It's hard to recall the chill of winter during the sultry heat of summer. But local musician Erika Ferraby, who fronts bluesy-folk quartet Erika Jane & Remember the Bees, does recollect one shivery January when she, gospel-rocker David Earl Tomlinson, Americana howler Pierce Edens and soulful folkie Oso Rey sat around BoBo Gallery "doing jams" and talking about POPAsheville.
A DIG Fest primer:
• Singer/songwriter Moses Atwood .s, according to Boston's The Phoenix, "heir apparent to Micah Blue Smaldone and Ray LaMontagne." BoBo Gallery, Thursday, 10 p.m.
Rock 'n' growl: Singer/songwriter Pierce Edens is known for his gritty-intense vocal style. Photos by Peak Definition.
• Now You See Them is a quirk-folk indie trio and recent Bele Chere Last Band Standing winner. BoBo Gallery, Thursday, 11:15 p.m.
• The Pond Brothers are actual siblings who have shared a musical career for near two decades, thanks to their successful psychedelic reggae-rock-folk band Snake Oil Medicine Show. Emerald Lounge, Thursday, 10 p.m.
• Psychedelic rock project WiLSin tempers its layers of keys and guitars with serious soul. Emerald Lounge, Thursday, 11 p.m.
• Folly Beach's Sol Driven Train performs driving roots-jam fusion. This band is festival-ready. Emerald Lounge, Thursday, 12:15 a.m.
• Local rocker band Lewis has a sleek pop sound reminiscent of '90s-era college rock, in the very best sense. Mo Daddy's, Thursday, 9:15 p.m.
• Knoxville-based singer/songwriter Ian Thomas has a vintage-y Dylan look and the harmonica chops to match. Also, like Dylan, he rambles around (though largely on the music festival circuit). Mo Daddy's, Thursday, 10:15 p.m.
• Gritty folk-rock artist Pierce Edens (fronting his band The Dirty Work) is known for his hoarse howl and powerful delivery (think Tom Waits with twang). Mo Daddy's, Thursday, 11:30 p.m.
• Chris Cates and the Master Plan performs beach music … for mountain folks. The Orange Peel, Thursday, 9 p.m..
• Kovacs & The Polar Bear's MySpace tracks run the gamut from the delicate heart-on-sleeve "Ruth" to bombastic, Pogues-reminiscent "Grave Steppin'." The Orange Peel, Thursday, 10:15 p.m.
• Pop-rock act The Enemy Lovers have had a big year, releasing their debut CD and expanding their fan base and concert radius throughout the Southeast. The Orange Peel, Thursday, 11:30 p.m.
Rebel music: Oso Rey's Soulgrass Rebellion performs at the pre-DIG festival jam.
• .Singer/songwriter Jeff Santiago is known for his work with local rockers The Broomstars. His solo work delves into personal exploration. BoBo Gallery, Friday, 10 p.m.
• Powerhouse singer/songwriter Nikki Talley recently released an album, got hitched and pulled off a stellar tour. BoBo Gallery, Friday, 10:45 p.m.
• According to Galen Kipar's Web site, "The roots of folk, blues, classical, jazz and world beat are echoed within the overall chemistry of the Project's music." BoBo Gallery, Friday, 11:45 p.m.
• David Earl & The Plowshares perform gospel rock for folks who prefer bar stools to church pews. Emerald Lounge, Friday, 11 p.m.
• The Humbuckers are a seamless Americana outfit fronted by former NC Rail member Rudy Colombo. Emerald Lounge, Friday, 10 p.m.
• The Trainwreks are innovators of their own "dirty-tonk" genre. Emerald Lounge, Friday, 12:15 a.m.
• Erika Jane & Remember the Bees is sweet and low-down blues with velvety vocals a la Margot Timmons. Mo Daddy's, Friday, 9:15 p.m.
• Blues vocalist and guitarist Laura Blackley is an integral part of the local scene, both as a musician and music journalist. Mo Daddy's, Friday, 10:15 p.m.
Custom sound: Performer Erika Ferraby (of Erika Jane and Remember the Bees) also coorganized DIG fest.
• Oso Rey's Soulgrass Rebellion features the songwriting of Asheville transplant Rey, whose ramblings have taken him from Santa Cruz to St. John, and the guitar prowess of Silas Durocher. Mo Daddy's, Friday, 11:30 p.m.
• Grant DaSantos fronts a newly created rock super-group, deriving its members from from Kung Fu Dynamite, Firecracker Jazz Band, Tuesday Night Funk Jam and Laura Reed's Deep Pocket. Orange Peel, Friday, 8:45 p.m.
• Atlanta-Athens indie-rocker Ralph Roddenbery describes himself as "hyper, yet laid back." Orange Peel, Friday, 10 p.m.
• Josh Blake & The Big Money Band features GFE's guitarist performing his own consciousness-enhancing folk rock. Orange Peel, Friday, 11:15 p.m.
• Josh Phillips Folk Festival is a deeply groovy melding of reggae, rock, jam and funk underscored by positive lyrics and mood-bolstering melodies. Orange Peel, Friday, 12:30 a.m.
No one in the group was slated to perform at this year's local pop festival. "We realized none of us are really pop," Ferraby says. For starters, all four posses powerful, rough-around-the-edges singing styles and are backed by acoustic guitars and stripped down percussion, rather than synthesizers and loops. Says Ferraby, "We had the idea for a rock festival to compliment POPAsheville."
Now that the annual January pop music showcase is taking a hiatus, this new endeavor (organized by Ferraby, her husband Justin, Rey, and fellow musicians Jeff Santiago and Josh Phillips) might embrace that genre as well. But for its first year out of the gate, DIG (Downtown Independent Groove) Festival is focusing on roots-based acts.
That's not to say this festival is narrow in scope. "Roots" is a fairly ambiguous classification (according to Ferraby it's an umbrella for "so many amazingly talented musicians in this town"), and even for a first attempt, DIG is far-reaching. It will encompass four downtown Asheville venues (Emerald Lounge, BoBo Gallery, Mo Daddy's and The Orange Peel — look for rickshaws providing rides between clubs if you're not up for the hike) for two nights. Twenty-four bands are slated to play, resulting in some interesting shared-stage situations: Folk/blues songster Ian Thomas follows sleek rockers Lewis, for example. Or, the tidy alt-country of the Humbuckers meets the bombastic gospel of David Earl & The Plowshares. "We wanted to showcase the diversity," Ferraby says.
Turns out there was a lot of diversity. This might not be a pop fest, but acts like Now You See Them and The Enemy Lovers sure take some cues from that genre; other acts range from jam to rock to nearly bluegrass. In fact, there are as many musical styles on the roster as there are bands ready to play the new event. From the beginning, Ferraby and Rey envisioned putting together a "little festival." Muses Ferraby, "It's a gotten a lot bigger than we thought."
What's helped get DIG off the ground are a number of beer-company sponsorships including Lagunitas, Pisgah, Asheville Brewing Company, Magic Hat, Sweetwater, Foothills and Starr Hill in association with Budweiser of Asheville. Of that last sponsor Ferraby notes, "I know. I know. I realize that it could be viewed as … we 'sold out' a bit, but hey, we really love Asheville music."
That love is pretty apparent in the commitment of the musicians behind the festivities. There's already been a pre-jam to drum up excitement and if Ferraby gets her way, "We might end up doing a closing jam, too." Sandwiched between the two: a healthy serving of music.