This time next Saturday, I’ll be up and getting ready for the second day of Reevstock Music Festival in Elkin, NC. I’ll most likely be reminiscing happily of the opening night of the Festival, the night before, at The Liberty, and the music brought forth by The Dirty Gov’nah’s. With a promising line up for day two; The David Mayfield Parade, Joe Pug, Time Sawyer, A Great Disaster, Owen Poteat, Luke Mears, and The Jon Linker Band, the second day of Reevestock 2013 will most likely be giving me cause for gleeful anticipation.
I came across this young, local festival via Jody Mace, of Common Chord Concerts, just a few weeks ago. She led me to Sam Tayloe, founder of the Reevestock Music Festival and of the band Time Sawyer. With the festival looming just around the corner and with his band playing several shows weekly, Sam was kind enough to take the time out of his rather hectic, busy schedule to meet with me in Elkin and give me a tour of the town, the festival site and The Reeves Theatre, his inspiration behind Reevestock.
Reevestock 2013 is the festivals third year. Conceived by Tayloe at the young age of 21, the festival came into fruition in 2011 to help raise money to revitalize The Reeves Theater in downtown Elkin. Completely non-profit, all proceeds from the festival go towards this much needed restoration project. With the first year being a strong success, the festival continued on into 2012 with noted musicians such as Jill Andrews, Holy Ghost Tent Revival, Time Sawyer, and more.
“I grew up in a small town.
Its where I learned to be my own man
and I’d live there my whole life if I can.”
Growing up in the small, rural town of Elkin, The Reeves has always been in the background of many of Tayloe’s memories, but sadly he does not have any remembrances of attending the theater himself during his growing up years. “It was already pretty much a mess before my time,” he reminisced. It wasn’t until he grew into a young adult, picked up his first guitar about 4 years ago, became a musician and a touring band, that he realized what a treasure they had in downtown Elkin. A diamond in the rough, to be sure, but this gave him an epiphany on a possible way to draw more cultural events to Elkin, to find a way to help get this theater up and running and better than ever.
The Reeves Theater first opened its doors in 1941. For several generations the theater was a thriving, integral part of the community. Dr. W.B. Reeves, a local eye doctor at the time, built the 700-seat theater. There was a soda shop inside one could enjoy before taking their seats. With the admission price of 33 cents, the theater goers would get newsreels, cartoons and a feature length film. In 1994, however, the roof was torn away by a ravaging storm. Dangerously close to being demolished by the city, the Reeves Theater Restoration Project was formed in 2007 by a group of Elkin residents, in the desire to save this historical fixture and restore it, somehow, to a better version of its previous self.
“You meet two kinds of people,
those you wanna know and those you don’t.”
As I meandered my way towards Diana’s Bookstore and Coffee Shop, on West Main Street, in downtown Elkin, where Sam and I were to meet, I could not help but be drawn into the charm that just exudes from this quaint, obviously well loved little town. There may have been some empty buildings, where local businesses and shops once thrived, but, even though uninhabited, they are well tended and not left to complete ruin. Other wise there were notable art galleries, a gift shop or two, places to get a bite and other places where one could wet their whistle if so desired. Such friendly folk as well. Walking through downtown, people all said hello or smiled in greeting as we passed. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the main object of my desire, The Reeves Theater, was right next door to the bookstore.
Greeted quite warmly by the bookstore proprietor, Suzanne, upon entering I felt right in my comfort zone. Lovely woman she was, and ever so helpful. I inquired about any books, or other things, concerning the theater next door. Photos, anything, I told her, would help. As she lead me to a section of books concerning Elkin and its history she welcomed me to town and asked what brought me there. I explained that I was working on something in regards to the theater next door and the upcoming festival; that I was going to be meeting with one of the festival founders and band fellows just in a bit. “oh, you must mean Sam,” she said with a kind smile, the sort that you know is real, from the eyes. “Yes, Sam”, I agreed. She then began to talk to me, telling me some verbal history of the Reeves, and of Elkin, itself.
As we talked, we were intermittently interrupted by the tinkling of the bell on the door, alerting her to customers coming in. It was quite heartwarming to hear that she greeted each person that came in by first name and vice versa. Finally, one of those tinklings heralded the appearance of Sam Tayloe.
We went to the Theater first, of course. Upon entering I was hit with an almost encompassing wave of nostalgia. The grandeur of this place was at once obvious; it was easy to picture what The Reeves had going for it in years past and what it could become in the years to come. There were photos of the theater, in its hey day and after the storm that caused its final ruination. Once could see, though, the progress that has been made since beginning the restoration project. The Reeves is now at a point where some small events can be handled there, such as the yearly Haunted House and Reeves in the Raw. Upon completion the Reeves will be an incredible draw for the surrounding community; boasting a rooftop deck, with a stunning view of downtown Elkin and the surrounding Yadkin valley, a second floor balcony and conference room, main floor auditorium, box office, gift shop, coat check and maybe even a lounge. Even with the work that has already been completed, alas, there is still so much to do. And that’s where Reevestock comes into play.
“There’s no fast moving freeway.
You cant get your car above 55.
And these rolling hills,
they roll out here for miles and miles.”
As we then drove to the festival site, noted as “Elkins hidden amphitheater” I fell under the spell of the scenery out the window. The old, stately homes, the small two lane roads, the river rushing under a bridge we drove over. All this, surrounded by the lovely Blue ridge Mountains…aaahhh…
I queried Sam about growing up here, how great it must have been. He agreed, telling me of stories from his childhood and how much this has influenced not only his music, but him as a person.
This drive took all of 5 minutes it seemed, and suddenly, there we were. Nestled in a very well kept, unassuming neighborhood the festival site was indeed a glorious place. With meandering walkways, a wonderful main stage, a side stage and natural glory abounding all around, I was taken a bit aback. The amount of man-hours that must have gone into designing and developing this place just blew me away. There was obvious thought put into the design of the space. With a gorgeous gazebo as the main stage, one will get a view of the headliners from any angle. There is a babbling brook, thick luxuriant grass that just begs to be enjoyed barefoot (yes, I walked through it shoeless, could not resist) and plenty of trees with widespread branches providing an abundance of natural shade. Sam showed me where there would be vendors of all sorts, including food and drink. Festival attendees might want to remember to bring a blanket or chair or two, as there are no “amphitheater” type seats, but who would want to cover up that gorgeous, sensual grassy space with cold hard seats anyway !
There are not enough words that can adequately describe this lovely area. On private land, the property can accommodate up to three thousand folks. The site also hosts a few business functions and weddings throughout the year. I informed Sam that I did not want to leave, I could stay there for days on end. He chuckled and replied “That’s what I hope to hear from everyone who comes here. How much they enjoy it and cant wait to come back.”
“All these people that you’ve known,
some you’ll never want to leave.
No, these people that I’ve known,
some I never wanna see.”
We did have to leave the festival grounds, much to my chagrin, to get to our next destination, The Liberty. The Liberty is where the first night of Reevestock will take place. What once was a tobacco warehouse since being erected in 1917, this event space is the restoration brainchild of Cecily McCulloch, who is also on the board of the Reeves Restoration Project. Mrs. McCulloch proved to be a wealth of information on the history of The Reeves, The Liberty, and Elkin.
What a great venue, I could not help but think as I literally inhaled the atmosphere with all my senses. Inviting, warm and aesthetically pleasing, the structural aspect was spot on, leaving the exposed beams and brick work open to the eye when ever possible. I could even smell a hint of tobacco tang in the surrounding air. (To learn more about The Liberty, its history and coming of age story, you can go to http://www.libertydowntown.com) As we talked about the Liberty’s history the conversation segued into festival talk.
I learned that afternoon about all the “little” loose ends one must contend with when on the planning side of a festival. What size to make the stage, charges for certain concessions, colors of wristbands to differentiate legal age drinkers from underage folks, how to man the doors, how to get more help from the community, coordinating volunteers and all sorts of other issues the festival attendee may not ever be aware of.
As business matters were attended to, I realized that this rather talented musician, albeit young musician, had his fingers in every piece of the proverbial Reevestock festival pie. Not only had he conceived this festival at the young age of twenty-one, he also goes himself to procure donations from local companies and individuals, which he has been successful at, but not as successful as he wants to be. “I seem to go to the same people here in town, year after year, for donations to help with these things, the festival and the theater, but after one asks so many times, some people tend to not want to donate time and again for the same thing. It can be frustrating, certainly.”
He certainly seems to be a forward thinking fellow, constantly one step ahead of things in the planning end of this project and festival. They were able to decide who would be best to man the exit only doors in the back of the building, who would make better bartenders, etc. The conversation then lead to reminiscing of Sam at about 9 years old, as Mrs. McCollouch recalled “when scooters first became really popular.” This then lead into who they could get in to help hang some sound improvement barriers. The two of them tossed around names and within about two minutes came up with the person who had the best throwing arm in town and agreed to get in touch with him to throw ropes over beams, accuracy being the main goal.
At this point, Sam and I had to go, me to head back to Greensboro, Sam to attend to yet more festival and band business. We climbed into his car for the short drive back to the bookstore and The Reeves. I inquired about Sam’s educational background. Interesting to find out that he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history and had been planning to be a history teacher, as history is something he enjoys. We talked about life’s interesting twists and turns. He talked about his soccer playing when he was younger and how he also would have liked to and would still like to, coach soccer. But this guy is a true musician at heart. “Still though, I want to keep playing music. I just want to play music forever.”
Sam Tayloe is a young man who has found his niche, as they say. Not only with his music, but within his hometown community as well. He has a sharp business mind, with the creativity that comes naturally to any artist, and this has lead him to doing something so important for Elkin and the surrounding communities. By bringing Reevestock into its third year, not only will the festival help to bring The Reeves to finally being completed and opening its doors, but its continued success will forever be a draw to bring in musicians for a local festival that should not be overlooked. This is Sam’s way of giving back to his home town and what a wonderful thing that is.
“But I’ve lived and I’ve loved,
and I cant get enough.
This is my home.”
to find out more: http://www.reevestock.com
lyrics from “Home” by Time Sawyer, track 6 on their “Headed Home” album