Ancient Tones -- New Sounds Festival is making its debut Sept. 25-27 in Union Grove, North Carolina, with a stellar lineup of Americana, Celtic, bluegrass and old-time mountain music artists including The Horse Flies, Scythian, Yarn, Mountain Heart, Blu Bop, The Fighting Jamesons, Big Fat Gap, Hard Cider, Whiskey of the Damned, Brynmor, The GoodFellers, The Brown Liquor Pickers and Mason Via and Friends.
"I want to put a focus on the the common musical thread that runs through the roots of each of those genres," says Robert Gabb, festival founder, organizer and musician. "All of these bands were purposely chosen. The premise is tracing the lineage between all this music; tracing the footsteps of the first Celtic settlers which translated into old-time mountain music and then bluegrass and then Americana."
The culmination of what Gabb, who originally hails from Wales, describes as a cultural heritage festival will come Saturday night when his Irish band heads up a mashup of musicians. "We want to get people out of their seats and dancing."
lt will be held at the VanHoy Farms Campground, the home of the renowned Union Grove Fiddlers Convention, which in its heyday attracted more than 60,000 attendees to the 12,000-seat coliseum. The music is set to begin Friday evening and will finish with the aforementioned Grand Stage Blow Out Jam at midnight on Saturday. In the spirit of the festival's motto, "Stirrin' Up What Took Centuries to Mash Up," the all-star jam will feature Brynmor hosting various musicians culled from many of the bands that performed over the weekend. Gabb also encourages attendees to bring instruments for casual jamming at their campsites.
Other artists on the bill include Take Two, Seven Handle Circus, The Josh Daniel/Mark Schimick Project, The Prairie Belt Boys, The Morning After, Jamestown Pipes and Drums.
The family friendly festival will also present various world food vendors and an arts and crafts marketplace. "With your help and support we can make this an annual event," Gabb says.
The artists are enthused about the inaugural festival, but don't take my word for it. Take theirs.
Award-winning Mountain Heart is described as a band that combines elements of rock, country, jazz, blues, folk, bluegrass and jam band into a high-energy sound. Singer-songwriter frontman Josh Shilling, who served as artist-in-residence at Rooster Walk Music and Arts Festival in May, writes on Facebook, "Mountain Heart is excited and honored to bring our new show along with a ton of new music to the Ancient Tones -- New Sounds Festival! This trail blazing North Carolina festival is a brand-new event based around roots music and the artists and music lovers that support it. We couldn't be happier to be part of it's first year and to work with Robert and the entire top notch team involved! Expect some surprises and epic collaborations!
Yarn, an alt-country-rock-Americana band from New York City and another Rooster Walk favorite, also writes on Facebook, "We love the festival's unique and quality line up. It's an honor to be included among these artists and bands. And it's all about the music. We love that." MerleFest favorite Scythian, is a Celtic/Celtic rock band. Alex Fedoryka (Violin/Mandolin/Harmonica/Bass/Vocals) writes, "As a band from Washington, D.C., we've come to feel like North Carolina has become our home state. MerleFest took us in seven years ago and those great North Carolina folks taught us to believe in the old time good time music we played. We're thrilled to be a part of the Ancient Tones and New Sounds festival lineup, with their great spread of that old roots music we love, from Celtic to Appalachian, all delivered with the stamp of great musicians in the here and now. This fest has the makings of being a great festival in the heart of the best string band state in the country. North Carolina, we're coming home and we hope y'all can join us!"
Fans of Seven Handle Circus, which mixes bluegrass with punk rock to create a modern style of rock, won't want to miss what's being touted as the band's last performance. "We are excited about this festival because right there in the title, it hits the nail on the head with what we are trying to do with our music: take beautiful classic sounds and make new music with them," says Shawn Spencer, guitar/vocals/songwriter. "We are excited to be a part of a community where everyone is into that idea, from fans to fellow performers."
Described as a blend of Americana roots with indie rock, The Horse Flies add in a Facebook message, "When we first heard the name of this festival, 'Ancient Tones -- New Sounds,' we thought it sounded like us! We began as an almost-traditional acoustic Appalachian stringband. In fact, several of us used to attend a fiddler's festival on the very same site this festival is to be held. And we still have fiddle, banjo and banjo uke in the band. But over the years we've allowed ourselves to evolve ... to create our own original songs ... to add percussion, Moog, organ, electric bass to the band ... to use effect pedals on the traditional instruments. You can hear the traditional root in the music ... the danceable rhythm is still at the heart ... but it's become its own experimental, trance-y, psychedelic thing."
If You Go
The festival is located at VanHoy Farms Family Campground in Union Grove, North Carolina, just off I-77, Exit 65.
According to the website, Van Hoy Farms Family Campground offers over 100 rolling peaceful acres of land with full camping facilities and amenities. Sites are grassy with shady trees nearby. Go for a hike or wade through the stream. A nearby Amish village offers breads, candies and fresh produce.
Noon to midnight Friday, noon to 2 a.m. Saturday, open jam Sunday.Two-day pass: $90 through Sept. 24, $120 at gate; ages 14 to 16 - $50 through Sept. 24, $60 at gate; younger get in free with paid adult.
Single day tickets are $40 for Friday and $60 for Saturday.
Weekend passes include car camping (tents). RV camping booked through VanHoy Farms Family Campground.