Before we talk about today, let’s backtrack and tell you what happened yesterday!
There’s bluegrass and then there’s everything that happens when you take bluegrass and you start fooling around with its chemistry. Saturday featured a host of musical talent that has a foundation in bluegrass but has added a dash of this and a splash of that and come up with something altogether different but no less amazing.
We caught up with the members of Brooklyn based American group Yarn after their main stage set and talked about their current projects.
Front man Blake Christiana:
“In addition to our March release, Almost Home, we’ve just put out another 3 song EP on Noisetrade for free and we’re hoping to have an acoustic record out before the end of the year.”
The band is touring full time, so how do they log those miles AND manage to put out a recording? Said Christiana,
“You just find the spaces to do it ….we’ve recorded the acoustic record all over the place, from Hickory, NC to New York….. probably a dozen places. It’s kind of a road project!”
Yarn is well known for its fan base (called the “Yarmy”) and their strong connection with their fans.
“Yeah, they’re great. I never really knew it until we started touring. They let us into their homes, even into their fridges. People are amazing.”
Yarn will be paying two more sets this weekend.
Following Yarn was Toubab Krewe, an Asheville, NC based Afropop band. They have the most amazing array of unusual stringed instruments (Bela would be proud!) and the percussion section is arguably the hardest working group here this weekend.
“I’m pretty sure there were some jet engines involved,” offered frontman Chris Thile.
Whatever it takes to get them here, the Punch Brothers are a natural fit for Floyd Fest. Consummate professionals, in their suits and ties, the Punch Brothers treated us to songs from their recent release Who’s Feeling Young Now? as well as their rendition of Ophelia, which they dedicated to the late Levon Helm.
Chris Thile will be doing a solo set later this evening on the Virginia Folklife Workshop Porch. (A hint for your prospective Floyders…the “Porch” is THE place to be to really see your favorite artists up close and personal. Artists have time to tell stories and entertain questions in this secluded little spot on the festival grounds.)
Following the Punch Brothers I caught up with North Carolina artists, Big Daddy Love. BDL won the Under the Radar Series in 2010 and we interviewed them last year. They’ve had few changes to the band since we saw them last year. They sounded fantastic, and they feel great about where they are and where they are headed. Featuring a new guitarist/vocalist and drummer, both of whom bring both talent and dedication to the effort, I asked them how winning UTR in 2010 has impacted their momentum.
“Winning under the radar put us at a whole new level. That really helped us. Everywhere we played in VA people would come up and say ‘Hey we saw ya’ll at Floyd Fest!’ “
Dedicating themselves to the music full time now, Brian said,
“It really makes a difference. My banjo teacher (national champion, Steve Lewis) told me one time, that the when the British Navy would launch an attack, they would send the soldiers to shore in little boats, and they would set fire to the big ship, so that when the soldiers looked back they knew that they couldn’t go home…. there was no turning back, they had to see the fight through to the end. He described that to me (as an analogy) for music. You have to be willing to burn your ship down and commit yourself completely to moving forward. We now have a group of guys who are willing to do that.”
Taking their Love up to New England, back to Colorado, back and forth to Florida, now they’re really starting to branch out. The talent has been there, but the passion has a new fierceness to it that feels exciting and new. This band is going places, and you should check out a live performance and their latest effort, Let It Grow.
Every year there is an act that blows me out of the water. The top contender this year is the March Fourth Marching Band (A date. A command. A band.). Not bluegrass. Not acoustic. Not anything you’ve ever seen before. A Portland, OR based marching band (I think we counted 18 members last night) with all of the traditional brass instruments, this group takes the marching band experience you might have had in high school, gives it shot of steroids, a dusting of glitter, turns the amps up to 11, and throws in a burlesque stilts act. My inner band geek (I played clarinet and oboe) jumped for joy as I watched an entire audience, young and old, bouncing in time to this infectiousness.
Check them out on Youtube or catch them live somewhere soon, they play close to 300 shows a year!