Spring can’t seem to get here soon enough

by Ryan Snyder

It’s hard to believe that the month of January has come and gone already, but this is a sublime realization for lovers of the outdoors. As we start the slow crawl out of our dull, wintry dormancy, there are obviously a few things on the horizon to be excited about. For one, pitchers and catchers report to spring training in only two weeks. Those of us yearning for some outdoor Thirsty Thursday action at NewBridge Bank Park or wherever the Dash will be playing don’t have much longer to wait. Let’s face it: Cyclones games are a modest substitution, but no real suitable replacement for the warm weather and cold beverages that come with a day at the ballpark.

But for music fans, there’s something else that is the subject of even greater anticipation. The festival season is nigh and if you’re anything like me, then you’re probably foaming at the mouth by now for outdoor concerts to get rolling. Many of the major venues in North Carolina have yet to start listing their major dates on the calendars; Time Warner Pavilion, Verizon Amphitheater and Regency Park come immediately to mind. However, those with the itch don’t wait for any official proclamations to be made, because the fanatic in us has already led to diligent research and informed speculation. Though just out of state, there’s practically an entire cottage industry revolving around exposing artists booked for arguably the most popular festival in the country, the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn., before any real announcement is made. Inforoo, the officially unofficial message board for the event, receives an absurd amount of traffic this time of year, with hundreds of posters offering new leads for unconfirmed acts and for good reason. The festival recognized the pre-announcement frenzy for information and started offering incredibly cryptic clues through Radio Bonnaroo personality DJ JD, where fans follow his postings at online social networking site Twitter and proceed to break every word down into its subatomic state in search of the solution. Not that the clues are the slightest bit easy, mind you. Who would ever guess that the clue “Peter Pan had a good roast before he was beat to a pulp, and the ocean spray from a westward bay invites you to take a big gulp.” is supposedly a reference to Peter Bjorn and John? There is also rampant speculation that Phish will be involved in Bonnaroo this year, which is of particular interest to North Carolina fans that were shut out of the Hampton reunion weekend and the Asheville ticket lottery for the ensuing summer tour. The band has a conspicuously blank calendar the weekend of June 11- 14 and is playing in Knoxville, Tenn. on June 10. With all of their scheduled dates certain to sell out, one can only assume that the same will happen with Bonnaroo once the actual lineup is released. Better grab up those pre-sale tickets while you can, especially with Paul Oakenfold, Brett Dennen and Robert Earl Keen already in the fold. There’s still plenty of fun to be had with the in-state festivals, however. The semi-annual Shakori Hills Festival has yet to put out anything official regarding its spring turn, though a little work on the interwebs reveals that bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley, singer Amy LaVere and Southern swing band Christabel & the Jons will be in attendance.

This year’s MerleFest also features another stellar lineup, with Emmylou Harris and David Bromberg & Angel Band among this year’s biggest draws. There’s been no official announcement regarding the second installment of the Loki Festival as of yet, but I’m looking forward to another great end to the summer after highly favorable reviews to the Deerfields, NC fest. There’s still the small matter of February and most of March to deal with, however, so maybe such a protracted look ahead is a bit premature. There are plenty of great shows in the Triad in which to look forward, namely DJ Icey, Willie Nelson and also the Wailers. Rumors are also swirling that Girl Talk will make his way to Greensboro early in the spring. Still, I’d trade all the tightly-jammed, sweaty club shows in January for one open-air, blue-sky day in June.