FloydFest: Beyond the Headliners Part II

The time is near to leave behind the daily grind and head to the hills to soak up the magic, music, and mountains of FloydFest ’16. Before you do, we’re back with Part II of FloydFest: Beyond the Headliners. Part I featured the indie folk sounds of Colorado group Elephant Revival, the ever so funky Con Brio, and the sweet bluesy rock of The Honey Island Swamp Band. Since FloydFest is bringing 100 different artists over nine stages in five days, we wanted to take another look at a few of the festival’s “must-sees.”
Nakho and Medicine for the People
Sitting extremely close to the headliners, this quintet out of Portland, Oregon, is led by singer/songwriter Nahko Bear, who uses his powerful voice and lyrics as a catalyst for positive change. The music itself is a mix of upbeat tempos and layered sounds as the band combines funky hip hop and indie folk rock with a dash of tribal soul.

Elephant Revival

FloydFest: Beyond the Headliners

We are less than one week away from FloydFest ’16 Dreamweavin’, where more than 100 artists will perform on the festival’s nine stages over five days. That’s a whole lot of music to cover. Headliners Gregg Allman, Warren Haynes, Bruce Hornsby, Leftover Salmon, and even more recent wildfire Nathaniel Rateliff, are on most festival-goers radar. So, we wanted to go beyond the headliners and take a look at a few other “must sees” at FloydFest this year.

Elephant Revival
Considering this band recently sold out its first headlining show at Red Rocks Amphitheater, there’s a good chance many of you already know a little something about this folksy quintet out of Nederland, Colorado. For those of you who don’t, now is a good time to pay attention.

Gary Jackson, Lord of the Veil, Part I

There was the time that comedian Rodney Dangerfield walked out of the green room buck naked, threw his arm around Gary Jackson and took a stroll down the hallway at Washington, D.C.’s Constitution Hall.

“He wasn’t buck naked,” Jackson corrected. “He had his shoes and socks on.”

A minor detail perhaps to those who encountered the pair on the stroll that day many years ago before the first of two shows in one day.

While it wasn’t the most pivotal moment in Jackson’s career, it certainly numbers among the most memorable. That’s saying a lot, considering that Jackson has been a promoter, sound man, and general maestro of music shows and other entertainment for nearly a half century now.

Brittany Sparks

Artist Spotlight: Brittany Sparks

“I joined chorus in junior high school and would get goose bumps every time we would sing together in harmony. That’s when I decided that I wanted to be that vocalist. The one who gives you goose bumps.”

“I was 15 the first time I ever sang on stage with a live band and my knees were knocking. It was at Roanoke’s Festival in the Park and the crowd response was overwhelming. It was so emotional that I cried afterwards. I felt like I had found my home.”

“In 2011, my mom passed away unexpectedly. I still miss her every day. She could belt the blues like no other. During my shows she would yell song requests at the top of her lungs and have ‘conversations’ with the sound crew about ‘turning the damned guitar down so she could hear her baby girl.’ She always encouraged me to pursue my passion and supported every one of my musical endeavors. I’m fairly confident that if I stopped singing, she would haunt my ass until I started again.”

Red Clay River

Red Clay River: Rising Again

“Born in the shadows of the Blue Ridge Mountains, with one foot in heaven and one in hell.” Self-described genre-bending band Red Clay River has a history as weathered and soulful as the Southern Gothic blues songs they create and perform. The tale of Red Clay River is one of heartbreak, hard work and redemption. From the challenge of creating music with band members located all over the state, to being robbed of all of their instruments and equipment while on tour, to making a risky comeback after a 6-year hiatus—Red Clay River has never shied away from a challenge.

The individuals that make up this outfit are as passionate and hard-hitting about what they do as the guttural wails that rise up and out of their lead singer and guitarist, Dan Bivins. With a recent and well-received return to the scene, there are many questions about where the band is headed next and what we can expect from them. Before we dip our feet in, perhaps we should explore how, where and when this River started flowing.

Kris Hodges FloydFest

Kris Hodges: Leader of the FloydFest Tribe

“Every FloydFest has been different in its own elation and pain. I think the greatest art comes from that. Erika and I started FloydFest for the pure love of presenting the highest quality art and music experience possible. Something authentic. Something that wasn’t contrived or regurgitated. I believe strongly in the social power of art and music. I had the vision for FloydFest before we even put it on. I knew that anything was possible and that Floyd was the perfect canvas to paint on. And there were a lot of trials and tribulations and a lot of struggle but I never had a doubt in my mind that FloydFest would not make it. I never did. Like with any art, you’re going to create it no matter what. Whether the money is there is irrelevant. The pure drive to create art is motivation. So we started to create art. In a big way.”

Milepost #170.5 just past the Rocky Knob visitor’s center along the Blue Ridge Parkway is an idyllic piece of countryside. For most of the year, the majority of traffic along the parkway is comprised of cyclists, hikers and those out for a slow-paced afternoon drive. A quick park of the car at the visitor’s center and moments later you can find yourself in solitude, meandering along a path with stunning mountain vistas; one where you’re likely to run into more cows than people.

George Penn

Artist Snapshot: George Penn Jr

“Growing up as a little kid in the ‘70s, my first exposure to music was soul and funk. My father, George Penn Sr., was an R&B blues drummer here in the valley and some of my earliest memories are of him practicing with his band. Dad took me to see ‘The Godfather of Soul’ James Brown and The Jackson 5, and when I was twelve he gave me my first set of drums. I had a natural ear for rock music and fell in love with all the classics. To this day, my style is a fusion of rock and soul, sprinkled with a little jazz and reggae.”

“Music and drumming provide me continual inspiration. I’m in a state of total bliss when engaging with the audience. There seems to be a lot of confusion and division in society that’s rooted in paranoia. All of the strife and negativity breaks my heart some days. I believe that music can be the unifier, it has power. I just want to help spread peace and love through music.”

Spot on Kirk

The Spot on Kirk

If you happen upon The Spot on Kirk on any random afternoon, you won’t see much more than a long, narrow room with four walls, some brick, and a small, rectangular black stage. To grasp the beauty of this quaint space, you’ll need to be there when the magic happens.

Six to eight nights a month, The Spot on Kirk comes alive with special acts that visit Roanoke. The formula is simple: An intimate room with great sound where artists put their crafts on full display to an audience of no more than 130 people. Not all great music is suited for bars, and in this venue the fans follow along to every note played and sung.

The music is the catalyst for the magic. An acoustic act like Jim Lauderdale, who played the venue last month, is a fitting example. Lauderdale shared stories and songs from his long repertoire of music that includes 26 studio albums, plus collaborations and recordings with the likes of Patty Loveless, Ralph Stanley, Lee Ann Womack, Buddy Miller and more. In between each song, he kept the audience engaged with quick wit and spirited conversation. At one point in his set, Lauderdale asked for fellow musicians in the room to raise their hands. A few popped up and Lauderdale called one of them, a lucky “Scott from Radford,” to the stage where they performed “The Day the Devil Changed,” a song off Lauderdale’s most recent album, “I’m a Song.” By the end of the three-hour show, the audience was still hanging on every note, and there was little doubt that Lauderdale was only slightly joking when he opened the show with the declaration, “We’re going to have more fun than the law will allow.”