Festivals are hot in Charlotte this weekend with Radok Fest at Tremont, Plaza Midwood’s Common Grounds street festival, Fuzz Fest at Snug Harbor and the God Save the Queen City Festival at the Chop Shop in NoDa.
Save the Queen City features national acts Futurebirds and White Violet from Athens, singer-songwriter Jessica Lea Mayfield (who has often opened for the Avett Brothers), Durham’s Hiss Golden Messenger and Birmingham buzz bands Lee Bains III & the Glory Fires and St. Paul and the Broken Bones. The rest of the 14-band lineup is made up of some of the city’s most promising acts, many of whom have gained attention outside Charlotte.
With a handful of recognizable national acts, like NC Music Factory’s recently announced Brewz Music and Arts Festival, God Save the Queen City could grow into something larger and more mainstream. That might not happen soon, but there’s potential with Raleigh hosting national attractions Hopscotch Festival and Asheville home to both MoogFest and the Mountain Oasis Festival electronic music festivals – not to mention the state’s tradition of roots music events such as Merlefest.
But organizers are taking it slow this year. After a successful first year stacked with local “it” bands, God Save the Queen City tried to expand rapidly with last year’s three-day outdoor bill.
“Last year was a little bit of aiming too high. We tried to do 45 bands. We got ambitious with outside stages, and three days was a lot,” says Eric Leaf of Ink Floyd, who puts on the event. “We tried to time it on the heels on the DNC thinking it might have more impact than it actually did.”
The organizers have scaled back the number of bands without sacrificing quality. Tickets are cheaper. Live music will take place on Chop Shop’s indoor stages with RenElvis performing on the patio. And this time it’ll last a less exhausting one day.
“A bigger event doesn’t necessarily mean better attendance. … We wanted to get back to what worked the first year,” says Leaf. “We love to push locals first and foremost, but a little boost might bring in more people that might not come out and hear local bands.”
Leaf calls St. Paul the festival’s secret weapon.
“My fiancé is from Birmingham and she let me know they’re showstoppers. It’s a great live band that’s still pretty new in their career. I expect big things out of them, and Lee Bains is starting to gain a little traction,” says Leaf. “We’re not hitting on the mega guarantee. We’re still flirting with bands on the cusp.”
Benji Hughes, Temperance League, Pullman Strike, the Hot Gates, Ancient Cities, Bubonik Funk, the Catch Fire and the Elves are local acts that are worth a look as well – especially given the reasonable ticket price. But Leaf isn’t counting his chickens since turnouts in Charlotte are notoriously unpredictable.
“Something like Hopscotch would be cool for Charlotte and the scene could possibly handle something like that. In Raleigh you’ve got the college kids. That definitely hurts us. It can be a fickle town. Even with the cool lineup I get jitters every time we do something,” says Leaf, who cut his festival teeth interning at Bonnaroo in its first years. “It could be 800 people (Saturday). It could just be high five and good times.”
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