By Hannah Norwood
August 11, 2017
FloydFest is a once-a-year gathering of people that takes place on a little patch of heaven tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. It is a beautiful family-friendly celebration of music, life, and happiness. Music enthusiasts are brought together in unlikely ways to form long lasting bonds and friendships via the genuine interactions taking place between artists, staff, volunteers, and patrons that are unrivaled by any other festival.
As festival goers filed into the campgrounds starting early on Wednesday morning, one of the many clues indicating this would be a special weekend could be heard throughout the right side of mountain in Not-So-Quiet Camping if you listened close enough. The beautiful operatic vocals of Sasha Lazard (who would later perform on stage with Dave Edgar) practicing her scales intertwined with the sounds of songbirds and rainfall hitting the leaves of the forest canopy.
Here are some of our other favorite moments:
Fireworks and jam sessions
A fireworks show, the first of many, lit up the sky on Thursday night. Sparks of flying colors weaved between the stars and signaled it was time for everyone to make their way back to camp for the night, or better yet head down to “Little Galax” located at last year’s secret stage site. This clearing in the woods housed a group of campers and musicians from Galax, Virginia. It became the perfect spot to host late night jam sessions of the bluegrass variety, or what some like to call a good old-fashioned Pick thus extending the setlists beyond the stage.
Proposal during Michael Franti set
Michael Franti, a FloydFest veteran, brought a rotation of people onto the giant banjo-shaped stage Friday night as the rain came down. The feel-good set was full of sing-alongs, high-fives, an Adele cover, and several heartfelt hugs to fans. He is an amazing entertainer that knows how to bring the audience along with him on an emotional journey of lyrical activism. There was even a live proposal on stage! A young woman was brought on stage with the band to show off some of her hula-hooping tricks to the audience before her partner and longtime FloydFest photographer, Roger Gupta, grabbed the mic to ask her hand in marriage. She said yes, the crowd went wild, and Michael lead into the song “Life is Better with You” for an uplifting end to the set.
Morgan Wade & the Stepbrothers
A favorite new artist at this year’s festival was Morgan Wade & the Stepbrothers who rocked out the Workshop Porch Saturday. Wade’s raspy vocals reminiscent of Janis Joplin carried down the hill into the campsites. Wade herself is from Floyd, VA while the rock-group formed in Roanoke. This is group is a local favorite and their upcoming record Puppets With My Heart is set to drop sometime before the end of summer. They are definitely a group to watch!
St. Paul & The Broken Bones
Saturday night brought its own set of great performances like the Buffalo Mountain SuperJam on the Mainstage with a list of performers too long to name. The crowd made its way through the beer garden to catch headliner St. Paul & The Broken Bones glowing in the spotlight on Hill Holler stage. He was dressed in a bright red pantsuit complete with a crown fit for a king. St. Paul & The Broken Bones brought the soulful sounds of the Deep South into the woods of the Appalachian Mountains and burned down the stage despite the sequential days of pouring rain that lead up to their set. He even pulled a disappearing act by crawling under the drum set in the middle of a song.
Shovels & Rope
The dynamic duo of Shovels & Ropes performed on the main stage in the Sunday afternoon sunshine as it melted away all memories of rain from the weekend. A sunscreen fairy danced around the crowd sharing good vibes and her SPF. While Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent rotated between their many instruments, each taking a turn with the drums and on the vocals. Cary Ann wove in stories of life on the road and reminisced about the last time they performed in the Appalachian region when she was still pregnant, before the 2015 birth of their daughter. The couple radiated love into the air as they told stories of the trials and tribulations that are involved in a joint career romance turned relationship.
After the sun went down and the last of the music had finished for the week, a small crowd of mostly staff and volunteers gathered around the neon-lit butterfly installation on the top of the mountain. There, sitting on the back end of a golf cart, was Zach Deputy picking out a tune on his guitar. No mic, no amp, completely unplugged, he played a spontaneous set that was completely in character for not only him but the entire festival. Standing so close to an artist that was last seen performing up on stage, in a casual setting was truly magical. As Kris Hodges, co-founder of FloydFest said himself, “At Floyd Fest, there’s a space for everyone, no matter what you want to do.” The best part is everyone gets to do it together.
Breaking down camp in the heat of Monday was a classically bittersweet ending to any festival. The reminder that the utopia everyone has been living in together for the past few days has finally come to an end. Memories of a ceremonial burn that was held down by the pond on the first night of the festival for co-founder Erika Johnson’s grandmother who had recently passed away lingered as gear was hiked back. The extinguished luminaries floated on the water in remembrance, leaving festival goers with a small reminder of the important things in life.
A staff favorite who travels down all the way from Maine every year and whips up lobster bisque by the batch for the tired and hungry, William “The Lobster Man” said it best: “I know more people here at FloydFest, than I do in my home town.”
That is exactly the magic that keeps people coming back, the community and festival family that is built there. Whether it’s your first year or your 15th, the Southern hospitality of FloydFest will welcome all.
Learn more about FloydFest.