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Floydfest 12 is a Complete Sellout – Music Remains the Focus

A packed house at an earlier Floydfest.
A packed house at an earlier Floydfest.

Don’t have your tickets to Floydfest 12 yet?  You may be out of luck. Co-founder Kris Hodges of Across-the-Way Productions said last week that the annual four-day event is sold out. All four day days from July 25-28, Thursday through Sunday, that is.

Last year some single day passes did go on sale for several days previously announced as sellouts (around 12,500 or so people per day) so keep an eye on the website if you didn’t purchase tickets already.

“One hundred percent sold out… that’s amazing,” said Hodges. Including performers and volunteers, there will be about 15,000 a day on site. Hodges said parking and shuttle bus glitches that caused delays last year have been ironed out, with the help of a civil engineer (he had camped at Floydfest in 2012) that volunteered his services to help with logistics.

Floydfest, staged on a bucolic hillside patch of land that straddles the Floyd and Patrick County lines, is more than the music on ten stages: there’s a Children’s Universe for this family-friendly event, all sorts of food vendors, performance arts, beer and wine gardens, outdoor activities that include hiking, workshops and something called The Flower of Life DJ experience.

But it’s the music that draws people here first and foremost. Hodges, a drummer himself and the former owner/founder of Oddfella’s Cantina in Floyd, created Floydfest with his life-partner Erika Johnson. Now, 12 years later, performers like Jackson Browne in 2012 and The Lumineers this year call him about appearing at Floydfest. “They were the first act I secured [for 2012],” said Hodges about the Thursday night headliner.

Besides the Lumineers other highlights include the John Butler Trio (Hodges said they are the top-selling Australian group ever), Old Crow Medicine Show – which closes Floydfest 12 on Sunday night July 28, Railroad Earth, Trampled by Turtles, Michael Kiwanuka, Brandi Carlisle, the Yonder Mountain String Band, etc. (The complete lineup and schedule is available on the website.)

Hodges called Butler “Power Roots Pop,” and saw the trio at Bonnaroo, the huge music festival in Tennessee, when he was helping out there about six years ago. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes are the headliners on Saturday July 27; Hodges said, “They represent community music at its best…they bring back that theatrical ‘60’s vibe.” Hodges declared that this year, “I brought in more headliners than ever before.”  On the flip side, newer groups and performers will take part in the “On the Rise” series, looking to capture that Floydfest magic.

Music is spread out on ten stages; attendees can wander from one venue to another, catch a few tunes and then move on. Or they can set up their chairs in front of the Dreaming Creek main stage and return for the headlining acts. An art installation called the Flower of Life and a light show intertwined with the DJ experience promises to be another highlight, according to Hodges.

Floydfest has its own unique vibe – a friendly event where regular folks might don tie-dye and sandals for a change, or take part in impromptu drum circles, encounter people they might normally talk to, sample exotic food fare, etc. Above all the music prevails – much of it from bands or performers the average Roanoker or those from across the country may have never heard before, certainly not on the radio.

Hodges has an uncanny ear, however, for uncovering sounds – bluegrass-tinged, rock, world beat, folk, electronic, etc. – that leaves people wanting more. He said about 70 percent of the ticket holders will arrive from within a 250- mile radius, but others are coming from across the country and from countries like England and Australia.

Hodges doesn’t take the success of Floydfest for granted, even after 12 years. “I’m so about every last detail,” he said. He travels to check out other festivals, taking notes and listening to performers. “The only constant we know is change and we always want to change for the better,” said Hodges, who must battle changing attention spans and tastes. “We have our ear to the ground globally, trying to follow the trends, [even staying] a couple of steps ahead.”

Across-the-Way Productions also keeps busy running two wine festivals (Vintage Virginia and the Virginia Wine Festival) at other times of the year. The ATW staff numbers about 9 all year round; there are part time people that start gearing up for Floydfest around January and more than 700 volunteers who will work to keep things flowing smoothly during the event itself. About 1300 people help make Floydfest – dubbed “Rise & Shine” this year – go on a regular basis. “It’s a tremendous effort,” noted Hodges; “we’re building a small community, a small town for a week. Its takes a lot of hands.”

The theme Rise & Shine speaks to the potential of what happens when a large group of people gets together “in the way of open minds, open hearts,” said Hodges, “it speaks to the kind of world we want to live in. That’s what rise and shine means – rising to the occasion, shining to be the best that you can be.” Hodges has been spending time in Mexico over the past year, studying music and culture near the Caribbean, trying to bring some of that feel back to southwestern Virginia.

If you don’t have tickets for Floydfest 12 watch the website for any updates about single day passes being available. Meanwhile for those that were lucky enough to get on board early, “You’re going to get a great experience,” promises Kris Hodges, “that’s what Rise & Shine means.”

By Gene Marrano

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