Among FloydFest’s annual highlights is the On the Rise fan voted band competition. It’s loaded with mostly new, mostly hungry performers who are willing to play several sets for free, for the chance at a cool prize package that includes headline spots at the following year’s FloydFest.
In recent years, the festival has given prizes to both first- and second-place finalists. Last year, the fans voted for a Lexington, Kentucky band, Magnolia Boulevard, and Travers Brothership, from Asheville, North Carolina. Both were back on Wednesday, for long weekend runs at FloydFest 19 Voyage Home.
They played Wednesday night sets for the folks moving into the site for the duration. And man, there were a lot of people moving in, the most I’ve seen to date. If you were still thinking of coming out, forget it - the entire festival was sold out by this morning.
Back to the music. Magnolia Boulevard has a strong approach to soulful, blues-rock originals, with a talented guitarist in Gregg Erwin. It’s singer Maggie Noelle that pushes that act over the top, though, with an archetypal style with grit in just the right places, along with plenty of range. It was my first time seeing them, as I somehow missed every set last year. Impressive.
Magnolia Boulevard doesn’t play this region, with a set of tour dates that show it sticking mostly to Kentucky. It would be nice to hear Noelle’s voice more frequently in Southwest Virginia.
Travers Brothership, on the other hand, is no stranger to Roanoke and Blacksburg, which is a good thing. Twin brothers Kyle (guitar) and Eric (drums) bring instrumental firepower, and have been at it since they were kids, working with their father, “Hurricane” Bob Travers. The band called “Hurricane” up for a rowdy version of the blues classic “Further On Up the Road, and he’ll be sitting in with them throughout the weekend.
Bassist Josh Clark provides stellar vocals to go along with his well-studied but grooving bass work. Bob Travers calls Clark and keys man Ian McIsaac his nephews.
It will be fun to see which bands emerge from this year’s contest. I stay away from writing about them while they’re in it, because I don’t want to sway even a little favor anyone’s way. Sure is fun to drop a few words about last year’s winners, though.