Floydfest 17 Offers Wide Array of Music and Local Flavor

Impromptu jam sessions broke out before things got underway in the late morning.

Floydfest Freedom, as it was themed once again, offered a range of music to suit many tastes: roots, americana, rock, blues, bluegrass, even a little hip hop with other genres sprinkled in.

Several days of intermittent rain showers didn’t seem to put too much of a damper on the thousands that showed up to wander around and listen to live music on eight stages – not to mention the buskers that held impromptu jam sessions before things got underway in the late morning.

Performers came from all over the country and even internationally. There was some local flavor too, including acts that had come through a battle of the bands competition at The Phoenix on 5th Street in Roanoke, earning the right to appear on a Floydfest stage.

One of them was Patrick Henry High School graduate Claire Hitchins (class of 2009), who played cello in high school and has now gone on to release an album (These Bodies) of rootsy, folk-inspired music, with her moving and haunting vocals featured on her original songs. Fellow current bandmate Alex Bingham also went to PH with Hitchins. “He was the one always goofing off and getting barked at by [orchestra leader David] Lipps,” she recalled before a set at Floydfest.

“I hope I’m doing something unique,” added Hitchins, who grew up singing in church choirs and in musical theater. Now she has found her own voice but adds that it’s “still an evolving thing.”

Hitchins first appeared live on stage less than two years ago, while living in Washington State; she now lives in Charlottesville. Her parents John and Jean still live in Roanoke and were with her at Floydfest. “I’m coming into my own,” declared Hitchins. As for appearing for the first time at Floydfest: “it’s so wonderful, you feel so welcome here, people are so kind and receptive to the music. I’m having a ball.”

More local flavor was provided by the Dharma Bombs, a Richmond-based group featuring a horn section and playing what lead vocalist and guitarist Trey Hall called “Appalachian Dixieland.  That’s the term we use.” Hall is from Fincastle; four members of Dharma Bombs hail from the Roanoke area, including saxophonist Clay Trinkle, the son of Roanoke City Councilman Dave Trinkle and his wife Ann.

Hall said most of the band members met while attending Virginia Commonwealth University, although he first connected with Clay Trinkle at a previous Floydfest.  “We’re all just working, trying to make ends meet and having a good time {with Dharma Bombs] in the process.” The group, which appeared to have a large, vocal following at their Floydfest gig, also went through the battle of the bands at The Phoenix to earn a spot on the Floydfest 17 roster.

Hall also feels the love from fans that follow Dharma Bombs.  “We’re only as good as our audience. We try to bring as good a show as we can and be interactive as much as we can.” Getting the chance to play at Floydfest was “incredible” for Hall, who said he had attended the annual event as a music fan since middle school: “this is kind of a dream come true. All of us just love this area and this festival. We’re just really thankful to be a part of it. We feel the vibe – we’re flying high.”

No doubt loyal Floydfest fans felt the vibe too and are already looking ahead to 2018.

Gene Marrano