Tuesday, May 3, 2011
The Floyd Country Store - Stop #1 on the Crooked Road
When you visit just about anywhere as a tourist, you feel like you’re looking at someone’s idea of what life is supposed to be.
Take a Crackerbarrel Restaurant. The food is great. The country theme is well done – the rocking chairs are a nice touch—but at the end of the day, it’s a new building made to look old.
Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville Restaurants. The one in Key West – though yes, it is a tourist trap, feels so much more legit than the one at Myrtle Beach, which feels like it could be in a mall just about anywhere. Nice experience, but it's like it's once or twice removed.
But that’s the way most things work. Someone comes up with a theme, a show, an attraction of some kind, and then people will come to sit and watch it.
Here’s where I think the Crooked Road, and in particular the Floyd Country Store are different. The people who come are only partly tourists. A huge percentage of the people I saw last Friday night were there to participate. Local people enjoying a Friday night like some people only dream about.
The musicians are the core. They come to play. On stage. On the sidewalk. At the barbershop next door, and at multiple other venues. They didn’t come because someone paid them or because they wanted to look cool. This is what they do. The musicians make up a big part of the crowd.
Ditto for the dancers. They wear their overalls and come to dance. It’s not like a bunch of us in suburbia said, “Let’s do something different and go to Floyd and wear overalls like the country people.” These ARE the country people. They are as real as the twisty road from Ferrum called Shootin’ Creek that I drove to get there.
Yes. There are people in the audience who come to sit and enjoy the music. But are they tourists or just folks out for a Friday night in a small town? For the most part, as far as I cold tell they were either locals or people who really enjoy bluegrass music and were willing to drive to hear it.
Now to be sure there ARE tourists. There were people there from Israel, China, Alaska, England. This list of far flug locales is typical. But even then they often came with people who said something to the effect of, "You've got to experience this." Even at that, the tourists don’t dominate. It’s not the bird show at Busch Gardens.
These music venues along the Crooked Road are authentic. That’s hard to describe. These days it's even hard to find. Most things that are authentic just don’t draw people from all over the world. For some reason, this does.
My job as a journalist is to distill this somehow to rise up to 20,000 feet and look down upon the scene, the musicians, the dancers, the people watching them and even the people watching the watchers. What I saw was just plain cool.
No wonder it’s so popular.
By the way the woman in my story playing the Ocarina could have been a story herself. The Ocarina isn't bluegrass -- but it sure is an interesting instrument that Deborah Harris promised me "anyone could play." Click here to find out more about these handmade clay flutes.