By: Autumn Iams
Deep in the heart of Greenbrier County, West Virginia sits a farm with a long history of welcoming people and changing lives. The Poor Farm in Williamsburg, Greenbrier County, WV was established in the 1800s, and after changing hands, grew and later became a safe haven for poor, widowed women with children; orphans; and even the town drunk, if need be. During a time in West Virginia’s history when there was no welfare, those who could not provide enough for themselves to have a home would go to the Poor Farm. Here, the men and women lived separately. The women and children would tend to the gardens and homes, and the men would work the fields and land. There was still a stipend given by the county to help out, but for the most part they lived by working the farm. The years passed and as time and society changed those in desperate need had more government assistance available and soon the poor farm became a name and memory to many, and to others a wonderful farm for cattle and family. The years have passed and once again the Poor Farm of Greenbrier County, WV has re-invented its self and is still opening its arms to others, inviting the world to its staggering beauty and welcoming feel.
The Poor Farm of West Virginia has grown into the latest venue for a music festival like no other, becoming one of the best new festival spots on the East Coast with a wide array of festival loving people and great bands. From young to old, the Poor Farm Festival is a fun, family friendly music event as well as a full celebration of music that any true festivals connoisseur will love! The Poor Farm Festival offers an incredible music and light show to draw crowds in a truly beautiful West Virginia setting. The Backdrop to a large campground and impressive stage is a dizzyingly large farm of 1000 acres with blue mountains towering in the background. The overall splendor of the Poor Farm stands as a testament that West Virginia is one of the most visually magnificent states in the United States, and the Poor Farm Festival is one more example of why West Virginia is up-and-coming in the music scene with a big lineup of bands, including stellar headliners for four days each year. Every September, the Poor Farm of Greenbrier County, WV hosts the Poor Farm Festival, which is open to all and draws a bigger crowd and more bands each September. You will dance, laugh, have a great time, and the cost is truly Poor Farm tradition; you won’t find prices for all weekend camping, plus a great music show full of unimaginable talent anywhere else.
This year’s Poor Farm Festival host was the wrestler “Shady”, who brought his best host voice and great character to the stage. Shady was fun and encouraging to the crowd. The vendors of the Poor Farm Festival were few but that only seemed to add to their sales. This year’s vendors were offering delicious vegan grub, BBQ and ribs from Stuart’s Hot Dawgs Smokehouse, lovely crochet work by Mimi’s Green Beanies, and wonderful tie-dyes from Spiral Light Production. The stage sound and lighting was provided by Alpha Music, and the sound was booming and perfect. The Festival kicked off on Thursday, September 6, 2012, with only a few bands for the first day, just to give people a taste of what was to come. Thursday’s band lineup started with “The Worx”, “600lbs of sin”, “The Torpedoes”, and the evening ended with “Zextrobe”. The crowd was small the first day, but still was ready for more. Day two of the Poor Farm Festival saw music starting by 11am with the bands “The Morning After”; “Fletchers Grove”, who gave a fun, funky show; “The Steel Wheels” with their harmonious sound; “Johnson’s Crossroad” who is always a crowd pleaser; “Vern’s Pot O Chili” brought their funky reggae groove; and the headliner for the night, “Kofi Baker’s Cream Experience”. When Kofi Baker’s Cream Experience took the stage, the Poor Farm was full of dancers. After Kofi Baker, the show was just getting started as “Bo MC$” took the stage to keep the crowd going. Following BO MC$ was “The Fabulous Brothers Steele” who exploded on the stage with amazing talent and fiery energy, along with the sweet light show provided by “Light Show Steve”. as he was affectionately referred to. Friday ended with the band “Fallen Rock”, who kept the crowd dancing, and ended their set with Shady, the host, rapping during the last song. Igniting the stage after Fallen Rock to end the night in true Poor Farm festival style was a West Virginia favorite. The lights darkened, a guitar sounded, and then fog shot out before the stage lit up with the brilliance and punk inspired sound of “Blistered Nifkin”. The day started with a smooth country-rock feel and dove straight into punk by the end of the night. The moon shown with a bold face to light the grounds, and created a silhouette of the mountains in the horizon; glowing brightly in the middle, colors were rising up from the holler to light the way to music festival heaven, and this was only day two of the Poor Farm Festival.
Day three, Saturday, of the Poor Farm Festival started early with an incredible lineup of talented bands. The first band of the day was “Four14”, a South Carolina band, with a rich reggae sound that got the campground stirring, but by the end of their set a few rain clouds began to roll in. As people were heading back to their tents or RVs, you couldn’t help but notice a truck roaming over every inch and guys at the front gate waiting to greet you with a smile; this was the security. This all-volunteer security force kept a close watch on the entire grounds but let everyone, no matter what the type, have fun but not get too out-of-line. Their friendliness and willingness to help lent to the incredible atmosphere the Poor Farm Festival has to offer. Even with a splash of rain, the fun didn’t stop nor did the great security guys with smiles. Poor Farm Fest showed true West Virginia gumption, and with laughter and WOWs at the rolling clouds dancing in the sky with the music, the festival went on.
“Nora Jane Struthers” began her set with a few sprinkles and foot-stomping fun songs, entertaining to a small crowd who sat onstage while the band played. Nora sang with a birdlike smoothness to her voice and was backed by a talented band and an exceptional fiddle player. The band played a special song for the small crowd called “Greenbrier County”, which was written by Nora. She told the story of a book she had read that inspired her. The story was set in Ireland, near limestone quarries and coal mines, and inspired her to write a song using that image. She researched and found Greenbrier County, WV, where there are also limestone quarries and coal mines. She sang a beautiful ballad about men and life in the coal mines and limestone quarries, leaving some in the crowd in tears. Following the Nora Jane Struthers Band was the very fun band “Camp Run a Muk”, who ran the rain clouds away. Taking the stage with a clearer sky overhead was the impressive band “Drifting Westward”, a small band of three guys and a singer with a beautifully haunting voice. After Drifting Westward was “The Peoples Blues of Richmond”, who had an exceptional stage presence, impressive playing, and great vocals. Their sound was a blend of “The Doors”, “12 Rounds”, and “Greenday”, and was a total crowd pleaser! The drum solo was brilliant and their overall energy and friendliness with the crowd after their set made The Peoples Blues of Richmond an instant favorite. As the evening sky began to darken “Soul Stone Overdrive” out of Lewisburg, WV took the stage and sang “Gypsy Rose” as the sun set.
Once the sun went down the crowd doubled for Saturday night’s headliner “Devon Allman’s Honeytribe” who rocked the show with a mind-blowing performance. With so much extraordinary talent, amazing energy, and beautiful ballads, the crowd lost their minds. Following Devon Allman’s Honeytribe was the “Matt Brewster Band” out of Summersville, with a country rock feel full of bold sounds and great vocals. These boys kept the energy going through the night and sang songs with lyrics reminding us all that we “don’t have to try to be country”, which hit home for locals and had others cheering. Saturday night ended with the hard hitting Charleston, WV band “Information” who played an original set of raging guitar to a crowd of all-night dancers. The music ended close to 3am each night, and throughout the campground people still laughed, drums banged, and music continued to be played by the patrons of the festival showing just how much musical talent had attended the Poor Farm Festival on stage and off.
Day four, Sunday, was the last day of the newest music festival to electrify the music scene and began with a gentle wake up of 50’s rock by “Ryan Cain and the Ables” who did an amazing cover of Johnny Cash’s “Cry Cry Cry”, and the vocals were spot on for every cover they did; from high pitch to low toned, the singer and band was topnotch. Of all the great 50’s rock they played, their cover of a Gene Vincent song was almost flawless. Each song rang out and the camp ground began to wake up and head to the stage ready for the last day of the Poor Farm Festival. Following Ryan Cain and the Ables was the marvelous and unique band from Huntington, WV “Qiet” and WOW what a group! This band of degenerate Gypsy Rock musicians is one of the most exciting groups to come out of WV, but you can’t help but feel you are in New Orleans once they take the stage. Complete with dancing and playing some instruments in the crowd, Qiet became a highlight of the day instantly. As the band sang out fantastic vocals, the instruments were ever-changing with a wide array of sounds from guitar, drums and brass to a handsaw and whistle. The Poor Farm Festival made it clear that good music and a celebration of life was still going strong and it was time to dance another day away!
Following Qiet was “The Boatmen” with their fun beats, stellar keyboard and great vocals. The Boatmen ended their set with Matt Mullins singing a very beautiful song to his 3 month old son, who was attending with his mother to see Dad play. The “Wild Rumpus” took the stage next and BOOM it was foot stomping, shoulder bouncing time. The Wild Rumpus lived up to their name with an energetic show and their always loved and well known song, “Molly Brown”. Finishing the night were Sunday evening’s headliners “Larry Keel and Natural Bridge”, the “Stuart Hill Band” and “Exzeudus”. All left with smiles and felt pumped-up and ready for more music to come! Still a small festival, this growing music event improves and impresses every year. The spotlight truly shines on the Poor Farm, and for four nights a year the Poor Farm Festival glows in its light. This farm has gone from helping those in need and healing souls to moving souls and giving people a reason to dance! Don’t miss next year’s Poor Farm Festival! Come to Greenbrier County and see why the Poor Farm glows in the Spotlight of WV.