Mountain Sports Festival hosts a weekend of free live music

The Lee Boys headline Mountain Sports Festival with a high energy funk set on Saturday, May 23, from 8-9:30 p.m. Photo by Edwin Cardona

Festival director Terry Bemis credits the city of Asheville for adding live music to Mountain Sports Festival’s extensive athletic programming in 2005, while it managed the event. Although the festival is now run by a board of volunteers, the musical performance tradition remains.

From funk to soul, roots to rock ‘n’ roll, here’s the full lineup of bands playing free sets in Carrier Park Friday through Sunday, May 22-24:

Friday, May 22

East Coast Dirt, 5-7 p.m. — “We’re pumped to kick off the 15th annual Mountain Sports Festival this year,” reads a post on East Coast Dirt’s Facebook page. Led by vocalist Patrick Dodd — a past fan-favorite on NBC’s The Voice — the group of local music veterans decorates its Southern-inspired rock with dreads, bongos and a shiny red synth.

The Congress, 7:30-9:30 p.m. — Does it really matter that The Congress claims Denver, Colo., and Richmond, Va., as dual hometowns if the guitar-rock group racks up more than 100 live shows per year? As it turns out, the Rocky Mountain vibe does manifest through feel-good vocal harmonies, spirited keys and an ongoing interplay of ease and energy.

Saturday, May 23

Cameron Stack, featuring Matt Mommsen, 12:30-1:30 p.m. — A regular on Asheville’s intimate performance circuits, Cameron Stack calls himself a “soul-driven Americana-blues songwriter” and his music “a gentle mesh of roots.” With accompaniment by fellow local musician Matt Mommsen (Sanctum Sully), Stack ‘s acoustic set will provide a mental stretch before the full day’s activities.

Fireside Collective, 2-3:30 p.m. — Many of Fireside Collective’s songs begin in a stripped-down state but quickly pick up the pep and blossom into full sound, complete with mandolin, Dobro, bass and acoustic guitar. Mandolinist and songwriter Jesse Iaquinto says both ends of the traditional bluegrass-to-newgrass spectrum apply to the Western North Carolina band, depending on the night.

The Dub Kartel, 4-5:30 p.m. — “It more or less took an act of Jah to bring the Dub Kartel together,” reads the reggae band’s website, detailing the seven members’ 2010 introduction at a Haitian earthquake relief fundraiser. The musicians, who “pay tribute to the golden era of Jamaican music,” also earned their festival slot in a lucky twist of fate, coming in second place at Mountain Sports Festival’s Race to the Stage contest and eventually filling in for the winning band. Evidently these happy coincidences are nothing new for a band that never misses an (up)beat.

Funk You, 6-7:30 p.m. — “Come out and get funked with us!” writes Funk You on the band’s website. The Georgia-based sextet draws on reggae, jazz and hip-hop influences to produce “a high energy progressive funk sound that will keep you moving all night long.”

The Lee Boys, 8-9:30 p.m. — Don’t let the Lee Boys’ roots in the House of God Church invoke an illusion of serene choruses. This six-pack of relatives from Miami knows how to rile a crowd, igniting a spirit of participation even among the wallflowers. “They’re just a really high-energy, funky group that I think everybody will really enjoy,” says entertainment director Ellie Schwartz. “I’m glad they’re coming back to Asheville.” Faith aside, this group of sacred steel musicians just may transform listeners into believers.

Sunday, May 24

Grits & Soul, 12:30-2 p.m. — Grits & Soul’s  lyrics are delivered with jaunty smiles and a prideful twang. At its most basic, the duo combines acoustic guitar and mandolin. But Americana singers Anna Kline and John Looney also frequently invite guest musicians (violin, upright bass, banjo, etc.) onstage and always marinate their male-female harmonies in country swoon.

Lyric, 2:30 – 4 p.m. — While Leeda “Lyric” Jones sings soulful pop songs over electric six-string guitar, a backing band of local musicians adds funky jams to her mix of covers and originals. The resulting blend — a catchy mash-up of pep and laid back grooves — has sent the group from its initial busking sets to stages across town.

Sirius.B, 4:30 – 6 p.m. — Dubbing itself an absurdist gypsy folk funk punk outfit, Sirius.B employs the talents of a full troupe of members to achieve a melting pot sound. Perhaps it’s that something-for-everyone eclecticism that landed the theatrical band festival closing duties and the charge of providing the very last drops of enjoyment to the crowd.


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About Kat McReynolds
Kat studied entrepreneurship and music business at the University of Miami and earned her MBA at Appalachian State University. Follow me @katmAVL

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