FloydFest 8: Revival | 07.23-26 | VA

Saturday, 07.25

Nathan & The Zydeco Cha Chas
"We usually start at 10 p.m.," said a groggy-looking Samantha Crain to her late Saturday morning audience. "We had to be here at 10 a.m. I'll try to wake-up." She did and woke us up as well with her spunky acoustic rock & roll. Like MerleFest and LEAF, an early slot at Floyd isn't a lousy gig for the bands - the fans are there for music as early as it starts.

By noon, Saturday reached full-party mode, with Nathan and the Zydeco Cha-Chas urging the main stage audience to "Take off your shoes, because I'm gonna sock it to ya!"

After a quick listen to local hip-hop/funk combo Blount Harvey, the day's first big dose of excitement came during Yarn's set in the beer garden. The band sounds more like Oxford, MS than their hometown of Brooklyn, NY. In song after song, impeccable harmonies gave way to epic build-ups that took flight behind Kang-esque electric mandolin. In the early afternoon on the festival's smallest stage, the sound Yarn gave their audience could have filled an arena.

Ollabelle, the project of Levon Helm's daughter Amy Helm, was a bit of a disappointment after Yarn's soaring spectacle. The band sounded best on covers like "Long Black Veil" and "Corrina, Corrina," but their energy seemed low and better fit for a smaller venue then their main stage slot.

We soon headed back to the beer garden for Sol Driven Train. The Charleston, SC group played heavy on the horns for what was likely the weekend's most crowded show in the beer garden, highlighted by a rollicking version of Paul Simon's "Late in the Evening" and a group drum jam.

Rain clouds approached across the mountains as the day progressed, seemingly playing to a perfect Donna the Buffalo setlist. The deluge began halfway through "40 Days and 40 Nights," followed by a perfect "Mystic Water." Although Donna's set was fairly standard, the rain and subsequent rainbow made the show magical. Tara Nevins led off "Blue Skies" just as the sun peaked back through, destined to remain out the rest of the day.

The Felice Brothers :: FloydFest 8
Saturday's champions were The Felice Brothers, who ripped the Hill Holler Stage apart like the barn they were apparently raised in. From knocking over drum sets to showering the crowd with water, if the faux-country band can keep up their New York redneck energy as their fame grows they'll have lasting power. The festival set featured favorites like "Run Chicken Run" and "Penn Station," which made the crowd scream for more. The Brothers might have obliged them had the drums not been in disarray from fiddler Greg Farley tackling them head first to close the set.

With Toubab's Friday show cut short by the power outage, the band came out Saturday ready to impress. With very little speaking or intentional stage presence, Justin Perkins focused on the guitar over the kora, almost sounding like Dick Dale at times. Favorite moments included bass player David Pransky donning a wild four-foot-tall hat made of balloons and the tune "Nirvana the Buffalo," fitting for a set that followed Donna's show on the same stage.

Although some questioned Blues Traveler as a suitable major festival headliner in the year 2009, the band proved on Saturday night that they've still got their H.O.R.D.E. tour chops. All of John Popper's past dramas haven't affected his harp playing, and while "Run Around" and "Hook" came off tired, "But Anyway" sounded good as new. Popper brought out Survivorman's Les Stroud to jam with him, and the outdoor badass/TV star showed up and held his own with America's most famous harmonica player in one of the weekend's most anticipated (and downright cool) moments.

Three days in, we danced as hard as we could to The Dynamites featuring Charles Walker before crashing hard.

Continue reading for Sunday's coverage of FloydFest...

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