Not only is Saturday this biggest day of music, it has the largest number of local acts (10), a number of which topped their respective genre categories in Xpress’ annual Best of WNC reader’s poll. Kovacs & The Polar Bear was named among the best overall acts (and pop bands, and rock bands, and “next big thing”); Sanctum Sully placed among best bluegrass outfits; The Critters was named in the rock category; and Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band was a shoe-in among the best soul acts.
Saturday also features several performers who have earned honorary local status: Coxe Avenue stage headliner Dr. Dog tops that list. The Philadelphia-based indie-rock group makes regular stops in Asheville, usually at The Orange Peel. The band actually played that show back in March, on tour in support of Be The Void, which came out in February.
Newgrass artist Larry Keel also plays enough shows in this area to qualify for the resident’s discount. (No, there isn’t actually such a thing.) Based in Virginia, Keel is a regular collaborator with closer-to-home artists like Acoustic Syndicate, who are not playing Bele Chere this year, and has shared stages with The Swayback Sisters’ Cary Fridley.
Grown Up Avenger Stuff, from Charlotte, has been breaking into the Asheville area this past year, but it was on its home turf where the group shared a bill with Asheville’s stephaniesid (whose alter ego, The Archrivals, kicks off the Saturday Biltmore Stage in advance of Grown Up).
Later in the day, Delta Rae (from Durham) takes that same stage. Like Grown Up Avenger Stuff (a father-and-sons act), Delta Rae is a family band featuring three Hölljes siblings and their powerhouse sound — at once rootsy and polished. And roots-reggae band Inner Visions, all the way from the Virgin Islands, is made up of two brothers and two sons.
That’s it for the familial relations: Swayback Sisters are not actual sibs and Aunt Martha involves neither an aunt nor anyone named Martha. That band, in fact, is all male. And they rock in that folky-acoustic-guitar-kickdrum-and-gorgeous-violin way. And they pronounce Aunt as “Ont” rather than “Ant.” So you know.
Speaking of family ties, half of electronic duo BoomBox (the Biltmore stage headliner) is Zion Godchaux, whose parents (Keith and Donna Jean Godchaux) are ‘70s-era Grateful Dead alum. But don’t expect any “Loose Lucy” covers. Look instead for drum sequencers, groove boxes and turntables along with guitar and lead vocals that hint at the band’s Muscle Shoals, Ala., roots.
The thing is, with 19 bands performing between noon and 10 p.m., you’re going to find something that rocks/swings/bounces/pops/hops/shimmies/shakes and grooves at every turn. Best to go into it well-rested and with a plan of action. Or, heck, just wing it. There are always plenty of snacks to be found to keep your energy up, a water feature or two around the festival grounds to keep you cool, and — in case you need an outfit change to take you from, say, Michael Reno Harrell (folk music and Appalachian stories) to the Booty Band (horns and funk), there’s no shortage of shopping options, either. It’s a big day — better get started!
Photo of Delta Rae by Jeff Watson, from the band’s website.