A Greensboro Fest Reboot
Three days of music to showcase the scope of local talent
Music festivals have been multiplying lately. Sort of like craft breweries. And, as with beer connoisseurs, many music fans like to know the global scene — to be hip to what’s hoppy in Belgium or Scotland, but they also want to stay up on what’s happening nearby and around the corner. As the weather warms, the northern hemisphere prepares for what will basically be six months of concentrated live music events, organized around a theme, around a style, around eclectic good taste, around a place, whatever.
Of course, there’s live music all year round, but the festival season is a chance to focus and distill. The big national festivals — Bonnaroo, Coachella, Sasquatch, Pitchfork, etc. — pull artists from all over the world, making events that are also massive tourist attractions. That allows other smaller, more humble, local festivals to operate in a very different musical ecosystem. Tiny, regional festivals can highlight music from a given area, gathering the best local music to showcase what’s happening in a smaller radius. Greensboro Fest is an ultra-local music festival celebrating independent music from Greensboro, with a few acts from slightly farther afield. The festival went dormant for a while. The 2013 iteration of the event was the most recent one. But a group of Greensboro musicians, fans, club people and scene boosters have gotten together to revive the festival, which will take place for three days in April. The 2017 Greensboro Festival runs Thursday, April 20 through Saturday, April 22. As of this writing, 26 bands are scheduled to play at eight venues around town.
While music festivals might appear to be proliferating on one level, they’re also having their day in the sun and then vanishing, too. Take Winston-Salem’s Phuzz Fest, the planners of which announced that the NC-centric festival wouldn’t have a 2017 iteration. And note, also, that the 2017 incarnation of the National Folk Festival, which will run Sept. 8 through the 10th, will be the last of the festival’s three-year run in Greensboro, before it moves on to another location. State and federal arts funding are never a sure thing — see the current president’s proposed budget cuts to drive home the point — and municipal buy-in isn’t always guaranteed either. And even for those festivals, like Greensboro Festival, that function below the radar of that mainframe arts-and-culture infrastructure, just having the organizational oomph to get creative people together and agree on a set of dates and a location can be a massive challenge.
I spoke to local musician Ben Braxton recently about the reanimated Greensboro Festival. Baxton says the effort was spearheaded by fellow local musician Joe Garrigan, who’s hosted a number of Cover Explosions featuring local musicians all covering the songs of one specific artist or songwriter, with the proceeds generally going to charity.
“We contacted a lot of bands,” says Braxton, “we contacted a lot of people.”
Work on reviving the festival started back in September.
“Since we haven’t had Greensboro Fest in four years — the Greensboro music scene is somewhat fractured and somewhat all over the map, and this brings everybody back together again and sort of unifies all the bands, and honestly we all think that’s kind of important,” says Braxton, who has two projects that will be performing during the festival.
The venues include On Pop of the World Studios, Common Grounds, New York Pizza, Urban Grinders, Westerwood Tavern, Geeksboro, The Crown at the Carolina Theatre, and other locations. Many of the daytime performances will be free, and some of the nighttime shows will have a small cover charge.
Among the bands featured are LeBaron, Menthol, Modern Robot, Instant Regrets, S.E. Ward, Totally Slow, Ebon Strike, Torch Runner, Night Sweats, Vaughn Aed, Corporate Fandango, Cucumbers, Dumpster, the Kneads and another dozen or so acts. The lineup ranges pretty wide. There’s controlled shoegaze-y psych rock, abrasive punk, hypnotic acoustic music, proggy post rock, shrapnel-spitting hardcore, haunting indie folk, black metal, avant ambient atmospherics, arty garage rock, hyper-energetic ska, lurching noise rock, scuzz jams, and a lot more. If you needed convincing that the Greensboro music scene is eclectic, dipping into sounds that tip the sonic and stylistic hat to every decade of the last 50 years, this is a good horizon-scanning view of the music percolating up from around the area.
“The genres are all over the map,” says Braxton. “This is a big advertisement for Greensboro to come and look at what we’ve got — all together, mixed up.”
For more information about The Greensboro Festival, visit gsofest.com for the most up-to-date list of performers and venues.