and forth scouting out the perfect camping spot for the weekend. A family-friendly camping area is situated just far enough away that small children won’t be disturbed by loud music or moonshine addled bluegrass fans. Closer to the music, pitch-and-park campers are setting up shop: digging fire-pits, laughing jovially and sipping Appalachian firewater.

As familiar notes of bluegrass float across the grounds; ears perk up and campers drop what they’re doing—drawn to the energetic tones emanating from the main stage. Keller & The Keels are bringing the heat with jam-infused bluegrass. Jenny Keel boldly plucks thick, chocolaty bass notes that weave Keller and Larry Keel’s intense guitar riffs into powerful melodies.

Trampled By Turtles by Roger Gupta
Keller and The Keels are a hard act to follow, but Trampled By Turtles are up to the challenge, pulling out high-energy favorites like “Wait so Long.” Looking out, a cloud of dust can be seen rolling over the audience: boots are stomping erratically, desperately trying to keep up with an unrelenting mandolin. No one would be surprised if Ryan Young’s fiddle burst into flames mid-concert. There is something deeply spiritual about TBT’s lyrics; especially when paired with the folksy instruments that whisper wordless secrets to your soul.

Melding incredibly complex solos into a cohesive melody that demands you dance and stomp your feet, the Infamous Stringdusters please the audience with bluegrass favorites like “Get it while you can.” Intensely positive energy spills over the stage and covers the crowd in golden vibrations of elation. The Stringduster’s phenomenal music may distract you; you may feel an undeniable urge to relax your eyes, stomp your feet, hoop, holler and carry on—but don’t forget to watch the musicians. Each Stringduster dances passionately with the love of his life: his instrument.

The night ends on an extremely high note as the audience shouts the lyrics to “Cripple Creek” back to the Stringdusters who are smiling from ear to ear. Laughter fills the air as campers head back to their campsites to prepare for the next day, which begins early with activities for the old and young: morning yoga, a costume parade for children and workshops with Larry Keel and Andy Falco, Infamous Stringdusters guitarist, allow festival-goers to pick the brains of these talented musicians.

Rubblebucket by Roger Gupta
Saturday afternoon, people are lounging comfortably under streamer bedecked event tents accented with golden cornstalks and listening to very smooth jazz delivered by the John D'Earth Cohort. Cool jazz is the perfect break from fast-paced bluegrass. John D’Earth impresses his listeners as each member of his Cohort does his own thing-instrumentally-while remaining cohesive and purposeful. It is a perfect cool-down-compliment to the bluegrass.

As the evening approaches hoards of festy-varians return to their camps to eat, rest and prepare for the much anticipated show of the evening: Rubblebucket. This psychedelic group knows how to get the audience pumped to party. Each musician sports a lighted, electric-blue vest while their homemade robot props dance amongst the crowd. When asked about the vests and robot props, bandleader Adam Toth shares that they “love doing antics and costuming . . . [they] wanted to take it to the next level but still [remain] on the DIY budget and vibes.” Rubblebucket finishes their set by dancing through the crowd and jokingly harassing members of the sound booth with deafening horn-blows to the head.

The Stringdusters close with the final scheduled show of the evening. Chris Pandolfi’s banjo sharply clucks along while rhythm guitarist Andy Falco dominates every guitar solo. As the set comes to an end, bluegrass lovers settle in around the numerous campfires for some late night pickin’ and grinnin’, overjoyed and extremely appreciative of how much effort was put into making The Festy a delightful experience. Those who created this festival truly know what their patrons want and need: comfort, beauty, and exquisite music.

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[Published on: 10/22/12]

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