Posted by: Addison – Jun 28, 2012
Last July, on the recommendation of a good friend, I packed two of my favorite people, some food, a couple of blankets, and a tent into my boyfriend’s car and headed to a place I’d never heard of before. Gore, VA is the home of the beautiful, isolated Cove Campground, which is, in turn, home to the annual Nomadic Roots Music Festival.
I have a hard time describing Nomadic Roots to people who haven’t been. Yes, it’s a music festival, but describing it that way is like describing all of college by saying “you go to classes sometimes.” The music is the centerpiece of Nomadic Roots, but the experience is the reason to go. They call it “the happiest weekend of the summer,” and I can’t really argue with that. I recently read about a thing called Attention Restoration Theory, which claims that spending as little as three days in nature can ‘reset’ your tired, always-on brain, which in turn improves concentration and cognition. I can’t vouch for the scientific truth or fiction of this theory, but going to Nomadic Roots will make you a believer. It feels like a giant, long-lost family reunion.
The festival began in 2010, when CNU students Logan Byrd (of local favorites Momentary Prophets and the Later Sun) and David Eiserman partnered to reproduce for themselves the freedom they loved so much at other music festivals. The first festival was held at a community center in Byrd’s hometown of Crimora, VA, featuring over fifteen local bands and drawing more than 250 attendees. It has grown from those humble beginnings over the past three years, bringing about 350 nomads last year to light up the Cove with revelries and life.
Being lucky enough to be one of those temporary nomads for the first time last year was a transformational experience for my friends and me. If you’re familiar with the East Coast music festival circuit, Nomadic Roots might make you feel like you are in a corner of something like Floyd Fest or All Good. It’s more intimate than most festivals, which eliminates that hectic, catch-all-my-favorites schedule and the giant, ever-shifting crowds of strangers that one finds at those larger festivals. Spend your day swimming in the lake at the campground’s entrance, or hike one of the many trails at sunset, and you will inevitably make new friends. Watch artists paint live, creating temporary monuments to creation and energy. Nomads can browse through handmade crafts, find a traveling massage therapist, spin around in hula hoops, do some yoga in a field, and learn to spin fire, all while munching on fresh sandwiches and smoothies from Richmond’s Goatocado food truck.
At the Cove Campground, campsites and hammocks are scattered all around the one central stage, so no matter where you go, you won’t miss any of the great tunes. Vendors and artists ring the open field in front of the stage, loosely delineating the main party area, but music floats democratically over every festival-goer all weekend. The trees encircle the whole place, making the Nomadic Roots experience feel like something otherworldly, entirely apart from the day-to-day.
The music ranges in style from folksy bluegrass, to jazz/jam rock, to electronic dance music, and beyond. Styles progress throughout each day, moving from the kind of stuff you’d pick to play on a lazy Sunday afternoon with your best friend, all the way up through an exhilarating light and sound show at night. This year, Nomadic Roots will feature over twenty national and regional musical acts, as well as many local favorites, including the styling of Charlottesville’s Trees on Fire, and well-loved Hampton Roads locals The Dharma Initiative. Headliners Papdosio, Bluetech, and Brothers Past will fill the nights with sound, movement, and shifting lights that make the trees themselves seem to dance with you. The full multi-sensory experience of even a single night at Nomadic Roots is well worth the drive to Gore.
When I asked Logan why he started this thing, why he and Eiserman (and a large cadre of enthusiastic volunteers) goes through the trouble of producing Nomadic Roots each year, he said, “I believe that a music festival can offer an invaluable feeling of freedom and camaraderie with others, whether your life is hopping from one festival to another or the event is a weekend vacation from a day job. The freedom you experience will go with you wherever life takes you next, and will hopefully inspire you indefinitely.” I couldn’t put it any better. This June 28-30, the Cove is going to explode with even more love, light, and happiness than ever before. Come revel with the rest of the nomads.
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By Elizabeth Gordon