It’s hard to compete with this four-day southwest Virginia event for its comprehensive package of a truly top-drawer line-up combined with all the quality extras that complete the festival experience. Headliners including Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, the Lumineers, and John Butler Trio thrilled the crowds from the Dreaming Creek Main Stage with multi-media shows that alone were worth the price of admission (a shout-out to the light and sound crews for their notable work). Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit also graced this stage with an intense performance featuring melancholy country tunes and bluesy ballads from their highly acclaimed 2011 release, Here We Rest. Donavan Frankenreiter, Citizen Cope, Devil Makes Three and Yonder Mountain String Band drew huge numbers to the Hill Holler stage. And the intimate VA Folklife Workshop Porch was so jam-packed with talent, including Railroad Earth, Ben Sollee, Jim Lauderdale and the North Mississippi Allstars that one could have happily parked themselves on a front-row bench enjoying all these “musical conversations.” Over a dozen “Artists on the Rise,” vied for the audience vote that would ensure them a place on next year’s line-up. From the eclectic, progressive jazzy blue-grass sounds of the Jon Stickley Trio, the hard-rocking bluegrass band Sanctum Sully, and and the four young men known as Tauk who masterfully blended funk, jazz, pop and rock into an explosion of raucous sound, choosing just one winner was a challenge.
Heavy rains starting Friday evening and continuing through much of Saturday created even heavier mud that closed parking lots and kept some on site longer than they anticipated (there could be worse fates). The skies opened up one more time about ten minutes before Old Crow Medicine Show was scheduled to close the event on Sunday, but all was clear by the first number, not that anyone would have noticed or cared once the boys from Tennessee got underway with their rowdy infectious country-folk!
– Beth Baldino