Music Feature: Lynchburg Local: Hill City Roots Festival

By Gabriella Muglia ’13

Joe plays the piano. Photo courtesy of Joe Alderson.

Attention fans of music, supporters of community, and advocates for creativity: there is promising news this September. On the 17th and 18th of this month, on Ellis Farm in Concord (a mere 23 miles from campus) the first ever Hill City Roots Festival will take place.  This two day, camp-out event will host multiple local acts, including Crow and the Murder Machine, Steal the Prize, The Late Virginia Summers, Rugby, and St. Nathan’s Holiday. But what is Hill City Roots, you ask? I spoke with two of the founders, Marcelo Quarantotto and Joe Alderson, to get the dirt on just where these ‘roots’ started, and where they might be spreading.

Joe, Marcelo, and the third co-founder, Aaron Borsay, met through Liberty University around 2004; they were all involved in the English Department. A few years later, a friend of theirs booked David Bazan to play at Sweet Briar. “All three of us happened to be at that show. Whether subconscious or not, I think Joe and I were affected by the idea of booking bands, simply because we wanted to hear them,” recalls Marcelo. Not long afterward, Marcelo began hosting shows and the guys started talking about plans for other larger-scale festival-style shows. Borsay had already been working with Burning Bush, a booking company in Lynchburg, and more recently Marcelo has been organizing and booking shows with Lynchburg Hootenany.

In March of this year, Joe began to recruit even more friends with similar music ideas and the plans for the long-anticipated festival became concrete.

“We aren’t folk, nor are we completely roots, and I dare say we’re not really somewhere in the middle,” said Joe. The name Seven Hills Folk Festival came about with the first show in July 2009.” This half-impromptu show was held in the back yard of Joe’s house at the time. “It was magic. Many of the people who played that first festival will be playing this one as well,” said Marcelo. Though there are several acoustic events, there is no intent to restrict the festival to specific genres. “I really wanted to have some hip hop and rap acts this year and at least one really good country act, too,” Joe said. “In the years to come, we will definitely expand into other genres. What we are really about is music, not genre. If it’s good music then we want to hear it.”

In the upcoming year, this business and community endeavor will continue to grow. “We are moving toward trying to have the festival take place on Jefferson Street [downtown] next year,” said Marcelo. “We originally had Cotton Jones and Denison Whitmer on the bill, and wanted to add a few other national acts, but even having one on our virtually nonexistent budget proved impossible.” Their plan for next year is to include some national acts, but also to expand the ‘local’ acts to the Central Virginia region.

During the festival, Ned’s Beer Shop will be serving beer, Sweet Briar’s WNRS-FM will have an info table, and other local vendors will provide food, drinks, and other goods. Collectively and individually, the guys have put a great deal of work into making this event a reality. “Something like this requires the support of so many people. And really, one of the biggest sources of support we’re in need of is public support.” With an event several years in the making finally coming to fruition in a matter of days, Alderson, Borsay, and Quarantotto are more than hopeful that the community at large will make this festival a tremendous success.

When? Saturday, September 17th, Sunday, September 18th
Where? Ellis Farm, Concord, VA (20 minutes from downtown Lynchburg and Sweet Briar)
Who? A bevvy of local bands, and a handful of traveling acts from as far as Arkansas
Cost? $20, and worth it.
What? 2 full days of music. 1 night of camping. (so bring your gear!) food. friends. fun.

To learn more about the festival, bands, and to see a complete line-up and confirm your attendance, visit the Hill City Roots Festival page, or add Sevenhills Folkfestival on Facebook.

To purchase tickets, visit Any other inquiries can be sent to

Contact Gabriella Muglia at with any questions or comments.

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