Zig is a very cool guy, grizzled, sharp, and tall enough to see the big picture, the forest and the trees. His 10 acre spread of trees and permanently parked RV’s is set up for FES-TAA-VULLL! He’s proud of his 1951 GMC bus, which logged millions of miles as a Greyhound, then in service of the Lord as band bus, with bunks and kitchen for gospel group The Singing Apostles. It still gets 13 miles to the gallon. A faded Jesus walking on the water is painted on the rear. Only four forward gears, the shifter connected by a single long rod running the length of the bus to the transmission in the back. To get reverse you put the bus in first gear, hit a solenoid switch, and shift into second, which has been electro-converted into reverse. Let us weep a moment for ingenious mechanical solutions that die with the 21st century. Good. That’s enough. Reader, weep no more.
For we are at Albino Skunk Fest, jacked up on Waffle House coffee and carbs, and good times are here. Zig and his mythical pal Toothbrush conjured this musical celebration about six years ago, and it’s really hit a stride. We pull into the hardening red mud parking area and hear powerful bluegrass harmonies wafting through the pines and the steamy but pleasant air. Down a meandering path through big bamboo stand passageways, and we’re in a little hollow. A laid back audience on lawn chairs on the grassy slope surrounding the wood stage is digging the banjo/fiddle/guitar virtuosity. We’re sandwiched between two newgrass bands, complete with drums and aggressive six string fretless bass. The fusion scales n the woodsy setting are jarring to our overly sensitive and luddite musical ears, but the energy and chops of these guys are undeniable, and the crowd loves it. And when the fiddle kicks the band into a I IV V standard, they own it.
Our first set is very enthusiastically cheered by half the crowd, with the rest gazing in polite stupefication. It reminds us of the Mariposa County Fair a bit. We’re urban messengers of old time ruralism playing to a rural crowd indifferent to tradition. The real country music descendants are effortlessly absorbing all sounds modern and offensive to the retro minded. While we’ve been gazing backwards, these Carolina boys have absorbed in Bela Fleck and Al Dimeola.
We chow down on local pulled pork BBQ and even some great veggie chili, sitting on a brick pile being taken over by vines. Big black clouds are on the horizon but gentle gray clouds hold their position overhead, and it cools off. Our evening set kicks off as darkness descends on the hollow and the bonfire blazes. Little kids hang out and dance on the clogging platform to the side of the stage. We get a stronger reaction from the crowd, and we’re feeling good. Zig suggests we try the local moonshine.It was in a Mason jar, of course, but instead of the cool, clear liquid we’ve tasted before, this moonshine has been aged in a charred oak barrel, just like the big boys, and Zig says that it may have been aged for two years. It’s whiskey dark brown, with a real flavor, plus that moonshine zing from the very high proof. Good, good, good. And our next tasting, from the kind folks manning the merch tables, is a local peach brandy, also of professional caliber, if sweet be your thing. It’s clear that craftsmanship is taken seriously here, and there is prestige to be had by the distillers. We hope to meet these underground heroes in a future trip. .