Listen Up: Labor Day Weekend Provides Variety of Opportunities to Discover New Music, Help Struggling Communities

Tired of listening to the same old music? Make plans to attend Front Porch Fest at the Spirit Haven Farm in Stuart, Virginia, over Labor Day weekend and you'll not only be exposed to some new tunes, you'll be helping out a struggling community.

"Front Porch Fest is a great place to hear someone you have never heard of and leave with new music in your heart," says festival Executive Director Chris Prutting. "I've grown up with music and friends playing in bands. I love the bands no one has heard of. If you come to Front Porch Fest, you will leave with a whole new catalog of music. We've always prided ourselves on getting bands right before they make it."

The 36 acts lined up for Front Porch Fest set for Sept. 4-6 include Simplified, The A.J. Ghent Band, Big Daddy Love, Big Something, Weather and Waves, Brightside, The Shack Band, After Jack and Tyler Nail Trio, among many others. A distinctive feature of this festival, which attracts a few thousand attendees, are its three stages with no overlapping sets so music lovers don't have to miss a beat.

This year's signature event for Front Porch Fest is "Big Daddy Something," says Prutting. "Big Daddy Love and Big Something are going to get on stage together. It's amazing and it's a wonderful show. This is the only one they are doing this year."

The A.J. Ghent Band is another one to not miss, Prutting adds. "If you are a fan of Robert Randolph and the Lee Boys or the lap steel guitar, he will blow your socks off."

Tom "T-Bone" Turner is a member of Slick Jr. & the Reactors, who are set to perform a Neil Young Tribute set late Sunday. He describes Front Porch Fest as "more organic" than some of its bigger neighbors including FloydFest and Rooster Walk Music and Arts Festival.

Seven years ago, Front Porch Fest started out as a going away celebration made up of friends and family featuring live music. Located on the "front porch" of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Patrick County, Virginia, it has evolved into an event that aims to combat the deterioration of the area, says Prutting, who is also the executive director of the nonprofit One Family Production, which produces Front Porch Fest. "Over the course of the year we have raised more than $15,000," he said.

The festival is 100 percent volunteer. Can't afford the $80 ticket price for the weekend? The festival is still looking for volunteers. If you are willing to donate 10 hours of your time, you can attend the festival for free. "If people are willing to help, we are willing to take their help," Prutting says.

This grass roots festival that has grown each year started out as family reunion, according to Prutting. "Our slogan is come join the family," he added. "It all started with me moving away and then I came back and we said let's have a reunion and let's turn this into something for the community. We are seeing an influx in attendance every year of tickets, artists and vendors."

Front Porch Fest is family friendly and includes a Children's Area that features arts and crafts. Children 12 and younger are free. Onsite camping is available and the Awareness Village provides information on different causes that are important to the area. Proceeds from the festival are donated to the Patrick County Food Bank, Caring Hearts Free Clinic and the Patrick County Skate Park.

"People come to Front Porch Fest to make relationships that carry on for the rest of their lives," Prutting added. "That's what music is, it's a universal connector."

Other Virginia musical offerings over the holiday weekend worth checking out include:

Appaloosa Roots Music Festival

MerleFest favorite Scythian's inaugural Appaloosa Roots Music Festival is set at the Skyline Ranch Resort in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It features 20-plus bands, including some of the most critically acclaimed up-and-coming artists from all over the country, and is just minutes from the northern entrance to Shenandoah National Park and Skyline Drive, and less than a mile from the Shenandoah River. There is camping available on site, plus opportunities in the immediate vicinity to hike, canoe, fish, bike, etc. At least 10 percent of the proceeds will go to the Veterans of Foreign Wars and Little Sisters of the Poor, according to organizers.

American Music Festival

The sounds of rock, jazz, country, blues, R&B and more flood the oceanfront for three days at the American Music Festival in Virginia Beach. Billed as the largest outdoor musical event on the East Coast, the American Music Festival brings together local, regional and national acts to play along the beautiful oceanfront. Headliners range from the Steve Miller Band, Restless Heart, Thirty-Eight Special, Spyro Gyra, Sheryl Crow, Phil Vassar, Lonestar, The Boxmasters featuring Billy Bob Thornton, and Nashville up-and-comer Logan Brill, among many others.

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