Return to An Appalachian Summer Festival

Lineup includes Beach Boys, David Grisman, Kacey Musgraves, Lisa Fischer and more

Lush greenery, pleasant temperatures, mountain splendor and a highly regarded, multi-disciplinary arts festival named one of the Top 20 Events in the Southeast —  the hallmarks of a High Country summer.

The latter — Appalachian State University’s An Appalachian Summer Festival — returns for its 31st season, packing a year’s worth of entertainment into roughly one month.

Tickets go on sale Friday, April 24, for a lineup that includes pop legends The Beach Boys, acoustic icon David Grisman, country star Kacey Musgraves, Grammy-winning vocalist Lisa Fischer, Broadway luminary Brian Stokes Mitchell and much more.

“We’re excited about this year’s programming mix, which features the blend of artistic disciplines that has always defined App Summer,” said Denise Ringler, director of ASU’s Office of Arts & Cultural Programs. “The festival strives to present a balance of artists who are well-known, along with names that may be new or unfamiliar to our audiences, but who are sure to provide memorable experiences.”

Anna Gaugert, director of marketing and public relations, agrees.

“A lot of these performers have been in the business forever and have really perfected their talent and business in general,” she said. “I think they’re going to bring a level of professionalism this year that will just wow the audience.”

As an example, she mentioned Brian Stokes Mitchell, who will perform “An Evening of Broadway” with the Winston-Salem Symphony on Saturday, July 11, at the Schaefer Center.

“He has been on Broadway forever, on film, television, and The New York Times called him ‘the last leading man on Broadway,’” Gaugert said.

David Grisman is another case in point. Nicknamed “Dawg” by a close friend, the late Jerry Garcia, Grisman developed “Dawg Music,” a unique fusion of Americana and acoustic jazz that he’ll bring to the Schaefer stage on Friday, July 17, with the David Grisman Sextet.

“He’s such a pioneer for his kind of music,” Gaugert said. “He’s a pioneer in not only bluegrass, but he has that Grateful Dead connection, so I think he can connect with younger audiences, as well as older audiences who knew him back in the day.”

Opening for Grisman and likely joining him for some numbers is the Bryan Sutton Band, led by IBMA Guitarist of the Year and Asheville native Bryan Sutton.

Living legends The Beach Boys take the Holmes Center stage Saturday, July 18, “so it’s going to be a fun time in there,” Gaugert said.

The band’s current makeup includes founding member Mike Love and Beach Boys veteran Bruce Johnston, and Gaugert said the concert would help celebrate the band’s 50th anniversary of making timeless music.

“To continue the theme of having really great musicians, we’ll also have Lisa Fischer,” Gaugert said.

Vocalist and songwriter Fischer will perform Thursday, July 23, at the Schaefer Center. Although she’s performed as a back-up singer for the likes of The Rolling Stones, Tina Turner, Sting and Luther Vandross, Fischer also launched a celebrated solo career, even taking home a Grammy for Best Female R&B Performance for her hit single, “How Can I Ease the Pain.”

Postmodern Jukebox will make its App Summer debut on Friday, July 31, at the Schaefer Center. The band, essentially a swing orchestra, specializes in adapting modern pop into swing era classics.

“Scott Bradlee, the bandleader, said he wants to hear a song a certain way, and he’s going to do it that way,” Gaugert said.

Examples include Miley Cyrus’s “We Can’t Stop” done doo-wop style, a jazzy version of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe,” a vintage take on M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes” and more, available online at www.youtube.com/user/ScottBradleeLovesYa.

Pop country star Kacey Musgraves will kick off the summer festival Saturday, June 27, at Kidd Brewer Stadium for the festival’s fan-favorite Outdoor Fireworks Concert.

“She’s really fun,” Gaugert said. “She sang with Loretta Lynn at last year’s CMAs and is a true country singer, writing her songs and treasuring the country gold kind of artists. But then she’s also really new and has good, fresh ideas. She won a Grammy for her first album, and her second album is coming out fairly soon.

“As always, the outdoor concerts are really fun, and it’s going to bring a good element to the season.

Other festival highlights include Parsons Dance on July 10 and Boone-based In/Visible Theatre’s production of “Without Words” July 24 and 25.

“With In/Visible Theatre, we thought we’d go local this year,” Gaugert said. “The play is about someone born deaf who never learned sign language and has lived on the fringes of society because of this. An interpreter finds him and tries to help him learn how to communicate. So, In/Visible will use dance, drama, sound and even silence as a way to tell the story.”

As always, the festival features a classic music component, with performances from the Broyhill Chamber Ensemble and Eastern Festival Orchestra with pianist Awadagin Pratt and harpist Amber Carpenter.

Visual arts programming returns to the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts, while the 29th Rosen Outdoor Sculpture Walk will hit campus. In addition, the festival has expanded its annual Global Film Series.

According to Ringler, whether it’s in a concert hall, under a firework-lit sky or in an art gallery, Appalachian Summer’s offerings are a perfect match for the festival’s audience.

“Performing and visual artists seek out the High Country,” she said, “not only because it’s one of the most beautiful places on Earth, but because of the wonderful mix of residents and visitors that extends such a warm and enthusiastic welcome to them each summer.”


Tickets

Ticket prices range between $5 and $50 and are available by visiting www.appsummer.org or by calling the Schaefer Center box office at (828) 262-4046. For more information, visit www.appsummer.org.

MusicFest ‘N Sugar Grove

One of the best little music festivals ‘n the country is the Doc and Rosa Lee Watson MusicFest ‘n Sugar Grove. Held on the grounds of the historic Cove Creek High School in western Watauga County, this two-day festival features the best in local, regional and national performers from the worlds of bluegrass, country, old-time and folk music.

This year’s MusicFest will be held on Friday and Saturday, July 11 and 12, with two outdoor stages plus an inside “Pickin’ Parlor” stage in the Cove Creek School.

Performers include Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, Willie Watson, the Sons of Bluegrass, Chatham County Line, the Cockman Family, Mark Schimick’s Sassagrass Reunion, Charles Welch, the Lost Ridge Band, Strictly Strings, Carolina Crossing, the ETSU Pride Band, Upright and Breathing, Andy Ferrell and Oncoming Train, the New River Boys, the Snyder Family Band, and the White Top Mountain Band.

The festival will feature one-of-a-kind special musical events such as the songwriters showcase, open jams and Charles Welch’s Tribute to Doc Watson (Saturday night).

The festival also features a wide array of food and craft vendors, a playground for children, and a chance to visit the Doc and Merle Watson Folk Arts Museum inside the Cove Creek High School. The museum features photos, musical instruments and even Grammy Awards from Doc Watson’s storied career.

Two-day reserved seating tickets are $55. Friday tickets are $20 and Saturday tickets are $25.

For more information, visit http://musicfestnsugargrove.org/ or call (828) 297-2200.

Live Music

We don’t mean to brag, but we’re a little famous for our live music up in the High Country. After all, the region spawned Arthel “Doc” Watson, a multi-Grammy Award winning musician and perhaps the greatest flat-picking guitarist who ever lived.

Doc’s tradition lives on with live music taking place all over the place in the High Country, an amazing amount of it free for the listening.

The Town of Boone and the Jones House Community Center hosts a weekly Music on the Lawn event from June through October. Each Friday, you will hear the finest in local and regional music just by plopping down a lawn chair on the front lawn of the Jones House and pointing it at the front porch.

Another great event that kicks off the weekend are the weekly outdoor concerts at the Inn at Ragged Gardens in Blowing Rock. Each Friday, bands such as Soul Benefactor and the Harris Brothers lay down some mean grooves as music lovers dance on the lawn or treat themselves to drinks and appetizers from the Best Cellar.

Dozens of restaurants in the High Country feature live music, some of it by local acts, some of it by acts currently touring the country. If you are into the late night music scene, check out the Boone Saloon or Murphy’s in Boone, or perhaps Canyons of the Blue Ridge in Blowing Rock.

Other restaurants feature earlier, “dining hours” music, such as Boondocks in West Jefferson.

And don’t forget, Appalachian State University has a world-class music program and is always scheduling jazz shows, classical concerts and popular music shows at Broyhill Recital Hall, the Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts and other venues.

Bars

In North Carolina, bars are required by law to sell food. So you won’t find any real stand alone watering holes. What you will find, however, are lots of great restaurants that feature bars. Some of them, such as Foggy Rock Eatery and Pub in Blowing Rock and The Rock in Boone, could be classified as sports bars because of the number of big screen TVs, but, again, they all serve food.

Longtime visitors to the High Country will remember that there was a time when some towns such as Boone didn’t serve alcohol at all, or served only beer and wine. Times change, and now nearly every town serves beer, wine and liquor by the drink. Ashe, Avery and Watauga counties also have their own state-run ABC Stores, where customers can buy bottles of their favorite liquors.

The drinking age in North Carolina is 21 years for all alcoholic beverages, and bars and restaurants here are very serious about not serving underage customers. So be sure to bring your driver’s license or other official form of ID.

Symphony by the Lake

If you like classical music, picnics and fireworks, Chetola Resort in Blowing Rock has just the event for you.

Presented by the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce, the annual Symphony by the Lake event at Chetola Resort is a midsummer tradition that attracts music lovers from all over.

For the past few years, the Symphony by the Lake has featured Kingsport, Tennessee’s the Symphony of the Mountains, under the direction of conductor Cornelia Laemmli. The program includes classical favorites, movie themes, popular instrumentals and patriotic tunes. On occasion, the concert will feature world premieres written by local composers and guest vocalists.

The Symphony by the Lake event is also a chance to meet with local companies and organizations who set up booths and host parties with extravagant themes, ornate decorations, and delicious food.

Timberlake’s Restaurant at Chetola Resort will set up an outdoor dining area where guests can purchase sandwiches and other picnic food, or you can bring in your own cooler.

The music begins around 6 p.m. and the fireworks start after the concert. For more information, call (828) 295-7851.

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