My live music outings are fewer and farther between these days, but when I do make my way to a show I like to get as much music in as possible. This June I managed to pack in a night with three bands, emceeing two of them at RiverFest (locals River Whyless and Brit-band Treetop Flyers) before zipping over to catch most of Balsam Range's CD release show.
When I arrived at RiverFest it was pouring rain and the evening looked like it the outdoor event might be in jeopardy, however the worst of it was already over, and all we had to contend with from then on was an occasional sprinkle. There were plenty of large puddles left over which made trekking across the grounds require a bit of forethought, unless you were one of the many children who took full advantage of them by splashing and dancing their way through all night.
I had heard of River Whyless but was largely unfamiliar with their music, and their set was a real treat. The four piece has strong elements of folk and pop which are augmented by tight, inventive harmonies. They closed their set by going off stage into the crowd for an acoustic finale.
In a small-world moment, I ran across Ben Lovett in the crowd. We had last seen each other at Echo Mountain when Ben was in this episode of What It Is. I asked what brought him to the show, and he replied that he was there to see one of the members of the band, singer and fiddler Halli Anderson. After her set with River Whyless was done, I found out that Halli had first heard Treetop Flyers on my radio show at WNCW; it was like a little circle in the universe was made complete.
Treetop Flyers were playing Asheville for the first time. Their first LP has been a huge hit, and I got to talk with drummer Tomer Danan before their performance. Tomer is the lone Yank in the group, although now he has dual citizenship in the UK, having married an English bride. Tomer can live anywhere from America to England and the rest of the European Union, depending on his mood. He described how the raging soul and groove scene in London has influenced their next record, which is self-produced. Instead of the distinct Americana influence that you hear on The Mountain Moves, which was recorded in Malibu, their new material will have more in common with rhythm and blues. And indeed, a pronounced Muscle Shoals vibe rang out from the solar powered stage for much of the night.
I'm looking forward to hearing more from both of these bands, and wholeheartedly recommend experiencing the free RiverFest series. -Joe