If idle hands are the devil’s playthings, then local musician Andrew Scotchie and Frannie’s Farm owner Frances Tacy are well out of evil’s reach. Scotchie sees a kindred soul in Tacy who, like him, is unable to sit still — a quality that Scotchie says contributes to their smooth working relationship and is a big reason why his Barnaroo outdoor music festival is returning to Tacy’s Leicester property for the third year.
The sixth annual festival, which runs Saturday, Sept. 26, and Sunday, Sept. 27, showcases its most eclectic and, in Scotchie’s opinion, best lineup yet. While past Barnaroos have unintentionally focused on rock and blues acts, this year includes groups like Les Amis. A collaboration between members of Toubab Krewe and Zansa, Les Amis was one of over 40 band submissions that Scotchie received. He says it was challenging to sift through the interested parties and pick out acts that he felt were both a good fit for Barnaroo and understood the festival’s mission of inspiring the next generation of local musicians.
“It’s crucial that I bring back bands I know the core festival crowd loves,” Scotchie says. His close friend Lyric and funk rockers Porch 40 and Demon Waffle fit the bill. Scotchie’s hope each year is to have four to five fan favorites mixed with five to six bands new to the festival. Among those making their Barnaroo debuts are Charleston songstress Danielle Howle (who’s opened for Bob Dylan and Indigo Girls) and Greensboro’s Bare The Traveler (who recently shared the stage with Smash Mouth). But in order to maximize the number of fresh sounds in 2015, that meant Scotchie and his band, The River Rats, giving up their usual slot. It was something they were glad to do.
“I started to realize that we were becoming a band people would count on seeing. That’s fantastic, but with so many bands that submitted … I wanted people to see a different act in that slot,” Scotchie says. “It’s not like the River Rats Festival anymore. It’s not the Andrew Scotchie Festival anymore. We’re well beyond that, and there’s a much greater goal.”
Not completely stepping away, Scotchie will be sitting in on guitar during a few sets throughout the day. He’s looking forward to that arrangement after last year’s experience of stage managing and having his walkie-talkie go off right when he walked out to perform. He views the shift as a logistical move that allows him to focus more on Barnaroo, encouraging a jam atmosphere in a direct nod to one of Asheville’s most revered annual shows. “I’ve respected how Warren Haynes treats the Christmas Jam — he jumps up with his buddies [and] bands he loves. That’s kind of a goal of mine,” Scotchie says.
An additional 200-300 people are expected this year, bringing the total of campers and daytime attendees to 800. Scotchie has noticed “exponential growth online” in regard to festival interest, including a major spike in the Barnaroo Facebook page’s traffic after Our State Magazine listed it alongside the Hopscotch Music Festival and the Smoky Mountain Folk Festival in a roundup of the top dozen North Carolina fall music festivals. He calls that mention “a beautiful surprise” and is similarly moved by participating bands working hard to advertise Barnaroo around town. More cleared land at Frannie’s Farm, solar eco-cabins and an improved flow of the property makes such increases possible, but just how big will Barnaroo become?
“There’s always room to expand, but I never want to have people feel overwhelmed and where they can’t find a parking spot,” Scotchie says. “Someone should be able to come up from Greenville with their buddies wanting to see a certain band, get there and interact with the band, who then introduces them to friends they met that day. I want to have that kind of vibe.”
Such an atmosphere holds true to the original mission of Barnaroo. It started in 2009 in Scotchie’s mom’s Weaverville barn as a place where teens not old enough to get into area venues could play music. In the process, Scotchie discovered he has an affinity for working with bands and organizing events, interests that led him into becoming involved with the Asheville Music School. He and the River Rats quickly gravitated to the nonprofit’s focus on teaching a variety of instruments to children representing a wide range of ages and forming bands who then go out and perform.
Now in the second year of their partnership, Scotchie got better acquainted with the students when they performed and mingled at the inaugural Barnaroo pre-jam at The Orange Peel in August. He says that their association “feels like a big family.” A silent auction and a percentage of Hi-Wire Brewing’s beer sales at the festival will benefit the music school.