95% of music festivals are spent (as Sammy would put it) with my granny pants on. That is, I am either trying to find a place to sit, wondering when it is I will be able to go to sleep that night, complaining about my back hurting, or wishing I wasn’t so packed into the crowd that I had BO coming at me from all sides. In theory, I would be buying glow sticks, beer, and flowered headbands so I could meet new people and rage all night, but let’s face it, I have neither the money nor the endurance for that. Despite my grandma-like disposition (and I’m talking all grandma all the time, not just at festies), as soon as the lights go down on that stage (the #4 best feeling in the world), the remaining 5% takes over in an all-consuming the-world-is-perfect-in-this-moment kind of way.
FloydFest, in southern VA, offered me no shortage of fuel for my aforementioned 95%. The festival was poorly managed, the parking offsite, the shuttles not running as often as they should have, our gear arriving at different times, and most of all the lack of a rain plan.
That being said, the music was some of the most natural and raw I have heard in a good amount of time. Unlike Firefly (the festival in DE I attended last month), where the bands were pretty big names, and the crowd triple in size, Floyd really captured the magic of pure music. I enjoyed the smaller acts sometimes even more than the bigger shows, and I don’t hate discovering new artists.
On Thursday we saw Langhorne Slim & The Law, the end of Gogol Bordello (Holy Russians, Batman! these guys had some seriously contagious and hilarious energy), The Lumineers, and some of Railroad Earth. While The Lumineers were great, Gogol Bordello was the highlight of Thursday for me. And that is considering I patted Wesley Schultz on the back when he walked through the audience. Bordello’s electric violinist stole the show.
Friday began at 11 am when we saw the Lizzy Ross Band. Funny story, she is a childhood friend of my cousin, Alexandra, and she and I will both be bridesmaids in Alexandra’s September wedding. The last time I saw Lizzy was probably at Al’s 13th birthday party or something, and I think we made eye contact a few times while she was on stage, but I could be wrong, in which case I probably looked like an awkward audience member staring down the lead singer.
Later that evening we also saw Lake Street Dive, The Infamous Stringdusters, John Butler Trio, and Citizen Cope. Lake Street was a beautiful surprise. The lead singer’s voice was brilliant, and the arrangements were really great. But I have to say, musically speaking, JBT was by far the best performance of the weekend. When he played “Oceans,” an 8-minute instrumental song about he and his band leaving Australia, I could not stop crying. He had just his acoustic guitar and a kick drum, and I tell you, it was nothing short of magic. Emotionally drained from JBT and physically drained from the rest of the day, we fell in and out of sleep during the chill sounds of Citizen Cope, but I can’t complain because there’s no better way to catch some Z’s.
It began raining at 1 am on Saturday and did not stop til at least 3 pm. We huddled in our tent to keep dry(ish) even as raindrops soaked through the fly and dripped onto our heads and sleeping bags. Needless to say, the grounds were covered in mud ankle-deep. We ventured out at 12:30 to our first show, Delta Rae. The alternative country rock band had a cool performance aspect to their show, so they were fun to watch as well as listen to. We made it back to camp in time to eat, pack up, and prepare for the final 10-hour stretch of music.
We wanted front row seats for Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and the way to accomplish this was to stake them out early and stay put until the 10 pm show. In doing so, we got to see Blitzen Trapper and Brandi Carlile up close, two acts I really enjoyed. Brandi really knows how to rock, and her banjo player/guitarist who played the electric guitar with his mouth during one riff doesn’t mess around.
Finally Edward Sharpe. After seven hours of waiting, Sammy, Nick, and I had secured our spots on the fence. And it was well worth the wait to see all 11 (although I thought I counted 12) band members play well over three times as many instruments.
When Alex Ebert came down to ask for stories during “Home,” I gave him a little love pat on the back, too.
Additional cool thing: Edward Sharpe is very into audience participation, so during their show, they had two members come on stage to play with them. During one of these guest performances, Stewie, on the piano/trumpet snapped a photo which was later uploaded to Instagram. Half of Sammy’s face and my entire body (face excluded due to a very unfortunately well-placed microphone stand) made it in the picture.
With midnight came the show’s end, and we were off to our campsite to gather our things, lug them all the way back to the shuttle stop, wait for the right bus, lug everything again from the drop-off to our car, load the car, wait for the tractor to pull our car to the road, and drive the three hours back to Nick’s apartment in Harrisonburg. We finally made it home, in the shower, and to sleep at 6:15 am.
Music festivals are all different and all adventures. Bonnaroo two years ago was a battle with lines and heat, Creamfields last year in Sydney was a battle with transportation, Firefly was a battle with the distance, and Floyd was a battle with both the rain and poor management. I don’t think I’ll go back, but FloydFest’s tagline was right: it really was Music & Magic in the Mountains.
Things I learned this time around:
1. Tents are not nearly as waterproof as they are made out to be.
2. You are never as prepared as you think you are.
3. Frat boys are the worst to have next to you during a show.
4. Figure out how to carry everything you need on your back always.
Things I need to invest in for life purposes:
2. A portable hammock (Can anyone say ENO DoubleNest for Christmas?)
3. Rain pants
4. A sleeping bag that zips
5. More patience