Don’t ask Dave Brown about the weather; it’s his nemesis.
Torrential downpours dampened the last few iterations of the Clayton Shindig, and while the rains didn’t outright cancel the shows, they certainly thinned the crowds.
Still, Brown persists, and for good reason. Last year’s Shindig put Grammy-winning acts on a soaked stage in downtown Clayton and still brought out 1,000 people to stand in the rain and listen to music. For now, at least, the forecast looks good.
This year the Clayton Shindig becomes just the Shindig, dropping the host town from its name in hopes of attracting a more regional audience.
“That’s what everyone calls it anyway,” Brown said. “We made the change for simplicity and because we see it as a regional music festival. We’re very happy to throw the Shindig in downtown Clayton, but the name change is rooted in drawing a larger appeal.”
Since 2011, the Shindig has been held on the second Saturday in October in downtown Clayton. It began as a cornhole tournament in the parking lot behind the Flipside and has since grown into a respectable music festival focusing on bluegrass and Americana acts.
Divided between two stages, this year’s lineup consists of American Aquarium, the Black Lillies, Yarn, Big Daddy Love, Forlorn Strangers, Packway Handle Band, Knockin Spirits, the Snyder Family Band, Lonesome Drive and Michael Cosner and the Fugitives. Brown said his expectations for the festival didn’t extend to a second year, much less to the point it’s at now.
“I didn’t know if there was going to be a second Shindig,” Brown said. “So if you had told me that in three years we’d have Grammy-winning, national touring acts, I don’t know if I would have believed you. Part of me in my heart wanted that, but I wouldn’t have believed it would have happened.”
This year’s Shindig is nearly equal parts music festival and craft beer showcase. A lineup of all North Carolina breweries has joined the event, including locals Deep River and Double Barley. Also on tap is one of the the state’s biggest craft brewers in Foothills.
“We’ve always tried to treat beer the same way as we treat the bands, mixing it up every year and going for variety,” Brown said. “We didn’t start out as a brewery festival, but we’ve been to other festivals and seen it work really well. Here in North Carolina, with some 165 breweries, it would be foolish of us not to do something that highlights that.”
Last year, the Shindig lost a lot when the skies opened up. Brown said that nearly half the people who purchased tickets online never bothered to show up. He took some solace in the fact that the festival still had around 1,000 people standing in the rain.
Brown said he believes in music festivals and in the town of Clayton and thinks the Shindig can have some restorative effects if given the chance.
“Music brings unity; whenever you have music, you breed more of a sense of community and bridge those crazy gaps that exist,” he said. “There’s a moment that happens in a music festival where we’re all together, all there to have a good time and enjoy each other, to feel the grass on your feet. Maybe it’s the hippie in me, but I believe we’re all there to enjoy music and be together.”
For more than a decade, Clayton has embraced a shift toward the arts, setting up public art exhibitions and hosting a number of growing festivals. Brown lives in Clayton and thinks the town’s direction has paid off.
“It was a really smart idea to steer the town towards art,” Brown said. “Music is a critical piece of art, and I think the arts have transformed our town.”
The fifth Shingdig will be held from noon to 10 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8, on Town Square in downtown Clayton. General admission tickets are $20, and VIP tickets with unlimited beer tastings are $35. For more information, go to www.theshindig.net.
Drew Jackson: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104; @jdrewjackson