They say you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet, but if you follow the John Durham model for festival development, you really just have to make a bunch of really great omelets to get the one you really want.
Four years ago, Durham wanted to put together a local folk festival. Instead, he and The LOZ band started LionzFest which has evolved into a full on jam experience where the band plays practically all day long. It is a great day of music, complete with a special Lion on the Beach Lager brewed by Quest once a year especially for the occasion. It is a great day of music and fun but it is most definitely not a folk festival (more on that one next month).
He then partnered with Wendy Lyman and the Swamp Rabbit Inn in Travelers Rest for the Swamp Rabbit Music Fest. He originally envisioned this as his folk festival but after the first year, it moved in a decidedly more rock & roll direction and has been a huge success ever since. Not to be deterred, however, Durham sought out another outlet.
That search brings us to Paris Mountain State Park this Saturday for the inaugural Paris Mountain Folk Fest. A big fan of the Music in the Woods concert series which takes place every fall, Durham could not help but notice that the big outdoor amphitheatre sits vacant for most of the rest of the year. Not wanting to schedule a festival in the fall that might conflict with that series (and definitely not wanting to host one in the dead heat of summer), May seemed like the perfect opportunity. With Durham in charge of the music and the park itself assisting with logistics, The Paris Mountain Folk Fest was born.
First and foremost, this has to be one of the best places in town for any concert, much less a folk festival. The adventure starts with a short hike (just a few hundred yards, if that) before the trail opens up to a rustic, stone amphitheatre in the middle of the woods. The setting is as serene as one could possibly ask for as the solar powered stage waits patiently to come to life, bringing music to the woods for all of man and nature to enjoy.
As for the lineup, Durham has assembled an eclectic group of artists representing “a broad definition of folk music” as he sees it. The fun begins at 2:30 with Doug Jones, a mainstay of the Upstate music scene who will most assuredly set the tone for the day ahead. Jones is followed by some of Greenville’s most talented singer songwriters in the form of Layton Mecham, Jill Sprague, and Rush Morgan who is actually pulling double duty as the event’s sound man.
Next, we switch things up a bit as Durham’s group, The LOZ Band takes the stage as Goin’ West, their acoustic alter ego. Durham tells me that any song should be able to be played a number of different ways, and that is exactly what they are going to do with their own catalog. The band is reconfigured slightly – minus a bass but plus a dobro – for a special twist on their traditional pop/rock sound.
Vilai Harrington (who I swear gets more interesting every time I see him play) and the beautiful sounds of Mourning Dove wrap up the evening for an absolutely stellar day of music. Durham promises that everything will be wrapped up by 7:30 so there is still plenty of daylight for guests to find their way back to the parking lot as getting lost in the woods at night is never an enjoyable part of the festival experience.
The best part of all of this is that this is a free festival costing only the admission to the park itself ($5 per adult, less for seniors and children 6-15). Given the weather and the natural beauty and convenience of Paris Mountain State Park, that is a bargain even if there wasn’t a folk festival going on. That leaves no reason not to head outside for a very special day in the woods with the Paris Mountain Folk Festival.