In April, the thirty-seventh Festival for the Eno suffered a major blow to its lineup before the roster could even be announced. Ani DiFranco, the activist and singer who new Eno organizers had tapped to headline the esteemed Triangle tradition, scrapped the date in response to North Carolina's infamously discriminatory HB 2. The move left the Eno, a fundraiser for the river and its watershed, without its top name, or the primary talent lure of its all-important annual benefit.
But looking out across the crew that will actually play the Festival for the Eno this holiday weekend, there's a reassuring homestead defiance to the lineup, which samples from some of the best strains and scenes in North Carolina. There's hardline blues from the likes of John Dee Holeman, folk and bluegrass permutations from longtime collaborators Jon Shain and FJ Ventre, and Americana grit and glory from the Grand Shell Game. Thanks to Peter Holsapple and clear stylistic descendants The Old Ceremony and Jon Lindsay, the state's strong pop pedigree gets a nod. Shirlette Ammons, one of the region's boldest musicians, offers her rhymes. Sets from the griot-led Diali Cissokho & Kaira Ba and the transcontinental dance party Dishoom also show the locally welcome influence of outside cultures.
Tar Heel expatriates or imports seem to have those headlining spots under control, too. Drawn by the allure and mystique of the South, Michael Taylor moved from California to North Carolina, where his introspective work as Hiss Golden Messenger took root in a fertile local scene. Nikki Hill left the state to make her name, but her impassioned mix of soul, blues, gospel, and rock reflects both her time in North Carolina church choirs and the state's own variegated musical legacy. You'll hear much of the same in the new electric trio of Greg Humphreys, the sweet-singing Hobex and Dillon Fence frontman who has never escaped his musical ties to North Carolina, despite making his home in New York. Without DiFranco's help, North Carolinians fight for their own backyard at this year's Festival for the Eno.