Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Show Review: Drumstrong Rhythm & Arts Festival

Drumstrong's 24-Hour Drum Circle Kick-Off

It takes a lot for a music festival to come together, especially one of a multi-day magnitude. The lineup has to be just right, the pacing has to match the tone of the weekend, the promotion has to do its job, the festival grounds should be welcoming and easy on the get the picture. It may seem to be as easy as throwing a stage and a handful of bands together, but it's far from that. Drumstrong knows that, they've held their day-long event for years on end now, but the 2014 installation marks the first expanded year of the event. From Friday to Sunday the Misty Meadows Farm was home to dozens of incredible acts from both locally and nationally acclaimed artists, fans gradually poured in throughout the weekend and by the end of the event it had evolved into a drum-fueled bonanza of brilliant music for an excellent cause. But the best laid plans don't always make for the best events, while Drumstrong boasted a mighty impressive lineup it seems like the festival is still getting its jitters out.

Junior Astronomers
It's hard to put a finger on what felt so out of place throughout the weekend, maybe it was the $900,000 homes across the street from the pseudo-hippy festival, maybe it was the stringent searches upon entry or perhaps it was the hard festival set limits that left acts like Marley Carroll cramming their tunes into a half-hour slot. Either way, something felt a bit off about the three-day event that persisted throughout the weekend. Upon arrival on Friday evening the farmlands seemed bare, with thirty or so people standing around haphazardly swaying to the music. However, once Junior Astronomers took the stage things gradually came to life. The boisterous post-punk crew played an even mix of newer tracks from their debut full-length Dead Nostalgia and a few from their previous EPs. Festivalgoers were somehow hooping along to the jaunty rhythms while others bounced along and shouted along to Terence Richard's throaty melodies. The night mostly followed fairly cohesive order as the more melodic but sonically similar Charlotte crew of HRVRD took the stage. Miami Dice served as a bridge between the rhythmic, melody-driven punk and the dance-based acts of the evening. Miami Dice came with stage dancers in tow, but at this point of the night it felt like the crowd had kind of clocked out. A handful of folks would rush to the barriers to grab the free PBR hats thrown out throughout the weekend, but most would swiftly retreat back to their lawn chairs or the beer garden near the stage after that. When I saw roughly twenty people slowly crowding in for the evening's headliner Marley Carroll, I questioned the vibe we'd have throughout the rest of the weekend. The sound guy got cranky and the set started around 20 minutes later than anticipated, resulting in a truncated set from the incredibly impressive Asheville-based producer. Regardless of time constraints or disappointing turnouts, Carroll was hamming it up as he remixed his dazzling productions.

Marley Carroll
Friday was an odd kick-off to say the least, and as I arrived to the farm late Saturday morning I wasn't feeling much more optimistic. A small crowd gathered near the stage for Bombadil while others were dispersed throughout the farmlands at picnic tables and community painted walls. However, as the day went on the crowd grew in numbers to the point where things finally started to get a bit more of a communal vibe. Triangle favorites like The Love Language and Lost in the Trees played sets filled with fan favorites for those that baked in the sun for their stunning sets. Halfway through the afternoon The Mantras took the stage and seemingly turned on the excitement for those in attendance. Jam-bands are frankly not my thing, but the Weddington crowd seemed enamored by the band. As a matter of fact more folks seemed to be at the festival just to see the evenings main draw Railroad Earth than any other act of the weekend. The afternoon took a rootsy turn as Futurebirds took the stage and the dusty vibes continued throughout local favorites American Aquarium and Chatham County Line. I knew Saturday would be the easy highlight of the weekend, and obviously the other attendees did as well. By the time Kopecky Family Band and The Felice Brothers took the stage, the crowd was packing in tight and gradually building in excitement. Things took a downward turn for those that don't dig the jam-vibes after the Felice Brothers though. Railroad Earth brought their contemporary twist on bluegrass with blend of expansive tunes that border between traditionalism and jam-based. Yo Moma's Big Fat Booty Band is where I drew the line though. While I love checking out new music, especially acts steeped in the funk, I'd had enough noodling for the evening and trekked back to the hotel for the evening.

The Felice Brothers
Sunday as a whole proved to be a nice low-key closing for this unique festival. Few acts on the lineup were of huge interest to me, so the crew trekked to IKEA to kill some time throughout the late morning hours. It was arguably the best and worst decision I made all weekend. However, acts like Elonzo, The New Familiars, Overmountain Men and Dom Flemons made the day all worthwhile. Sunday's bill was a bit indicative of the entire festival, there's some truly impressive acts peppered in with some that I could really do without seeing. Overall though the music throughout the weekend was pretty great, but to quote the great Kanye West..."the vibe is wrong." A three-day camping festival that's held in a city with the 3rd highest median income of North Carolina just feels odd. I literally had an event staff member tell me that "I looked out of place" as I came in amidst the sea of Range Rover driving teenagers and croakie-wearing attendees. Folks were double-taking at the VIP wristbands the press had, a few aggressively stopped and grabbed at us to make sure we were actually VIPs, and all in all the short set times made the flow of the festival feel a bit too disjointed.

But don't get me wrong, Drumstrong serves an excellent purpose and they brought a lot of excellent music to some folks that probably weren't familiar with them at all. It's an incredibly affordable festival that benefits cancer organizations, but it wasn't as warm and welcoming as the other festivals I've attended. There were no random festi-friends made, people weren't as outgoing and carefree as events like Shakori and the rules were rather extensive on the grounds. Regardless, the festival holds bukus of potential and I look forward to seeing where they go from here.

No comments:

Post a Comment