This weekend is the 12th annual French Broad River Festival in lovely little Hot Springs — a small by some standards, 2,000-ticket celebration of music and paddling just 45 minutes away from Asheville. We hit up resident festival expert (and assistant distribution manager) Jeff Tallman for his tips. Here’s the advice he gave:
• Bring cash. “There’s only three ATMs in Hot Springs and they all run out of money this [festival] weekend,” Tallman says. And you’ll want money cause the food vendors are great, plus outfitters like National River Supply, which is typically only an online retailer, bring wares to sell.
• This year, the festival is encouraging carpooling and trying to save space inside the sometimes-crowded campground by charging $10 to drive a car inside. You can get that cash back by unloading your gear, driving out and parking by the road. Parking outside leaves more room for Frisbee-tossing and such.
• Don’t miss the late-night acoustic jams, Tallman says — they’re one of the coolest things at the festival. “The jams go on all night long,” he says. In years past, he’s seen Larry Keel pick with members of the Gourds, had his first introduction to the street performer we call the “young Bob Dylan” (sounds just like the guy) and more. The jams generally take place in artist Phil Cheney’s Dynamic Art Gallery tent. “There’s some freaky art, Day-Glo stuff, it’s pretty trippy,” Tallman says. This year, Asheville Pizza Company will bring the headphones it uses for its popular silent discos. It could make for quite a funny scene, with oldtime music neenering away while dancers get down at the disco.
• Bring firewood. There’s none to be found at the campground, and though you can buy it, “the guy who sells it is hard to find,” Tallman says.
• There’s no glass allowed inside the festival, and alcohol isn’t sold. Coolers are allowed at your campsite. Also, no dogs are allowed for safety reasons. And no illegal drugs (are they allowed anywhere?), weapons, fireworks.
• Oh yes, the lineup: It’s energetic and diverse. A partial listing: Reverend Horton Heat, Acoustic Syndicate, Larry Keel and Natural Bridge, Snake Oil Medicine Show, Mad Tea Party, Brushfire Stankgrass, The Screamin’ J’s, Town Mountain, the Trainwreks and many more. Add to that a massive whitewater raft race, mountain bike races, paddling workshops and a kid’s village, and the weekend promises to be packed with riverside good times.