Two documentarians who have filmed concerts across the country say FloydFest stands out as one of the most magical summer music festivals in the United States, and beyond.
Their films – “FloydFest 21: Odyssey”, by Jaime Rodriguez and “A Year in the Pit: A Journey Into Music Photography”, by John Woody – highlight the music festival. FloydFest 22 ~ Heartbeat is set to begin its final run on Blue Ridge Parkway in Patrick County next week, before changing locations next year.
“Everybody’s talking about Bonnaroo, everybody’s talking about Lollapalooza and European festivals,” Rodriguez said. “When you start looking at the headliners of these big festivals, [many are] play at FloydFest.
Rodriguez, who lives in Nashville and hosts the Jrod Concerts podcast, said he heard so many funny stories about the festival from his friends that he made it a point to attend last year. He brought along a film crew to film some of the festivities.
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“I basically do this for a living now, and I’m not exaggerating: FloydFest is an incredible gem,” Rodriguez said. “I’m almost afraid of speaking too loudly about it, because I don’t want too many people to know about it.”
It’s not just the headliners that make FloydFest an event Rodriguez plans to return to year after year. He said the festival’s On-The-Rise award attracts some of the best up-and-coming musical talent and the winners tend to become big names themselves.
“Basically, FloydFest has a really good knack for picking On-The-Rise winners. It’s like a good omen,” Rodriguez said. “You know, they gave it to the Avett Brothers for a year  … Last year they picked a band called 49 Winchesters from Bristol.
By the time 49 Winchester won last year, he had already secured a contract with heavyweight independent label New West Records, and will return to the festival this year with his debut on that imprint, “Fortune Favors the Bold.”
An icing on the cake, Rodriguez said, is a friendly crowd of all types and ages that made his first FloydFest experience even better. He will be back in that crowd for the festival, which begins on Wednesday.
“Festivals are special things that deserve to be in the spotlight because they work magic,” Rodriguez said. “We hope to capture it even better in this year’s film.”
John Woody said he spent three years collecting stories from music photographers for “A Year in the Pit,” and he hopes people will watch a screening of the documentary when they attend FloydFest.
“The pit, to me, is kind of magical… It’s like a friendly war zone where everyone is trying to get the best shot,” Woody said. “When you’re in the pit, for example at Floydfest during a major headliner, there might be 20 or 30 photographers, all in that area 5 to 10 feet before the stage.”
He saw the photographers’ pit take center stage at another festival in Virginia and said he was inspired to get in on the action. Woody used a rigged iPhone camera to capture the footage for the documentary at 16 festivals across the country, while his south Harrisonburg neighbor Bob Adamek took the photos.
“I would go back to FloydFest until I die,” Woody said. “Not only is it a great music festival with great programming, FloydFest knows how to support and care for photographers. It’s so family-friendly.
Some of the music photographers interviewed for “A Year in the Pit” include people from the Valleys and southwestern Virginia, he said. As he edited the documentary as the coronavirus swept through society, he said the project became a message of support for the live music industry which had come to a temporary halt.
“I am 71 years old. I’m still on my feet and I’m still shooting,” Woody said. “To be able to say that I’ve survived 16 festivals and can still hear things, and still want to go back to a pit, is simply the most rewarding thing I think I’ve ever done.”
It screens the award-winning documentary at Floydfest, starting at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Sunday. This summer is FloydFest’s final year on leased land in Patrick County, with plans to move to a permanent space in Floyd County for 2023.
“We want you there,” Woody said. “We want you to experience it.”