This past Saturday marked the fifth anniversary of the Lynchstock music festival, named for our burgeoning city of Lynchburg, Virginia, as well as the event’s Woodstock-level aspirations (reflected in the bizzare costumes of some of the festival-goers). This year, the festival moved from the small backyard of a restaurant in the neighboring town of Forest to a large-ish park in downtown Lynchburg proper, which accommodated more attendees, vendors, and food trucks, as well as two additional stages (the number increased from three to five) housed in two of the new venues that have recently sprung up along the formerly eerily empty, now trendy Jefferson Street.
I attended the festival along with my parents, who are in their late fifties and early sixties, and my two twenty-something siblings, all of whom came from out of town. We were attracted to the event by the headline band, Dawes, who play rock that skews toward Americana and has sometimes funny, sometimes incredibly sad, and always memorable lyrics. I warned my parents that the festival would probably be populated by hipster college students wearing their wannabe-Coachella best, but as it turned out, there was a diverse range of ages and styles at the event. Yes, there was the shirtless guy in dreadlocks and the girls painting henna tattoos on each other’s backs, but there was also the average Joe-looking dad of one of the local band’s lead singers, as well as the little boy in a guitar t-shirt jumping through puddles in his Crocs.
And about those puddles. We had all been casting a dire eye at the weather forecast all week, watching the rain likelihood percentages change slightly but never go away. When we arrived at the park Saturday morning, the ground was already wet and the sky overcast, but the rain held off long enough for us to enjoy several bands in the muggy air. My sister enjoyed Strong Water, a Harrisonburg band with bluegrass instrumentation; my brother liked an angsty three-piece outfit called Quick on My Feet, and my mom favored the performance of a band called Fin, whom I don’t feel qualified to describe because I missed most of their set standing in line for an apple butter-slathered grilled cheese at Cheesy Rider (totally worth it). My favorite performance of the morning/early afternoon was by the Will Overman Band–they didn’t really sound like Bruce Springsteen as claimed in their blurb in the app, but they had a fun sound.
Around 2:00, the floodgates of heaven were opened, and the fountains of the deep burst forth. Well anyway, there was a thunderstorm, which led to the decision to shut down the festival until further notice. When a few hours went by and nothing seemed to be changing, we had sadly resigned ourselves to missing the big performance of the day–until my mom saw on Facebook that Dawes would be playing a stripped-down, shortened set at 9:00 in the Glass House, one of the indoor venues along Jefferson Street. Even though it was chilly outside by this time and nearly dark, my mom, my sister, and I decided we’d regret not going back to hear Dawes, so we headed downtown and joined the teeming mass of humanity packed into the Glass House. I don’t like crowds, booze, or annoying people, so the situation was not ideal, but I’m glad I went. There were a lot of tall people in front of me, but I could occasionally see various band members, and, more importantly, I could hear. Dawes played a number of songs from their latest album, We’re All Gonna Die, including the party anthem “When the Tequila Runs Out” and the title track–which, as you might be able to guess, is not a party anthem. One of the highlights of the night was hearing the entire audience sing along to the early hit “When My Time Comes.” As I predicted, Dawes closed with their beautiful and nostalgic (yet just a little tongue-in-cheek) song “All Your Favorite Bands.” Lead singer Taylor Goldsmith said he hoped we wouldn’t count this as their real performance and that we’d let them come back sometime to show us what they could really do. I hope that promise comes to fruition.