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Being a Virginia native, I have always heard of Floydfest and it's eclectic lineup of Rock, Bluegrass and even, Alt-Pop-Rock. This year’s lineup caught my eye quite early on and I am so glad to finally be reviewing this festival for Unfortunately, I couldn't make Thursday's events and seeing the lineup of Lukas Nelson and Govt Mule, I kicked myself for missing it. Early Friday, I headed down the Blue Ridge Mountains, taking the scenic route and getting on the parkway, as soon as, I could. The view from this festival is the first thing that comes into my mind when I reminisce about last weekend’s events but the music is the real memory that will last. The one of a kind musical collaboration and improvisations, the late night sets and meeting new friends and old, this is what music festivals are all about. All of these things can be found in abundance at Floydfest. Below are my thoughts and review for the festival.

The Infamous Stringdusters honoring Frank Zappa, Phish and the Grateful Dead

Friday's Floydfest Favorites

While, there was plenty of music on Friday for patrons to consume, I really just want to start with The Antibalas, who brought their unique and energetic vibe to Floydfest. I always find myself dancing uncontrollably by the end of every one of their sets. I was highly impressed with the sound quality and beauty of the main stage and the venue itself. It was easy to get from stage to stage and there was always music being played somewhere.

Up next, Leftover Salmon was on the Hill Holler Stage. They would play "Liza" and can go from Progressive Jam to Bluegrass, in an instant. "Valley Of The Full Moon" was played while, the full moon shone overhead. Vince Herman got the crowd howling at the moon and the band went into a more Jam-Fusion sound for most of the show but returned to Standard Bluegrass at the end.

I checked out some of Foster The People but decided not to wait around for them to play "Pumped Up Kicks," the only song, I forcibly know from their catalogue. I walked over to see Magnolia Boulevard, with many of the older crowd. Magnolia Boulevard did a great cover of "Fire On The Bayou" a Meters funk classic. The lead vocalist caught my ear and delivered a great performance while the band did their best to keep up.

I checked out about half an hour of Greta Van Fleet, I wasn't entirely impressed but I saw some potential. The crowd seemed to eat them up and I can see why but as a music purist, I see too many blatant derivatives from early rock to be but so intrigued; It's been done before and better. The Broadcast kept me up until all hours of the night with their explosive vocalist Caitlin Krisko. I want to check this band out again and do a full review. I am super impressed with all the female vocalist taking charge at Floydfest 2018.

Saturday's Musical Extraveganza

Erin And The Wildfire, a Charlottesville, Virginia based band, was first on my list to see during Saturday's festivities. Here again, I am always impressed with the rising female vocalist in this scene and Erin is at the top of that list. I was only able to catch a short part of this bands set but what I did see, made me excited for a full review soon.

No BS Brass Band brought a horn heavy sound to Floydfest. I have seen these guys before but they have included several vocalists, which really adds to this bands powerful performance. All the excitement from the horns and all that energy are immediately transferred to the crowd, as they dance and throw their hands to the sky.

Coming out with a quote from Frank Zappa, “Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.” How could I not be entranced by the Infamous Stringdusters, as they immediately tease the Grateful Dead’s "Terrapin Station" but instead transition into Phish’s "Possum" and would continue into "First Tube?" I would honestly rate this set as the best Stringdusters set, I have ever seen and one of the best of the festival. I was excited to see them again on Sunday.

The event of the weekend was by far the Buffalo Jam, which featured Host extraordinaire, Keller William, The Antibalas, Leftover Salmon, and three beautiful vocalist: Erin Lunsford, Caitlin Krisko and Lindsey Lou. This super group would open with Lou Reeds, "Walk On The Wild Side" and continued on into "Wild Horses," the Rolling Stone classic. "War Pigs" was one of the best renditions I have ever witnessed with Vince Herman on vocals, summoning the power of Zambi himself. The Antibalas would take over and perform "Open and Close." Some other highlights from the set were Aretha Franklin "Rock steady" with Caitlin Krisko on vocals. “What it is?" “Come On In My Kitchen" featured blues banjo from Leftover Salmons, Andy Thorn. "No Sugar/New Mother Nature" was a lot of fun with Keller taking the lead and “Superstition” with Erin Lunsford on vocals was funky and vibrant. This was easily one of the most unique and impressive collaborations I have ever seen live and truly a once in a lifetime experience.

Sunday Floydday

I started my day out with Monophonia, an attention-grabbing progressive rock mixture, reminiscent of Zappa and perhaps, King Crimson with thoughtful and comical lyrics. I would like to check this band out again and give them a full review but what I did see was interesting enough to captivate my attention.

Keller Williams Petty Grass featuring the HillBenders was just as I suspected it would be, Tom Petty songs arranged into Bluegrass format and while, I've never been a total Petty fan, it was interesting to hear Keller and the Hellbenders, throw a twist into his catalogue of songs. Keller can basically cover anything and I am ok with it. I even recent looked up some of his other amazing Grateful Dead covers. This man can do it all!

The Travers Brothership, whom I have covered in a previous review from Roanoke Go Outside Festival, where they opened for moe were one of the best performances of the day. Last time, I was unable to gauge a full idea of their sound and abilities but after what I saw at Floydfest, I am sure they will continue to gain followers with there Jams and progressive abilities. They can take their sound to the next level by adding some lyrical and vocal qualities that accentuate their uniqueness.

The Little Smokies, was a bit slow for my taste but they brought a huge crowd to the Main Stage where they played some standard, progressive bluegrass songs. Nothing notable but they had a fun stage presence. The Infamous Stringdusters again, blew me away; going out on a limb, trying new things and manipulating the standards of Bluegrass all together. They have truly grown as individual musicians and band mates. My first Dusters show was New Years 2012 and they grown exponentially since then. I look forward to seeing this band again whenever I can.

Old Crow Medicine Show has truly made quite a career out of one great album of music and they continue to draw a large audience around the country. While, my musical tastes have grown since my last Old Crow Show, it was fun and nostalgic for a short time. It wasn't the most exciting end to the festival but I had to get back home and traverse the Blue Ridge.

The only thing I regret about Floydfest is that I couldn't see all the music! There is truly something for everyone at Floydfest and I have never been to a festival like it.

The unique lineup and diverse band schedules keep patrons coming from all over Virginia, the East Coast and Country. The ride up the Blue Ridge parkway alone is worth the journey but once you get to the festival grounds, you are on top of a mountain ridge. I would suggest Floydfest to any musical and festival lover. It is truly one of a kind. The Heart and Soul of the Blue Ridge.

Jam Band Purist


#floydfest #floydva #TheAntibalas #leftoversalmon #FosterThePeople #GretaVanFleet #ErinAndTheWildfire #InfamousStringdusters #buffalojam #kellerwilliams #Monophonia #TheTraversBrothership #TheLittleSmokies #OldCrowMedicineShow #blueridgemusic #roanokeva #livemusic #jambandpurist


Robert R.A. Fadley

I wasn't sure what to expect when I arrived at 5 Points Music Sanctuary to see Jonathan Scales Fourchestra but this trio hit me like a ton of bricks from opening note to close. Let me just start off by saying, I have never seen anyone play the steel drum/pan like that, nothing comes close. Jonathan Scales takes this instrument to another level; a level which most of us are not used to especially at the forefront, leading the band. A mixture of jazz, high-powered funk, and even hip-hop, the rudiments behind each song are much like a classical composition. The skill and musical prowess of each individual member of JSF is comparable to many compositions on a progressive level; reminding me of Stravinsky, Weather Report, Zappa, perhaps even Phish. This band is far beyond some cruise ship steel drum act and should not be taken lightly. (Picture the opposite of the cheesiest version of calypso possible.)

The stage lights shone down into the steel drums, reflecting off the surface and bouncing back like colored waves against the ceiling, illuminating the sanctuary with an otherworldly glow.

It was a cosmic journey through the scales and many extremely difficult compositions. It was like, sitting down and watching an orchestra play an entire symphony. In the continued recap, I will do my best to explain the songs I can remember. "Focus Poem" which features Bela Fleck on the newest album, is a big influence for Jonathan Scales. The drummer was seen smiling and laughing almost the entire performance. The bassist running lines like Alphonso Johnson. At one point, Jonathan would take off on a solo section showing off his extraordinary skills. It was truly a classical composition on the steel drums and there is no other way to describe it.

"The Trap"written on a napkin in 5 minutes, has stood the test of time and is a wild ride through ups-and-downs of chaotic orchestral changes and progressions. The next song called "Fake Buddha’s Inner Child" was thought out and meticulously structured. This was one of the best performances of the night and I am wondering the story behind this songs title. The stage lights shone down into the steel drums, reflecting off the surface and bouncing back like colored waves against the ceiling, illuminating the sanctuary with an otherworldly glow. A special guest flutist would join the Fourchestra onstage for a selection of wild compositions and solo improvisational performances. The flute seems to be the perfect additional instrument to this ensemble, providing a great backdrop for these obstreperous compositions.

Jonathan took the time to teach the audience his irregular timing and worldview (7x7+6=World Peace) Jonathan was constantly calling out the shots, improvising on the fly and leading the band into new musical territories. From life changes and crazy times come great music. "Cry" from the new album is one of those that are wrought from these difficult experiences. I enjoyed this slower number and look forward to checking out the new album when it's released. It's evident that each one of these guys is just happy to be playing music onstage. "How To Rebuild Your Battleship" was an extremely difficult song but the band played through flawlessly. This one sounded as though it could be used in a film score in some action adventure or even video game.

The night would end with a cover of "Kiss From A Rose" and another well thought out and prepossessing composition. I wouldn't hesitate to see Jonathan Scales Fourchestra again, especially at 5 Points where this kind of music and sound are sacred. I hope that Jonathan and his band continue to amass followers and enlighten the musical world with his knowledge not only the steel drum/pan but composition in general. I could certainly see Jonathan Scales Fourchestra playing any number of late night sets and various music festival across the county.

#5pointsmusicsanctuary #roanokemusic #jambandpurist #blueridgemusic #roanokeva #JonathanScalesFourchestra


Updated: May 24, 2018

photo by Robert RA Fadley
Travelin' McCourys @ Lime Kiln in Lexington Va

One of the most beautiful outdoors venues in Virginia set in a historic site in Lexington, The Lime Kiln Theatre is a venue that includes a large Kiln used in the turn of the 20th century and the stage itself is situated amongst an earthen rock quarry. The Kiln stage has just been opened up for the first time in 6 years but with the recent renovations the entire Lime Kiln venue and The Bowl is even more beautiful than I remembered from my previous visits. Holding a decent amount of people, the bowl was filled to capacity for this seasons opening performance.

The Travelin' McCourys came out for a great rendition of The Grateful Dead's "Cumberland Blues" before the rain came in and washed the band away but they would return with "Walk Out Of The Rain" about an hour later, skipping the set break and making this a single set performance. The band continued on into a song about John Henry, the railroad laying legend. "Midnight Flyer" kept the train theme rolling down the tracks; bluegrass and trains always go well together. "I Live On A Battlefield" was one of the best performances of the evening; raw and full of emotion. Following this slower song, the McCourys would go into a blistering instrumental number that had the entire bands fingers flying.

There is an extreme professionalism and duty to the music that is evident from these performers. Still adhering to traditional values while exploring new and interesting takes on the bluegrass music.

Bass player of the year, Alan Bartram singing John Hartford’s "No End Of Love" was harmonious and well done; great songwriting and all around delivery from each player, as they delivered a mix of their own music and exciting covers. Its no wonder these guys all have awards and various honors from musical institutions. "Let Her Go" was next, originally done by Passenger but the Travelin’ McCourys make it their own, with a high-pulsing rhythms and flawless, vocal harmonies.

“Well you only need the light when it's burning low, Only miss the sun when it starts to snow, Only know you love her when you let her go, Only know you've been high when you're feeling low, Only hate the road when you're missing home, Only know you love her when you let her go, And you let her go”

Going Classic Bluegrass with the next song, the Travelin’ McCourys show why they are one of the best Bluegrass bands around, doing progressive to traditional. Rob McCoury letting those banjo licks roll. Another morbid, John Hartford song "Natural To Be Gone" was deep and juxtaposed the music itself.

Mixing lyrical songs and instrumentals throughout the evening, the crowd was getting the best of both worlds. "The Hardest Heart" exemplified the lyrical accents and provocations from this group. During the next instrumental tune the band took turns soloing and showing skills on their various accoutrements; Jason Carter and Cody Kiln both shining throughout these solos and the entire evening.

As Ronnie changed to electric mandolin someone was heard in the audience "yea give it to me Ronnie" as they went into some more Grateful Dead renditions. "If I had the world to give" would see Ronnie making that electric sing as he gently melted a string immediately before they went into "Loser" The Travelin McCourys took the vocal cues from the song and accentuated them into beautiful harmonies. Slowing down and speeding up with a taste of "the other one" crescendos on a par with any jam act, improvisational and defined. Complete transition into another instrumental and back into "loser" ending the set with "Travelin’."

It is always an extreme pleasure to see these folks play bluegrass live. There is an extreme professionalism and duty to the music that is evident from these performers. Still adhering to traditional values while exploring new and interesting takes on the bluegrass music. Check The Travelin’ McCourys out at DelFest at the end of this month.

written by Robert RA Fadley

External Links:

#lexingtonva #blueridgemusic #bluegrass #jambandpurist #Blueridgevirginia

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