Sound — Bridge Jam: Fayetteville’s fabulous fall concert

Every third Saturday in October, Southern West Virginia hosts the state’s largest single-day event: Bridge Day. Held on the New River Gorge Bridge, the BASE jumping festival lasts for just 6 hours. Folks travel the world for the privilege of parachuting, rappelling, or simply watching from the 876-foot-high span.

It’s unlike anything else in the world. For that reason, Bridge Day has a concert: Bridge Jam. After all, every great festival needs a soundtrack! Held at the oak-studded Cascade Festival Grounds in Fayetteville, the show treats visitors to music of all genres. Rock, bluegrass, and experimental bands perform for 2 days— a tonal celebration of sorts.

This year’s Bridge Jam is October 20-21. If you need an excuse to make a weekend out of Bridge Day, this will do the trick. Until then, look forward to sounds like …

With its devil-may-care persona, rock perfectly suits Bridge Day. Strident electric guitars, pounding percussion, and powerful singing are appropriate for anyone inclined to fly 876 feet into a canyon. Such derring-do requires a rebellious streak— just like 70s and 80s rock.

Bridge Jam caters to that spirit with The Georgia Satellites, a southern rock band. Their
1986 sensation, “Keep Your Hands to Yourself,” had refreshingly straightforward lyrics and guitar chords. It punched through the gimmicky music of the time, which featured wailing instruments and echoey effects. That clean simplicity continued with hits like “Battleship Chains” and “Railroad Steel.”

The Georgia Satellites still hold true to classic rock. Their bluesy, original songs appeal to the genre’s catchy beginnings. Yet they aren’t hokey— far from it. As Bridge Jam’s headliner, they’ll unleash all that we love about rock: its power, drive, and force.

Play time: Saturday, Oct. 21

Bridge Day draws a global audience, but it’s a West Virginia festival. Bluegrass taps into those mountain roots with soulful lyrics and plucky string instruments. You’ll hear timeless fiddles, acoustic guitars, banjos, and harmonicas. Harmonizing singers add to the texture. It’s an

inescapably country sound— just right for an outdoor festival in Fayetteville.

Bridge Jam’s bluegrass lineup includes The Seldom Scene. This lively, big-hearted band has been together for decades. You can tell. Their lush musicianship blends together like smooth vintage wine. Each member has a distinctive voice, too. Tenor and bass vocals harmonize in thetradition of old-time bluegrass, giving songs a balladic quality. “Blue Diamond Mine,” a folksy narrative piece, and “Old Train” are fan favorites. The Scene also received a Grammy nomination for Best Bluegrass Album in 2007.

Still, the band’s admirers go far beyond the genre’s circle. Their soulful, occasionally wistful lyrics resonate with music lovers in general. No matter your preference, this Bridge Jam performance will get your feet tapping.

Play time: Friday, Oct. 20.

Step into The Blue joins the lineup with some of the best names in bluegrass. Chris Stockwell, Tim Corbett, Tommy Drake, and Kelly Davis— among others— star in this collaborative arrangement. The result is a slice of Americana, folksy and rhythmic. Some songs appeal to regional cultures, like “Big Muddy,” a song about the Mississippi River. Others, like “Little Cabin Home on the Hill,” are more about sentiment. All told, it’s a quintessential bluegrass experience that no music fan should miss.

Play time: Friday and Saturday, Oct. 20-21

Bridge Jam will also feature The HillBenders. Mostly bluegrass with a dash of rock, the band appeals to fans of both genres. “Tommy: A Bluegrass Opry,” is a case in point. It’s a countrified version of The Who’s rock opera.

Still, the “Benders” have that distinctive bluegrass sound. Banjos, guitars, mandolins, and dobros are their instruments of choice. They also delve into folk with nostalgic pieces like “Train Whistle.”

Versatility aside, The HillBenders are a blast to watch. Energetic, lively, and personable, they’re compelling stage performers.

Play time: Saturday, Oct. 21

Bridge Jam also goes for the unexpected. Like some aggression with your bluegrass? The Native Howl does just that. It has an edgy rock character that’s occasionally softened with folksy elements. Banjos, guitars, and harmonicas also give The Native Howl a driving country tone.

Nevertheless, The Native Howl defies easy classification. Rough voices and stories— like in “Thunderhead” — seem like modern interpretations of ballads. Perhaps “thrash metal” is the best label you can give them! Come to Bridge Jam and see what you think.

Play times: Friday and Saturday, Oct. 20-21

Matt Mullins & The Bringdowns is a Bridge Jam favorite. The alt-country band hails from Beckley, making them local heroes of sorts. It’s not unusual to hear them performing at area restaurants. But more than that, The Bringdowns are distinctive. Mullins’ rough voice makes songs raw and heartfelt. That’s especially evident in pieces like “Coal Dust on My Grave” and “Whiskey Soaked.”

In terms of style, The Bringdowns come close to Appalachian rock. Bluesy undercurrents, occasionally mixed with hip hop, flow through their songs as well. You never know what to expect. But that’s part of the fun.

Play time: Saturday, Oct. 21

Jacket notes
Bridge Jam straddles both ends of Bridge Day. This year’s times are:

Friday, October 20: 7 p.m. to midnight
Saturday, October 21: 2:30 p.m. to midnight

Other Bridge Jam perks include:

  • Craft beer
  • Wine
  • BBQ and vending
  • Local artwork
  • Campsites for tents and RVs

Have fun and enjoy the show!

Southern West Virginia’s year-round sounds
Live music is a way of life in West Virginia. That’s especially so when southern hospitality and good food are involved. If you can’t make it to Bridge Jam, check out these restaurants.

The Grove— Fayetteville
You made it through the week. Celebrate at this hip hangout, where good times are always on tap. Bands— from local favorites to travelling stars— hit the lounge virtually every Friday and Saturday. Even the week is pretty lively. 

The Grove also has a solid beer selection. Quench your thirst with pale ales, wheat ales, and seasonal selections from Fayetteville’s Bridge Brew Works. Hard cider is usually on draft, too. As if that’s not enough, Secret Sandwich Society is right downstairs!

RailYard— Bluefield
Sleek and modern, this restaurant makes evenings special. The RailYard’s exposed brick walls flatter the sparkly bar and chic tables. It promises a good time, and it certainly delivers; weekly events include Burger Night, trivia, football, and … music! Genres range from jazz to rock.

As for dinner, the RailYard boasts a complete menu of comfort food. Start the night with appetizers like beer-battered mushrooms before moving on to wings, sliders, wraps, or burgers.

Peacock Pub— Pineville
Looking for a casual, no-frills joint? Settle down at Peacock Pub. The friendly servers have 14 taps at their fingertips, including seasonal beer. Try West Virginia brews from the new Weathered Ground Brewery in Cool Ridge or settle for a good ol’ Bud Light.

Live music plays on Saturdays, with karaoke and game nights occasionally adding to the mix.