The Ultimate Festy Experience: Review + Photo Gallery
Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, I found the best kept secret in the music scene: The Festy Experience! The Festy Experience is just not a festival its a family reunion with The Jamily!
The Festy offered a Thursday camping ticket for those who wanted to get settled early and check out The Infamous Stringdusters’ sound check. We were greeted with a smile, given a Klean Kanteen steel pint cup, 2 shower tickets, Festy hand book and told to have a great time. There was barely a line to get in, no hassle, no ripping apart of our car (good thing– we were packed till the gills!).
The Festy Experience is aptly named for sure! I have never seen such a clean festival grounds before. By giving everyone the Klean Kanteen cup (which was free with your ticket), it cut down on a lot of garbage. As a result, there were no plastic water bottles or beer cups for people to throw on the ground. This was awesome feature to the festival; nobody likes to see filthy, littered concert grounds! Klean Kanteen sold a cup ring and belt hook ($5) so you could keep your pint with you at all times. They even had free filtered water stations both in the Main concert grounds and Base Camp.
Another pet peeve of mine when I go to festivals is the porta potties are never kept clean. The Festy went above and beyond any other festival in this department as well! The bathrooms were kept clean and stocked all weekend long in the main concert grounds. At the campgrounds, I think they forgot us on Sunday or they just could not get the trucks in through the mud– what ever the reason was I was happy to have a clean bathroom for 3 of the 4 days I was there!
Finally, everything was really affordable! 20lbs bags of ice were only $6 (most festivals sell small bags of half melted ice for $4). They had 4 different micro craft beers, all brewed by The Devils Backbone brewery right on site for $6 a pint! Even the band merchandise was inexpensive: I picked up the new Infamous Stringdusters bluegrass revolution long sleeve shirt for $25. They even threw in a free Festy stainless steel water bottle if you spent $30 or more. Speaking of free things, they even had boxes of delicious apples for everyone and bonfires every night!
Arriving on Thursday proved to be a great idea since it was the driest day all weekend. And by driest I mean it only rained some of the day! After camp was set up and we were taking it all in, we noticed The Infamous Stringdusters (ISD) guitarist Andy Falco riding around on his bike checking out the grounds. He stopped to say hi to us and one of my friends got to talking to him and told him how much he liked his song Rainbows. Andy said if it stopped raining maybe they would play it!
Later in the evening we wandered around Base Camp while we waited to be let in for sound check. In Base Camp, there was a nice wooden sculpture of a bird with its wings spread, some hammocks and a fire pit. The walkway from Base Camp to the main concert grounds was lit up with cool globes hanging from the trees.
I had only listened to a few shows prior to The Festy so I was really excited to finally get my first real taste of ISD, even if it was just for sound check! It was really nice to see them figure out what they were doing and get a feel for the sound. Andy Hall forgot his delay pedal so Andy Falco gave him his to use. Also they played Rainbows!
After sound check they had Della Mae on the Southern Stage, which is a short walk from the Main Stage. Della Mae’s set was really good and guys from ISD sat in with them. What was nice about where we were camped was that we could see the Southern Stage and hear the music!
Andy Hall got opening ceremonies going with an absolutely draw dropping “Star Spangled Banner”! He also blew me away with a cover of The Doors’ “House of The Rising Sun” and I fell in love with the Dobro (a type of acoustic guitar with steel resonating disks inside the body under the bridge)! I could have sat their all day listening to him play, but, alas, opening ceremonies were only 30 minutes.
Up next was Cabinet on the Southern Stage! I have seen them a couple times now and absolutely adore them. They are truly a foot stomping good time! Their energy on stage fills the audience with so much happiness. The highlight of their set for me was “Shady Grooves”! I jut love love this song and the way they flavor it with their own style! I sure hope next year The Festy brings them back!
I have not seen Marco Benevento in ages and he was one of the reason I wanted to go to The Festy! I loved that he was on the Main Stage in the evening on Friday. They played a lot off their new CD “Tiger Face” (you can buy it here). Marco got everyone going when he donned the tiger mask which had been hanging on his piano. For me I almost lost my mind when Marco put it on Dave Dreiwitz’s head! Dave ripped a bass solo that melted faces! This set was really fun and I danced my butt off !
When 9:45pm rolled around it was finally time for me to truly GET ‘DUSTED for the first time! And boy did I ever! They opened up with Travelin’ Teardrop Blues>After Midnight that filled my heart with love! I left the photo pit shortly after so I could get a feel for what the Infamous Stringdusters show was all about. I made my way to the edge of the crowd to take it all in. I was blown away with their stage presence! They were all smiles and having such a blast on stage. What stood out for me is the way they move around on stage; it was hard to keep up with them! I have never seen a bass player move a stand up bass the way Travis Books does! After the show ended I was filled with awe, slight sadness because it was over and excitement knowing that tomorrow night there would be another two sets!
Take a listen to Friday’s set here
The rain came rolling in Saturday so it was necessary to take cover for a good part of the afternoon. Around 6pm John Scofield UberJam Band came calling and I headed out for my favorite set of the weekend. These guys threw down! To be able to finally see a legend like Scofield was breathtaking and it will go down in my books as one of the greatest sets I was able to see! I defiantly need to see these guys again!
I have wanted to see Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad for all while now so I had marked them on my schedule. When the time came, I headed to the Southern Stage to get my rasta on. It was packed! People brought in their own lawn chairs into the dance tent and there were more chairs in there than people. I tried to find a good spot to listen and dance but could not. I became frustrated and ended up leaving. I hope next year they will not allow chairs in there; the space is limited as it is, there is just not enough room for chairs.
Round two of ISD consisted of 2 sets to end the evening! The highlight of the first set hands down was John Scofield sitting in with them on his song “Kelpers” and “Can’t put out the fire!” They grooved out and it was filled with high energy and love. Chris Pandolfi traded licks with Scofield and afterwords he said “I seriously I think I am about to cry right now, that was fantastic! Thanks John.” To be able to have one of your musical influences share the stage with you has to be out of this world!
Set two was crazy good and packed with bluegrass awesomeness! I finally was ready to join their bluegrass revolution! Their talent as individual musicians is spectacular, but their talent as a band is off the charts! Its mind boggling to watch them do what they do! I spent the most part of this set with my jaw in the mud! Their love for the Jamily shined in this set, with the many thanks they gave to them. The passing of the torch of Fan of the Year was announced. Last year it was Trevor Shaw and this year it was Shari and Brian Band (who flew in from California for The Festy)!
Take a listen to both sets here:
I awoke bright and early Sunday morning feeling the dampness all the way to the bone. I quickly grabbed my shower ticket and headed off to get cleaned up and ready for the gospel hour with Jeremy Garrett! The rain and mud was getting nasty and they moved gospel hour from the workshop stage to the Southern Stage. I was so thankful since I was getting tired of the rain by now!
The gospel hour was filled with some of the weekends most beautiful music. It was a truly an amazing time. Friends and family all joined Jeremy on stage! It was a joy to see Jeremy sing with his father and his sister! At the end all Infamous Stringdusters came on stage huddled around one mic and played 2 songs for us!
JJ Grey and The Mofros got the evening going by bringing their southern rock to the festy! I loved watching JJ perform, he really is a storyteller with old soul. Even in the rain they rocked out. I briefly forgot about the rain myself and just let their music carry me away.
After JJ Grey’s set, I decided to put my camera away and get my festy on! It was time for Founding Fathers! Founding Fathers is an electronica side project of The Infamous Stringdusters’ Chris Pandolfi and Andy Falco. The group featured an electric banjo, which I had never heard before. They played an electronic version of ISD’s “Fork” and it was right up my ally; I danced like it was the end of the world! Andy Hall even joined them for a song! I really loved that they did George Harrison’s “While my Guitar Gently Weeps,” so good! I could of easily taken another set after they finished the show!
Railroad Earth closed The Festy out in style! This was one of the best shows I have seen from them! They had the crowd at the opening notes of “Storms” and held them captive through their whole set! They dropped “Untitled #12” which made my day! They debuted a Ska Jam, which was off the hook! I cannot wait to hear that live again! They encored with a sing-a-long “Smile For Me” that left everyone with a grin from ear to ear!
Take a listen here:
Check out this amazing recap video from Matt Bobeck of FlyingUnicornProductions
I must say even with all the rain and mud I had a blast at this years Festy! Huge thanks to The Artist Farm, Cerberus Productions, The Infamous Stringdusters and The Jamily for showing Sensible Reason a real good time at The Festy! Lets do it again next year!