More than 90 bands will perform at the first Wampus Cat Music Festival in Sanford on May 13-15 at Gross Farms II. Below are some of the bigger names (and acts we interviewed in the weeks leading up).
Main feature: The story behind the Wampus Cat Music Festival
WANT TO GO?
- What: The Wampus Cat Music Festival, sponsored by Indie On Air Records and Gross Farms
- When: May 13-15 with stage times TBD
- Where: 3345 Rosser Pittman Road, just south of U.S. 421 and the town of Broadway. Entrance(s) will be marked by signs
- Who: Big names in rock (Everclear, Lit, Sister Hazel), indie and country music (Thompson Square, the Swon Brothers) will join nearly 100 bands on three different stages during the three-day event.
- Cost: Three-day passes (including parking) run $128.40. Single-day passes (parking not included) run $52.43 and can be purchased on the website.
- Amenities: There will be camping, food, drum circles, costume contests and more.
- Why Wampus Cat?: The name for this festival comes from the North Carolina folktale of the Wampus Cat, a mystical cat like creature that has been reported to have been sighted in the area going all the way back to the colonial times.
- Learn more: wampuscatmusicfestival.com has complete list of bands, updates and links to buy tickets.
Performing: Everclear will be the Friday night headliner (May 13) on the rock stage at Wampus Cat.
Following: 284,000 on Facebook, over six million records sold
Bio: Everclear found huge success in the 1990s with their first three albums, Sparkle and Fade, So Much for the Afterglow and Songs from an American Movie Vol. One, all of which were certified platinum in sales.
Formed in Portland, Oregon in 1992, the band’s calendar features a major milestone amid a career already filled with massive achievements, as 2022 marks Everclear’s 30th anniversary as a band. In honor of this auspicious occasion, after it performs at Wampus Cat, Everclear will embark on a North American 30th Anniversary Tour with special guests Fastball and The Nixons.
Vocalist/guitarist and founder Art Alexakis hints that the sets will run the gamut of Everclear’s career, all the way back to some very early material, including songs from their currently out-of-print full-length debut, 1993’s World of Noise.
“We’re gonna do a couple of songs off World of Noise for sure, and maybe even some hidden gems from back in the day,” Alexakis says. “And, of course, we’ll still play all the hits and fan favorites. It’s going to be a really fun summer.”
Over the last 30 years, Everclear has enjoyed a lengthy career by any measure, spanning 11 studio releases, including four that have been certified Gold or Platinum, selling over six million records, and achieving 12 Top 40 hit singles, as well as numerous videos, thousands of shows and various other accolades, including a 1998 Grammy nomination.
Alexakis doesn’t plan on slowing down, despite the toll that the years, the substances, and now his recent battles with multiple sclerosis have taken on his frame. Beyond the summer 2022 North American run, Everclear will also be returning to the UK in the fall of 2022, as well as Australia in early 2023, in celebration of the 30th anniversary.
“To me, it’s a reason for celebration. I’m almost 60 years old. I’ve got MS. I’ve been through the ringer — a lot of it I put myself through — but I’m still here. The music’s still here. Everclear is still here,” he says.
Songs you know: “Santa Monica,” “Father of Mine,” “I Will Buy You a New Life,” “Heroin Girl,” “Everything to Everyone” and “You Make Me Feel Like a Whore.”
Fun Fact: Christina Hendricks, who played Joan Holloway in the TV show Mad Men, starred in Everclear’s “One Hit Wonder” video from 1998.
Performing: Thompson Square will be the Friday night headliner (May 13) on the country stage at Wampus Cat.
Following: More than 1.1 million followers on Facebook
Bio: Thompson Square isn’t a real place, exactly. It’s the musical territory staked out by the husband-and-wife duo of Keifer and Shawna Thompson, “an exciting and unpredictable area where country meets rock, rough meets smooth and one vagabond heart finds a harmonious common ground with another.”
“It’s the place where we create our thing, a little fantasyland where we live,” Keifer says. And now the rest of the world is invited to enjoy a nice, long visit.
Shawna grew up in tiny Chatom, Ala., learning traditional country songs from her guitar-playing father and soaking up the sounds of Reba McEntire and Alabama on the radio. Keifer was raised in Miami, Okla., where he was exposed to everything from Roger Miller and Merle Haggard to punk rock and heavy metal before finding his most profound influences in thoughtful tunesmiths like Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty. Both moved to Nashville within the same week, and met at a singing competition a few days after hitting town.
In 2009, manager Shawn Pennington caught the couple’s show at a Nashville club and found himself bowled over by their powerful chemistry and cutting-edge style. Within days Thompson Square was performing for the staff at Stoney Creek Records, and soon afterward they signed to the label.
The duo quickly hit the studio to begin recording their first album, and the result seamlessly combines their wide-ranging influences into a loose, lively and identifiable sound all their own. “It’s got that rawness like country and rock bands used to have back in the day, it’s got a real, ‘band’ feel to it,” Keifer says.
In 2012, they were recognized as Top Vocal Duo at the Academy of Country Music Awards. The self-titled debut album sold 196,000 copies in the U.S. and earned RIAA Gold status. In the past decade, the duo has released three albums which have produced a combined 10 chart singles on the Hot Country Songs and Country Airplay charts.
Songs you know: “Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not,” “I Got You,” “Glass,” “If I Didn’t Have You,” and “Everything I Shouldn’t Be.”
Fun Fact: Keifer Thompson wrote a children’s book, “Time to Get Dressed,” based on his experiences with his son. He told People Magazine about the inspiration saying, “I was getting Cooper’s socks on one morning and made a little song about it.”
Performing: Sister Hazel will perform on opening night (Friday, May 13) of Wampus Cat on the rock stage.
Following: 85,000 followers on Facebook
Bio: Originating from Gainesville, Fla., Sister Hazel is comprised of five seasoned musicians who have been called “one of the Top 100 Most Influential Independent Performers of the last 15 years” by Performing Songwriter Magazine.
Their hit song “All for You,” topped the adult alternative charts during the summer of 1997, and the success propelled their album to platinum status. Since then, the band has become firmly established not only in rock and alternative music, but now in country with four back-to-back Billboard Top Country Albums Chart entries along with making their debut on the most revered stage in country music, the Grand Ole Opry.
They have most recently co-produced a cleverly themed EP compilation series entitled “Elements,” that includes a bonus seventh track that continued throughout the series.
Songs you know: “All For You,” “Happy” and “Change Your Mind”
Fun Fact: The band has had music featured in several movies and soundtracks including Major League: Back to the Minors, The Wedding Planner, Clay Pigeons, Bedazzled and 10 Things I Hate About You. They also appear on the album, “Legacy: A Tribute to Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours” with their cover version of “Gold Dust Woman.”
Performing: Stephanie Quayle will perorm Saturday on the country stage.
Following: 295,000 followers on FB
Bio: Recorded almost entirely virtually during the pandemic, Stephanie Quayle’s self-titled album includes singles “By Heart,” “Wild Frontier,” and “I Want The World For You,” along with some brand new material like the comforting “Hang My Hat.”
The collection of songs define a new era in Quayle’s musical journey. With a strong dose of Western, an emphasis on baritone guitar and a frisky put-it-out there candor, the singer-songwriter leans straight into what’s on her mind. Paired with Alex Kline, award-winning songwriter and one of the most notable female producers in Nashville, the two have expanded upon Quayle’s Big Sky Country roots that cement her place in country music as an artist who authentically carries the genre’s roots into the contemporary landscape of today.
Rolling Stone Country named her “An Artist You Need To Know,” CMT tapped Quayle as part of their “Next Women of Country” franchise, The Kelly Clarkson Show featured Quayle as a performer and guest, her last three singles garnered over 100 million audience impressions, and the Grand Ole Opry has hosted her multiple times.
Songs you know: “Selfish,” “Whatcha Drinkin’ About,” “If I Was a Cowboy”
Fun Fact: She found her calling as a singer while a student in Fribourg, Switzerland, overhearing some young people saying their band needed a lead vocalist.
Performing: Lit will perform Saturday (Mary 14) on the rock stage at Wampus Cat.
Following: 100,000 followers on FB
Bio: Just as the nineties dissolved into the 21st century, Lit charged up rock ‘n’ roll with uncompromising punk energy and a power pop punch. However, the Orange County-born band left an imprint on popular culture that only fissured wider over the years like a California fault line. Who could forget the immortal lyric, “Can we forget about the things I said when I was drunk?” or the time Pamela Anderson devoured the band whole in the “Miserable” music video?
The group outlasted the next two decades as well. They stood out as the rare act whose presence could be felt loud and clear at Woodstock ’99. Twenty years after its initial release, the Billboard Music Award-winning “My Own Worst Enemy” not only went double-platinum, but Post Malone also covered it on Instagram Live as did Kelly Clarkson and Jimmy Fallon on his late night show. Further speaking to their enduring influence, they’ve inspired think pieces by everyone from American Songwriter to Kerrang! , while Consequence of Sound named them one of the “100 Best Pop Punk Bands.”
Songs you know: “My Own Worst Enemy,” “Miserable” and “Lipstick and Bruises”
Fun Fact: The band has confirmed that a film company is in the early stages of a documentary about their song, “My Own Worst Enemy,” which also has a four-part popular podcast dedicated to it.
Performing: J.R. Richards (formerly the lead singer of Dishwalla, of “Counting Blue Cars” fame) will perform Friday (May 13) on the rock stage.
Performing: Maggie Rose will perform on Sunday (May 15) on the country stage.
Following: 101,000 followers on FB
Bio: Maggie Rose is a Nashville-based songwriter and powerhouse country, blues, R&B, and rock singer. In 2013, after issuing an EP under her birth name Margaret Durante two years prior, she adopted the Maggie Rose moniker and released her Billboard-charting debut album, Cut to Impress. She began transitioning away from her country roots on 2018’s more rock-oriented Change the Whole Thing (2018), and again on 2021’s soul, pop, folk, funk and R&B-forward Have a Seat.
Have A Seat found Rose approaching her music with more confidence and clarity of vision than ever, ultimately sharing a selection of songs both timeless and urgent and appropriately named one of the “Best Albums of 2021” by both Rolling Stone and American Songwriter while NPR’s World Cafe called Rose “a multi-genre powerhouse…A must see act,” and Garden & Gun hailed her “an artist at the top of her craft.”
She has made festival appearances at Bonnaroo, Newport Folk Fest and Austin City Limits, and has taken the stage at The Grand Ole Opry over 75 times.
Songs you know: “Better,” “I Ain’t Your Mama,” “Looking Back Now” and “Mississippi’s Crying”
Fun Fact: Rose first took to the stage at the age of 16, performing frequently with the B Street Band, a Bruce Springsteen cover group.
THE SWON BROTHERS
Performing: The Swon Brothers will perform Saturday (May 14) on the country stage.
Following: 325,000 followers on FB
Bio: The Swon Brothers gained national notoriety as finalists on NBC’s “The Voice,” and released their major-label debut, The Swon Brothers, the following year, putting their stamp on the 11-song collection by co-producing with award-winning producer Mark Bright (Carrie Underwood). The album’s first single “Later On” was the duo’s first Top 15 hit.
Zach and Colton have received CMA and ACM Award nominations for “Vocal Duo of the Year,” as well as a CMT Music Award nomination for “Duo Video of the Year.” The brothers joined Brad Paisley on his Country Nation World Tour and Carrie Underwood on her Storyteller Tour, and constantly tour on their own, treating their loyal fans to “Swoncerts” everywhere.
Their brand new single answers a question that the brothers are often asked…. what it’s like to work with your brother? They decided to write a song about it. “Travelin’ On,” written by Zach Swon, Colton Swon, Jonathan Dean and Stephen Hunley describes the brothers’ relationship, both on and off the stage.
Songs you know: “Later On,” “Pretty Beautiful,” and “Good to You”
Fun Fact: The Swon Brothers finished in third place in 2013 during the spring season of “The Voice.” During the blind auditions, they turned three chairs — Usher, Blake Shelton, and Shakira.
Performing: Jenny Tolman will perform on Sunday (May 15) on the Wampus Cat Festival country stage. Tolman is a rising musician based out of Nashville.
Performing: Drew Angus will perform on Sunday (May 15) on the rock stage.
Following: 13,500 followers on Instagram
Bio: Drew found his love for music growing up in a house filled with the sounds of artists like Tom Petty, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. He’s Influenced by these classic rock sounds mixed with artists of today like Ben Rector, Jason Mraz and John Mayer. These voices combined with his own city life experiences, relationships, and obstacles gives Drew a unique and dynamic sound in today’s pop rock/singer-songwriter world.
His work ethic and captivating nature have led him down some pretty amazing paths. He has shared the stage with Andrea Bocelli, Nile Rogers, Harry Styles, Will Evans (Barefoot Truth), Marc Broussard, Tyler Hilton and Anders Osborne. He has also appeared on Saturday Night Live with Jimmy Fallon, was a finalist on the Farewell Season of American Idol and is a 2017 USA Songwriting Contest finalist with his song “Brother.”
Drew is one to watch. Plus he’s got great hair.
Songs you know: “Made to Love You,” “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay (with Marc Broussard” and “My Place”
Fun Fact: He’s one of only 24 artists on the bill for the Sound on Sound Festival in Connecticut this year, featuring Stevie Nicks, the Lumineers, Dave Matthews, Brandi Carlile, Gary Clark Jr., Band of Horses, Black Pumas and the Spin Doctors
Performing:Nitro Nitra will perform on Saturday (May 14) on the Wampus Cat Festival rock stage. The Delaware native was a hit at the Carolina Indie Fest in downtown Sanford in 2021.
Performing: Adam Warner will perform Friday (May 13) on the country stage.
Following: 100,000 followers on FB
Bio: Adam Warner brings a big sound from a small town swagger to the country scene; fusing his timeless drawl with the infectious ‘take it or leave it’ energy of rock n roll, Warner has mastered the art of a good time.
After proudly serving in the United States Marines, Adam Warner crafted his country rock catalog in Nashville, with singles like “Catchin’ Hell” and “Reason to Redneck” in the pipeline for 2022, every aspect of his brand bleeds red, white and blue. A self-proclaimed bad influence, Warner has learned not to take himself too seriously, and his music offers his audience a chance to do the same.
With influences extending across decades of musical icons, Warner has shared the stage with some of his biggest heroes, including Lee Brice, Jamey Johnson, Jerrod Niemann, American Young, Midland, Trace Adkins, Neil McCoy, Rhonda Vincent and Darrell Singletary.
Songs you know: “4 Square Miles,” “Catchin’ Hell” and “Semper Fi,” featuring Trace Adkins
Fun Fact: In 2018, Warner wrote the Tennessee Titans anthem “Welcome to the South,” which is played at every home game at Nissan Stadium.
TYLER REESE TRITT
Performing: Tyler Reese Tritt will perform Saturday (May 14) on the country stage.
Following: 28,800 followers on Instagram
Bio: Tyler Reese Tritt emerged onto the country music scene in 2012 with her dad, Travis Tritt, in a revival of the classic Don Henley & Patty Smyth hit, “Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough.” At only 14 years of age, Tyler impressed listeners with her beautifully rich voice, proving the musical roots grow deep in the Tritt family tree. To date, the YouTube video of their duet has received over 5 million views.
She started her touring career in the summer of 2017 opening up for her dad, entertaining thousands at festivals and venues across the country. Many Travis Tritt fans have enjoyed watching the little girl they saw grow up onstage with her dad, now share the spotlight with him.
Currently, Tyler has some exciting things coming up, including working on an EP bursting with personality-packed tracks. With sounds varying from sassy to traditional country and inspirations ranging from her family to previous relationships, her forthcoming music is sure to be relatable and in tune with her audience.
Songs you know: “Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough” (with Travis Tritt), “Blame it on My Roots” and “Perfect”
Fun Fact: Her famous father, Travis Tritt, was close friends with country music icons Johnny Cash and George Jones. Tritt performed at Jones’ funeral in 2013.
TOUGH ON FRIDAYS
Performing: Tough on Fridays will perform on Friday (May 13) on the rock stage.
Bio: Momentum keeps flowing for grunge-alt-rockers Tough On Fridays. Over the past five years, the band has been turning heads and gaining throngs of fans for their ability to artfully smash together pop, indie, and grunge into their own brand of infectious, in-yourface rock ‘n roll.
Well-seasoned performers throughout the Texas music circuit, Tough On Fridays has come to be known for their enthusiastic live shows. The band lists Nirvana and Blink-182 as a few of their big influences.
The team of Caleigh and Katie told The Rant back in 2021 what to expect from their live shows: “Very loud drums. Chris is an animal on the drums. But I think it’s very genuine. Like the just the exchanges between us onstage and with an audience.
I think it feels very inclusive when we play. Like a personal tune. We’re all in it together. And I think you can feel that.”
Fun Fact: On their band name: “We had been searching for a band name for quite awhile, up until then we’d been known as ‘Katie and Caleigh’ (how original). We were talking one day about our next gig and how it was going to be on a Thursday, and I mentioned how that was a nice change because ‘playing shows on Fridays can be tough.’ Eric, our manager, was like ‘Hey, switch it around, Tough on Fridays sounds pretty cool.’ We all agreed that the name was both original and personal in terms of the band.”
CLIFF WHEELER BAND
Performing: Cliff Wheeler Band will perform on Saturday (May 14) on the country music stage.
Bio: Out of nearby Lemon Springs, the Cliff Wheeler Band came together in 2017 to record some tunes Cliff had written. Once the album “Wheeler” was complete, the band — featuring Cliff on guitar and vocals, his son Garret on bass and Johnny Hardy on drums — decided to stick together and do some live performances.
Debuting in Nashville, Tennessee at The Local, the band’s live shows began garnering attention from music industry insiders and other artists. They soon began climbing the Indie charts in the U.S. and abroad.
Wheeler on his songwriting: “I write very real songs. Most of them are life experiences. Either that, or things I’ve witnessed up close. And that’s just sort of the way I’ve always been.
“I tend to write about the grittier side of life. For some reason, I’m really a very happy guy, but you might not know it from my music. I’ve got a pretty good life, and I love what I do. But when I start writing, that’s just the side that comes out. And maybe it’s a way just to get rid of that stuff.”
Fun Fact: The band has won numberous awards in the past five years: Cumulus Media’s 2017 “Nash Next” North Carolina winner; Music Mafia Radio’s 2017 Artist of the Year first runner up and Entertainer of the Year (Gold) at the 2020 ISAA Awards.
Performing: Paleface will perform Saturday (May 14) on the rock stage.
Bio: Paleface was schooled musically by underground icon Daniel Johnston, and soon discovered at an New York City open mic by Danny Fields (The Stooges, The Ramones, MC5), who managed him for eight years.
He’s released albums for Polygram and Sire records, as well as indie labels Ramseur and now defunct but once mighty Shimmy Disc. He’s been called a major musical influence by a wide range of artists including Beck and The Avett Brothers. He has collaborated and appeared on three of The Avett’s albums, most notably as the “4th thief” on their album Four Thieves Gone.
Additionally, Paleface is a visual artist, and his bright and bold music-lyric inspired paintings are collected by fans worldwide. He was the headlining act for the first night of the two-day Carolina Indie Fest in downtown Sanford back in September.
His latest album, Go Forth, features partner Monica “Mo” Samalot on drums and additional vocals, mixing by Grammy winning engineer Jason Carmer (Run DMC, Third Eye Blind, Merle Haggard), and mastering by Grammy winning engineer John Greenham (Billie Eilish, Ice Cube, Sam Smith).
Fun Fact: Grammy winner Beck says of his former NYC roommate: “He taught me Daniel Johnston songs on the sidewalk and let me sleep on his couch. He was a great songwriter, a generous friend, and a big influence on my early stuff.”
Performing: John Norris will perform on Saturday (May 14) on the Wampus Cat Festival country stage. Norris is a Sanford native.
Interview: John Norris on the Friends of The Rant podcast