Floyd Fest 11 On The Horizon

Kris Hodges greets the crowd at last year’s FloydFest.

by Gene Marrano

If you intend to purchase tickets for Floyd Fest 11 (July 26-29) you may want to do it soon. The four-day music festival on the Floyd-Patrick County line was a partial sell out last year (14,000 or so on several days) and could be headed for more of the same this summer. In addition the ticket prices will rise July 1.

Themed “Lovers Rock” this time around, Floyd Fest (milepost 170.5 on the Blue Ridge Parkway) features around 100 bands or performers on ten stages, including Alison Kraus and Union Station, Michael Franti, Brandi Carlile, Bruce Hornsby, Ricky Skaggs and Jackson Browne – who called co-founder Kris Hodges about appearing at Floyd Fest.

The company he helped set up, Across-the Way Productions, runs FloydFest with a legion of volunteers each year. ATW Productions has branched out to help run other events like the Vintage Virginia Wine Festival in Centreville.

Hodges said there are plenty of other musical acts, perhaps less familiar, that true music lovers will appreciate, including Garage A Trois, Gary Clark Jr., Sam Bush, Chris Thile, Wayne Henderson, etc., etc.  They’ll appear at venues as intimate as the Workshop Porch (several rows of benches in front of a small shack where a handful of performers will play and talk about their craft) to the massive Dreaming Creek Stage, a wooden superstructure at the far end of a large open field. That’s where many of the big names will play between Thursday and Sunday nights.

Floyd Fest though, for those that have attended in the past, is about more than the music. It’s the vibe that Hodges and co-founder Erika Johnson – Hodges’ partner and the mother of his children – have striven for since they sold Oddfellas Cantina in Floyd and thought about what they wanted to do next. The answer was Floyd Fest.

Hodges, a musician himself, has worked plenty of other music festivals over the years, including the bigger ones like Merlefest and Bonaroo, leaving him a pretty good idea of what he wanted to do at Floyd Fest, which also features environmentally friendly crafts, a wide variety of foods and a children’s play area.

For good measure there is camping (the main camping spot sold out months ago but Hodges said two other offsite camps with transportation to Floyd Fest have been added this year), disc golf, a beer garden or two, mountain biking, hiking and a 5K run on Sunday morning, July 29. In the background the music is all around.

“After the tenth year that was a sellout (2011) we knew the iron was hot,” said Hodges about this year’s star-studded offering, “and we knew it was time to bring the lineup to fruition.  I knew that when we were able to get Alison Kraus [dobro player Jerry Douglas appears with her] we were ready.” Kraus closes the show on Sunday, as part of perhaps the strongest closing day at Floyd Fest yet. Hodges also anticipates the appearance of Seattle’s Brandi Carlile on Saturday, bringing her “indie folk” sound to FloydFest.

“The whole Laurel Creel California folk scene,” according to Hodges, appears on the opening day menu with Jackson Browne, who long ago scored with his album The Pretender and a slew of pop singles. Friday, July 27 brings the blues of Gary Clark Jr., who Hodges deems perhaps “the number one anticipated artist this year. I can testify to that being legit. Truly amazing blues…the modern version.”

Drive By Truckers brings the Americana sound to Floyd Fest on that Friday. Michael Franti closes the event on Saturday and “speaks to the whole vibe at Floyd,” according to Hodges, who once sold organic salsa he produced at the Farmer’s Market in Floyd.

“I’ve worked pretty much every festival in the states, trying to study the art of the festival,” said Hodges, who has aimed to make Floyd Fest family friendly over the years, an event that also appeals to people of varying age groups.

“People want to come and celebrate, they want to feel enlightened, a heightened sense of themselves and they want to take that home with them,” said Hodges; “our lineup speaks to the best of all demographics.”  (see FloydFest.com for more on ticket packages; prices rise July 1 according to Hodges, who expects at least several days to sell out.