Whodat Fest returns to Doodad Farm near Greensboro

by Colin Cutler


Saturday, August 15, Doodad Farm, Greensboro, 336.260.7999

Doodad Farm will undergo its yearly transformation from a quiet little haven one exit east of Greensboro into a music festival venue, with bands and singersongwriters from across North Carolina playing on two stages. The bands will be joined by facepainters, Greensboro comedians from the Box, and a diverse collection of food trucks to fuel the festival-goers The musical offerings this year span the state and cross genres””from the Celtic punk of the Tan and Sober Gentlemen to the progressive Americana of Wilmington-based The Midatlantic, the straight ahead rock-and-roll of Asheville’s The Tills, and the haunting an evening with atmospheric folk of Vaughn Aed and Crystal Bright and the Silver Hands. “Our rule is that not everyone is going to love every band, but someone should really love every band, and every band should be a lot of fun for everyone,” said one of the organizers, Riley Driver.

The festival also features local songwriters””this year’s line-up on the satellite stage includes local singer-songwriter Will Jones, R&B singer Kelcey Ledbetter, and James Olin Oden, whose lyrics are steeped in literary classics and ancient ballads. Besides the featured music, the Greensboro Chapter of the Beard and Mustache Club of North Carolina will hold a beard and mustache contest not just for the hirsute: Driver describes it as “very inclusive””fake mustaches are allowed.” Want to get your hands dirty? There are skill-share workshops, a print shop for making Whodat t-shirts, and demonstrations by the Center for Visual Arts and the Alamance Maker’s Guild””while the woods hide a cardboard box city for the kids to rebuild as they see fit.

The story of the Whodat Festival is closely tied to the story of Doodad Farm. After years of not playing music, Dean Driver took a leap and went to a summer music camp in New Hampshire, where he found “an amazing music community” that he wanted to replicate at home. After several conversations with his wife, Laurel, about the overgrown barn out back, his family suggested inviting several of his friends for a birthday work project. Two dozen people came together”””Old friends, new friends, people who came out of nowhere”””to clear brush and build the stage over two summer weekends in 2011. Daughter Riley said that the first Whodat festival started almost as a joke: “Well, we had a stage and the space, let’s do a music festival.”

The first Whodat festival, in 2012, saw about 300 visitors, and about 600 festival-goers showed up last year. Chris Howell has attended each year and says that Whodat is “a place for lovers of music as much as for musicians,” and that the Doodad community has become a second family for him. “It attracts a tremendous variety of talent and good people built around a community of volunteers.” It is this community that has helped Doodad succeed. Riley points out that there is a “critical mass of people who are just in love with Doodad Farm” who maintain the responsible community feeling and encourage others to do the same. Camping is offered Saturday night to encourage festival-goers to be safe and responsible.

The Drivers emphasize that Doodad is not a competitive or for-profit venue, which Formerly of Yonder Mountain String Band enables them to give a gift to both artists and music-lovers. While Doodad does not offer minimum payment to performers, 100% of donations go to the musicians. Because of this, Doodad attracts bands that are by nature risk-takers. Bobbie Needham, a local jazz songwriter, says that Doodad offers exposure in two ways: “The audience gets to hear something different, and bands with something different get to find their audience.” Despite the risks, the Drivers say that “finding people to play here has not been a problem.” Dean described one concert by Binghamton, NY-based Driftwood where”40 people showed up on a cold, rainy Super Bowl Sunday.”

While Whodat is the biggest event of the year at Doodad, it’s not the only one. Besides a monthly songwriter’s circle, Doodad also hosts house shows and benefit concerts, including the recent John Prine Tribute Concert, which raised funds for the Durham-based non-profit Voices Together. And it’s not just a music venue: “We are happy to host any community event, from music to poetry readings to free music instruction to collaborative art projects.”

This year, Doodad Farm opens up for Whodat 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, August 15, with the first performance at 2:30 p.m. A $15-30 donation per person is requested, which will go entirely to the bands. Directions and other details can be found at !