By Caleb Calhoun
I was new to Asheville. I had been living in Lake Toxaway, spending most of my time in a 7’x 9’ shed writing fiction and poetry and basically losing the ability to socialize normally. Then my partner took a hike and suddenly that shed, and the doublewide in whose shadow it set, became a little too lonely on the weekends. I began making the hour-plus drive in to Asheville to see what the local music scene had to offer and one of the first shows (or festivals) that I stumbled into was All Go West.
I was immediately overwhelmed. I was standing (well, dancing actually) in the parking lot of a gas station and there were hundreds of other people there getting down. There was no age group or race that was not represented. As I danced I watched an elderly black man with tufts of cottony white hair surrounding his bald head chat with a couple of 8-year-old girls about their sparkling bicycles. I watched professionals in button down shirts holding craft brews shoot the old bull off to the side. I watched a small gaggle of college girls in rompers and mini-skirts dance.
“Is this what Asheville is always like?” I wondered to myself, followed by a tinge of self-loathing and some major F.O.M.O. Blues (apologies to the Resonant Rogues). Had I been sitting in an alternately cold and hot shed, banging away on a keyboard for the last three years, with this just a hop-skip-and-a-jump away?
The truth is, All Go West is a big part of the reason I now live in West Asheville, and once again, I could not be more excited about the line-up. Featuring three stages and a perfectly balanced list of local and national performers this festival, run by Arieh Samson, promises to deliver cross-genre excellence once again.
With everything from world class hip-hop to klezmer punk this festival has something for everyone. In fact, one of the best things about All Go West traditionally, that will clearly hold true once again this year, is its ability to expose patrons to great music they would have never found or expected to like on their own. The combination of commitment to excellence regardless of genre, and the sommelier’s precision with which they pair bands and stages is truly second to none.
Stand-out combinations include Saturday night’s early blow out on the Roots Stage featuring West Virginia super-nova Big Mean Sound Machine followed up directly by Blackalicious’ own Gift of Gab collaborating and, presumably, going toe-to-toe with Asheville’s own Empire Strikes Brass at 8:45.
On Sunday that same stage will offer Les Amis at 4:15, followed by the highly talented Asheville musician Stephanie Morgan, who recently released her new solo album, Chrysalis, to critical acclaim. Then, on the Pisgah Stage at Isis Music Hall, All Go West gives us the perfect pairing to end the festival, The Digs at 7pm, followed by Jamar Woods Acoustic Band (Woods is the full-time keyboardist for local funk powerhouse, The Fritz) at 8:30.
In addition to the standout pairings there are tons of other great musicians playing including Woody Wood, Midnight Snack, RBTS Win, Doc Aquatic, The Forlorn Strangers, Matt Townsend, The Bald Mountain Boys, and many others.
Truth be told, Asheville really wasn’t all that close to Lake Toxaway, but this year, thanks in part to All Go West, I’ll be able to stumble home if I need to.
All Go West is Free and is happening on several stages across West Asheville on Saturday the 17th and Sunday the 18th.
Caleb Calhoun studied writing at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and music at a plethora of clubs and bars across the southeast. He is the host of Soundcheck Radio (Thursday’s 3-5 on 103.7 WPVM) and Soundcheck AVL and the publisher of Rosman City Blues. He currently lives in West Asheville with his woodland mermaid, Dr. Gonzo.
You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org and/or Facebook.com/SoundcheckRadioAVL