Festivals and Halloween and The Lil Smokies, Oh My!

Karin McLaughlin
By Karin McLaughlin / October 22, 2018
The Lil Smokies

After their performance at The Festy Experience, DC Music Review was lucky enough to get some time with The Lil Smokies in the artist area, a dedicated spot for acts to hang out and have a good time with each other, to ask them some questions.  After debating the difference between jambalaya and gumbo and also learning that the Reverend sometimes acts accordingly and marries friends, we sat down in their trailer for some Q&A as well as word association.

Karin McLaughlin: So thank you guys for taking some time to talk, I'm excited about this one, I've never done an entire band together for an interview.  Okay, so where do I want to start?  First of all - I heard really, really good things about the show in Asheville last night.  You've been on a really strong run lately touring with Fruition and Greensky, who are definitely two of the best live show bands I've seen.  I think I've heard the story about you guys and Fruition, something about crashing on each other's couches back in the day and staying friends throughout the years, but how did you get set up with these two bands and how do you all vibe together?

Andy Dunnigan of The Lil Smokies with  Mimi Naja of Fruition

Andy Dunnigan of The Lil Smokies with Mimi Naja of Fruition

Andy Dunnigan of The Lil Smokies with  Mimi Naja of Fruition

Andy Dunnigan of The Lil Smokies with Mimi Naja of Fruition

Andy Dunnigan: I think with Fruition we go back to the very early days before we were really even The Lil Smokies.  When they would come through Missoula and would sleep at our house, you know, and crash on our couches. They really urged us to kind of take our band and go on the road and​ do what they were doing.   So that was a really important step and we just became friends​.  We would see them when they came to Missoula and then we started touring and we ​would see them at things like Northwest String Summit  - they were just basically our best buddies and they kind of still are.  Then through them we met Greensky, you know, through these kind of festival hangs.​

KM: I feel like y'alls festival hangs with all of you would be bananas.

Matt: 'The Rev' Rieger: Lions, tigers, bears, bananas (laughs).

​Jake Simpson: No, it's pretty tame, we're typically in bed by midnight....

KM: Yeah, sure, in what time zone? (everyone laughs guiltily)  So you guys have had a pretty good summer - I remember seeing y'all at the beginning at Delfest, which you've been doing for a few years now.

Jake: DelYEAH!

KM: DelYEAH.  So, what's been the favorite festival of 2018 summer so far? I guess summe'rs technically over. So looking back, what's been the favorite?

Jake Simpson of The Lil Smokies

Jake Simpson of The Lil Smokies

Jake Simpson of The Lil Smokies

Jake Simpson of The Lil Smokies

AD:  Well, we might all have different different favorites. Jake - what's your favorite ​fest? 

JS: I was gonna say Floydfest

AD: I was gonna say Floyd, I gotta say Telluride aside, because it's just kind of its own category.

JS: It wasn't my favorite one this year but yeah​, Floydfest we played four days and ​we don't do that very much anymore. Most times we have to fly from one festival to another and play three different festivals in a weekend, you know? 

Scott Parker: In three different states

JS: Three different cities too,  so that we just got to hang out and exploring those crazy grounds at Floydfest was really cool. ​They've got so many art things set up ​there that are super psychedelic ​and then Greta V​an Fleet was there who's this new, really super young rock band that just sounds like Led Zeppelin​.  They rocked and just the crowd is so receptive and stoked about live music there, original live music. 

The Rev: We had people that were there for all four of our sessions, which is​...

KM: Dedication?

The Rev: Yeah, a lot of dedication.

KM: Did they look a lot different from day one to day four? (laughs)

The Rev: (laughs) ​Everyone was on a steady decline.

KM: That's the nice part, I guess, right?  You realize a lot of times when bands don't play more than once, they're in and they're out and they don't really get to experience the vibe in the crowd and the lot and that's kind of what festivals are all about.  That's one thing I really like about Delfest - you have a lot of late night fireside jams, which is really cool.  (To The Rev) Ok - your favorite festival?

The Rev: Well, Floydfest was certainly a highlight. Another highlight in a different way was Akin Bluegrass Festival down in South Carolina - really had a wonderful time there.  It's a very close knit family of musicians that gets together there and it's an easy experience. It's hard to describe, but I think ​close knit family is the way that I'd describe it, a lot of collaborations, a lot of silliness.

Scott Parker of The Lil Smokies

Scott Parker of The Lil Smokies

Scott Parker of The Lil Smokies

Scott Parker of The Lil Smokies

Scott Parker: Greensky's sound guy runs that one. 

The Rev:  Yeah, Greg Berns, Christian and Molly are the three, they treat us very well and we hope to go back to that one again next year.

SP: I like Floydfest like everyone else.  Right now, you know,​ a lot of the festivals we play it's kind of ​all the same music, you get to see your friends and all but it's nice to go to a festival where it's other music that I really like and listen to.  Jason Isbell, Greta Van Fleet was crazy.

The Rev: Foster the People

SP: Yeah, Foster the People.

The Rev: That was crazy!

SP: So, just the variety.  You know, bluegrass is great​, but it's ​also nice to switch it up.

KM: Yeah, I totally feel that - I love bluegrass but when I leave a festival that is just that, I blast hip-hop or reggae the whole way home (laughs).  Sometimes, I'll gauge my neighbors at camp to know if I'll be ok blasting 2Pac late night but I usually hold off til after.

AD: I liked Blue Ox this year a lot. I liked Floydfest equally, but Blue Ox you have that kind of vibe to where technically it is a bluegrass festival, but I think we're starting to get put into other festivals that have more variety. It's not just straight bluegrass or jam grass.

Matt Cornette  of The Lil Smokies

Matt Cornette of The Lil Smokies

Matt Cornette  of The Lil Smokies

Matt Cornette of The Lil Smokies

Matt Cornette: Yeah, with the festival thing, I agree with everything we already talked about but another highlight of the summer was that we played (Northwest) String Summit which was cool but then we flew back the following day and played in Missoula at the KettleHouse Amphitheater and opened up for Trampled by Turtles.  That's our hometown and it's a new amphitheater that holds probably about 4000 and it was really cool to play for probably the largest audiences, or one of the bigger audiences we played for, but definitely in Montana. A lot of friends were there and they were super pumped about it.  Then we played Bozeman and that was sold out and that was a big show too. So I felt like that was another highlight outside just the festivals this summer.

AD: Way to bring it back home Matt (laughs).

KM:  Now, you talk about playing the bigger festivals or stages, you guys ​have also played, I don't know how to say is it ​Panida (Theater) ​which is much smaller, right?  So which do you like more, the bigger venues or smaller or does it depend?

AD: We were talking about how - festival season seems to end at the perfect time, you know?  Time to cut off the bracelets and take a shower...

KM: See what's grown under them (laughs)

AD: Yeah,  go back into clubs and kind of being more condensed setting and sometimes those are sit down or people are listening intently and then when the venue season's over​, it's time to go outside get some s​un.

KM: And you guys are doing ​Winter Wondergrass, right?

Collectively: Yup - Steamboat.

KM: ​Just Steamboat? Oh, ok I thought I saw you listed on the Stratton one too.

The Rev: No, we are going up there on Sunday for ​a show, but that weekend I don't believe we are there.

KM: Yeah, that seems like pretty much the only appropriate outdoo​r festival during winter.

​ MC: Yeah, the Vermont one's gonna be super cold!

​KM: I also saw you guys are gonna be in Oregon for Halloween, so are you planning costume?

Collectively: Oh yeah!

​KM: And is it ....

Matthew "The Reverend" Rieger of The Lil Smokies
Matthew "The Reverend" Rieger of The Lil Smokies

The Rev: Top Secret!  We'd have to kill you if we told you (laughs)

JS: Well we could tell you off the record....

​​KM: (laughs) How about this - is it a group costume?

The Rev: Yeah what we have a ​theme planned.

JS: In the past, let's see, we were Hooters girls one year - that year we were with ​Fruition and we did for four shows. ​We decided "Oh, we gotta wear costumes every night!"   So Halloween was the last show ​and I mean my shirt was all stained and nasty (everyone laughs), smelly.

KM: Oh, same costume every night?!  

Collectively talking: What were we last year?  YMCA? Village People?  No that was two years ago.  What did we do last year?

The Rev: No, we did not dress up​ last year because we had Halloween weekend off.

​​KM: I don't know I've done definitely Halloween at shows before, but if you're wearing a costume and you're in a club sweating, sometimes you're just like game over​!

The Rev: Yeah, when you're on stage, your lack of preparedness and hurried costume is really showcased.

​KM: So I saw you all did a pretty funny interview with ​I can't remember the name of the publication, but you did like a, rapid fire word association type​ thing

Collectively: Oh yeah, oh, yeah!

KM: So ready for round two? I actually had a really something way better but I forgot it at camp.

The Rev:  Oh we're in!

KM: Alright, so ​we'll go around the circle, how about that? So you say the first word that comes to mindMan bun

SP: Cut em? (laughs)

The Lil Smokies

Think Fast Lil Smokies.... word association DCMR style!

KM: Halloween

The Rev: Candy corn

KM: Glow sticks

JS: Party

​KM: Late night

MC: Whiskey

​KM: Tofu.

AD: Uhhhh... Scott (laughs)

SP: Thank you!

KM: Hip Hop

SP: No?

​KM: Bus Life

The Rev: Bus life? Some day I hope! ​Please dear God! (laughs)

​KM: Vinyl

JS: Records

KM: Netflix and chill

MC: Every day.

KM:  And last but not least - tequila.

AD: Tonight!

KM: Okay, so last question. I kind of like to ask this to everybody I get to interview and I realized that have been asking it in the sense of like, musically related but it could be anything  - what's next on the bucket list?

The Lil Smokies Sharing The Stage With Fruition
The Lil Smokies Sharing The Stage With Fruition

The Lil Smokies Sharing The Stage With Fruition

Collective answer: Red Rocks

The Rev: What's that one?  ​Newport Folk Fest would be something, that's something I'd like to see.

JS: I would really like to do a late night show.

KM: Like a Jimmy Kimmel type?

JS: Yeah or somewhere cool abroad. I mean, we've been in Canada​ and we're gonna go to Mexico.

KM: Oh for Strings and Sol?

JS: Yeah but ​maybe like Scotland somewhere? Northern Europe. 

The Rev: Dinner with ​Michael McDonald (laughs)

KM: A candlelit dinner at ​the Waffle House?

The Rev: Yeah. Oh, yeah, with Michael McDonald.

AD: I had my first Waffle House experience last night.

​KM: Was it in North Carolina? (laughs)

AD: Uh....yeah actually, in Asheville

​KM: That explains a lot.  I've seen a lot go down at the W​affle House and I've also read a lot of news stories of stuff that happens there. 

AD: Dinner and a show?

KM: That's for sure. Also excited because you guys are coming to DC Thursday with ​Fruition - Union Stage?

Collectively:  Yes

KM:  I'm excited to see it first live show there. I've been there for a wedding reception and birthday party but not ​for a show.

The Rev: Yeah, we're excited.

KM: Nice sweet. Well thank you guys so much. ​

Photography by DC Music Review photographer Mark Raker (mark raker photography)

About the author
Karin McLaughlin

Karin McLaughlin

Karin has been a live music junkie all her life, however is a fairly new fan in the world of jam bands and bluegrass. She grew up on hip hop, classic soul, motown and classic rock but has found a new home in the festival world and that is what, in part, had brought her to DC Music Review. Karin produces and hosts a weekly radio show in the area called Karin's Calendar, where she talks all about 'Where to be in the DMV'. She is very excited to be starting down a semi-new road with us and hopes to use her interview skills and write ups of shows to contribute even more to DC Music Review.