Richmond’s Riverrock always draws a crowd. Photo: KC Johnson
You don’t have to sit in a field to enjoy a music festival. Here is your guide to the best downtown festivals in the Blue Ridge:
Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion
Basics: A big part of the steady revitalization of the quaint Southern city that boasts distinction as the Birthplace of Country Music, this annual fest features a range of artists from national headliners to regional upstarts to down home Appalachian pickers playing along the bustling main drag of State Street on 22 stages—outdoors, inside theaters and bars, and in the popular dance tent.
Bands: The beauty of a Bristol line-up is the fearless ability to bridge traditional artists with emerging acts in the indie folk scene. This year sets from Nashville songstress Lucinda Williams and a rare showing by the Masters of Bluegrass (Del McCoury, J.D. Crowe) will mingle with the rowdy country punk of Deer Tick and Blitzen Trapper.
Set Break Escape: Bring your mountain bike and escape the concrete by the riding the eight-mile singletrack loop at Warrior’s Path State Park in nearby Kingsport.
Tour De Fat
New Belgium Brewing hosts this traveling celebration of bike culture, which kicks off with a bike parade and then moves into the long Afternoon Ballyhoo: a bike circus and rodeo, cycling games, live music, and the expected mass quantities of amazing microbrews. Additional regional stops include Washington, D.C. (June 1), Durham, N.C. (June 15), and Nashville, Tenn. (June 22).
Blue Plum Festival
Johnson City, Tenn.
Join 80,000 people gathering for three days over seven city blocks in downtown Johnson City for three days of Americana tunes, great food, and regional art.
Every summer, during the last weekend of July, hundreds of thousands of people flock to downtown Asheville for this massive downtown music and arts festival, where plenty of family fun mingles with an impressive line-up of national acts.
Quickly becoming a smaller Southeast version of SXSW, Hopscotch brings nearly 200 bands of every genre to 15 stages in downtown Raleigh. It’s the place to catch emerging independent favorites from the Triangle and well beyond.
Richmond Folk Festival
The Richmond Folk Festival draws nearly 200,000 people to downtown Richmond’s riverfront for music, dance, and eclectic arts.