Floyd Fest 2015 Preview

Photo: Dustbowl Revival by Becca Murray

By Kevin Fuller

While the masses of Americana fans descend on Newport, Rhode Island this weekend, another music festival promises to light the mountains of southern Appalachia on fire.

Floyd Fest, or what organizers are calling “Fire on the Mountain,” kicks off today and offers music fans everything from folk favorite Brandi Carlile to the power rifts of Chris Robinson Brotherhood.

The festival, which runs through Sunday, July 26, is one of the most folk and Americana friendly festivals in the south outside of Bonnaroo and traditional festivals such as MerleFest. Like any other festival, there’s so much to sift through. For the first time ever, grass clippings is sending a reporter (this one) to Floyd while the rest of the team heads to Newport. Here are my tips.

Top Sets To Catch

Peter Rowan’s Twang and Grass

Peter Rowan - Photo by Ronald Rietman
Peter Rowan – Photo by Ronald Rietman

When: 11:45 a.m. on Sunday
Where: Streamline Stage at Hill Holler
Why: Peter Rowan is to the bluegrass world what Gandalf is to Lord of the Rings — he’s the gatekeeper.

As one of Bill Monroe’s original Bluegrass Boys, Rowan has ventured into alternate arenas such as playing with The Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia and David Grisman in Old and in the Way and the more folkier duet tours with bluegrass legend Tony Rice.

Rowan takes his act electric on Sunday before noon. To some people, that may be more obscene than Bob Dylan going electric.

Lord Huron

Lord Huron
Lord Huron

When: 8:30 p.m. on Friday
Where: Dreaming Creek Main Stage
Why: Has any Americana band opened with two better albums that have flown so under the radar as Lord Huron?

The Los Angeles- based quartet might be on the indie side of Americana but have filled the airwaves of more folkier festivals since showing up on Bob Boilen’s desk for his Tiny Desk series. The group combines slice-your-heart-open-with-a-scalpel songwriting with a backpack friendly energy, which is sure to be one of the top sets of the weekend.

Trampled by Turtles

Trampled by Turtles
Trampled by Turtles

When: 8:30 p.m. on Saturday
Where: Dreaming Creek Main Stage
Why: Trampled by Turtles are using what most folk and Americana bands won’t. Reverb.

However, they haven’t traded in their foot stomping.

Dave Simonett and company, hailing from Duluth, Minnesota, are not rookies to the festival circuit neither,  playing Bonnaroo, Coachella, Newport Folk Fest and even Telluride Bluegrass Festival.

Trampled by Turtles are sure to get the most foot stomps per minute for a non-bluegrass band at this year’s Floyd Fest.

grass clippings Favorites in Floyd

The Black Lillies

The Black Lillies - Photo by Sprouse Neuhoff
The Black Lillies – Photo by Sprouse Neuhoff

Cruz Contreras may have a nearly brand new band, with several members departing for new projects. Luckily those band members didn’t take Contreras’ piercing songwriting capability with them.

The Black Lillies are a folk band at heart, secretly cloaked with a big old country rock sound.

The Knoxville-based band will bring Floyd Fest attendees the twang of Merle Haggard and whiskey-soaked acoustic ballads.

The band’s set at Floyd Fest will be sure to highlight the new lineup and will spotlight a new direction.

Rayland Baxter

Rayland Baxter
Rayland Baxter

By now, most folks know of Rayland Baxter – an artist that has transformed his sound over the last few years while continuing to build his following.

Baxter is on the verge of dropping his sophomore album titled “Imaginary Man,” due out in August on ATO Records.

It may be hard for the Nashville-rooted troubador to top his first release in “Feathers and Fishhooks.” But if great songwriting carries Nashville artists, Baxter will be just fine.

Baxter is sure to break out some new jams at Floyd Fest 2015.

Dustbowl Revival

There’s no single city in America that feels less folky than Los Angeles.

Despite that, L.A. plays home to Americana newcomers Dustbowl Revival, as well as aforementioned Lord Huron.

Dustbowl Revival is the definition of Americana sound. The band throws riverboat jigs and smoking banjo licks in a big pot with Sunday hymnals and tuba waltz.

Catch them while they’re young.