Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Festival Re-Cap: Red Wing Roots II, July 11-13, 2014

This past weekend was the 2nd Annual Red Wing Roots Music Festival at Natural Chimneys Park in Mount Solon, VA (just over 2 hrs. from Richmond).  It was our first time attending this festival presented by The Steel Wheels, but I’m sure we’ll be back.

Getting into the festival was easy.  No real long lines and the parking arrangement made sense.  For those camping on-site, it was a fairly short walk from where you parked to where the campsites were.  Checking in was pretty much no hassle.  After getting your wristband you were free to make additional trips out to your car to haul in any additional items you might need.  Red Wing Roots is a kid-friendly festival.  Many granola-minded moms and dads had brought their children along, which is a pretty cool culture for the kids to be exposed to in my opinion.
The Chimneys (photo by Vickey Higgins Goff)
The setting for the festival is picturesque and park-like, with the two main stages (Shenandoah Mountain Stage and the South Stage) positioned between the awesome natural chimneys from which the park gets its name.  Sets on these two primary stages were staggered so that as soon as one act was ending a performer on the other one would begin.  The Blue Mountain Brewery beer garden was catty-cornered a hundred yards or so back, so you could watch and hear both the Shenandoah Mountain Stage and the South Stage from the beer garden if you wanted to.

The proliferation of urban food trucks these days means that the munchie options at festivals of this kind are better than ever.  There were several great food vendors, but I especially liked the Goatocado booth.  Very healthy and yummy.  There was a general store set up with ice and other provisions.  The porta-potties, bathrooms and showers were kept clean and there were never any long waits to use them. 
Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three (Six?) (Photo by Vickey Goff)
For our group of friends, a festival such as this is as much an opportunity to hang out and reconnect (and get into all sorts of mischief) as it is a chance to see great music.  I only saw some of the bands that played on Friday and Saturday (and none on Sunday), so I’m not able to give a good overview of the performances other than saying the cool vibe and natural setting certainly helped spark some inspired performances from the assembled bands.

Highlights on Friday for me were the Steel Wheels kids set as we were setting up our camp, and Pokey LaFarge and Trampled By Turtles later that evening on the main stage.  On Saturday my faves were Mandolin Orange, Tim O’Brien’s songwriter showcase as well as his set with Darrell Scott, plus The Steel Wheels 8pm set and The Devil Makes Three at 9:30pm.  Friends who witnessed The Stray Birds, Brothers Comatose and Yarn on Sat. commented on them as being strong also, but our gang unanimously agreed that the Devil Makes Three gave the best set of the weekend.  None of us stuck around for any music on Sunday, having shot our wad after the first two nights.
The Devil Makes Three! (Photo by Vickey Higgins Goff)
Festival hosts The Steel Wheels do a fantastic job putting on Red Wing Roots.  The only thing I can think of that might improve upon it in the future would be to branch out slightly beyond the roots/Americana focus to include a few other acts like a Dawes or Dr. Dog (rock), or maybe an unabashedly jammy jamband/improv-oriented ensemble, or an uptempo reggae/world music performer.  Richmond, VA’s The Hot Seats would be perfect for an 11pm slot, like the one they did at Watermelon Park fest a couple years back.

Despite that small suggestion for a slightly broader lineup, I actually loved Red Wing Roots just the way it was.  However it comes together next year I’m sure it will be worth checking out again!

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