Sunday at Bele Chere has always been a subdued and family-friendly affair. No alcohol is allowed on the streets, out-of-towners begin the trek home, street preachers with bullhorns are presumably at church somewhere and the rowdiest participants are generally all partied out.
On a desert island, the festival's closing day would be akin to the hours following a helicopter sighting; the ordeal is nearly over, and all that's left to do is relax and wait for rescue. But along with relief comes the realization that while getting home will be nice, you'll miss the freedom of island life. And although this year's closing lineup offers plenty in the way of down-tempo roots music, it also includes soulful blues, space-y electronica and melodic indie rock. So don't pack up the hut and toss the straw hat just yet.
Here are a few shows to look out for:
Do it to Julia have been churning out Appalachian-tinged indie folk since its four members met while attending college in Boone half a decade ago. The band's percussive sound is most recognizable from the melodic interplay between the sharp vocal harmonies of songwriters Halli Anderson and Ryan O'Keefe and Anderson's soaring violin. Having just completed its sophomore album, the band recently changed its name to River Whyless, though the majority of local fans still know the band by its original moniker. The band's 2 p.m. Sunday performance at the Biltmore stage will follow a two-day run at the 10th annual FloydFest in Virginia.
Doc Aquatic excel at uber-melodic, multilayered indie pop with a hint of psychedelia. The band's high-energy shows have quickly earned it a devoted following and regular slots at local festivals — including All Go West and Music on the Mountaintop this year — along with opening spots for nationally touring acts. Despite the frequency of its local appearances, Doc Aquatic has avoided the pitfalls of overexposure with nuanced songwriting that offers something new with every listen. Last month, the band released its debut EP, Distance Means, and rumors of a full-length, due this fall, have begun to circulate, although the band has yet to announce a release. Its 2:15 p.m. performance at the Battery Park Stage promises to be a highlight of the weekend.
There's no denying that Sonmi Suite's ethereal creations fall within the realm of electronic music. However, the band translates those delicately layered landscapes into live drums, guitars and synth for a space-worthy show that retains the performance element often lost by its peers. If you hear "electronic show" and expect one guy, a laptop and some MP3s think again. This band's instrumental prowess and carefully crafted atmospheres can hang with any rock show at the festival. Catch Sonmi Suite at Bele Chere's Haywood Stage at 2:45 p.m.
Philadelphia's Hoots and Hellmouth write soulful, string-driven roots rock that could have easily been born right here in Asheville. The band owes heavily to traditional music, but its raw energy and pounding, stomp-driven percussion make for a powerfully infectious combination of influences. The band's self-titled 2007 debut won The Independent Music Awards' Best College Record Label Album, and since then, Hoots and Hellmouth have made a home of the road, touring with acts like Dr. Dog, Langhorne Slim and Grace Potter. The band brings its self-described "new music for old souls" to the Coxe Avenue stage at 4:30 p.m.
It's safe to say that The Protomen's set at Bele Chere will be completely and wholly unlike anything else at the festival. The highly conceptual, Nashville-based collective writes dark, dystopian rock operas based on the '80s NES franchise Mega Man. If that's not enough, The Protomen also perform in costume under stage names. Stylistically, its approach varies dramatically from album to album, a fact its members ascribe to the post-and pre-apocalyptic settings of its two releases, Act I and Act II, respectively. Citing influences ranging from Alabama and Styx to cult films and novels, the band somehow manages to encapsulate synth-driven hard rock and '80s arena rock (think Rick Springfield) without sounding hokey. Whatever the setting, one thing remains constant: The Protomen are epic. The band performs, dressed like robots, at 4 p.m. on the Battery Park Stage.
Rock n' Kiss Stage on Coxe Avenue
The Stereofidelics (groove rock) 1-2 p.m.
Beta Radio (roots) 2:30-4 p.m.
Hoots and Hellmouth (roots) 4:30-6 p.m.
U.S. Cellular Stage on Biltmore
Onward Soldiers (indie rock) 12:30-1:30 p.m.
River Whyless, formerly Do it to Julia (indie rock) 2-3:30 p.m.
Balsam Range (bluegrass) 4-5:30 p.m.
Battery Park Stage
Common Foundation (reggae/ska) 12:45-1:45 p.m.
Doc Aquatic (indie rock) 2:15 -3:30 p.m.
The Protomen (fantasy rock) 4-5:15 p.m.
Haywood Street Stage
Skinny Legs & All (blues rock) 1-2:15 p.m.
Sonmi Suite (electronic) 2:45-4 p.m.
Papadosio (jam) 4:30-6 p.m.