If you are interested in submitting reviews, news, or articles, please send us an email to [email protected] We love reader submissions! The Floydfest eXperience – 2011 by Lori McKinney Lori McKinney is a West Virginia music scenester with her own band, Option 22. Check out their great music here. Ten years of Floydfest magic came to a soaring crescendo last July with the celebration of music, art and culture in the Blue Ridge mountains. Across the Way Productions clearly understands how to create an unforgettable event- Once again, the line-up was stunning, the people were happy and glowing, and I was introduced to artists who are now my favorites, of which I was previously un-aware, one of the defining points of the Floydfest experience. As Floydfest 2012 draws near and my excitement grows, I reminisce about that beautiful weekend. Driving down the Blue Ridge Parkway on what has become an annual pilgrimage for me and my friends, is always a beautiful way to begin the journey. With each mile in the rolling hills of lush green, you move away from the world "back there" and are lured deeper into the all consuming world you are about to experience. As you approach the site and catch that first glimpse of the majestic Dreaming Creek stage, your heart begins to flutter and you know you are about to plunge into a whirlwind of good vibes, and you won't be the same when you come out the other side. We arrived on site early Thursday, about 10am, and in the past we would have been some of the first. But not this year. Hundreds and hundreds of others were already scavenging for camp sites, We settled into a wooded area a healthy, but not too hefty hike below the wine garden. We always love this area because you can hear several stages from various directions. So, even when you are resting, your ears are alive and generously fed. Floydfest's hyper full programming schedule starts early Thursday afternoon in their Healing Arts Village with an opening ceremony. That's one of many areas of this expansive event I never quite make it to explore, though I am pleased it's there- and I'm on a mission to one day experience it. Even though there was a ton of music already going on several stages that we would've loved to catch, we made our first stage visit to Hill Holler, the second largest stage around 6pm. I laid back on the grassy green hill, soaking up the Floydfest ahhhhh for the first time. I collected some bluegrass in my ear from a distance at Dreaming Creek main stage as I ordered some food from one of the many delicious food vendors in the center of the site. I love the healthy, organic options – so many to choose from. I took my Thai Conconut Curry and Blueberry Tea back to HIll Holler for Toubab Crew- this group exemplifies one of the elements I love about Floydfest- the fusion of sounds from around the world. Toubab Krewe have traveled to West Africa several times to study with local musicians, and their music features traditional instruments such as the kora (21-string harp-lute). Toubab Krewe is one of countless groups I've discovered here that have transformed my musical landscape. It was a colorful trip making our way to the Global Village, where guests enjoy drumming workshops, fair trade vendors and other worldly experiences. We passed the Vaudeville Stage and caught moments of a captivating fire performance and the Wine Garden stage where a thirteen-member traveling cabaret that features elements of vaudeville, burlesque, stage magic, sideshow oddities, and beatnik "hobo poetry"- was performing- there is not a dull moment to be seen or had. The performance art aspect of Floydfest has grown notably and makes for an unpredictable, colorful and raucous atmosphere- definitely not your every day adventure. I woke Friday morning eager to hear my sister Melissa McKinney perform on the Virginia Folklife Back Porch stage- her first Floydfest appearance. It was really special- for years as I had come to Floydfest, I wished that my sister and her daughter could experience the magic. Now, a couple of years later, she and her daughter are both performing here. My sister performed with the legendary blues man Nat Reese. The Virginia Folklife Back Porch* is one example of a "world within a world" on the Floydfest site- if you just hovered around that stage all weekend long you hear some of the best music from masters of their craft. Sometimes I wish I had a separate weekend just to experience each area of this festival. My sister was at her peak and as I watched her, amazed, I began to notice something. The intense musical energy of this festival brings out the most amazing performances from the musicians. I had the joy of experiencing this personally as I watched my family members and a few friends enjoy their first Floydfest stage appearances. Every fiber of their being was alive, and the top of their ability shined like they were becoming a fuller expression of themselves. It was truly incredible to witness. I next headed to Dreaming Creek and I enjoyed some rootsy blues music as I explored the awesome array of vendors- from fine art to recycled clothing to organic smoothies to funky hats and palm readings, the vendors always offer an exciting part of the festival experience. With festival is in full swing right now and, understand, pieces of my being are calling from all around the site, wishing I could sit in on the wonderful panel discussions on sustainable living, or learn about Sacred Hula Dance in the healing arts village. I could also be honing my percussion skills at one of the workshops… but I feel most called to the incredible shows now taking place all around me on so many stages I can barely keep track. Thousands of others are now experiencing this with me. I resigned to wandering, and was it ever nice. You just can't go wrong. Anything and everything you stumble upon is worth seeing and hearing. I woke Saturday in complete immersion festival world! I resigned to appreciating that others were enjoying amazing workshops in Animal Spirit Qi Gong, yoga, drumming, dance and more and I thought it was super cool that the Floyd community presents workshops for teens in the Imagine Tent on everything from sustainability and cultivating inner peace, to avoiding mindless consumption and addiction through mindfullness. This whole event is such a beautiful reflection of the inspiring Floyd community. I see that real estate sales likely take a huge spike this time of year. The first item on my agenda was to cheer on Miss Behavin', the 11 yr. old all girl rock band that took the Children's Village by storm. I can't wait to watch them grow within this scene- someday I may be watching them on Dreaming Creek. They had an excellent fan base dancing in the crowd, including 2 and 3 year olds right in front of the stage bouncing and waving their arms. excellent. Saturday I enjoyed Donna the Buffalo with thousands of dancing people singing the lyrics to what feel like Floydfest anthems. "into a round ball… and there is love… " Yeah. The Pink Floyd Garden stage is where it was at that night. Twinkling lights in the trees make for a magical forrest experience, and the microbreweries and local wines put the icing on the cake. Glowing from the height of this musical ecstasy, we sat out with our own musical instruments to find some late night magic- a tradition of ours- and we found it beneath the stars- reveling in the musical energy now- feeling it flow through us. I fell into delicious slumber, with drumming and picking filling my ears. Sunday is always beautiful, walking through the site, soaking up the last moments of the experience. Sweet bluegrass sounds were coming from every direction. You can always count on Floydfest to deliver a delicious oasis from your day to day life. It's about finally surrendering to the day, dropping your guide book and relaxing into your wandering stride… and then stumblilng upon a stage with music that absolutely blows you away. WHO IS THIS? you think, as you dig through your back pack for that ever-essential program guide. You just made a discovery, like a treasure, and you take it with you. It's about sitting in a beautiful field, or on a hillside, and having a catharsis-bathing in the beauty of the scenery and thinking, Wow. It just doesn't get any sweeter. The Floydfest experience is something I keep coming back to, and one I encourage you to discover. Lori McKinney is a West Virginia music scenester with her own band, Option 22. Check out their great music here.