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By: Sheryl Bryant
Thursday, July 28, 2016
The following series of articles is dedicated in memory of the biggest personality in the Raleigh music scene, Mr. Tony Avery. The community has lost a Champion for the cause with his passing. Nobody in the City of Raleigh had more passion for the Music and gave more support or lifted more spirits of Raleigh area musicians, artists and the music industry as a whole than Tony. If there’s a Rock and Roll Heaven, then you know they got a hell of a Fan. Rest in peace, my brother.
This year the magic, the music and the mountain made up Floydfest 2016’s Dreamweavin’: A Tribe Called Floydfest
Like clockwork, I arrived happily upon the mountain late Thursday morning and joined the Pow Wow already in progress. There are a slew of bands and nine stages on site at Floydfest. Each year the lineup is incredible and this year followed suit. It’s a shame one cannot physically be in multiple places to hear and enjoy all the bands, but obviously that’s not humanly possible. This year I picked randomly, moving from stage to stage and working tirelessly toward giving you a glimpse or snapshot of as many bands and artists from differing backgrounds as possible .
The diversity in the genres presented at Floydfest is incredible. That many of these bands are so talented and committed to loosening the stamp of labeling, or avoiding the genre name game trap altogether is admirable. By their blending some, if not all elements from the jam and improvisational, jazz, blues, bluegrass, rock, soul, dance and Americana, everything is kept fresh and exciting. My goal is in fairness to the newcomers, I try to avoid repetitiveness from past articles, with the possibility of one or two exceptions.
Exception number one is Skribe. First band I saw this Festival and a repeat from last year, that’s how good this artist is. When he brings Gingerwolf on board to play the lap steel guitar, it creates magic. Skribe and the other musicians that play sets with him use self made instruments like the “canojo-zukie” a kick drum made out of an old suitcase. Kazoos are also mandatory. This is sheer imagination and creativity at work, alive and well at Floydfest.
OCTOPUS is a five piece band of jam rockers from Norfolk, VA who played the Pink Floyd Garden Stage on Thursday. They are a little bit Molly Hatchett and a smidgen Jefferson Airplane. On the Rise Artists OCTOPUS gained a spot in the fan chosen competition and rightfully so. Southern rock co-mingling with sixties style classic rock is sure to lead to some action. With Kyle Hills on guitar and vocals, Bruce Henning on bass/vocals, Chris Henning on drums, and Alfred Evans on keyboards/vocals - this band energized the Tribe. It didn’t hurt that OCTOPUS remembered to shake things up by stirring in some funky blues on tunes like the infectious “Bonnie Mae”.
Up at the Dreaming Creek Main Stage, Love Canon rocked out. These guys are from nearby Hillsville, Va. and no doubt when they play their hometown it’s “Chillsville”. I was thoroughly impressed with this band who takes 80’s hits and covers them. Well, sort of. They do more than cover the song, they reinvent it. Any band who can make 80’s hits like “Sledgehammer” interesting and “Angel is the Centerfold” tolerable has my vote. This band goes the extra mile. They even do a great job on the good eighties songs! Love Canon killed ZZ Top’s “Legs”, John Fogerty’s “Old Man Down the Road” and Tears for Fears “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”. I like their thinking. Borrowing from the original and making a better facsimile is like delivering a new product altogether.
Down the path at the Streamline Hill Holler Stage, the DEAD 27’s spread some R&B with a little jelly for a rock and soul sandwich. A five piece outfit who got their start in the Charleston, SC area, the DEAD 27’s shine when churning sixties soul and seventies rock into a savory blend. Songs like “Grey Skies” and “Already Dead” were highlights of a fine set.
Across the hill at the Pink Floyd Garden Stage, Cactus Attack pulled off a full frontal assault. If you like your music loud and rowdy, don’t miss Cactus Attack. Think Steve Earle in the ring with the Georgia Satellites. This set at Floyd was the first of their current tour. Songs about waking up after a drunk and one killer song dedicated to Jesus Christ “wherever he is” were pretty rocking. However, you definitely won’t hear this band in your local church, AMEN. We all love it loud, but members of the crowd expressed the idea that bringing the shouting to a minimum may be really effective for this solid band. Point well taken, and I’m in agreement to minimalize it, but this is a near perfect band for the late night heavy party person.
Bombino graced the Dreaming Creek Stage. The costumes this outfit wears are remarkable. The dancers were blazing in all red. Bombino was dazzling in white and red. This World Music artist and accompanying performers come to Floydfest all the way from Niger. Bombino himself is considered the premier guitarist in Africa and the Tuareg Nation. The music combines traditional native Saharan music with explosive guitar rock. And it works! Kudos to Floydfest for bringing us varying cultures and all types of music to the Festival.
Birmingham, Alabama’s BANDITOS rocked Hill Holler hard. Their punkish bluesy rock even got a little sixties “acidic” at times. This Bloodshot Records band has some raw power. They are high energy boogie. The crowd at Floydfest loves it when rootsy Bluegrass instruments like the banjo go spacey and sonic. I can’t say that I blame them. The BANDITOS great set was wrapped up with a fine rendition of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “Put A Spell On You”. WOW.
The rain set in and the storm got pretty treacherous. Railroad Earth was postponed and played much later than scheduled. With all the lightning and electrical activity, I rode it out from the car where I felt some level of safety. Railroad Earth is phenomenal so I know their set was supreme. Wish I could have been there to experience it.
On the bright side of a dark and ominous night, I was parked just close enough to hear Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats. In all fairness, I knew nothing about the band and was not present at the actual performance. I do know that Rateliff himself is from rural Missouri (who woulda' thunk it?). When I was texted that the band was going onstage, I cracked the window enough to hear the roar. You could almost feel the heat of the music. I had heard Rateliff began as a folk singer/songwriter, but had gone alternative, almost a little extreme, perhaps. I listened to the hit song, "S.O.B" one you'll want to use some discretion on with small children. I have to tell you, from my safe haven, what I heard sounded like the kind of music where you either A: get down with; B: get up and dance to it, or C: wish you could! One way to describe what I heard: volcanic in nature, sometimes erupting with an overflowing of hot drenched soul.
That closes out Thursday, July 28th's Excerpt.
Thank you, Ian of the Dream Team staffing for letting me under your canopy during the rain Thursday. No last name as promised.
Hats off to Sam Calhoun and the Marketing and Media team for making the transition from arrival to “festival ready” as painless as possible. You rock.
Hats off to all Staffing and Management for smoothing the process into Floydfest.
You all rock steady!
Friday, July 29
Each day at Floydfest brings so much more than the unbelievably colorful collage of Music. There are the children who laugh, play and frolic freely, (Skribe so eloquently called them his “adorable mosh pit” ). There are the bright balloons that bobble in the wind. Then there are groups of hacky sackers and backpackers; jugglers and Frisbee enthusiasts. You can see bubble blowers and (controlled environment) flame throwers. There are acrobats and lots of hats. Scattered and tall built are the people on stilts. Centerfield is for the Dreamcatchers that double as worry snatchers. Spotted are Yoga booths and those manned by a masseuse. Passionate activists and environmentalists surround pacifists. Drum circles and purple pinwheels swirl. A place where people don’t use fists, they nicely coexist. Friendly are the Security Police who do not harass and the creative people adorned with all sorts of masks. Yes ,there is a Positive Vibe within the Tribe!
Starting off the day’s music was none other than the Midatlantic who appropriately got their gig going mid-morning. A North Carolina band, from the Wilmington/Cape Fear region of the state, the Midatlantic won the On The Rise contest last year along with co-On The Rise winners, a band from the NC Piedmont named Look Homeward. Raleigh Music Industry is proud of these two bands and rest assured, NC was represented well by both of them.
The Midatlantic played a beautiful set with mandolin, fiddle, a stunning blonde upright bass, guitars, banjo, keyboards , drums and violin. This folksy Newgrass band has written some really sweeping songs like “I’m Leavin’ and “Stealin’ My Heart” which they shared on a lovely Friday morning. Another excellent tune the Midatlantic solidly delivered was “Dance Below Sea Level”. Midatlantic is: Steve Schroeder, (guitar and vocals) Ben Sciance (drums and banjo), Jason Andre (mandolin and vocals), Allan Upham (bass), and Will Maxwell (violin and vocals). Mighty fine job from this rare shell find from Coastal Carolina.
Eye openers Look Homeward had a sensational set as well. This home grown band melds traditional Appalachian music with a spicy touch of the Bayou , and then builds with brass. Their song “Way Back Home” is a lesson in history and inspired by a Confederate officer who fought in the Civil War. Their cover of Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al” was spot-on, as was their version of The Band’s “Ophelia”. Even more touching than the vibrant song set was the story of band member Evan Ringel, who was moved to sign the National Bone Marrow Registry at another music festival, then called upon to make good on his promise the next year. In so doing, he saved the life of a sixty-five year old man who suffered from leukemia. The Music is big, but this gesture is monumental. Look Homeward is Lee Anderson (guitar, vocals), Evan Ringel, (trombone, fiddle), Wilson Greene IV (banjo), and Alex Bingham (upright bass.) The band is blessed with of seamless songwriting skills as well. “Heads Hung Tall” and “Steamboat” are prime song examples.
Atlanta, Georgia‘s Little Tybee are masters of exploration into the untapped. Little Tybee shows no fear of tapping! They emanate a sort of airy, spaced out folk rock vibe that’s hard to put into words sufficiently. So very original in their vision, this band adds a new dimension to styles for FloydFest. (Always looking to forge new frontiers with the music they bring us, this is truly Floydfest’s focus, and they outdid themselves with this gem of a band.) I couldn’t help but think of Rick Wakeman and Yes while listening to Little Tybee’s lead vocalist. Brock Scott’s silky smooth and dreamy vocals are magnetic. This band was a treat to experience live.
Being present at a live performance by the Otis Taylor Band is an explosive experience. Garnering sixteen awards for best blues compilations and boasting 13 award winning albums, Otis Taylor can best be described as top notch and still climbing. His guitar duels on stage with fiddler elite Anne Harris were jaw dropping. She herself was amazing, and if she tires of fiddling or playing the mandolin, exotic dancing would be a lucrative venture for her! She and Otis along with the entire band were on fire. While she was working out with the bow, Otis Taylor was electric on banjo, harmonica and guitar. There’s no doubt he spun a few heads with his “10 Million Slaves” and his take on Jimi Hendrix’s “Hey Joe”, quite possibly the best cover of the entire festival. If that didn’t win the audience over, then his “Hambones” audience participation skit did. Taylor walked down off the stage and into the crowd with his harmonica and headed up a dancing train walk that encircled the stage front.
Alexandro Rose-Garcia, aka “Shakey Graves” is from Austin, Texas. According to his story, he left his family and home at an early age and set out on a journey to uncover the meaning and purpose of Life. He learned to face his fears about what tomorrow would bring , putting those lessons to prose. His verses are stories of hard knocks; overcoming obstacles; winning humbly and losing gracefully. Ever present are the tales of clinging to love and then letting go. Sound familiar? Shakey Graves is a very relative artist indeed. You might say he’s Texas’ answer to Bruce Springsteen. Shakey Graves is a genuine folk hero in Texas and they even named a day in his honor. His messages loom large like his home state. I liken him to a more contemporary Arlo Guthrie if you will. One of his musical influences is said to be Conor Oberst, formerly known as Bright Eyes. Songs like “I'll Be Your Man” and “Steal A Kiss” resonated deeply with the audience.
Originally from Marietta, GA, Rich Robinson, co-founder of the Black Crowes, is a phenomenally good guitarist and prolific songwriter. Hanging back in the shadow of a brother who got much more attention, for years Rich was unintentionally ignored and often underrated by the Press and his colleagues. Thankfully it appears those days are long over. Rich Robinson’s almost two hour set was stellar and one of many high points of the Festival. The band itself was so tight, so cohesive that heads were shaking in awe. I had the lucky spot known as “right up front” and by concert standards, legally earned by parking oneself in said spot early and homesteading. (It was an effort that did not go unrewarded as the touring keyboardist gifted me with Robinson’s own set list after the show’s conclusion!) Rich, his keyboardist, bassist, rhythm guitarist and drummer gave us the goods when they played:
For to Give
Which Way Your Wind
Down the Road
Trial and Faith
Oh Sweet Nuthin’
Opening with a burst of "Aloha" to the crowed, Nahko and Medicine for the People were eager to draw the crowd in. NMFTP is a high energy band that brings several cultural backgrounds and World Beat to the forefront in their musical collective. From Portland, Oregon frontman Nahko Bear is an Apache of Puerto Rican and Native American and Filipino descent. The music he shares is a fusion of dub, hip-hop and reggae; along with Native Folk music . Embodying a very outgoing and spiritual soul, NMFTP weave dreams of karma and love into their songs. "Great Spirit", “Directions” and “Vultures of Culture” were uplifting and meaningful tunes performed with a deep sense of sincerity. The band's appeal grew stronger the more it interacted with the crowd. NMFTP were very appreciative of the crowd’s attention to the lyrics. Echoes of “AHO” were often heard. I love it when a band shows affection for and appreciation of its audience, and NMFTP does it so well.
Friday night shows lingered into the wee morning hours and younger legs, eyes and minds were there to enjoy them. It was down time for me and the days music played in my head and made moving my feet and legs so much easier!
Part II is up in the near future. Thanks in advance for rejoining me for Saturday’s recap.
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