Fourteen music acts spread across three days — and it’s all free! Torn down by the Trail Hound Trail Trot? Parking those lowing calves after pedaling the Urban Sprawl? Why not hobble over to the stage in the grass at City/County Plaza, where a healthy shot of music might just put a little spring back in your swollen step?
And as for the rest of us nonathletes, maybe dancing is one area in which we, too, can compete.
Here’s a quick wrap-up of who you can expect, and when (show times follow each entry).
Friday, June 6
Eighties kids beware: This ain’t the same-named punk band formed from the shards of Schleprock. Asheville’s Generators (boasting a guitar player named Tharpa, no less) slap a ’60s-garage-group stamp on everything from roadhouse-blues send-ups to covers of mumbles-period R.E.M. For this show, the band will favor its Ventures-style surf repertoire, with trembling, moody guitars and staccato drums like a cool Waikiki salt spray for the ears.
Spice is nice! Spry salsa, from feisty fiesta fare to sweet baladas de amor. This nine-piece Richmond, Va.-based group has carved a career out of tweaking traditional Latin sounds with modern flair (a little jazz and classical; a touch of head-banger heaviness). But the group’s new self-titled album — its first recording in five years — is more salsified than ever, with all lyrics sung in Spanish. So wear comfy shoes and plan to baile, baby, !baile!
A former busker, this singer/songwriter embodies the sunshine-and-love spirit of our little nouvelle-hippie boomtown; he is a holdover, a sweet and mild-voiced, starry-eyed slice of mellow. Farr, coming off his first headlining gig at The Orange Peel, is celebrating the release of a new album, thankful, helmed by Grammy-winning producer Bil VornDick. Farr’s Mountain Sports appearance will feature a full band.
Despite its name, this Atlanta-based five-piece purveys fat-guitar, Chicago-style blues on the serious rock tip. Delta Moon won this year’s Blues Foundation International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tenn., with vocalist Gina Leigh‘s alto recalling that of great blues-lite chanteuse Bonnie Raitt. “And like Raitt,” noted an Atlanta Journal-Constitution reviewer, “[Leigh] makes you completely forget that you’re listening to a middle-class white chick singing the blues.”
Saturday, June 7
A little Middle Eastern flava for your feet. This combo of Jerusalem Garden mainstays is based around the oud, a short-necked, sliced-pear-shaped plucked lute. Diwanna plays mostly original tunes, notes Mountain Sports Festival Music Director James Nichols, or else “some complete whacked-out versions of covers.”
The Patrick Boland Brew
The Asheville-based Boland plays small-combo, jazz-style piano with a Vince Guaraldi-like melodicism and a classicist’s tone. Boland, a recent transplant from Austin, Texas, has a heady new Brew: Jeff Hersk (upright bass), David Cohen (percussion) and the ruby-throated Peggy Marie Ratusz (vocals).
Trained in Africa, this local ensemble builds instrumental music from the beat up, taking complex, multi-player polyrhythms as their marching orders. And as if their music weren’t distracting enough, Common Ground often has young, scantily clad women dancing in front of them, reveals festival Music Director James Nichols. Beat crazy!
These guys — Fisher Meehan (vocals, guitar); Bill Reynolds (bass), ex of The Blue Rags; Tyler Ramsey (keyboards), Asheville’s favorite guest musician; and Jamie Stirling (drums), formerly of The Merle — could well become WNC’s biggest new export once the band’s Wharton Tiers-produced debut album, MTN CTY JNK, is released this summer. File under “heavy melodic”: Drug Money is blisteringly sweet electroshock for the rock ‘n’ roll heart. Just be forewarned that your ears are gonna ring — literally.
Sons of Ralph (Featuring Ralph)
This Madison County father-and-sons combo, beefed up by a couple of “adopted sons” on drums and bass, is kind of like ’70s FM-radio bluegrass might sound (if such an animal had ever existed). Dad Ralph Lewis did some time in Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys, but rock influences percolate through these hyper-pickin’ good ol’ boys’ old-timey standards. The Lewis clan shouts and hollers onstage like they’re having the time of their lives; come see why they routinely pack Jack of the Wood.
The zesty musical confection of Miriam Allen (guitar), Delia Lytle (flute) and Robin Cape (bass) is ripe with drama. Vocals are right out front, and most lyrics are sung in Spanish. Imagine an all-female Mexican club nocturno torch trio knocking back tequila with that flute guy from the old Marshall Tucker Band. “!Azucar! !Azucar!” the ladies chant in a tune of the same name. Believe it.
Sunday, June 8
Possibly something of a Middle Eastern flavor, speculates Mountain Sports Festival Music Director James Nichols.
God love a jug band that does songs about chicken. The Asheville-based Ribtips — Kevin Barber (washtub bass), Ian Moore (fiddle, vocals) and John Mullholland (percussion) — are like a true and traditional Bonepony beefed up with nasally vocals, righteous sacrilege and self-effacing humor. “I can eat more chicken than a pretty girl can fry,” sings that Moore fella, “and I ain’t goin’ to heaven when I die. ” Say amen, somebody.
A big old-time good time, this local fiddle-crazed bluegrass combo mixes obscure mountain gems (“Pig Ankle Rag”) with better-known standards (“Old Gray Mare”). County Farm have got that real feel, puttin’ the grin back in the pickin’ and pickin’ like speed-crazed country fools.
The Laura Blackley Band
Think: a little bit Michelle Malone and a little bit Ms. Melissa (as in Etheridge). The hard-gigging Laura Blackley may be the new queen of the local outdoor shindig, headlining this year’s First Night, and just coming off a stint at the new Eden Fest in Fairview. Her band’s stamp on rock includes elements of country blues and old-school R&B; their repertoire of originals ranges from modern jilted-lover songs to tales of famous he-done-me-wrong murders, plus crowd-pleasers like “Cheesy Little X-Rated Love Song.” Saucy!