The God Save the Queen City indie-rock festival is like the little homegrown festival that could.
Other, often-bigger festivals have sputtered out after a few years of economic uncertainty and unpredictable turnout, but Eric Leaf and Ink Floyd screen shop continue to pull in future headliners like St. Paul & the Broken Bones, which played the festival as an unknown in 2013 before going on to selling out venues across the country.
As with all homegrown efforts, there’s been a learning curve. Leaf’s learned the hurdles of staging it outdoors, booking too many bands, and betting on bigger artists at bigger venues.
This year’s festival is more streamlined than years past, and after two years at The Fillmore and a month-long residency last year at Snug Harbor, God Save the QC is back in NoDa, with 10 bands on two stages over the course of two days at Neighborhood Theatre. (It got its start at the now-defunct Chop Shop.)
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It features several returning artists for Friday’s bill, which includes Diarrhea Planet, Jeff the Brotherhood, Daddy Issues, Spaceface, and Charlotte’s Faye. Saturday’s line-up features a few returning locals, including Shadowgraphs, along with touring artists Strand of Oaks and Twin Limb, which are new to the festival.
“We joked when I set up the lineup for Friday that it’s kind of like the greatest hits,” Leaf says. “Saturday is a little more new blood minus (locals) Benji Hughes and Ancient Cities.”
He’s most excited for Twin Limb, an ambient Louisville dream-pop trio he saw opening for and backing My Morning Jacket’s Jim James in November.
“I was kind of mind-blown,” says Leaf, who compares it to Beach House. “I honestly built a lot of (the festival) around them. They and Strand of Oaks had gone on tour together, so it worked out well.”
It also puts Charlotte on the radar of indie bands that may have previously skipped us.
“It definitely won me over to the city,” says Diarrhea Planet’s Jordan Smith. “It was probably one of the first times we really got to catch a glimpse of the cool and creative scene that seems to have taken hold and continued to grow in Charlotte. The fest was a really encouraging example of a young scene blossoming and finding success.”
For local musicians and fans, it’s a chance to take in something new.
“I think it’s great for the city. I like to hang out and see the bands,” says Charlotte musician Bruce Hazel, whose band Temperance League has played the festival in some capacity each year. This year it was an afternoon brewery show. “It’s fantastic that Eric continues to put so much dedication into it. He’s got a great ear. He’s great at finding these next big bands. Every year I’ll tell somebody we’re playing with St. Paul or Diarrhea Planet, and the next year they’re everywhere.”