I was floating on a raft in the Shenandoah River–the water was a refreshing 78 degrees. The sun was shining down against a robin’s egg blue backdrop. The sound that echoed in the valley of the river came from the award-winning bluegrass artist Jason Ring. In-between the notes that were played on his banjo, I overheard this interaction:
“But I don’t know anybody.”
“I don’t either. You just have to go make friends. Get over it.”
Simple and sound advice for a festival that is set up to encourage relaxation, music-filled moments, and opportunities to make new friends. Doah Fest‘s motto is direct: “More than a music festival. unplug and connect.” There isn’t cell service in this mountainous setting, and the Doah staff stayed unconnected too, as there hadn’t been any updates to their social media throughout the weekend.
On the banks of the river, there’s a small little stage that they’ve built overlooking the water, so no one needed to leave it for most of the day. We had our music, sunshine, and plastic blue Doah Fest cups filled with whatever your choice of beverage may be. You’re allowed to bring your own booze to this fest, as it’s held on a private lot of land by owners who could be found around the campfire at night asking people if they were enjoying themselves. They were gracious and kind hosts, and it seemed like the concert-goers provided the same kindness and respect back to the land and didn’t leave a piece of trash lying around.
Besides the river stage, the Doah Stage was right by the river and faced a large field and campsites, so you could hear music wherever and whenever it was playing. As people were driving in, cracking open beers and setting up tents, Definition of One from Springfield, VA played tunes that could be heard throughout the lot.
After a happy hour cocktail at the tent, it was time to head to the Doah Stage to hear the next band, Dale and the ZDubs from Montgomery County, MD. After chatting with Doah Fest-goers all weekend, it turned out that this group was a fan favorite. It was a great start to a wonderful first night.
Following them was one of DCMD’s favorite local groups, Black Masala. After creating a jammin’ dance party with their brass section, they finished their hour-and-a-half set at around 11 p.m. and invited the crowd to dance on stage. After the live music ended, there was a separate stage for the DJs which went on until about 1 a.m. You could also head over to the bonfire and hop right into a guitar jam session that went on until the wee hours of the morning.
The next day started with the friendly phrase “Good morning!,” which echoed throughout camp. Saturday started with a meditation session overlooking the river followed by an hour-long yoga session, if you chose to participate. The music began on the Doah Stage at about noon with Doah Fest veteran, Cat Janice. Her smooth, jazzy voice was the perfect start to a beautiful Saturday. The aforementioned Jason Ring took the first spot of the day on the river stage, followed by Moogatu, a Virginia-based progressive-rock band, on the Doah Stage. It was then time to get back into the water with Higher Education, a Sublime-esque band from College Park, MD. Nicky C and the RSB performed next with their bluesy Southern rock sounds that led into happy hour time and a much-needed nap in the tent.
To start off the night, Resinated took the stage at about 6 p.m. and really set the tone for the evening with their reggae-funk fusion. Next up, B Side Shuffle, a band that you must see live, delivered a funky rendition of “Take Me to the River.” To close the Doah Stage show, Consider the Source put on an incredible set. It’s only a trio, but they sound much bigger than they actually are. The rest of Saturday night brought more bonfires, dancing at the DJ stage and sleeping under the full moon.
Sunday had a shorter lineup. Near Northeast delivered a fantastic performance, followed by Ida Stretch and then the School of Rock house band. Unfortunately, I had to get on the road for the two-hour trek back on good ol’ Route 66 towards D.C., but I’m sure festival-attendees enjoyed the rest of their stay.
The river and gorgeous mountains made this festival special, the staff and owners of the property make it pleasurable, and the attendees make it fun. The music is sometimes an after-thought, but the bands were talented and provided an awesome ambiance.