Asheville Barnaroo isn’t just a cleverly named music festival — it’s kind of a DIY Cinderella story. Andrew Scotchie, the frontman for blues-rock band Andrew Scotchie & The River Rats, started the festival in 2009 in his mom’s backyard in Weaverville when he was just 16 years old. “It was nothing fancy, but we did what we could,” he says, describing a barn decorated with string lights and a makeshift PA system. “Back then it was our only outlet. It was our way to play music together because when you’re 16 or 17, you really can’t get into any of the clubs.”
And while Scotchie has grown up some since Barnaroo’s backyard days (he’s 21 now), he hasn’t grown out of promoting and organizing the festival. When Barnaroo got too big for his mom’s property in 2012 (and the police started getting noise complaints), Scotchie took the opportunity to move the festival to Franny’s Farm in Leicester. This is the second year that the festival will be hosted on the large, scenic property. Instead of a three-day festival like the one held in 2013, this year, about a dozen bands will play on Saturday, Oct. 4, starting at noon, and camping is available overnight.
In addition to being a benefit for Asheville Music School, proceeds from the event’s silent auction will go toward funding the River Rats’ trip to California. There, they’ll claim the best blues band accolade that they won last May at the Charlotte Music Awards Blues Showcase. The prize is an appearance at the Hollywood Music in Media Awards in Los Angeles. It’s a great opportunity for the band, but plane tickets weren’t included in the winnings. In addition to the band’s crowd-funding efforts, funds from Barnaroo’s silent auction will help make that trip happen.
But Scotchie seems more focused on planning a great festival than anything else. “The way I pick bands for Barnaroo is I go out multiple nights a week when I’m not playing, and I just sort of scope it out,” he says. Touring with the River Rats has also allowed him to network with out-of-town acts. Some bands he’s especially excited about include locals Leigh Glass, Matt Townsend, Lyric, Red Honey, Outside Soul from Raleigh and Demon Waffle from Johnson City, Tenn.
“Last year I felt like we had a lot of rock ‘n’ roll, and that’s kind of been the vibe for the past couple of years,” says Scotchie. “This year we have singer-songwriters, we have bluegrass, funk, the Paper Crowns are coming — they’re fantastic, they’re from L.A., just transplanted here. … One thing I’ve been trying to do more and more is make it as eclectic as possible.”
Scotchie isn’t completely floored that the festival has taken off in the way it has. After all, he spends a great deal of his time networking, planning and making it happen. “I think in this town, when you have something like this that’s organic, you just really have to roll with it and understand that something you have created is really something that people can look forward to,” says Scotchie. “But for the most part, I’m very happy and I’m surprised by the amount of community support and the amount of love that the Asheville area has been giving.”
Campers are encouraged to arrive before noon to secure camping sites. Youngblood Bicycles will host three races throughout the day on the property, and food will be available at the farm store and Farm to Fender food truck.
WHAT: Asheville Barnaroo, avl.mx/0gy
WHERE: Franny’s Farm in Leicester
WHEN: Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 4 and 5. Music starts at noon on Saturday. $20 Saturday/$25 with camping, or $35/$40 at the gate.