Some weekend highlights from FloydFest include an onstage marriage proposal and a rootsy Appalachian treasure
It’s Sunday at FloydFest. A stiff breeze was kicking up dust through the morning, but otherwise it’s a hot and gorgeous day. There was so much music and freaky doings after the Levon Helm Band show, and I’ll get to those in the next post.
For now, I want to do something I’ll never get to if I wait till the *real* work week begins tomorrow — write about some highlights.
Thursday: The Mantras, winners of last year’s FloydFest Under the Radar series, have had main stage and Hill Holler sets full of their funky-idiosyncratic jams throughout the festival, but the best moment with that act didn’t have as much to do with music as with true love (let’s hope).
Late in their Thursday afternoon Hill Holler set, The Mantras called to the stage a man and woman who were clearly friends of the band. Quickly, the man got down on one knee and proposed to his significant other, showing her a photo of the engagement ring rather than the ring itself, for fear of losing the real thing at the fest, guitarist Keith Allen explained.
“She said yes!” Allen told the crowd.
“That wasn’t on the set list,” my old friend Benny Smith said, with delivery and tone that made it much funnier than it is in the writing. Smith, station manager at the University of Tennessee’s college rock WUTK-FM, and I go back to second grade, and it’s always a joy and a treat on the rare occasions when I get to hang with him. It’s great to know that a guy with such a deep and broad knowledge of music is around the UT campus, turning the kids on to what radio can be.
After years of radio and promo work at so many festivals that he lost count, Smith decided to hit FloydFest, his first long-form live music smorgasbord since 2001. “It was a good one for getting back into it,” said Smith, who raved about the grounds and the bill.
Great to see you again, Benny. Sorry I had so much work to do. Hope it’s not so far in-between now and next time.
Friday: At the workshop porch, host Jon Lohman introduced venerable roots music performer Nat Reese by pointing out the cemetery, with some ancient gravestones, just behind the cabin facade.
Lohman remembered Reese telling him last time he performed here: “You should never bring an 84-year-old man this close to a graveyard!”
Reese, once again so near that old collection of final resting places, sounded just great at age 86. Reese is an Appalachian treasure, if not a national treasure — and there’s a great argument to be made for that, too. He provides an honest-to-God link to our musical heritage.
All weekend: This year’s Under the Radar series features a bunch of bands from Atlanta, including Ralph Roddenberry Band, Dot Line Projekt and Lefty Williams Band. Those and other Atlanta-area acts camped together, hung out together and played music together during the weekend. Likewise there are contingents — under the radar and otherwise — from such towns as Sol Driven Train’s home spot, Folly Beach, N.C., and Boone, N.C., home of Possum Jenkins.
Knoxville, Tenn.’s Shortwave Society, which sounded really spooky and compelling for the few minutes I got to hear the act, are also part of Under the Radar. Knoxille’s always been a good city for live, original music, and I suspect that we’ll see more of it here in years to come.
Before I log out from FloydFest today, I’ll post my favorite moment of the entire hootenanny.