"To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield"
- Alfred Lord Tennyson, 1833

"live deep and suck out all the marrow of life"
- Henry David Thoreau, 1845

"Some guys, they just give up living
And start dying little by little, piece by piece
Some guys come home from work and wash up,
And go racin' in the streets."
- Bruce Springsteen, 1977

"...to the heart, there's no time for you to waste.
You won't find your precious answers now
by staying in one place."
- Frank Turner, 2009

"The best things in life aren't things.
They're living and breathing."
- Michael Franti , 2011

"I owned every second that this world could give,
I saw so many places, the things that I did"
- Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic, 2014

All written content and photos by Rob Fulfer unless otherwise indicated.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Amazing Grace, How Sweet the Sound

The fourth weekend in July has only meant one thing to us over the past four years: It's time for Bele Chere! The annual arts and music festival in downtown Asheville, North Carolina, is one of our favorite weekend road trips. It's been going on for over 30 years but we only "discovered" it when our favorite band, Train, performed there back in 2006. Since then we have been going no matter who performs because it's just such a good festival and downtown Asheville is such a great, quirky little place.
This year we got a double-bonus when we found out that one of our favorite new-to-us bands, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, were going to headline on one of the stages on Saturday night. We usually stay a litte away from downtown and ride a bus in to the festival, but this year we were able to snag a decent price on a room at the downtown Renaissance Hotel within walking distance of everything.
Our friend from New Zealand, Mel, tagged along with us as she was preparing for her return "down under" on Sunday. We headed out Saturday morning for the four-hour drive to Asheville. We stopped about half-way for lunch in Knoxville at the Downtown Grill and Brewery. As the name implies, it's located right downtown just a few doors down from the Bijou Theatre which has a lot of great music, and is definitely on our radar screen if an artist we like comes there. This little pub would be a great place to have a pre-show drink because their beer brewed on site is really good. Their food was OK, but a tad disappointing based on their large menu and descriptions.
We continued east after lunch and made good time to Asheville despite a bit of road construction in the mountains on the TN/NC border. We were able to check in a bit early at the hotel and found it to be very nice. Our room on the 8th floor had a good view of downtown Asheville and looked to have been recently renovated. We rested up a bit and then headed out to get our festival on. Another big reason we like Bele Chere is that usually Asheville is a bit cooler in the summer since it is tucked up in the mountains, but that wasn't the case this year as the heat was quite oppressive. Then again, it's been an unusually hot summer in the South this year with extreme heat starting in early June and not letting up much at all yet.
We strolled around and had some water and a few cheap beers (another great thing about Bele Chere - no festival beer price gouging). We found a bar called TallGary's Pub where we could escape the sun and grabbed a window table and watched the sweating festival-goers pass by. After a few more good cold beers, we went down a few doors and into and through the Jack O' the Wood Pub and upstairs to one of our favorite restaurants in Asheville, The Laughing Seed, for dinner. The vegetarian-only dishes were delicious as usual and we finished up just in time to head back downstairs and across the street to the Coxe Avenue Stage where The Dirty Guv'nah's from Knoxville were about to play. These guys were at Bonnaroo this year and we wanted to see them based on a few songs we had heard, but we missed them due to a schedule conflict. Too bad, because they are fantastic live! They are a five-piece Americana/rock band who have a lot of soul and a ton of talent to be so young. Their sophomore album was just released and based on some of the songs we heard, it's gonna be a doozey. We got a chance to buy their first CD after the show, meet the band and get it autographed.

Afterwards, we moved up quite close to the stage as the crowd gathered in quickly in anticipation of Grace Potter & the Nocturnals to close out the night. For a free festival (another thing we love about Bele Chere) it's amazing what good shows and great talent they get here in Asheville. Grace & Co. were dead-on in their performance with amazing energy and crowd appeal. This despite the fact they may be on the brink of becoming huge with recent national appearances on the Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon shows, as well as Jimmy Kimmel coming up the following week of this show at Bele Chere. They played for a solid hour and a half and the huge crowd was very appreciative and receptive.

After the show we made our way through the crowds and found a cool little wine bar called the 5 Walnut where we were able to grab a seat for a rest and a few after-dinner drinks. We were just a few minutes walk to our hotel which was great. No more schlepping out to the bus with the masses. We got up fairly early the next morning and headed back. We usually spend more time in Asheville during our Bele Chere weekends, but with Mel's impending flight out of Nashville late that afternoon, we didn't want to take any chances. We got her there with plenty of time to spare thanks to good traffic on the way back. We want to take this time to thank Mel for coming half-way around the world to visit us and we hope she had a great time while she was here because we sure did!

1 comment:

Mel Brown said...

She sure did have a great time!!! Rob & Ashlee are the best possible hosts that a visitor to their country could ever hope for! Thanks for showing me such a great time & I am now saving hard for my next visit :0)