FloydFest X | Virginia | Review

By: Tiffany Narron

FloydFest X :: 07.28.11-07.31.11 :: Blue Ridge Parkway :: Floyd, VA

Carolina Chocolate Drops @ FloydFest X by Tiffany Narron
Over the hills and through the woods, down and around the twisty curves of the entrancing Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia, a tiny little town is brought to life. It was a town not many had probably heard of or ventured over to before a few adventurous souls decided to create this innovative, family-friendly music and arts festival. This four day gathering was initially rounded up in 2002 featuring amazing, soulful music, hundreds of small self-made, fair trade and good intentioned artists, a great mix of holistic and healing workshops, and an array of handmade, home spun delicious food and beer.

The town: Floyd. The people that brought it all together: Across the Way Productions. The ticket price: $140, but the feeling you get after spending four days in sheer and utter heartfelt bliss is completely priceless.

“I definitely got a very comfortable vibe and feeling from everyone,” said attendee and fan Andy Rudd. “It felt more like a community than any other festival that I have been to. The music was great, the bands were perfectly spaced- even playing two slots - and there were just a lot of different activities going on. It was a good ol’ time all around.”

On the way up to Floyd, the hills roll for days. There are cow pastures, immense clear blue skies, families running in their yards, hay bales and goats - all set to the backdrop of the enormous and entrancing Blue Ridge Mountains.

Once inside, you enter the ultimate 4 day adult circus- 10 stages spread over 80 entrancing acres, over 100 musicians ranging from bluegrass to punk rock to electronica, plus world-class fire spinners, thousands of hula hoopers, and one helluva shakedown spiraling out on every little dusty path in any direction you might wander.

Toubab Krewe
Thursday kicked off with one mean crowd on the scene - over 15,000 tickets sold and camping in every direction packed in tight. On the main stage, headliner Old Crow Medicine Show kicked up some serious Southern attitude, spinning out bluegrass high steps and super twang, drawlin’ and hootin’ about corn liquor and cocaine. The crowd was in full swing, twirling around, twisting their skirts and digging their boots deep into the Virginia dirt.

Afterwards, the crowd split and wandered in various directions, many to vibe out on the soothing Middle Eastern grooves of Asheville favorite and third-time returning Floydfestians Toubab Krewe. The band lured the crowd in with their twinkly up-tempo lullaby harmonies, picking and strumming their light, floaty African instruments such as the kora and kamelngoni. The spacey harmony melds quickly into a folksy, world jam as other members jump in with heavier, deep rooted beats, adding drums, congas and bass. The crowd stepped with it, rocking and jumping with the smooth roller coaster ride that Toubab always brings.

“It's an incredibly special piece of land,” said Luke Quaranta, percussionist of Toubab Krewe. “And it is because of that land and the people in that space that you get such an incredible sense of place. It just breeds something special. And you feel that energy in the air- that people are there to do more than just party.”

Yard Dogs Road Show by Dave Vann
The moon shone bright as the band winded down right around midnight. The party was only over if you wanted it to be. Not far away, traveling vaudeville/circus troop Yard Dogs Road Show was just setting up their swords, fire, hoops, and dolled up saloon-style ladies. They were playing the Pink Floyd Garden stage, a partier’s Mecca adorned with five breweries, a winery, a smoke shop, and kick ass music 24/7, all nestled under a cozy canopy of trees. With thousands of people swarming the grounds - smiles, laughter, and knee-high striped socks - the party was just getting warmed up.

I awoke Friday to the best breakfast burrito to have ever touched your lips. It was a grilled tortilla taco peppered with cheese and filled to the brim with tons of fresh veggies, lettuce and salsa. It was called “THE VEGGIE THING” made by a few Breakfast Extraordinares in a tiny hut dubbed The Sugar Shack. It only takes one of those to regain all strength in tired limbs and brain cells and hop back out into the 100 degree sun.

Stomach full and music already in full swing at 9:30 am, I ran over to the Vaudeville Stage to shake my Veggie Thing around and learn a few new tricks from hoop superstar Hyperbola. About 30 others joined me in this morning hoop dance, which began with a simple side to side sway and moved into full body jams. There were hoopsters from young to old and beginner to advanced all moving and grooving, finding their rhythm and testing out new skills and tricks - behind the back, over the head, the full body vortex. It’s AMAZING what some people can do with those tiny whisps of plastic.

Carolina Chocolate Drops @ FloydFest X by Tiffany Narron
After working up a good morning sweat, I decided a noon time beer was in order. I was pleasantly surprised to find that in order to enjoy your frothy, alcoholic beverage you had to purchase a silver re-usable drinking container for $6. These sustainable, reusable cups were provided by Klean Kanteen, the original, eco-friendly, BPA-free, steel water bottle company. I heard a few naysayers in the crowd who found it a little absurd but imagine the amount of plastic being saved from the landfill with 15,000 party animals up 24/7 over the course of 4 days! The party spun on with a lively mix of music from classic old time string band Carolina Chocolate Drops to the feel-good bluegrass jams of Railroad Earth. There were also performances every hour on the Forever Young Stage from soon-to-be rock stars. These inspiring performances, dubbed ‘Under the Radar Acts’ came from bar and far and truly brought everything from funk to hip hop to a juggling & singing circus party. They were all part of FloydFest’s UTR series, a competition where the audience casts votes for their favorite up-and-coming superstars. The bands are vying for their chance at winning a killer start-up package including recording time in Blackwater Recording Studio.

A true family friendly, feel good festival, the festivities were geared for music fans, artsy creatives and just good ol’ down home fun lovers of all ages. Not only were there performances by children but for them as well, with workshops, juggling, hula hooping and an open mic. Little music lovers were running around singing and dancing with their faces painted and hair feathered right along with the big kids. A true family festival is hard to find these days, and the FloydFest team really brought to life a unique, sustainable, heartfelt event. Every detail of the festival showed their care for the environment, for supporting local homegrown businesses and artists, and for people in general, providing a safe, fun place for everyone to gather and commune and party, but most importantly to share a moment of solace from the everyday world.

Cyro Baptista Band @ FloydFest X by Tiffany Narron
And making all of this magic happen was only possible through the cooperation of several loving organizations focused on education and outreach. Across The Way Productions partnered with Blue Cow Arts, a Floyd-based public non-profit that works to increase social awareness through music and art and cultural education. They also teamed up with the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, an organization that seeks to understand the past and confront issues today in order to shape a more promising future. Their goal is to discover and share untold stories, encourage lifelong learning, and promote civil discourse. Pretty awesome stuff!

Saturday brought an outstanding set by Brazilian funk experiment Cyro Baptista. The head maestro donned a big fur hat, long hospital-robe gown and tons of fun, homemade toys. Just to give you a taste, he played PVC piping with flip flops! And it sounded amazing!! With a keys player wearing a chicken hat and full-on flower powered onesie, a bassist in a blue jumpsuit and shark hat, two sexy ladies playing drums, dancing around and belting out crazy lyrics, it was a true psychotic funk party!!

Right around the corner were trapeze shows, a reggae set by John Brown's Body and full-on dirty South hoedown with The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band. Partying into the night were electronic groove masters Papadosio accompanied by a rowdy group of fire dancers, spinners and tricksters known as Scintillation Fire. The swirl and twirl of glow in the dark LED hoops were spinning and whipping through the sky, the crowd was in full force late into the night- dancing, drumming and falling in love with the music, the cool Virginia night air, and each other.

David Grisman @ FloydFest X by Tiffany Narron
Sunday rolled on with a powerful front porch set by David Grisman and his ragtag team of strings, flute, and drums. Their music rolled out like butter with light, flowing strings and soft ethereal flute. In between jams, Grisman shared stories on life, playing music, and how he acquired his mandolin. Some cried, many laughed and a few shook their legs and heads. You could feel the intensity in the air of everyone being blessed by such a powerful old-time musician.

The eXperience was over but the memory would never be lost. The friends that were met, the music that was made, and the feeling of oneness with thousands of people are something one can barely put into words. It’s life changing - a shift in your mental attitude that brings you back to remembering that people care, people are good, and we really are all in this thing together. Thank you, Virginia!!! Thank you, Floydfest!!! The eXperience is one I will never forget.

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[Published on: 8/25/11]

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