Asheville, North Carolina is host to more festivals than one might expect of a city its size. This cultural magnet nestled among the Blue Ridge Mountains in the Western part of the state has a population of about 70,000 (more if you count the outlying areas, but it’s still modestly-sized), but the city is home to more than its share of creative types. In addition to a vibrant mountain music/bluegrass/Americana scene, Asheville boasts active communities of jazz players, as well as progressive, metal, singer/songwriter, punk, and just about every other genre you might think of.
The big annual street fair Bele Chere may or may not continue into the future, but that free three-day festival has brought big national acts to Asheville. Moogfest has done the same (the influential and innovative Moog Music is headquartered downtown).
But for locally-based acts, the festival scene is a bit tougher. So to right that wrong, a group of high-profile music people in town have put together the DIG (Downtown Independent Groove) Festival.
Here’s a quick summary by the numbers: With a lineup that includes thirty-six bands at five venues (The Orange Peel, LaB, The One Stop, Asheville Music Hall, and The Emerald Lounge) across two nights (August 15-16) for only $15, DIG Fest can’t help but give good value for the money.
All five venues are a short walk form each other. “And that’s a goal of the whole thing,” says organizer Justin Ferraby. Scheduling Friday’s shows to begin shortly after the free Downtown After Five street festival (situated right among the DIG venues) means that festivalgoers can enjoy even more hours of nonstop music. “It creates a long-weekend” feel,” says Ferraby.
The DIG Festival is always scheduled for the third week in August, to coincide with the time when students return to classes at UNCA, Mars Hill, Warren Wilson and other colleges in the region. And DIG has grown since its debut four years ago. At that point, it was one of two prominent locally-oriented festivals (the other being Pop Asheville).
“We make it a Thursdays-Friday festival,” explains Ferraby, “because Asheville is such a heavily hospitality-driven city. There are so many people who work in restaurants and bars” on weekend nights. The DIG schedule gives them a chance to attend as well.
In keeping with the local theme, most of the sponsorship comes from local companies (primarily breweries, something for which Asheville is known and admired). Ferraby says that local breweries “Oskar Blues, Sierra Nevada and New Belgium “were all excited to get involved,” as was Lagunitas. And donations will be accepted at all DIG venues to support the work of the Asheville-based Bob Moog Foundation. “The whole festival is about community,” Ferraby says.
Attendees can look forward to some one-off combinations of players form various bands coming together onstage; Ferraby notes that last DIG festival yielded three new bands created during the two-night event.
Along with Justin Ferraby, the team of organizers includes Oso Rey, Jeff Santiago, and Erika Jane. Rey and Jane were involved in the original DIG Festival in 2009. Ferraby jokes that “It’s like the World Cup or the Olympics: every four years something great comes along!” But going forward, DIG is planned to be an annual event. “The lineup and low cost allows people to take a chance on a band they might not otherwise see,” offers Ferraby. “We’ve already got a good music scene, but anything we can do to help it, we want to do.”
Details about venues, ticketing (tickets available at the Orange Peel box office) and the lineup can be found at https://www.facebook.com/DIGFestival.
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