Granite City Roots Festival returns to Mt. Airy showcasing talented regional musicians and community cheer

 By Corrine Watson

September 15, 2019

Granite City Roots Festival returns for a second year this October 4-5, celebrating music and community with an all-star line-up of contemporary country music performers and an array of outdoor activities.

The two-day event will be held in Mt. Airy, North Carolina at Veterans Memorial Park, giving guests the chance to experience the vibrant colors of the season while enjoying the sounds of modern country music. This year camping will also be available at the Mayberry campground so guests can make the mountains home for the weekend and create a cozy sanctuary away from the crowds for a midday rest.

The organizers of the event, Taylor Clark, Wesley Lawson, and Will Jackson developed the festival from a longstanding love of music and a passion for their community. After attending and working with Floydfest and Merlefest over the last decade, they wanted to create a similar experience in their own backyard in Mt. Airy. Through their project, Sidenote, the team works closely with local businesses to provide digital development services by revamping the design, brand, and websites to reach modern audiences and promote the community’s culture and heritage. This passion for uplifting the community also led to the festival’s partnership with the United Fund of Surry, a non-profit organization that partners with crisis assistance agencies within the community.

The festival will begin on Friday with a kickoff party ($10) where guests can fill up on BBQ from Pit Masters Up ‘n’ Smoke catering and enjoy local craft beer while warming up by a cozy bonfire. The evening will also feature performances from two local bands.

Jack Marion & The Pearl Snaps Prophets will take the stage at 6 p.m., bringing an energetic set that will liven any crowd. The band formed in 2017 and has a unique twist on modern folk rock reminiscent of many of their own icons such as Johnny Cash, Turnpike Troubadours, and Tom Petty. In August 2018, the band released their first EP, Devil and Me, and continues to work between the stage and studio to prepare for the release of a full-length album.

The Vegabonds

Surry County’s own, Andrew Millsaps & the Russel Hunt Band will follow the performance at 8 p.m. Millsaps’ easy-going acoustic rhythms and smooth vocals give their music a traditional country foundation, while the band’s support of electric guitars and drums provides an accent of modern melody. The band has performed at several local venues and was featured live on the 98.1 WBRF segment The Crooked Road Show. Their song, “Ain’t No Genie (in a Bottle of Jack)” won Merlefest’s 2019 Chris Austin Songwriting Competition in the country music division, which promotes emerging songwriters and provides scholarship funds to students studying music.

The main event ($25) will begin Saturday afternoon and offers a full day of music and activities hosted by local vendors. Between sets, guests can try their hand at ax throwing and fly fishing, or kick back and enjoy the natural comfort of the outdoors by lounging in the ENO hammock zone. Kids will also have the pleasure of exploring the activities in the kid zone including bounce houses.


Nothing brings a festival together like the local food vendors. This year the festival will offer several local favorites including pulled pork barbeque, Chick-fil-A, specialty donuts, and gourmet burgers. A variety of local craft beer from Wiseman Brewing, Incendiary Brewing, Thirsty Soul, White Elephant Beer Company,  Fiddlin Fish Brewing, Skull Camp Brewing, Angry Troll Brewing, and Foothills will also be available.

This year, the festival has arranged an outstanding line-up of artists with their own distinct sounds of Americana, Alt-Country, bluegrass, and folk rock to create an energetic atmosphere for the weekend.

The Vegabonds –  Saturday at 8:45 p.m.

This Nashville-based band blends sound and storytelling to cross genre tropes and bring out the best in modern country rock. They got their start in Alabama in 2009, playing for college venues around the southeast, forming a dedicated fan base through classic word of mouth. The band released an EP and three full-length albums before working with Blue Élan Records to produce their latest album V, released early this year. Following the release of the album, the band has toured North America and Europe and performed at events like Peach Festival, Sweetwater 420, Magnolia Fest, Sunfest and Taste of Randolph.

South Hill Banks – Saturday at 7:30 p.m. 

Richmond, Virginia’s South Hill Banks brings their unique sounds of modern funk to bluegrass, giving new energy to familiar genres. The quartet’s spontaneous camaraderie lights up the stage as they flow between well-placed harmonies and energetic instrumental riffs. Since the release of their second album, No Time for a Breakdown, last November the band was showcased at the IBMAs (International Bluegrass Association) in Raleigh, NC, and won Floydfest’s “On the Rise” Competition.

Time Sawyer –  Saturday at 6:15 p.m. 

Time Sawyer returns for another year bringing in the rhythms of alt-country rock. These Elkin, North Carolina natives use their small town southern roots to craft relatable lyrics appealing to an ever-growing fanbase. While the band has performed at several iconic festivals, including Merlefest, Floydfest, Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion, and Carolina in the Fall, their performances hold a sense of intimacy that forge personal connections with the audience. The band continues to develop their work as they are set to release their fourth album, Mountain Howdy, on September 13.

Ashley Heath – Saturday at 5:15 p.m. 

Asheville-based singer-songwriter, Ashley Heath brings the sounds of Americana to the stage with her personal twist of bouncy country blues. Her first album A Different Stream gained notoriety within the industry as she was featured as the #1 Acoustic / Folk artist of Western North Carolina and named “Regional Artist of the Year” by The Greenville Journal in 2017. While successful as a solo artist, Heath also performs with a full band under the name Ashley Heath and Her Heathens with whom she collaborated on her second album, When Hope Never Dies.

Black Mountain Revival – Saturday at 4 p.m.

While the Black Mountain Revival trio has toured with bands across the punk rock genre, they now come together to create a unique alt-country sound. These Roanoke natives bring a sound grounded in folk yet spiked with indie punk. Their music is driven by rapid acoustic rhythms and occasionally accented by the deeper bouncing of the bass notes while the soft country twang gives life to their lyrics.

Shay Martin Lovette – Saturday at 3 p.m.

From the mountains of Boone, singer-songwriter Shay Martin Lovette doesn’t hold back in emotional vulnerability to his songs, allowing him to connect to his audience through relatable experiences. Lovette maintains a smooth, steady voice that allows the rhythm of the acoustic guitar to drive his songs while sharper notes of the harmonica provide a classic country blues sound. The release of his debut album, Swifter Drifter, set Lovette up for success as an emerging artist and led him to renown stages at Merlefest and Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion.

Lone Hollow – Saturday at 2 p.m.

Nasheville duo, Lone Hollow blends a background of bluegrass and country rock to breathe new life into a familiar genre. Singer-songwriters, Rylie Bourne and Damon Atkins, rotate lead vocals and join together melodically in the chorus. Their 2018 album, Stones, set them up as emerging stars and they have continued to develop their craft while working on new music. They released a new single, “If My Soul Were a House,” early this year.

Blue Cactus – Saturday at 1 p.m.

Blue Cactus is a Chapel Hill-based duo fronted by Steph Stewart and Mario Arnez. After moving on from their string quartet roots with the band Boyfriends, the duo began experimenting with sound by bringing in electric guitars. Stewarts thick country twang, blended with Arnez’s lighter harmony and the mellow strumming of the guitars, gives their music the feeling of an electric ballad, maintaining the framework of classic country while expanding to the endless possibilities of alternative folk and Americana.

Granite City Roots takes place October 4-5 at Veterans Memorial Park in Mt. Airy, North Carolina. Check out the full lineup and more info on the festival.

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