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Some complained of long waits Thursday at the festival’s new main parking lot.
Thursday, July 25, 2013
Putting on a big show without a hitch or two is nearly impossible. The bigger the show, the bigger the hitch potential.
FloydFest had a couple of them on the first day of the event’s 12th go-round. But they were largely worked out by the time the sun fell on one of the prettiest days in FloydFest history — and one of its strongest days of live, outdoor music.
The thermometer didn’t hit 80 on Thursday, and a sweet breeze knocked off any humidity while clouds played against the sun. That was probably a good thing for the people who complained of long waits at the festival’s new main parking lot — a crucial early issue on the first sold-out Thursday of FloydFest’s first completely sold-out weekend.
Tyler Atkins, of Roanoke, came to the event’s first day with a friend. He said he was unhappy with his four-hour wait at the new Alpha lot.
“I got here early, and the lines were way too long to get our stuff checked and to get on the shuttle,” Atkins said.
Festival attendees with multiple bags had to tag their belongings, some of which went onto trailers from the parking site to a check-in near the Blue Cow Pavilion — FloydFest’s home off the Blue Ridge Parkway, near Floyd. Minimal items meant a baggage-check bypass and a quicker trip into the venue.
“I’m just glad people are in,” FloydFest co-founder Kris Hodges said as main stage opening act Spirit Family Reunion performed. He declined to comment further.
Hodges and other organizers had planned for this possibility. The Harwell Grice Band, with roots in Franklin County, kept music flowing between 5 and 6 p.m., near the shuttles. But general admission ticket buyers with stories of long waits were already on the grounds by then. The festival started at 4 p.m.
Last year’s FloydFest saw long lines of people waiting to get off the grounds at the event’s end. This inverse problem — despite a new parking lot and twice the shuttles — surely factors into organizers’ conversation for next year’s event.
Musically, it was one of FloydFest’s strongest days.
During the main stage opening set, onetime Franklin County boy Mat Davidson, of Spirit Family Reunion, kept things rolling when monitor feedback threatened to stop the Brooklyn, N.Y., country-roots band’s show. The act was going for a three-part harmony on the traditional “Climb Off The Corn” when feedback too harsh for ears 100 yards away blasted the group from a short distance.
As other members moved backward and appeared to stop, fiddler Davidson, 27, took over, letting go at full-throat, a fair distance from the band’s single vocal microphone. He sawed his fiddle powerfully through the halftime shuffle that the band’s drummer pounded.
Davidson’s work inspired cheers from the audience and drew the band members closer to him to resume playing and harmonizing.
By the time the song was over, the issue was resolved, and Spirit Family Reunion had built a sizeable crowd for such an early set, drawing sing-alongs to relatively obscure numbers toward the end of a performance that ran a little more than an hour.
“It feels lousy to stop a song in the middle of a show is all,” Davidson said afterward. “It’s like waking up in the middle of a good dream.”
Davidson laid no blame, calling it a “technological mishap.” It was Spirit Family Reunion’s second consecutive FloydFest. Davidson had also played the event in 2010, with Rhode Island band The Low Anthem. The buzzworthy Spirit Family Reunion was scheduled to roll north from FloydFest, to Rhode Island’s iconic Newport Folk Festival.
Other acts with local roots performed Thursday.
Previous FloydFest Under the Radar band winner L Shape Lot, from Wilmington, N.C., features frontman Eric Miller, who grew up in Roanoke. Miller’s band played the venue’s Hill Holler Stage right after Spirit Family Reunion’s show.
The aforementioned Harwell Grice Band later played the new Ferrum College Pickin’ Shack. World music band Baaba Seth was to reunite for a set at 1:30 a.m. this morning, with bassist Dylan Locke, artistic director at Jefferson Center in Roanoke.
But plenty of national acts were on Thursday’s bill as well. The Lumineers, Gogol Bordello and Railroad Earth were scheduled for later sets.
The rest of the weekend’s lineup is stellar, as well. Beyond that, patrons’ ability to get off the grounds with relative timeliness might improve upon the early troubles.
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