JJ Grey & Mofro and Anders Osborne with Billy Iuso
Floyd Fandango Beer & Wine Festival
July 2 & 3, 2011
The grounds of the Floyd Fandango Beer and Wine Fest could not be prettier. Situated on a beautiful flat ridge top that is high in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Floyd County, VA, this festival’s home is also host to the long standing Floyd Fest, a festival now in its tenth year.
Despite the location being remote, traveling there is not hard with highway access only a half hour away. The nearest town is Floyd VA, an artsy and unique community with a spirit that seems to invade the festival grounds; perhaps most telling of this fact was the vending at Floyd Fandango that was filled with local artisans and craftsmen and their products were simply beautiful.
The main acts on the music side of Floyd Fandango were JJ Grey and Mofro, Saturday’s closing act on the main stage, and Anders Osborne with Billy Iuso who closed the Garden Stage.
JJ Grey and Mofro played the main stage, which is a permanent timber frame fixture supported by a tree lined backdrop. It is one of the beautiful features that make a trip up to the Blue Ridge Parkway for this festival well worth the time.
JJ Grey and his well rehearsed band were in great form for this gig. The band was as tight as a fist and JJ made the large crowd at this outdoor event feel like they were in a small club, telling homespun stories about his family and friends, taking his audience for a stroll through his life and hence, some of the inspirations behind his songwriting.
Musically, the set was an equal-parts blend of swamp rock, funk and blue eyed soul. The latter was on display with JJ’s burning cover of what he called his favorite singer ever, Otis Redding, and his song “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long.” This song resembled other songs from the set like fan favorites “Lochloosa” and “Brighter Days,” tunes that were delivered with marvelous soul with JJ’s whole body straining to deliver the feeling he wrote into them.
In a moment of hilarity and candor, Grey told a great story about riding in his car with his parents and grandmother and providing them with their first listen to his new album. Then the song “Slow, Hot and Sweaty” came on, and to his horror and embarrassment, everything suddenly fell silent. In his words, “there was no place to hide” while his Mom chastised him for the inappropriate lyrics while his grandmother danced around in her seat, all too comfortable with the lyrics.
Anders Osborne with Billy Iuso closed the day at the beautiful and intimate Garden Stage. This stage, a much smaller timber frame platform, was set back in the woods. Â Many of the trees had rope lights spiraling up their trunks and branches. The gatherers could not have looked more content as they sat in chairs while sampling the day’s fare from the beer and wine tents.
Over the last couple of years, Anders has morphed his show to feature more of his brilliant song writing than his explosive guitar playing. This show was not that. This show was much more of a throwback with muscular guitar playing and a band that was speaking in one solid and energetic voice.
Anders has played a long time now with bassist Carl Dufrene and drummer Eric Bolivar, and both seem to know where Anders wants to go before Anders even does. The addition of guitarist and song writer Billy Iuso really helped make this gig electric.
The two guitarists never seemed to get in each other’s way, backing each other’s solos with tasty playing and trading solos at the peak of extended jams. All four musicians listened intently to each other, keeping the ship moving in whatever directions Anders was inspired to go. Though all gigs take on their own feeling and some are more inspired than others, this set was brilliant for its high energy and collaborative spirit.
While Anders did the majority of the lead vocals, he did give Billy the opportunity to take on a few songs while both Carl and Eric sang backgrounds. The small stage was alive with these guys as they stomped around through one powerful jam after the next. By the end, the crowd was whipped into a frenzy, screaming, happy and danced out.
Across-the-Way Productions continue to develop this festival site into becoming Virginia’s premier music festival destination. Each year they add new permanent structures, each appropriately designed to fit into the mountain top setting and Floyd Fandango was a well spent weekend in the Blue Ridge Mountains of southern Virginia.