For the last six years I've attended the Bristol Rhythm and Roots Festival in Bristol TN/VA. It's about a five-hour drive from my home in central Virginia, but, despite the lengthy drive, up until now there's never been any question about attending. The Festival dates are always marked off the calendar and a hotel reserved months in advance. The lineup has always been great, lodging is close by and affordable, the bars are welcoming with low prices on good beer, there's music all day long, and a unique mix of festivarians and local yokels makes for some hilarious people watching. Often it's not even the headliners that I get excited for, but some of the smaller, grungier, retro and progressive string bands that they get. For many years now this has been my all around favorite festival.
However, when the lineup was announced for this year's Rhythm and Roots I was a little disappointed. I understand that they can't have the same acts back every year, but there's a short list of performers that I expect to see there most every time. At the very least this includes The Hot Seats, Pokey LaFarge, Dr. Dog, The Two Man Gentlemen Band, Christabel and the Jons, Cutthroat Shamrock and Woody Pines. Sadly, as far as I can tell, none of these performers are there this year. So I'm really starting to question whether or not I should attend. I would like to see Zoe Muth but I think she is coming to my local venue Ashland Coffee and Tea around that same time of year.
On the flipside, I've always overlooked Floyd Fest, held each year off the Blue Ridge Parkway in beautiful Floyd, VA, because I knew I'd be going to Bristol and didn't want to do both. However I've heard good things about Floyd Fest and this year's lineup is very enticing. Just on the weekend alone, Saturday and Sunday, they've got the following acts playing: Hot Tuna, Donna the Buffalo, J.P. Harris and the Tough Choices, Dirk Powell, the Red Stick Ramblers, a workshop with Jorma Kaukonen and Larry Keel, Jackass Flats, "Yarn Plays The Dead", The Bloodroots Barter, The Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band, The Tony Rice Unit, The David Grisman Quintet, The Del McCoury Band and a jam session featuring members of the Tony Rice Unit and the Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band. That's a top notch list and I haven't even researched the lesser-knowns and/or those unfamiliar to me to see who else I might want to check out. Plus, Floyd is a camp-out festival and I am more into camping now and less into stumbling around drunk, which is what inevitably happens at Bristol. So it looks like the stars are lining up for a Floyd Fest this year instead of Bristol. Tickets for Floyd are more expensive, but by the time you add in the Bristol hotel costs and bar tabs (ouch!) it evens out I'm sure. Get out the hula hoops and flat-footing boards...Floyd Fest here we come!