By Harley Nefe
Many people came out to enjoy listening to great music and eating delicious food at the inaugural Middle Fork Music Fest throughout the evening of Friday, July 29, at 194 Aho Road in Blowing Rock.
Admission to the event was free; however, guests were encouraged to bring a box of cereal or eight to stock the shelves of Casting Bread’s food pantry. By the end of the night, 120 boxes were donated to increase food security in the community.
Due to the weather forecast, activities were moved to the indoor venue, but that didn’t stop folks from having a good time.
One audience member in the crowd who could be seen dancing the entire time was Lucinda Bowers, who is originally from Lenior, but has lived in Boone for 34 years.
“I had a wonderful time!” she shared. “I loved it. I think the event was wonderful. I enjoyed the music; it was just awesome. I’m so glad I came.”
The event featured five amazing artists including David Fair (Myrtle Beach), Barefoot Modern (Greensboro), Mark Mulch (Nashville), Jason Lee McKinney Band (Nashville), and Seeking Gravity (Boone).
The music lineup offered a wide variety of styles, so there was something for everyone to enjoy.
The opening act of the evening was singer/songwriter David Fair, who traveled from Myrtle Beach with his family to grace the stage with his Americana/Country roots sound.
“I’ve had a long life in music,” he shared.
David spent his whole life surrounded by music, as he was born to a musical family. For example, his dad is a gospel singer, so it didn’t take long for him to realize the stage was where he felt at home.
“I really looked forward to helping out and playing,” David said. “Casting Bread is great because it’s straight to the point. For me, I love helping people and doing whatever keeps us all as humans supported. That’s probably the biggest reason we all were here.”
The next group to perform was Barefoot Modern, who came up the mountain from Greensboro to attend.
“It’s been a long time coming, and we’ve been looking forward to it,” said Tegan Dean, lead singer of Barefoot Modern. “We’re always so excited to be a part of things like this. We love playing music in the community, but whenever it supports a bigger cause, it’s a better experience all together.”
Band members include Tegan Dean on vocals, Robert Beverly on piano and guitar, and Hunter Evans on bass, who have been in a band together for six years.
All three musicians are Guilford County natives, but went to school in the High Country. Hunter and Robert went to Appalachian State University, while Tegan attended Lees-McRae College. During their time in the area, The Appalachian magazine announced the band’s selection as “Best Local Band” in Boone in 2021.
When it comes to their style of music, Hunter said it’s hard to categorize.
“I feel like we fall into an indie, pop, rock category,” he said. “It’s all over the place. Whatever we like to listen to for the said time being is what we play and record.”
They all agreed there’s a combination of country and classic rock influence as well.
After Barefoot Modern, artist Mark Mulch from Nashville took the stage with his country sounds at the Middle Fork Music Festival.
“After I heard what the event was for, I said yes right away!” Mark said.
Mark also shared that there are stories behind all of his songs.
“I started playing guitar and writing songs when I was nine years old,” he said. “I grew up wanting to be a professional baseball player, but when I was 18, we lost my brother and about six months or a year later, I decided that I needed music full time, so I just dove into music and songwriting. Songwriting is very good therapy. I’ve been doing music since I was 18 full time.”
One of Mark’s close friends, MJ Ritchie, who is from Missouri, even came to the music festival to show her support.
“There has been great music; it’s a great show, and I look forward to coming back next year,” she said.
This was Mark’s first time in Blowing Rock, and he described it as amazing and beautiful.
“It’s so nice!” he said. “Hopefully, next time it’s not raining, and we can do the outdoor stage, but it’s beautiful up here. I’m happy to help out with the charity.”
Another band also experienced their first time in Blowing Rock – The Jason Lee McKinney Band.
“We have been to five of the seven continents, but we have never had the pleasure of being in Blowing Rock,” said Jason Lee Mckinney, who the band is named after.
The Jason Lee McKinney Band, including longtime bandmates Barry Strauser and Billy Wright, focuses on Americana soul.
“We call it soul infused folk and blues,” Jason said. “There is a lot of three part harmony that we mix in. We’re very roots oriented, and we are influenced by very southern American music, such as blues, gospel, soul, folk, country – all those.”
However, Casting Bread’s mission is the main reason why the Jason Lee McKinney Band made an appearance.
“There’s all kinds of good causes, and we have a duty – those who are blessed,” Jason explained. “We need to take the epistemic approach of while I can, I’m going to help those because someday I’m going to need help. It’s not helping someone who is less privileged, it’s helping me in a different time frame because that’s going to be me or very well could be me in a different time.”
The last act of the night was local rock band Seeking Gravity, consisting of Kyle Sigmon (lead vocals and guitar), Ray Edmonds (drums and vocals), Matt Mize (bass), and Brandon Hall (Guitar), who have been in a band together for almost 4 years.
All four band members have known each other for a while and met through mutual friends and intertwining connections. They each have played music with each other at different moments and go to different churches in the community.
“I’m one of the pastors at Faithbridge United Methodist Church, and I’ve been here a really long time so I remember how Casting Bread got started,” Kyle Sigmon said. “People would come and ask us if we had any food, and so we started having food in a little pantry. We just started keeping cans of food in there, and then word got out that hey, if you ask for food they have some. So, we kept buying more food. It was as simple as that. There was a need. And it’s grown to its own nonprofit to where we are feeding thousands of families a year. People travel from the surrounding counties to come here because they’re treated with respect, they shop for their food, and we’re not just handing it out. There’s dignity involved; there’s humanity, and we have really caring people volunteering.”
Lucinda Bowers, one of the festival attendees, has friends who go to church at Faithbridge, and they invited her to the event.
“I love music, and I grew up with music, so any music is fine with me,” she said. “People are so awesome, and the food was delicious. It has been great to be here, and I would highly recommend it to anybody. Come next year!”
The Music Fork Music Fest benefited Casting Bread, which is a 501(c)(3) organization. For more information, please visit https://www.increasefoodsecurity.org/.
Photos by Ashley Poore: