Soundtrack to a city

"Something about this town drew us here as musicians; now we're going to be part of the soundtrack to this town," says singer/songwriter Oso Rey. It's true that Asheville grooves to its own beat, like the snippets of buskers and the drum circle and music flowing from bars as you walk by. If a musician is lucky enough, those sound bites stay with people, and help govern the ever-changing face of the Asheville musicscape. 

Just because you're Galactic: The New Orleans funksters headline the day-long free festival. Get ready to get down.

Rey, who now fronts roots-rock outfit Soulgrass Rebellion, said that what originally attracted him and his family to Asheville was that "The music & art scene seemed to be thriving, and had good community support around it." After living here and playing music for a few years, Rey found his opportunity to contribute, "What I've realized that matters the most in this scene is that you've gotta put something into the community. I arrived three years ago thinking I could just show up and that would be enough. I'm glad it didn't work out that way. That would've been all about hype. And hype fades, and gets shifted somewhere else. This town has taught me to slow my roll."

But Rey won't slow his roll too much this Saturday when he joins a heady roster of local (Thunderdrums), regional (DubConscious, Jamie McLean Band), and nationally-touring (Galactic with Corey Henry, Larry Keel with Bryon McMurry) bands. The event? The Just Because You're Asheville (JBYA) downtown street festival: part adieu to summer, part why-the-heck-not opportunity to rock out, part thank you to and from area musicians.

Organized by Mountain Roots Management, the day-long event teams a supergroup of local businesses to pull off the day-long six-band fete. "We are blessed in this area with wonderful free events like Asheville Earth Day, Lexington Avenue Arts and Fun Fest and Blue Ridge Pride, to name a very few," says Bob Robertson partnering company AMJam Productions. "Just Because You're Asheville tries to bring a little of all those events together, for an end-of-year celebration. As the winter months grow near, we just wanted to throw an appreciation event to all the folks of Asheville who support live music, local businesses and help make Asheville what it is."

Roberts adds that AMJam and Mountain Roots Management also organize Asheville Earth Day — the start of the festival season which JBYA (now in its second year) bookends.

Last year's JBYA featured Keller Williams with EOTO and Josh Phillips Folk Festival supporting. An estimated 4,000 people patronized the event, also showing support for the event sponsors' chosen non-profit, the Dogwood Alliance. This year's non-profit beneficiary, LEAF in Schools and Streets, is an educational program dedicated to providing world influenced music and arts education to the youth of communities both locally and internationally.

Photo by Jon C. Hancock

One change from 2008's JBYA: A $25 VIP upgrade that includes a T-shirt and poster, private restrooms, discounted beverages and refreshments and a reserved viewing area. VIP options like these at large free events are an affordable luxury which contribute to the longevity of the event, though the festival seems to be designed to be enjoyed thoroughly as a general admission patron. Which is to say, even the port-a-potty using, sidewalk-occupying masses are in for a good time, not to mention a serious dose of the evolving Asheville soundtrack.

It's the wide-appeal lineup that rounds out the fun-filled day. Soulgrass Rebellion culls influences of roots, reggae and bluegrass and band members from Laura Reed and Deep Pocket, The Fly Brothers and Afromotive. Thunderdrums is a world-beat electronica project that lives up to its name.  Athens, Ga.-based DubConscious bolsters deep reggae grooves with pulsing Afrobeat. Guitarist Jamie McLean, who fronts his namesake group, gained notoriety in the new Orleans-bases Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Also from New Orleans, funk outfit Galactic fotifies its hip-shaking instrumentals with the jazz-tinged trombone of Corey Henry. And, no stranger to the Asheville area, Virginia bluegrass picker Larry Keel teams up with Acoustic Syndicate banjo player Bryon McMurry. (Need hip-hop in the mix? Keep rocking at the GFE after-party at Stella Blue, 9 p.m.)

Now that's a soundtrack.

who: Just Because You're Asheville
what: Free downtown Asheville street festival featuring Galactic, DubConscious, Larry Keel with Bryon McMurry, Soulgrass Rebellion, Jamie McLean Band and Thunderdrums
where: Lexington Ave. between the I-240 overpass and Woodfin Street
when: Saturday, Oct. 24 (1 p.m. to 9 p.m., free.

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