By Grant Golden
Photo: Roger Gupta
July 15, 2019
When it comes to unique festival experiences, it’s hard to think of an event that stands out more than Virginia’s FloydFest. Tucked inside of the breathtaking Blue Ridge Mountains, Floydfest boasts 5 days of music across 9 stages and while the festival has a jammy/roots focus, each year they maintain an impressive mix of acts from across all genres. Acts like The String Cheese Incident and Phil Lesh & The Terrapin Family Band top the bill, promising for some expansive main stage jams, but with folks like Kacey Musgraves, Brandi Carlile, Tyler Childers and Fantastic Negrito on the lineup, it’s hard not to find something fantastic to get lost in.
While Floyd’s massive lineup is brimming with immense talent, there’s plenty of other things to love about this highly lauded festival. Utilizing their gorgeous Blue Ridge backdrop, Floyd has a heavy focus on outdoor activities that include bike clinics, hiking sessions, hooping lessons and more. Attendees may want to take note of some of those outdoor activity options, as Floydfest has no shortage of excellent food and beverage options. Smash some tater tots at The Tot Shop, get your freshness on at Goatocado, or relish in some delightfully punny sammy’s with the Grilled Cheese Incident.
Food and craft vendors aside, Floydfest’s family-friendly programming is also a heavy draw for the festival’s attendees. The Children’s Universe provides several acres of land for the kids to engage in workshops, perform at open mics, or partake in some fun on the playground. All the while, parents are still able to catch sets at the nearby Dreaming Creek stage. With such an all-encompassing festival, it can be a lot to find what to do and when, so we’ve compiled a few acts we feel are must see staples of the fest.
One of the best parts of Floydfest is how it seems to subvert the expectations of a roots heavy festival. It’s easy for events to lock in their roots/Americana acts with groups full of straight white men, but the top of the bill at Floydfest is full of strong women that are making tidal waves in music. Margo Price’s style harkens back to classic country stars like Loretta Lynn or Dolly Parton, landing somewhere in between with a style all her own. Price’s songs cover a wide range of topics including the difficulties of dealing with a male-driven country music industry to what it really means to love your country in these trying times. Price’s Sunday afternoon set will help to keep the fans’ energy bright on Day 5 of this magical musical marathon.
It’s hard to think of an artist that’s had a better year than pop-country mega-star Kacey Musgraves. Her fourth studio album Golden Hour won Album of the Year at the Grammy’s, and Musgraves has been making waves all festival season with her undeniable on-stage charisma. Whether she’s taking tequila shots from glass shoes or leading tens of thousands in call and response yee-haws, Musgraves can easily command even the largest of crowds. Antics aside, Musgraves’ hits like the disco-leaning “High Horse,” the femme-powering “Wonder Woman” or her earnest love song, “Golden Hour” are sure to get folks dancing, swaying and singing along.
While Kacey Musgraves is working on pushing country music forward with her dance-heavy pop work, Tyler Childers is leading the charge in the opposite direction with his old-fashioned booze-fueled anthems from the holler. Whether he’s playing it smooth to good ol’ Christian girls or “getting higher than the grocery bills” on “Whitehouse Road,” Childers has a powerfully plaintive way of connecting with listeners through his raw vulnerability. With a forthcoming full-length, Country Squire, that was produced by Sturgill Simpson, Childers has a slew of new and robust songs to let loose at Floyd and we’re eager to see it all happen.
While Brandi Carlile has been hustling her raw, wrangling folk music for over a decade, it wasn’t until her slew of Grammy nominations that she began to really shine in the spotlight. Carlile’s music is as personal as it is political, harkening back to the protest tunes of artists like Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell. Whether Carlile is singing about the difficulties of being a new queer mother in our tumultuous society or struggling to forgive the ones who’ve hurt you, she’s doing so with sharp tact and vulnerability. Carlile will be slinging her powerful songs on the first night of the festival, shortly after the sun settles down behind the gorgeous mountainscape, and we can’t think of a better way to soak in these tunes.
This Grammy-winning blues artist is arguably one of the most exciting acts on the Floydfest bill. Fantastic Negrito provides a unique and refreshing take on the traditional blues sound, earning such supporters as Bernie Sanders along the way. Fantastic Negrito is the stage name of Xavier Dphrepaulezz, the fiery self-taught guitarist whose storied background has helped to shape his blistering blues foundation. Please Don’t Be Dead is the 2018 effort from Negrito and it’s a great glance into the ethos of his work, it’s raw, gritty and snarling commentary on the current state of US affairs. Expect a high-energy outing at Floydfest on Friday evening after Tyler Childers, and frankly it’s going to be one hell of a way to transition into late night programming.
The War & Treaty
The War & Treaty come from humble beginnings, but have been gaining a ton of steam thanks to their powerhouse vocals and undeniable chemistry. Tanya and Michael Trotter’s music feels timeless, it harkens back to the old school Southern soul of artists like Otis Redding while still feeling modern and fresh. Look no further than tracks like “Jeep Cherokee Laredo,” it’s a sweaty and sultry affair that showcases some of the most enticing parts of this duo’s style. There’s call and response vocals, swaggering harmonica and blues guitar riffs that steer the track to and fro, with suggestive overtones that let the listener feel like they’re being let in on a secret that’s about to burst. Sometimes at festivals you’ve just gotta let loose, let the music wash over you and get sweaty while dancing in a field, The War & Treaty give folks a great opportunity to do just that.
The little North Carolina band that could, American Aquarium are a testament to hard work and self reflection, pivoting where needed but always pushing forward with the same level of grit and determination that got them this far in the first place. BJ Barham’s poignant lyricism covers the struggle of getting old and leaving folks behind, struggles with addiction, and working to become the person that you truly see yourself as, all sitting atop rich instrumental flair that bounces between country, folk and rock n’ roll. Whether they’re rocking out or stripped down, American Aquarium’s live sets are filled with intensely dedicated fans that will be liable to sing along to every word of every song. It makes their shows feel like a reunion of sorts wherever they go, with Floydfest being no different. We’ll gladly take this little slice of home with us for our trek to the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Check out the full lineup and more on FloydFest 2019 taking place July 24-28, 2019 in Floyd, Virginia.