Monday, July 25, 2011

"Sunburns, Mud People, and Bluegrass? Sugar Hill's Guide to Late Summer Festivals

       If the Summer Season isn't stressful enough with the kids at home, the NFL lockout, and (gasp) no "Dancing with the Stars", music fans must decide on how to spend their ever dwindling supply of disposable income. For us music fans, that means deciding upon which albums to purchase, local concerts to attend, and finally which musical pilgrimages to plan.

     Over the last 10 years, the Summer Festival has made huge resurgence in popularity. In a era of uncertainty in the music business, live music and specifically the summer festivals has become a beacon of light at the end of ambiguous tunnel.  But with so many options, how can music fans decide upon the right festival that fits their insatiable hunger for old familiar acts and exciting new talent? Even though the Summer is half over , we here at Sugar Hill have put together a list of festivals happening in late Summer/Early Fall that are a must see for anyone looking to make the most out of their hard earned dollars....

Floyd Fest X
July 28th - July 30th
Floyd, VA
Tickets: Here

FloydFest is a world music and arts festival held annually near Floyd, Virginia, situated in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It began in 2002 and has received excellent reviews ever since, earning a name for itself in 2005 when it played host to well-known folk singer Ani DiFranco. It lasts for four days with on-site camping and has over seven stages featuring Rock, Bluegrass, Reggae,Cajun, Zydeco, African, World, and Appalachian performers and showcases local Arts and Crafts, in addition to scheduling music and dance workshops and other small events, such as morning yoga lessons, story telling, and poetry readings. This year posts it's best lineup yet with some of the best roots-based acts in American.

Bands to see:  Yonder Mountain String Band, Yard Dog Road Show, Old Crow Medicine Show, Grace Potter, Sam Bush, David Grisman, Donna the Buffalo, Trampled By Turtles, Carolina Chocolate Drops

July 29-31
Lyons, CO
Info:  Here

RockyGrass is held at the Planet Bluegrass Ranch in Lyons, Colorado - located along the wooded banks of the beautiful St. Vrain River. The historic quarry town of Lyons is just 15 miles north of Boulder in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. The town is known for its antique stores, restaurants, artists, and musicians.
Numerous camping options nearby include: on-site at the festival grounds, under the cliffs at Meadow Park (a quick five-minute walk from the festival), or at the Olson Campground (a 10-minute walk or via the free shuttle buses).

Non-musical activities in and around Lyons include single-track mountain biking at Hall Ranch, river sports in the Meadow Park whitewater course, touring through Rocky Mountain National Park (40 minutes up the hill from Lyons), and hiking in the nearby National Forest lands.This year's lineup includes some old favorites and some exciting new talent that any fan of Sugar Hill artists would be silly to miss.

Bands to see:  David Grisman, Del McCoury, Sarah Jarosz, Hot Rize, Milk Drive, Sam Bush

Shine Fest 2011
August 19th-21st
Fontana Dam, NC
Tickets: Here

A new festival, the Shine Fest hosted by Troy & Son's boasts a picturesque setting in and around the Fontana Village Resort in Fontana Dam, NC. This festival may be just getting it's legs, but it is most certainly off to the right start with this beautiful mountain setting. Festival goers can either choose to camp out in this mountain paradise or can book a stay at the luxurious Fontana Village boasting both a lodge and cabins.  This is a must-see for anyone wanting the experience the Appalachians and who also love amazing "Roots" music.

Bands to see: Matt Stillwell, Blackberry Smoke, Black Lillies, Jim Lauderdale

Music on the Mountaintop
August 26-27
Boone, NC
Tickets: Here

In 2008, the first ever large scale festival in Boone took the High Country by surprise. What started as a class project at Appalachian State University grew into one of the largest musical events the town had seen in nearly a decade. Nearly 2,500 attendees enjoyed a full day of top notch musical talent from the local and national scene as well as interactive educational exhibits promoting environmental stewardship provided by more than 15 non-profits from across the state of North Carolina.

Since then, MOTM has grown exponentially. The Festival has seen its 2,500 event grow to 5,000 in 2010. Over the last three years they have showcased amazing talent such as Sam Bush (X3), Keller Williams (X2), Railroad Earth, The Steep Canyon Rangers, Toubab Krewe, Acoustic Syndicate (X3), and many more.
Most importantly, they have given over $11,000 back to local non-profit organizations, AIRE (Appalachian Institute of Renewable Energy) and Appalachian Voices. This year proves to be a continuation of the amazing lineup's they have had in the past.

Bands to see:  Sam Bush, Infamous Stringdusters, Acoustic Syndicate, Frontier Ruckus, Greensky Bluegrass

Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion
September 16th-18th
Downtown Bristol, VA/TN
Tickets: Here

Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion a non-profit organization which hosts an annual 3-day Americana music festival in the twin cities of Bristol, Virginia and Bristol, Tennessee.

Celebrating Bristol's heritage as the "Birthplace of Country Music" (a designation recognizing the early Jimmy Rogers and Carter Family recordings made there in the 1920s collectively known as the Bristol Sessions, Rhythm & Roots has hosted musicians such as Ralph Stanley, Sam Bush, Doc Watson, The Avett Brothers, John Cowan, Langhorne Slim, and Del McCoury. Since the first festival in 2001, Rhythm and Roots has grown to include 4 main stages (3 of which are outdoors), a dance tent, and 12 smaller stages inside the various shops, restaurants, and bars in the 4-block festival area.

Bands to see:  Railroad Earth, Marty Stuart & The Fabulous Superlatives, Tony Rice Unit, Justin Townes Earle, Jim Lauderdale, The Cave Singers, The SteelDrivers, The Everbodyfields

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival
Sept. 30th -Oct 2nd
San Francisco, CA
Info:  Here

The Mother of all Free Festivals. Possibly the mother of all Roots festivals period. Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, previously Strictly Bluegrass, or HSB for short, is an annual free music festival held the first weekend of October in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. From its outset, the festival has been subsidized by San Francisco venture capitalist Warren Hellman. The first festival was held in 2001, originally only inviting bluegrass musicians. By 2004 artists from other genres were invited and the "Hardly" was added to reflect the expanded scope. It doesn't get much better than this. The array of artists who play this festival is staggering.

Bands to see:  Gillian Welch, Ryan Bingham, Robert Plant, The Jayhawks, Abigail Washburn, Robert Earl Keen, The Flatlanders, Chris Isaak, Frank Fairfield, Earl Scruggs, Patty Griffin, Old Crow Medicine Show

Hopefully this lists gives you a good place to start with regards to where to spend those hard earned dollars and get a last minute summer tan/sunburn before the fall comes into full swing.


  1. Nothing about the Strawberry Music Festival near Yosemite? Four days of great music and camping in the Sierra ought to be worth a mention.

  2. There's also a great bluegrass/fusion unit playing at Bristol Rhythm & Roots this year from Asheville... Brushfire Stankgrass.