Summer is music season. It is a chilled riesling on a freshly mown lawn, sundresses and linen shirts all turned towards the stage. It is friends en plein air, sneaking in comments between songs and set breaks. It is small acoustic performances as well as packed crowds and tailgates in dusty parking lots. Summer is for music, and everything that comes with it.
In our summer issue read about Summer Music Festivals, profiles of 4 local bands (Chamomile and Whiskey, The Hackensaw Boys, Red and the Romantics, and The Spruce Brothers), by Morgan Hensley
Also from Morgan Hensley: Lockn’ Festival, a national musical destination in the heart of the Piedmont:
Lockn’ Festival launched in 2013, and since it began has already drawn nationally-renowned acts such as Tom Petty, Santana, Willie Nelson, The Allman Brothers Band, and Keller Williams (a Fredericksburg native). The festival is the brainchild of partners and concert promoters Dave Frey and Peter Shapiro. After searching nationwide for the right venue, Oak Ridge Estate in Arrington was selected as the location. The estate, which has a recorded history dating back to the 1730s, is named after the expansive oak that acts as a centerpiece for the festival; illuminated by thousands of lights, the tall ancient oak is transformed into something of a totem. Arrington is, in Frey’s words, “kind of in the middle of nowhere and accessible from a lot of places at the same time.” Nested amidst the Blue Ridge Mountains, miles away from the glow of city lights, the landscape subtly manifests itself in the concerts, as Frey notes, the bands have this feeling “like ‘Wow! We’re in this beautiful place in the valley of the Blue Ridge mountains and it affects them.” That’s not to say the easygoing, pastoral landscape slows or calms the performances. Quite the contrary. The vast spaces resonant with a constant wave of music for four days, creating a contrast that at once highlights the region’s profound emptiness as well as the power of rock and roll. Read more in the summer issue.
Right: Bob Weir of Furthur and the Grateful Dead, left, with Zac Brownof the Zac Brown Band. Photo by Jay Blakesburg, Courtesy of the Lockn’ Festival
And keep an eye out for more music in the fall issue as Morgan profiles more local music.
On the Trail of Larry Keel: The Greatest, Most Original Guitar Player You’ve Never Heard of.
By Eric J. Wallace, Photos by 621 Studios
The year is 2002, and virtuoso progressive bluegrass guitarist Larry Keel is setting up on the stage of yet another dive-bar in the hills of western North Carolina. “Larry’s doing nothing short of reinventing the acoustic guitar,” explains Steve McMurry, the big, bearlike lead guitarist of acclaimed bluegrass band Acoustic Syndicate. “A lot of people, when they first hear his music, they don’t get it,” McMurry says in a dark, almost conspiratorial tone. Tracing his index finger around the rim of a pint of beer, he mutters: “It’s analogous to Van Gogh…. Like some artist that won’t be recognized until it’s all over.”
The problem with attempting to profile a musician of Keel’s caliber and originality is that his art — the depth of its effect — lies largely beyond the scope of concrete description. It is sensual, metaphysical, a thing to be experienced in the moment. While, yes, a hyper-educated critic can espouse some high-browed analytical jargon deconstructing a performance into techniques, influences, and formal innovations — thereby intellectually testifying to the genius of a given performer — the fact remains that without purchasing a ticket to the show and experiencing the music itself, a would-be initiate might as well be staring at a mouse and calling it a bear.
Each Larry Keel show is different. To consider the music of Larry Keel “is to realize the man is doing for bluegrass what Hendrix did for rock,” says McMurry, “what Miles did for jazz” — that is, exploring the uncharted possibilities, defying the limitations of a deeply established musical form. As recently as 10 years ago, Keel’s music was so creatively innovative, so ahead of his time, that it was often misunderstood, overlooked, and even dismissed by traditionalists as unworthy of critical praise. Read more in the summer issue.
Music Festivals this summer:
- Blue Ridge Mountain Music Fest Aug. 15
- Lockn’ Sept. 10-13
- Watermelon Park Fest Sept. 24-27
- The Festy Oct. 9-11
- Mineral Bluegrass Festival July 16-18
- Floydfest July 22-26
- River and Roots Festival June 26-27