Since its humble beginnings in 2002, FloydFest has made steady progress to become one of the must attend events of the summer. Nestled in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, the festival continues to only get better with deeper line-ups and family-friendly activities that aim to achieve Across-the-Way Productions’ mission to “be the best music experience of our time.”
FloydFest has become the go-to “happy place” for thousands of loyal fans who have developed their own tribes within the five-day long event. Whether there strictly for the music, or some combination of healing arts and outdoor activities which range from mountain biking, trail running, river floating, and hiking, festival-goers are sure to find kindred spirits who will deepen the experience and create lasting friendships.
The vibe at FloydFest has always been one of unity and love. People converge at milepost 170.5 on the Blue Ridge Parkway for the festival to have a good time, and that feeling permeates the crowd, along with the rhythms of music from the nine different stages. The festival consistently delivers an eclectic lineup of genres to meet the diverse musical interests of the crowds and provide unique experiences for both fans and artists alike.
This year, the assorted blend of musical groups is immediately apparent in the headliners alone. Kicking off the headliners on Thursday night is the D.C.- based Thievery Corporation, a group that defines eclecticism with its electronic blend of jazz, samba, soul, and hip-hop. Friday night features the always fun-loving, positive hip-hop reggae vibes of Michael Franti & Spearhead. Saturday is a double header, as festival new-comer St. Paul & the Broken Bones brings its soul-infused rock to the Hill Holler stage. This set follows the return of the Buffalo Mountain Super Jam which features an amalgamation of bands spearheaded by Americana favorites Leftover Salmon. The festival starts to wind down on Sunday with the infamous country sounds of Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives.
While the headliners are often a big part of the draw, FloydFest regulars have come to appreciate that the richness of the experience comes from discovering new acts that might not have been on their radar. Through the years, a key to the success of the festival has been co-founder Kris Hodges’ knack for identifying artists just before they get big. The Avett Brothers is probably the most notable. They played for free as part of the On the Rise series in 2004 and then blew up. Grace Potter is another, as is Megan Jean, The Mantras, and Pappa Dozi, and the list goes on.
Given the nearly 100 acts set to perform at FloydFest, there’s ample room for discovery of new music. Here’s a quick highlight of a few of the bands we’re partial to.
The Steel Wheels last played FloydFest in 2010. Since then, this Americana band has gone on to launch its own music festival, Red Wing Roots Festival, held in mid-July in Mount Solon, VA. The group also recently released its fifth studio album, “Wild as We Came Here,” and added Kevin Garcia, formerly of The Duhks, on drums.
“We see Floyd as the unofficial mentor of the festival world,” lead singer Trent Wagner said in a recent interview. “It’s really cool to be able to come back and have the experience to play. We like to mix things up and will bring a lot of energy to the stage. People can expect a lot of harmonies, guitar solos, and plenty of banjo and drums.”
Saturday, 11:15am Dreaming Creek Main Stage
Sunday, 7:00pm Speakeasy stage
Practically a perfect band for the FloydFest tribes. This duet from L.A. has just released its third album much to joy of critics and a growing fan base, yet many people still have never heard of them. The band blends gritty southern-flavored rock with the banjo based Americana sounds that set the stage for singer Suzanne Santos soulful voice. The band’s live performances are unique blends of styles and tempos intended to respond to what that crowd needs that night.
Saturday, 12:00pm Ferrum Workshop Porch
Saturday, 2:45pm Hill Holler
Sunday, 1:15pm Hill Holler
While Big Something isn’t new to the festival scene, this is the group’s first appearance at FloydFest. Heralding from Burlington, NC, this alt-rock band delivers powerful sounds that fuse rock, funk, and jam band elements into something wholly new. Big Something is another FloydFest band with its own music festival. Now in its 6th year, The Big What comes to central NC, Aug. 17 – 19. Big Something fusion of dance, light, and sound, makes it the perfect night cap following Thursday night’s headliner, Thievery Corporation.
Thursday, 12:00am Hill Holler
Friday, 6:15pm Dreaming Creek Main Stage
Flatpicking guitar virtuoso, Larry Keel returns to FloydFest for three shows which should each prove to be unique. The Ferrum Workshop Porch tends to bring the audience in closer, and permits the players to have a more intimate performance. Larry Keel on the Hill Holler stage is an invitation to get up and dance to his faster paced songs. While his participation in the Buffalo Mountain Jam will leave you slackjawed at the speed, precision, and beauty with which he plays guitar. If you haven’t had the privilege of seeing him perform yet, remedy that ailment this week. You’ll be glad you did.
Saturday, 12:45pm Hill Holler
Saturday, 8:15pm Ferrum Workshop Porch
With Buffalo Mountain Jam, Saturday 10:15pm Dreaming Creek Main Stage
For a complete list of bands, activities, and all other pertinent FloydFest information, visit Floydfest.com. This year’s festival also features the first FloydFest App, designed for both Android and Apple, and is the easiest way to view the schedule of bands.