Picture a combination of Roanoke’s Down by Downtown Festival with elements of the music at FloydFest.
It could look something like Strings & Things: Vol. 1, happening in Salem venues next week. It begins on Thursday at Olde Salem Brewing Co., with Americana band Chamomile & Whiskey. On Friday, prog-rockers CBDB play Parkway Brewing Co. Jam band Perpetual Groove headlines a four-band bill on Saturday at the Salem Farmers Market. On Sept. 29, jamgrass act Greensky Bluegrass plays Salem Civic Center.
It’s a different way to show off Salem’s culture, said Hank Luton, the civic center’s assistant director.
“We’re hoping it’s an annual event,” Luton said.
The Strings & Things idea emerged as the civic center began talking with FloydFest organizers about a collaboration. They settled on a December event called The Big Chill: A FloydFest Ball, which will feature The Isley Brothers and Turkuaz. On a parallel track, Luton and the venue’s event and production manager, Chris Fischer, set focus on a Farmers Market event. Before they were through dreaming, they had a four-day plan that roughly mirrors Down by Downtown and a couple of headliners with some national recognition, Luton said.
“The Sunday show just kind of fell in our lap, just from reaching out to agents,” he said. “Greensky had the date open, and we just tied that one in on the back side of it.
“It really was kind of born from talking with the FloydFest folks and being inspired by some of their musical choices. Also, Chris Fisher and some other staff members here listen to the bluegrass jam band stuff. We just kind of threw it all together. We brought it up to the breweries, and they were on board. The city of Salem liked the idea, and it kind of grew from there.”
The Saturday lineup will have some Southwest Virginia-centric interest. Morgan Wade & The Stepbrothers and Charissa Morrison will open the show. Big Daddy Love, a bluegrass/rock/jam hybrid from North Carolina, is second on the bill. Shows on the other three nights feature one band only. Both breweries have bands on a regular schedule, but the civic center booked the bands for Strings & Things weekend. Luton said that if things go according to plan, people who show up to hear Chamomile & Whiskey and CBDB for free will hear more about the rest of the weekend’s lineupagenda and buy tickets. Civic center staff will be at both shows, just to hang out, he said.
“We’ve seen music down at both places,” Luton said of the Salem breweries. “We go down there and enjoy the beer and the food trucks and the music, just as patrons. ... We thought it was a no-brainer to get them involved.”
The civic center staff is used to promoting its arena shows on Roanoke Valley radio stations, but this lineup, which doesn’t fit into the radio market’s typical niches, has presented challenges, he said. The staff is using social media, Spotify and geofencing — location-based marketing that hits your smartphone — as part of its marketing strategy for Strings & Things.
“We’re learning on the fly here,” Luton said. “Next year I think will be even better than this year, and we’re excited about this year.”