Festival Xpress

Cloggers perform at Shindig on the Green Photo by Jerry Nelson

Chances are, by the time you read this you’ll already be knocking the dirt off your sandals from a festival or two (Big Love, All Go West and MerleFest came up quickly!) — but fear not. Festival season is only just beginning.

Even if you haven’t yet ventured into the great, music-accompanied outdoors, there’s plenty of time. Air out your tent, take your tie-dyes and halter tops out of storage and hone your campfire-starting skills: This summer promises to be action-packed from start to finish with something for every interest (world music, barbeque, white squirrels, bagpipes, etc.).

And keep a look out for new events (Veg Fest) and new favorites (WNC Highlands Celtic Festival) along with the well-loved standbys (LEAF, Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, Shindig on the Green). Many festivals sell out, so plan accordingly. And pace yourselves, people — this is Western N.C., where the fun and games continue well into autumn.

Americana Roots Festival
The lineup: Balsam Range, Harris Brothers and a Roots Talent showcase
The dates: May 6
The location: Maggie Valley
The cost: $25 online/$29 at the door. Designated drivers and music-only tickets are $15 online/$19 doors.
The crowd: DIY types who like their crafts in the form of craft beers.
Can you camp? No, but the website lists hotels close to the festival.
More info at: www.americanarootsfestival.com

Lake Eden Arts Festival (LEAF)
The lineup: Maceo Parker, Angelique Kidjo, Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder,  Spam Allstars and more.
The dates: May 12 -15.
The location: Camp Rockmont in Black Mountain. Day-passers take a shuttle from the Owen Middle School parking lot.
The cost: Weekend passes are $151 adults/$124 kids, Weekend plus Thursday $174/$144. Day tickets are $99/$84 Friday-Sunday, $42/$34 Friday or Sunday, $52/$45 Saturday.
The crowd: Families who play together, world music aficionados, hula-hoopers and contra dancers and zip-line fanatics.
Can you camp? Camping is included with weekend passes; cabins were sold out at press time, but private lodge-room bunks could be reserved for $95.
More info at: www.theleaf.com

Montford Music & Arts Festival
The lineup: David Holt and the Lightning Bolts, Westsound, Firecracker Jazz Band, Free Planet Radio and more.
The dates: Saturday, May 21, starting at 10 a.m.
The location: Montford Avenue, Asheville.
The cost: Free. Enjoy live music, artist booths, vendors and food. Leave your dog at home.
The crowd: While not a local-only event, this festival does have a neighborhood block-party feel. Expect to celebrate with your neighbors.
Can you camp? Unless you know a kindly Montford resident with a big backyard, no.
More info at: www.montford.org/festival

Mountain Sports Festival
The lineup: Zach Deputy, Big Daddy Love, Spiritual Rez, Woody Pines and more.
The dates: May 27-28.
The location: Carrier Park, Asheville.
The cost: Music and entertainment are free; to compete, contact the coordinator for each event via the festival website.
The crowd: Climbers, disc-golfers, cyclists and other athletes — including those who like to dance for their endorphin rush.
Can you camp? No.
More info at: www.mountainsportsfestival.com

White Squirrel Festival
The lineup: Acoustic Syndicate, Jill Andrews, Town Mountain and more.
The dates: May 28 & 29.
The location: Downtown Brevard.
The cost: Free.
The crowd: If you know what a "Squirrel Box Derby" entails, you're the target audience. (If you're dying to know, and are pretty sure you can take it, this is also your festival.)
Can you camp? No.
More info at: www.whitesquirrelfestival.com

The lineup: Railroad Earth, JJ Grey and Mofro, Karl Denson's Tiny Universe, Melvin Seals and JGB and more.
The dates: June 3-5.
The location: Jomeokee Campground in Pinnacle, N.C.
The cost: The event is by invitation — learn how to get an invite by emailing smileagain4@gmail.com. Tickets will only be sold in advance and are $115 general/$275 VIP until June 1 or sold out.
The crowd: This is "a gathering of friends, family and lovers of music alike." Attendees are asked to bring a positive attitude — and craft supplies for the kids' area.
Can you camp? Primitive camping is included with ticket price; RV and car camping spaces can be reserved.
More info at: www.smilefest.com

Blue Ridge BBQ and Music Festival
The lineup: Chuck Wicks, The Shane Pruitt Band, Acoustic Syndicate, Big Daddy Love and more.
The dates: June 10 & 11.
The location: Harmon Field in Tryon.
The cost: $7; children under age 12 get in free.
The crowd: Sure, there's music and crafts but 'cue is the main attraction, so find the crowds at "Hog Heaven" — the cooking competition.
Can you camp? No.
More info at: www.blueridgebbqfestival.com

WNC Highlands Celtic Festival
The lineup: Ennis Pruitt, Rathkeltair, Montreat Scottish Pipes & Drums and more.
The dates: June 17 & 18.
The location: Pisgah Brewing Company.
The cost: $15 for both days.
The crowd: Celts (or folks who just really like plaid — and beer) who celebrate their heritage with athletic demos, border collie herding and music. And beer.
Can you camp? No.
More info at: www.celticheritageproductions.com/wnc.htm

Blue Ridge Pride’s Gay Games Field Day
The lineup: 5K race, team competitions like kickball and water balloon toss, individual games and music.
The dates: June 18.
The location: Carrier Park
The cost: $20 competition entry fee for a team of four.
The crowd: LGBTQ folks, along with their sporty and not-so-sporty friends, families and neighbors. (This is a fundraiser for the annual Blue Ridge Pride event, to be held Saturday, Oct. 1 at Pack Square Park.)
Can you camp? No. But you can probably be as campy as you please.
More info at: www.blueridgepride.com

Red White and Bluegrass
The lineup: Lonesome River Band, Dailey & Vincent, Mountain Heart with Tony Rice, JD Crowe & New South.
The dates: June 30-July 4
The location: Catawba Meadows Park, Morganton
The cost: Advance tickets are $45/4-day pass, $20/1-day pass. After May 31, at-gate prices apply. $65/4-day pass, $25/1-day pass.
The crowd: Bluegrass fans of all ages (including kids — there's a concurrent camp, hosted by Chris Jones and the Night Drivers, July 1-3).
Can you camp? Yes, camping permits cost $10 advance/$15 at the gate.
More info at: www.redwhiteandbluegrassfestival.com

Grandfather Mountain Highland Games
The lineup: Rathkeltair, Brother, Davy Ramone Morrison, George Hamilton IV and Saor Patrol.
The dates: July 7-10.
The location: MacRae Meadows on Grandfather Mountain, near Linville.
The cost: Four-day tickets are $55 adults/$25 children (in advance). Prices per day are $15 for Thursday opening ceremony, Friday Nite Live, Saturday night Celtic games and Sunday Games; $20 Friday preliminaries; $30 Saturday games and rock concert. Children’s per-day tickets are $5.
The crowd: Kilt wearers, pipers and dancers, wrestlers and sheep herders. (Pets are not allowed, though working dogs and livestock will be in attendance.)
Can you camp? Yes. Fees depend on tent or RV size, ranging $25 per night for a two-man tent to $100 per night for an extra-large RV.
More info at: www.gmhg.org

The lineup: Each camp (see camping info below) brings its own sound system. Touch Samadhi, Wondrous Temple of Boom and Philidelphia Experiment — among others— have made prominent showings in the past.
The dates: July 15-18
The location: Deerfields, Horse Shoe.
The cost: Tickets are sold in two batches of 1,000. To purchase a ticket, you will need to have an account with Transformus.com. The second tier of tickets were released on May 1, and are $90 each.
The crowd: "Burners" (this is a "Burning Man-sanctioned regional Burn"), artists and seers, all honing their self-expression.
Can you camp? Yes. There are theme camps or camping communities which all interconnect to form Mysteria, the village of Transformus. Festival goers can join theme camps prior to the festival.
More info at: www.transformus.com

The lineup: Traditional folk dancers from Italy, Nepal, Trinidad, Finland, Guadeloupe, Turkey, China, Croatia, Burundi and the USA.
The dates: July 21-31.
The location: Performance venues in Waynesville, Lake Junaluska, Maggie Valley, Canton, Clyde, Highlands, Bryson City, Cullowhee, Asheville, Columbus, Burnsville, Marion, Mars Hill, Flat Rock and Franklin.
The cost: Performance tickets vary by date and venue. Some free public performances also take place as part of the festival.
The crowd: People who believe Flashdance and Dirty Dancing would have been a whole lot better with Troika steps and folkloric hats.
Can you camp? No.
More info at: www.folkmootusa.org

Bele Chere
The lineup: Railroad Earth, ReBirth Brass Band, Do It To Julia, Holy Ghost Tent Revival and more.
The dates: July 29-31
The location: Downtown Asheville.
The cost: Free.
The crowd: Pretty much everyone who likes full sun, free tunes, food stalls and surprise street performances at every turn.
Can you camp? No.
More info at: www.belecherefestival.com

Sourwood Festival
The lineup: Food vendors, arts and crafts vendors and music to be announced.
The dates: August 13-14.
The location: Downtown Black Mountain.
The cost: Free.
The crowd: A Mayberry-esque mix of locals and tourists.
Can you camp? No.
More info at: www.exploreblackmountain.com

The lineup: To be announced
The dates: August 26-28
The location: Downtown Asheville on "The Block": Eagle and Market Streets.
The cost: Free
The crowd: Folks celebrating their African and Caribbean heritage (or at least reveling in the sights and sounds of Africa and the Caribbean).
Can you camp? No.
More info at: www.goombayasheville.com

Lexington Avenue Arts and Fun Fest (LAAFF)
The lineup: To be announced.
The dates: Saturday, Sept. 3 and Sunday, Sept. 4.
The location: Downtown Asheville on Lexington Avenue.
The cost: Free
The crowd: This strictly local street fest gives Asheville residents a prime opportunity to let their freak flags fly.
Can you camp? No.
More info at: www.arts2people.org/laaff.html

The lineup: Eminem, Arcade Fire, Widespread Panic, The Black Keys, Buffalo Springfield and more.
The dates: June 9-12.
The location: Manchester, Tenn.
The cost: $249.50 (plus fees) for general admission with VIP ($1,349.50 per pair, plus fees) and total access (inquire via bonnaroo.com/totalaccess/contact.aspx) available.
The crowd: This is the X-Games of festivals — must be able to withstand heat, rain, crowds and port-a-potties and make the mad dash from Lil Wayne's set to the Mumford & Sons show without missing a beat.
Can you camp? Yes. Access to campgrounds in included in ticket price. A rent-a-tent program launches this year for those who don't want to lug or set up their own. Rent an onsite RV or purchase an RV pass to bring your own.
More info at: www.bonnaroo.com

All Good Music Festival & Campout
The lineup: Further, Primus, Pretty Lights, moe. and more.
The dates: July 14-17
The location: Masontown, West Va.
The cost: Advance tickets (allgood.musictoday.com or 1-800-594-TIXX) run $159 for a 3-day pass; $189 for a 4-day pass (add $40/$50 for prices at the gate). Kids up to age 3 are free, ages 4-12 are $75. Adults VIP tickets are $480 for all four days.
The crowd: The kind of folks who work the phrase "it's all good" into general conversation. And mean it.
Can you camp? Since it wouldn't be much of a campout otherwise, camping is included in the ticket price Tent camping is in the meadowlands. No electricity, but there will be a shower service for a nominal fee. RV camping is $60 in advance/$90 at the gate per vehicle.
More info at: www.allgoodfestival.com

The lineup: Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Taj Mahal, Xavier Rudd, The David Grisman Sextet and more.
The dates: July 28-31.
The location: An 80-acre festival site in the Southern Virginia town of Floyd.
The cost: Advance tickets are available for 3- or 4-day weekend passes ($125/$135 before July 1, $140/$155 at the gate). Kids ages 6-12 pay $15 advance/$20 at the gate. Adult VIP passes are sold out; a limited number of day passes will be released closer to the date, space permitting.
The crowd: This year's lineup (including Asheville's Toubab Krewe) is likely to attract a more world music-oriented crowd. You know, along with the jammers and rockers.
Can you camp? Yes. While on-site RV tickets are sold out, there is primitive camping available for $50 and off-site RV camping for $100.
More info at: www.floydfest.com

Music on the Mountaintop
The lineup: TBA at press time.
The dates: August 26 & 27
The location: The Old High Country Fairgrounds, Boone
The cost: 1-day and 2-day tickets will be available in advance and at the gate. Prices TBA.
The crowd: An eclectic all-ages group of Appalachian music fans — from babes in arms to folks in their 90s.
Can you camp? Camping is limited but is included in ticket price.
More info at: www.musiconthemountaintop.com

Mountain Song Festival
The lineup: The festival is hosted by the Steep Canyon Rangers. Past performers include Steve Martin, Tim O'Brien & Brian Sutton, Carolina Chocolate Drops.
The dates: Sept. 9 and 10
The location: Brevard Music Center.
The cost: 1-day and 2-day tickets $35, $40 and $70.
The crowd: Lovers of mountain music, Steep Canyon devotees and those hoping for a glimpse of (or a whole set from) Steve Martin.
Can you camp? No, but you could stay in the Pisgah National Forest nearby.
More info at: www.mountainsongfestival.com

• Whole Bloomin’ Thing Festival: Haywood County’s premier spring festival, featuring plant, vegetable and flower starts, fresh-made foods and live music and entertainment. May 7, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Frog Level district.
• Mad on Main Festival: A group art show and pedestrian shopping event concurrent with Mother's Day weekend. May 7, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. www.madisoncountyarts.com.
• Saluda Arts & Music Festival: A showcase of fine arts and crafts from regional artisans. May 21, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. www.saluda.com/events.html.
• Singing on the Mountain: Now in its 87th year, this all-day festival takes place in a meadow and features gospel song and sermon. Free. June 26. www.grandfather.com.
• Cashiers Mountains Music Festival: Now in its third year, the festival will be the first to utilize the newly constructed Village Commons area at the Cashiers Village Green. Doc Watson headlines; there's also a car show, a kids' zone and an arts and crafts show. $25 advance/$30 day of show (for both days). July 2 & 3. www.cashiersnorthcarolina.com/cmmf.
• Shindig on the Green: Bluegrass pickers gather in huddled jams while onlookers pull up lawnchairs and take it all in. The informal gathering enters its 46th season (its second back at Pack Square's Roger McGuire Green). July 2, 9, 16, 23; August 13, 20, 27; September 3, 7-10 p.m. www.folkheritage.org.
• Carolina Mountain Ribfest: Basically, it's all about pork. But there are also arts and crafts, a car show, comedy and music from the likes of Peggy Ratusz & Daddy Long Legs, Angela Easterling & the Beguilers, Rosie Ledet & the Zydeco Playboys and more. July 8-10. www.wcpshows.com/ribfest.html.
• Mountain Dance & Folk Festival: This is the indoor counterpart to Shindig on the Green. The event — running since 1928 — celebrates mountain music.  August 4-6. http://www.folkheritage.org.
• Asheville VegFest: A new (and hopefully annual) free street festival presented by The Asheville Vegetarians and Goat Mountain. Food, vendors, speakers and live entertainment, held on Battery Park Ave. in downtown Asheville. August 7. www.ashevillevegfest.org.
• Rockin River Fest: This free festival, organized by RiverLink, includes a silly raft race from Bent Creek to French Broad River Park, vendors, kids’ events and bands to be announced. August 13. www.riverlink.org/RockinRiverFest2009.asp.
• Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion: This has earned quite a reputation in its 10 years, with past performers including Ralph Stanley, Doc Watson, the Avett Brothers, Dr. Dog and more. Set for Sept. 16 to 18 this year.

About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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5 thoughts on “Festival Xpress

  1. James Yertrum


    You didn’t even mention the very best summer festival in Asheville, FANATICON.

    Good reporting guys!

  2. Jeff

    For my money French Broad River Festival in Hotsprings is fun, fun, fun. It’s been the rockin’ start to summer for 14 years now. It’s such a crowd-pleaser they’re launching the first ever FALL version this year.

  3. dave

    Good job on this, Alli. Fanaticon is a comic festival, last year they brought in a couple of not local bands. Granted it was really fun, and I’m not knocking it, but why not some local rippers? Some fits- Death of Analog, Robots Win, Forty Furies, Rubber Cushions, Johnny Sexx, Megahurtz, Zombie Queen, a few local acts that would work well in the comic realm, etc … It pleases me to see a few of the initial Bele Chere bands, the ones listed sound pretty good, for once. Do It To Julia is a great local band, bring it, bring the diversity. Again, nice little summary, cheers. If any of the Goombay folks are reading, please, please , please bring Duwayne Burnside~

  4. dave

    OK, I commented before I googled. Sorry. I see that Mad tea Party is on the bill, well that’s cool, a great band.

  5. Sneaky McFly

    Thanks for the blurb on Unifire. We have an all new show entitled…Burnography-The Life of Fire, We’ll be tracing the history of flame from the Big Bang to the industrial age with fire manipulation and dance. Unifire Theatre from Asheville has been thrilling audyences all over the Southeast for 10 years now, See us locally at LEAF and LAAFF. http://www.unifiredance.com

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