Digging deep: DIG Festival showcases local and regional music

ALL TOGETHER NOW: From left, Philo Reitzel performs with Debrissa McKinney, Paul Juhl and members of Empire Strikes Brass, one of the local-centric Asheville collaborations on the DIG Festival lineup. Photo courtesy of James Mayfield and Jam Wizard

Downtown Independent Groove Festival (DIG to its friends) is making its third appearance on the Asheville music scene this weekend. It boasts two days of performances, eight downtown music venues and more than 40 local and regional acts. Styles range from rock and soul to hip-hop and experimental, with some brave new collaborations for good measure. Pick your price-point: $10 for a single venue on a single night, $15 for a pass to hit all venues on a single night, $25 for an all-venue pass for both nights, or $40 for a VIP ticket that includes all venues on both nights as well as a skip-the-line laminate and VIP parties.

Four bands from DIG talk about their current projects and what it means to make music in Asheville.

Alarm Clock Conspiracy

Melodic, warm and hard rocking from one turn to the next, the ear-catching sounds of the Alarm Clock Conspiracy are a blend of indie-rock, power pop and alt-country. The band is composed of longtime friends Ian Reardon and Chris Carter on guitar and vocals, Wes Jameson on bass, James Hurlston on drums and John McKinney on keys. Alarm Clock Conspiracy is thrilled to be releasing its new album, Harlequin, at a Friday, Aug. 22, show at Highland Brewing Co. as well as at DIG. “We love the diversity of the music community around here,” says Reardon. “There are a lot of great bands playing many different styles of music. That’s what makes this place so special. We support those bands, and we thank them for supporting us. We all have a huge love for this music scene, and we enjoy seeing it grow more and more through the years.”

Alarm Clock Conspiracy plays Asheville Music Hall on Saturday at midnight.

Debrissa and the Bear King

This dynamic trip-hop duo began as a studio project blending the beats of DJ Bear King (the alter-ego of Oso Rey) with the buttery vocals of Debrissa McKinney. They really found their sound as a band though, Rey says, when they added both of their voices to the mix along with big beats and deep bass.

You may know Rey from his group Soulgrass Rebellion, and McKinney is a vocalist and saxophonist who has performed with a variety of groups across the Southeast, including George Clinton and Karl Denson. McKinney and Rey will be releasing their first two singles at the end of this month. “There are some serious music connoisseurs in this town, and great musicians,” says Rey. “If they support what you’re doing, then they really show it. And that’s when you know you’re doing something right. We’re thankful for that.”

Debrissa and the Bear King play One Stop on Saturday at 9:45 p.m.


Philo is a collaboration between rapper Philo Reitzel and musician Paul Juhl. The pair wanted to form a live hip-hop act, and they rounded it out with a full horn section. In addition to tight rhymes coming from Reitzel on vocals and the SP-404 sampler plus Juhl on the baritone sax, they brought in McKinney on backing vocals and tenor sax, Lenny Pettinelli on keys, Duane Simpson on electric guitar, Jesse Gentry on bass guitar, JP Furnas on trombone and Jean Claude Mears on the drums. The group is currently working on a full-length LP. “It’s going to be a whole lot of fun playing with so many amazing bands,” says Reitzel. “We really think it’s great to have an Asheville festival that embraces the local talent; there is so much happening here right now. It feels great to play for your hometown, the people who have been behind you from the beginning.”

Philo plays One Stop on Friday at 12:15 a.m.

Red Honey

What do you get when you combine sultry vocals, “psychedelic-surfa-billy” grooves and cymbal whipping? You get sassy rock ’n’ rollers Red Honey. The band evolved out of lead singer Erika Jane Ferraby’s former project, Erika Jane and Remember the Bees. Red Honey’s debut, Red Honey and The Pleasure Chest, sold out of its first printing almost immediately, and the band is now gearing up to release a digital download. The group — Ferraby on guitar, whip and vocals; Jonathan Paul Hess on bass and backing vocals; Brad Pope on lead guitar; and Mike Grey on drums — is fresh off of a string of Charleston, S.C. shows and really looking forward to playing its hometown. “DIG is all about the music community that is Asheville,” say Ferraby. “This year’s line up is amazing, and we are so proud to be a part of it.”

Red Honey plays One Stop on Saturday at 10:45 p.m.

WHAT: DIG Fest, digfestivalasheville.com
WHERE: The Orange Peel,  Wicked Weed, One Stop, Broadway’s, 5 Walnut, The Social, Tressa’s Asheville Music Hall
WHEN: Friday and Saturday, Aug. 22 and 23. $10-$40. Complete schedule at the festival’s website


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About Haley Steinhardt
Haley Steinhardt is a freelance writer for the Mountain Xpress. She also owns and operates Soul Tree Publications (soultreepublications.com), a publishing support business in West Asheville.

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