FloydFest is one of the most imaginative festivals around, and it’s back, taking place this weekend (July 27-31) with an eclectic roster of musicians from all over the world who have been summoned to the Blue Ridge mountains of Floyd, Virginia. This year’s agenda features Gregg Allman, Bruce Hornsby & The Noisemakers, Warren Haynes’ Ashes & Dust, Leftover Salmon, Railroad Earth, Greensky Bluegrass, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Elephant Revival…and the wealth of musicianship goes on.
Founded in 2002, each year of FloydFest follows it’s own special theme. This year is dubbed as Dreamweavin’, symbolizing the shared musical culture that weaves people together in a unique way to create “A Tribe Called FloydFest.” This connectivity is essential to the festival, manifesting itself within the music played on 9 different stages throughout the five-day event.
“It is a very mystical place up on top of that mountain,” said Larry Keel. “ I’m amazed and just really happy about the success of the festival because it’s right here in my backyard…and we’re just so excited to get back there.”
Over the years, FloydFest has established itself as a melting pot of rock, bluegrass, reggae, folk, Zydeco, Afro-pop, and so much more. This is the place to awaken yourself to the beautiful music created by humans everywhere, and the place to celebrate the love of music that brings people together.
“They have gone back to what they do really well. They’re not a jam band festival, they’re not a bluegrass festival, they’re not an anything festival. What they are is just a fucking unbelievably great music festival.” said Tim Carbone of Railroad Earth, adding that “it’s not going to be something that you’ve ever actually seen before, but I guarantee that anything you see at FloydFest is going to be quality.”
Headliners this year hail from all over the musical spectrum, starting with Gregg Allman, the iconic songwriter, vocalist and pianist from The Allman Brothers Band. Allman is one of the torchbearers of blues and rock in this country, with a legendary voice that has found its way into the hearts of millions of Americans. Also headlining, Bruce Hornsby & The Noisemakers are always sure to surprise people with their spontaneous improvisation that derives from the Virginia natives’ free wheeling spirit of musical development. Hornsby, a legendary collaborator, is perfect for FloydFest with his incredibly diverse musical background cultivated way outside the realm of genre classification.
Bringing in another Allman Brothers alum, Warren Haynes’ recent Ashes & Dust project consists of a slightly different approach than fans have come to expect from the long-time Gov’t Mule front man. This is a masterful collection of music that focuses on the lyrical side of story telling, set to an Americana backdrop originally recorded with Railroad Earth and Grace Potter.
Festival classic Leftover Salmon has been pushing the boundaries of their music for decades, resulting in their self-branded “Polyethnic Cajun Slamgrass” that fuses elements of bluegrass, rock, Cajun and Zydeco to create one of the wildest parties on the jam band circuit.
Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats is one band that you wouldn’t be be able to miss if you tried. This is a flavor of soul that hits hard, exploding into raucous peaks that will have Floyd getting down to the gritty, honest funk that has swept the nation by storm. Rateliff has an undeniable vigor on stage, soulfully inspiring people to laugh, dance, and shake off their troubles.
Leading the charge in the bluegrass/Americana side of things is Railroad Earth. The masterful songwriting of Todd Schaeffer is intertwined through excellent instrumentation to capture a true embodiment of the American experience. Fellow jamgrass juggernauts Greensky Bluegrass will also be in attendance, bringing their infectious raw energy with them wherever they go. A result of two brothers’ vastly different musical journeys finally coming together, The Wood Brothers are sure to enthrall audiences with their virtuosic approach to bluegrass. Elephant Revival blends traditional folk music with a Celtic style resulting in pure, angelic acoustic music that floats delightfully through a field.
Keller Williams is coming to Floyd in multiple facets, with his funk/soul band More Than a Little, and also with fellow Virginian flatpicker Larry Keel as part of Keller & The Keels. The Larry Keel Experience, consisting of Jenny Keel and banjo player Will Lee will also make an appearance.
Many of the spots at FloydFest are devoted to “On-The-Rise” artists, showcasing up and coming acts through months of vetting and competition. “You see them at FloydFest and next thing you know you’re reading about them in Rolling Stone,” Carbone said about the opportunities for musical discovery at FloydFest.
New Orleans’-native Anders Osborne will deliver his distinctive, soulful vocals accompanied by fierce blues-influenced guitar work. Monophonics brings some unique ‘psychedelic soul’ to the stage, a very groovy fusion between funk, soul and the psychedelic influences based in their San Francisco roots. Also from the Bay Area hails Con Brio with a fresh, sexy spin on the R&B and funk of their forefathers. Pimps of Joytime are the funkiest thing out of Brooklyn right now, sending gritty funk-rock through fluid dance grooves in mesmerizing fashion.
Coming all the way from Nigeria is Femi Kuti & Positive Force. The international sensation creates sunshine wherever he goes, with his own distinct style evolving from the jazzy Afrobeat pioneered by his revered father Fela Kuti. Bombino, another politically charged musician from the African continent, has fought against all odds to rise to prominence spreading peaceful messages through rock and roll.
In addition to those mentioned above, FloydFest will feature immeasurable talent across the board, including Shakey Graves, Nahko & Medicine for the People, Rich Robinson, Otis Taylor Band, Love Canon, The Legendary Shack Shakers, Head For The Hills, Liz Vice, Los Colognes, Roosterfoot, Selasee and the FaFa Family, Bloodkin, The Congress, Dead 27’s, Honey Island Swamp Band, and so much more.
For more information on FloydFest Dreamweavin’ and to buy tickets, visit their website.
Written by Richard Oakley