Jul 25 – Jul 29, 2018
Writer/Photographer: Bob Adamek
The 18th version of Floyd Fest was held at their bucolic location on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia. It’s hard to imagine a prettier place. The five-day festival holds around 15,000 fans and has developed a unique vibe. As with many festivals, the fans feel free to let themselves go and become one with their inner hippie more than they usually can during their “normal” life, but Floyd Fest brings out another level of fan. The festival isn’t very easy to get to (although the festival directors bend over backwards to try and accommodate). Most folks must park off-site, which is a lot several miles away, and then take busses fixed with trailers to get their gear in. Once on the festival grounds, there is a ready supply of volunteers driving golf carts waiting to help you get to your campsite of choice, but perfectly flat camping is a difficult find also. So why are so many folks dedicated to returning year after year? It’s the amazing vibe of true hard-core music fans, gathering to share their love of music and each other and this very beautiful place.
Floyd Fest is indeed special; the grounds are lined with wonderful artisans that sell beautiful pieces made by hand, often by vendors that live in close proximity to the festival. And aside from a yearly lineup of worthy headliners, the festival has long since been flush with an undercard of bands that are as solid as any festival lineup. On a personal note, I have seen more music unknown to me that has become a regular part of my stash at this festival than perhaps any other.
This year Gov’t Mule, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, Foster the People, Leftover Salmon and Greta Van Fleet headlined the first three days, all turning in exciting, top of the game sets. But special note should be given to Greta Van Fleet. There was a noticeable influx of fans arriving a couple of hours before their set, and the bowl of the Streamline Stage at Hill Holler was absolutely packed. The buzz preceding their set was justified as the 19-21 year-old band members played a throwback flavored set of pure rock and roll that raised the hair on your arms. Although the comparisons the band has been labeled with to Led Zeppelin are easily seen, Greta Van Fleet stands on their own as great writers, players, and electrifying performers.
Bands from the undercard, such as Devon Gilfillian, Langhorne Slim, Son Little, and Antibalas, gave soulful sets and lasting impressions to the Floyd Fest faithful. It is this lineup of eclectic treats, such as rock and roll, country, soul and Afrobeat, one following the other, that brings out such open-minded music hungry fans.
Special mention also goes to a band named Gryzzle from the “On The Rise” series, the festival’s generous opportunity for young bands to play for seasoned fans. Gryzzle is a band from Harrisonburg Virginia made up of mainly rising juniors from James Madison University. Their unique blend of hip-hop and jazz created a substantial buzz on the festival grounds that lasted well beyond their Wednesday and Thursday sets. Two other bands from the series, who won prize packages and slots at next year’s festival, were Magnolia Boulevard and Travers Brothership, both making plenty of fans at the festival.
Floyd Fest is a must for hardcore music fans, put this one on your bucket list!