Sounds of the summer: Festival for the Eno, Heavy Rebel Weekender
The Triangle and Triad are lit with festivals this Fourth of July weekend: The 40th Annual Festival for the Eno will wash onto the banks of the Eno River in Durham, and the 19th rendition of Heavy Rebel Weekender takes over the Millennium Center in Winston-Salem.
Both festivals invoke distinct images of summer. Heavy Rebel is wild and raucous, in a more urban environment, with a river of PBR flowing in its own right, while the Festival for the Eno plays like a postcard for music-loving naturists: dewy sweat and river antics, with rustic tunes flowing from freshly built pine stages.
“Saving the river one song at a time,” the Festival for the Eno is as much about the river as it is about the music. Running July 4 and 6 at West Point Park, on the literal banks of the Eno, the lineup boasts 80 acts on five wooden stages (built new each year,) with 20 food trucks and dozens of craftsfolk.
Hosted by the Eno River Association, the festival, according to organizers, draws around 30,000 folks “to the shaded banks on the Eno River to sing, dance and make merry with great food and crafts all while learning about natural resource conservation and raising funds for land protection in the Eno River basin.”
The scene is a bit more rustic, a bit more rootsy than the rockabilly madness going down at Heavy Rebel. But being on the banks of a river has unique advantages: there’s tubing, swimming, and leashed pups are allowed–it’s a party for the planet, and the Eno River specifically.
The music is central, but extracurriculars such as clay-wheel pottery, water mill corn grinding, urban farming, kayaking, and weaving demonstrations are scheduled to acquaint attendees with the simple pleasures and values of the river; and its heritage.
Old-time jams and workshops are planned for those looking for interactive performances. On the stages, choice performers include Anne Claire, Arson Daily, Blue Cactus, Boulevards, Loamlands, the Mantras, Reese McHenry, Severed Fingers, and dozens more.
Tan and Sober Gentlemen, a group pushing “Celtic punk-grass,” will pull double-duty at both festivals over the weekend.
Where the Festival for the Eno features a bill dipped from the grassroots flavor of Shakori Hills, the schedule for Heavy Rebel Weekender reads like Cashbash on steroids: the Bo-Stevens, Bob Fleming and the Cambria Iron Co., Dex Romweber, Hick’ry Hawkins, Jason Moss and the Hosses, Lara Hope and the Ark-tones, the Rocketz, and the Tremors are a mere sampling of the more than 50 acts scheduled.
It makes sense–Winston-Salem is the unofficial rockabilly capital of North Carolina–and Heavy Rebel Weekender plays like its annual coronation.
Running July 5-7, the weekend for “freaks, geeks, and weirdos,” will celebrate its 19th year with a “Pre-Party Pig Pickin’ and Back Porch Jam” on July 4 at the back dock of the Millennium Center.
Heavy Rebel organizers boil the delightfully trashy festival down to, “three days of the best party with your best friends!”
Beyond tunes, the HRW party is jam-packed with activities: burlesque and sideshow acts, a car show, and contests out the wazoo including mud wrestling, big-wheel tricycle races, a Krispy Kreme doughnut eating contest, PBR drinking contest, and an upright bass slapdown.
The party itself wraps with a super jam on Sunday but boasts an array of music, vendors, and oddities starting on Friday.
Wiggle Room returns to showcase the shimmy of burlesque and the wonders circus-style sideshow acts. Performances full of glitz and tassels and feats of sword-swallowing, fireplay and acrobatics will run all weekend. Workshops for folks interested in the arts are scheduled throughout the festival, with an “all-star” burlesque showcase and pageant slated for Saturday.
For the motorheads, HRW and the Camel City Skulls Car Club will host the Heavy Rebel Car Show on Saturday. Free for spectators, the show will feature cars made before 1972, displayed along Trade Street in Winston-Salem’s “arts district,” with trophies going to the cheeriest of rides.
As fireflies light up the night, and the scent of charcoal wafts through the air, it’s a special sort of festival weekend in the Triad and Triangle. Whether you’re more into saving the river, or cruising old cars while rocking a mile-high hairdo, there’s fun to be had this Independence Day Weekend.
For the love of music, the river, and weirdos: Happy Birthday, America!
Katei Cranford is a Triad music nerd who hosts the Tuesday Tour Report, a radio show that runs like a mixtape of bands touring NC the following week, 5:30-7pm on WUAG 103.1fm.