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By: Sheryl Bryant
Photography by Jerry Friend
Saturday, July 30, 2016
On the Ferrum College Workshop Porch, a very special On The Rise band entertained the Saturday crowd. Both out of loyalty to a Raleigh band AND because they were the best of the competition, I cast my vote for Urban Soil to win the On The Rise contest. Urban Soil presented a special showcase of alternative Americana that did our hometown proud. The group of five talented musicians had the jams flowing down at the Porch, with Sarah Renke providing divinely seamless vocals. Sarah plays guitar and cleans up spotlessly on washboard as well. Eric Chesson is an ace on guitar and backing vocals while Greg Meckley is a multi-faceted string man who plays standout violin, mandolin, percussion and vocals. Frank Bloom is Urban Soil’s tight and decisive drummer and David Connors plays a bang up bass. The chemistry among the five musicians is passionately intense. No lack of skill or talent apparent among this quintet. Writer’s favorite picks: “You Know” and “Dig Deeper.” Check out Urban Soil’s Sounds From The Underground LP. It’s a keeper.
The Wild Reeds are three female indie rock musicians who formed in Los Angeles. A bit laid back and mellow, but rising to the occasion when necessary, the girls deliver tightly woven harmonies that are downright sweet. The band played tunes from their new album Blind And Brave. All three girls can play guitar and sing lead; and switch off vocally and instrumentally with ease. Floydfest was the last stop of a short East Coast tour that started a couple of weeks ago. My favorite performance piece: “Where I’m Going.”
Feelfree is another On The Rise band and they are based out of Washington, D.C. I sometimes call their brand of jam "good mood" music, because its consistently happy and bubbly. The groove can only be kickin' when its intertwined with gospel, punk, reggae, rumba and according to their own description, go-go music. Just a sidenote, but the guitarist’s key lime green guitar was gorgeous and people were pining over it. The blazing horns added a jazziness and gave some of the music excellent dance heat. This band was clearly a strong favorite of mine and “Right By Her” my pick for their best original song. At one point the song melded into the Allman Brothers’ instrumental “Jessica” and it really rocked.
Below are some photos taken by rMIA photographer Jerry Friend which capture the spirit of Floydfest 2016.
Greensboro, NC gave us another On the Rise band in Doby. They also played the Pink Floyd Garden Stage and got down with the crowd assembled. The soulfully rich funkmistress, vocalist Robin Easter sounded so much like Joyce Kennedy of Mother’s Finest it was wicked eerie. Doby is high energy and electric. Their song repertoire elicits strong sing along audience participation. The crowd got really cranked up by an original Doby number called “Biscuits.” Later in the set, Doby’s cover of AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” blew the crowd away. Doby is: Ms. Easter, Phil (Dr. Philgood) Clarke on drums, Leo Kishore on bass, Jeff Yetter on keys, and Marcus Heath on guitar/vocals. In my humble opinion, this year brought the stiffest competition among the On the Rise bands. The bar was set high by each of these soon to be stars.
I need to slip in Connecticut's Caravan Of Thieves here because their show was so anti-mainstream which for all of us was so refreshing. For accuracy purposes only, I actually saw them on Friday then again Sunday but need to pen them in at this spot. What a diverse band, so creative. Equal parts male and female, there was the fiddler chick (Carrie) and the guitarist and vocalist male (Fuzz); also the guitarist and vocalist female (Michaela). Then there was the stand up bass guy (Rich). Each musician was equally adept at handling his or her instruments. Their gypsy flavored melodies and harmonies were pretty amazing. They are definitely resourceful and inventive as well because they had built this drum kit out of an empty can of beans, a trash can, and a mud bucket that actually sounded quite good! But I think what won the crowd over was how motivated they were to correct disco. It was miraculous. They made it not suck! You should have heard their twist on the Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive" and Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive". It was priceless.
The Monophonics took the Dreaming Creek Stage by storm on Saturday afternoon. Hailing from the San Francisco Bay area, this five piece outfit turns on with an exciting blend of psychedelic soul. I heard a seething of soul, and just the right amount trippy. I immediately thought about sixties bands Shocking Blue and Golden Earring when jamming out with this band. I was feeling a lot of trippy, garage rock vibes with this band. The Monophonics covers of Sonny Bono’s “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down”) and The Supremes “You Keep Me Hanging On” were sick. This band’s horn section rocked the roost. Do check this band out if the opportunity arises.
Bloodkin: The band that never quits. I’m impressed. Having heard Bloodkin’s recorded material in the nineties, it was imperative that I hear them live. Patterson Hood (Drive-By-Truckers) has always sung this band’s praises and given them steady support, even when the chips were down, which unfortunately was often. Surviving numerous setbacks in life and multiple lineup changes and major artistic differences, this band should be applauded for their exhaustive efforts to keep on keeping on. It doesn’t surprise me, because Southern rockers fight hard. Bloodkin is out of Athens, GA. A town that breeds some of the toughest and best rock and roll musicians in the Universe. The audience was heavily into Bloodkin’s dynamic performance and hanging close for more.
Warren Haynes and Ashes and Dust. I am guilty of rambling on about this guitar guru and have been lucky enough to experience his shows on several occasions. Therefore I am under a self imposed commitment to lighten up on this review. All I can say is once again, his music was systemic. It gets into your head and then rolls around in your body. It’s basically flawless and riveting. Memorable moments: The orchestral version of Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower”. The unbelievably awesome 20 minute rendition of the Allman Brothers’ “Blue Sky”. Whew!
The Buffalo Jam with Leftover Salmon and Guests was an unscheduled event but went off like a rocket. Here's how it came to be. About 3:00 PM , an announcement was made that Gregg Allman would not be playing the coveted Saturday night headlining spot. We knew he had been ill and missed a Wilmington, NC date and another show, so the possibility of him cancelling always existed. We learned that Gregg had come all the way to Roanoke but was so sick with pneumonia that he was admitted to the hospital there. Nobody attending complained or became emotional, they all expressed only concern. The Tribe called Floydfest thought first and foremost of Gregg regaining his health and wished him a speedy recovery. We were disappointed, certainly, but focused on sending out positive prayers and thoughts.
No worries when things change on the mountaintop. Floydfest was dedicated to the Tribe that had gathered, so they began to regroup immediately. Leftover Salmon manned up and offered to play on behalf of Mr. Allman and in support of saving the Buffalo Mountain by collaborating with other artists/bands like the Monophonics and the resulting show, The Buffalo Jam was nothing short of enlightening. A night with the Salmon is always surreal. As i strode down to my campsite I heard Janis Joplin's song, but John Hartman, Jr.'s version of "Piece of My Heart" soar.
What a long and tiring day Saturday turned out to be, but well worth it music wise. Saturday had slipped into Sunday morning and I had one more band to catch.
Sunday, July 31, 2016
Who knew Sunday morning could be so sexy? The first band up for me actually started at midnight down in the hollow. San Francisco’s Con Brio, (with spirit) got the party started. Cross breed Sly Stone’s funky rock with James Brown’s even funkier soul and you might get an idea of how this band got down at Floydfest. Lead singer and chief bump and grinder Ziek McCarter was hot as a firecracker. The entire band had some pretty sleek dance moves themselves. And the horn section was stellar with Wayne Shorter on saxophone and Brendan Liu on trumpet. Jon Kirchner (bass) and Andrew Laubacher (drums) rounded out a powerful R&B rhythm section and Ben Andrews poured out his soul on guitar. This sound is bohemian Motown. And it sizzles. You gotta’ see, hear and feel this band live.
The Steepwater Band rolled in from Chicago and proceeded to blow the Tribe away. I was so impressed I caught both of their sets and bought their CD, and I had plenty of company. The second set at the Healing Arts Dome Tent produced a cascade of Bluesy rock and roll drawing from both the Sixties and Seventies influences. The Steepwater Band has taken an early UK blues scene and Delta Blues and purged them with the kick of classic rock, and their original material they’ve created is a new and welcome hybrid of an old breed. Showcasing their newest CD called Shake Your Faith, the band delivered some volatile rock with songs like “Revelation Sunday”, “Shake Your Faith”, “Mama’s Got To Ramble”, “Gone Goodbye”, and “Ain’t Got Love”. A cut from an earlier album called “High and Humble” rocked as well. The band closed out with a hard and heavy cover of Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl”. Two thumbs up.
Keller and the Keels acoustical bluegrass serenade was the stuff of dreams, so we were really getting our Dreamweavin’ on with Keller's collaboration with husband and wife team Larry and Jenny Keel . A little bit psycho-billy and a whole lot bluegrass, this was a threesome anyone would want to be witness to. I think these three veteran musicians live life to bring us the music. They seem so joyful to do so. It obviously sustains their own lives, because the passion is palpable. I feel lucky to have been a part of it. The song “Thief” and the Butthole Surfers “Pepper” were both priceless.
The Show Ponies are Americana pioneers daring to conquer new frontiers. They played the Speakeasy Stage with a passion. Their show was like a country and western romp through Appalachia complete with fiddle and electric banjo and more. All five of the artists were at the top of their game and got things really hopping at Floydfest. This five piece band was made up of four cowpokes and one Calamity Jane. (Andi Carder) Ms. Carder was on lead vocals and electric banjo with Clayton Chaney also on lead vocals and on bass. Band mates hail from Texas and Arkansas but developed as a group in Los Angeles. Their original tune “ Choppin Wood” was a highlight and “The End of the World” another. Classically trained violinist Philip Glenn is feisty on the fiddle. Kevin Brown (percussion ) and Jason Harris (banjo and guitar) complement the others and contribute so much to the Show Ponies. Their raucous rendition of Johnny Cash’s “Jackson” brought the house down! Yippee Ki Yay.
More photos from Floydfest 2016:
Elephant Revival is a stir fry of Americana/Gypsy/Folk seasoned with a dose of Celtic spice. This band hails from Nederland, Colorado. All of the artists in the band are multi-instrumentalists and can virtually play musical chairs, and do effortlessly. Several members of the band can sing beautifully as well, and the harmonies are righteous. I heard a little Margo Timmins (Cowboy Junkies) and some Grace Slick vocal tones in lead singer Bonnie Paine’s fluid voice. This band breaks out the stompboard, washboard, djembe and musical saw. When they performed “Forgiveness” a capella, you could hear a pin drop. Elephant Revival is versatile as well. They can do soft sweetly and then pick up the pace when it's called for. Their cover of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” earned them major applause.
Greensky Bluegrass has won multiple awards for their massively appealing brand of music. It only takes hearing them live once to make one a true believer. The caliber of artistry within this outfit can only be fully realized by catching a show. Combining improvisational acoustic rock with intense levels of bluegrass jamming has made this Kalamazoo, Michigan band highly popular. Greensky makes it spontaneous and fun. Their followers are hugely supportive and loyal. So many good songs were delivered at Floydfest but "The Four" and "Living Over" really scored.
Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers are treated like royalty on this mountaintop and understandably so. He was born in Williamsburg, VA and is Virginia’s answer to our own North Caroiina’s James Taylor. Just a good ole’ boy, he seems not only down to Earth but also is humorous and witty and friendly. From his ability to perform classical to jazz; rock and roll to bluegrass; improvisation to jam, his musical prowess is astounding. When he stands, he is seemingly ten feet tall. Watching him as he danced on dulcimer, squeezed the accordion or politely pounded the piano was an honor and thrill. His shows are poetic, melodic and carefree. At Floydfest he sang several of his hits like “On The Western Skyline”, “The Valley Road”, “Every Little Kiss” and “Jacob’s Ladder.” But he also shared some lesser known songs off of his new release called Rehab Reunion. He spoke about his long term musical relationship with the late, great Jerry Garcia with fondness. But what was even more delightful was the impulsive, improvisational nature of the set where he made up songs as the show went on. Tunes that addressed the hot sun, his son’s future careers in basketball and acting, bubbles that were blowing on stage, girls in old yearbooks and other various and sundry subjects. His band, the Noisemakers, are a class act. Super on fiddle and mandolin for the Noisemakers is Ross Holmes. Masterfully manhandling the guitar is Gib Droll. On drums is Sonny Emory, who has fourteen years invested with Bruce. J.V. Collier, bassist, has been with Bruce for at least twenty years and is amazing. Keyboardist extraordinaire J.T. Thomas, who has twenty-six years in with Hornsby, is formerly of the sixties era band Captain Beefheart and is truly excellent.
There's nothing like an inspirational worship service to close out the festivities at the Floyd Church of the Tribe.
What a way to wrap up the headliners at Floydfest 2016: Dreamweavin’:
I would like to thank Sam Calhoun, Marketing and Press Manager, for allowing me the opportunity to experience and write a review of the Festival. I greatly appreciate his hospitality and courtesy and thank him for being such a good Chief to his Tribe at Dreamweavin'.
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