Catawba Farm Fest debuted on August 31 at the Catawba Sustainability Center near Roanoke, VA. With a three-day schedule of 48 local and national acts, the festival promoted green living, local foods, and good music on a beautiful farm at the base of Catawba Mountain, just below the Appalachian Trail.
Sustainability was wonderfully illustrated by the Richmond Indigenous Gourd Orchestra. This colorful group grows its own gourds in a variety of sizes and shapes and fashions them into instruments (and hats too!). The orchestra included drums, lutes, flutes, shakers and more. Fans were amazed to hear the infectious rhythm coming from the homegrown instruments.
The Black Twig Pickers featured a lively and enjoyable set of primitive bluegrass, including one song using fiddlesticks. Wayne Henderson, a winner of the National Heritage Award, offered a great set of flatpicking including Carter Family and Doc Watson tunes.
The mix of music included great shows by Mercy Creek, the Stereofidelics, the Judy Chops, Welcome to Hoonah, Levi’s Gene Pool, and the Boatmen.
Young and old alike danced to Badunkafunk’s covers of Michael Jackson classics. JP Harris and the Tough Choices provided a strong dose of honkey tonk country as fans dodged thunderstorms. The Rob Hornfeck Enterprise rocked the farm.
Virginia’s own Larry Keel and Natural Bridge got the crowd going with his alt-grass flat-picking. His talented band includes Will Lee on banjo, Mark Schimick with mandolin and vocals, and Jenny Keel on bass. Keel has a new recording, Classic, and treated the audience to several from this album, including How Can it be Wrong.
Acoustic Syndicate was in the groove. They played several originals from an upcoming album (due out in the Spring), along with tunes by John Hartford and Dire Straits. Larry Keel joined them for the last two numbers and they closed the show, and Catawba Farm Fest’s first night, with a rendition of Walking on the Moon dedicated to the memory of Neil Armstrong – under a rare blue moon.
A special start for Catawba Farm Fest indeed.