When I attended The Albino Skunk Music Festival for the first time in 2006 I had no idea of the world I was stepping into. I had received an invitation from a contractor I worked with and it seemed like something fun and different to do on a Saturday night. Little did I know when I loaded my two-year-old son into my truck that afternoon that I was making my first of many trips to what inexplicably remains one of the Upstate’s best kept musical secrets…
That night I listened to a bunch of bands that I had never heard of before and really enjoyed the heck out of almost all of them. I made new friends, my son snuck on stage to do the diaper-butt-toddler-jiggle, and I realized that this was an annual festival too close to home that I would regret ever missing again.
The Albino Skunk Music Festival began almost on accident roughly twenty years ago. General contractor and bluegrass lover Glynn Zeigler invited some friends over to his farm to fire up a grill, drink a few beers, and listen to some music. As often happens when a group of guys have their sights set on a night of drinking the idea immediately grew longer legs than Zeigler originally envisioned. “I’ll invite so-and-so”, “I’ll bring this, that and the other thing” and “I know a couple musicians that might want to hang out and maybe play” led to the first semi-official “festival” at Zeigler’s farm. When everyone came-to the next day, they knew they should have more nights like this in the future… just not too often.
Slaves to ritual and the Earth’s orbit around the sun as man is, the party became an annual affair. More bands and guests were invited, a stage was built and the event was even given a name. I admit that I naturally assumed the name was a veiled drug reference concocted by a bunch of stoned hippies but I could not have been more wrong. The Albino Skunk Music Festival is actually named in honor of the albino skunks that share residency on Zeigler’s farm. With a white body and black stripe the skunks might not be true “albinos” but when you are drinking beer and listening to live music with friends, you would have to be a real ass to point out scientific details like that. Thankfully there were no science nerds in the crew because the “Reverse Colored Skunk Music Festival” would have sounded pretty damn lame.
Today the festival is still a gathering of friends but now there are well over a thousand of them and they have not all met each other yet. While the crowd continues to grow exponentially every year, the talent on stage has evolved in immeasurable proportions. Originally drawing talent from friends and local musicians that had a free Saturday night on their schedule, Zeigler now showcases a veritable Who’s Who of the Americana, folk and bluegrass scenes.
Grammy winners like the Steep Canyon Rangers and Peter Rowan have graced the stage at the Skunk Farm, as have Billboard best sellers and critically acclaimed acts such as The Avett Brothers, Trampled By Turtles, The Gourds, Elizabeth Cook, and, most recently, Lake Street Dive. With Zeigler’s ear for music and willingness to bring the best talent available to his farm, every weekend at Skunk Fest is an opportunity to guess which band is on their way to stardom.
As usual, this Spring’s edition of Skunk Fest showcases as talented a lineup as anything you will find anywhere in the region.
This year’s Skunk Fest is topped by some pretty amazing talent. Zeigler is excited to have Skunk alumnus River Whyless, The Steel Wheels and The Stray Birds back in town along with some great new talent. Personally, I have been heartbroken to miss out on Lydia Loveless ‘s last two visits to Greenville when she played at The IPA House and, more recently, Mo Joe’s. After listening to her music and watching a few of her live recordings over the last year, I have developed kind of a thing for her and my wife is just going to have to accept that. She headlines Saturday night’s festivities and, unless I am on fire, I intend to be front and center in the audience.
Skunk Fest kicks off on Thursday afternoon and runs deep into the wee hours of Saturday night. Seven Handle Circus is scheduled to bring the show to a close late Saturday evening and if you have never seen a jam band blow the roof off a place dressed in full hazmat gear or matching Wu-Tang Clan t-shirts, your life is incomplete.
These are but a few of the almost twenty bands that make up the self-proclaimed “Greatest Show on Dirt”. There will also be food, craft beer from The Community Tap, art vendors and a kiddie land that leaves the Little Skunkers as excited for the next festival as their parents.
Above all, my favorite thing about The Albino Skunk Music Festival is the experience itself. Twice a year my family and I get to enjoy a weekend spent camping in the woods with old friends and new ones while we listen to a great assortment of live music. For me, Skunk Fest embodies the festival spirit in the best ways possible… great music, a peaceful and relaxing good time outdoors and a reason to mark my calendar for two weekends a year that cannot be missed. I’m looking forward to seeing you dirty Skunkers in a couple of weeks!
Brett Barest – fête writer