This is an aerial shot of USA Raft during the Sol Slam Mountain Jam in 2018. The music festival will be held at USA Raft again this Labor Day weekend. (Contributed photo)

By Richard Rourk

Labor Day might be the unofficial end of summer, but for East Tennessee the day represents the start of festival season.

USA Raft will be hosting a unique music festival that is entering its second year and was created out of an accident. Sol Slam Mountain Jam all started when Charleston, South Carolina, band Sol Driven Train played USA Raft on Labor Day of 2017.

“Sol Driven Train had a show that was cancelled in Asheville due to some busted pipes at the venue and they were looking for a place to play, so we brought them out,” USA Raft CEO and President Matt Moses said. “After they played on the porch at Crockett Cabin, we saw the enthusiasm of the crowd and we knew we had something special.”

The following year the First Annual Sol Slam Mountain Jam took place on the main stage at USA Raft over a two-day period during Labor Day weekend in 2018. Following the inaugural Sol Slam Mountain Jam, Moses and members of Sol Driven Train decided that the event was ready to expand.

“Following the first one, we had people booking lodging for this year,” Moses said.

According to Moses, the event continues to grow and attract visitors to Erwin from all over the region.

“It’s our goal to fill every campground and hotel in Unicoi County, then all the way into Johnson City,” Moses said. “We are already preparing for the growth; we are working on a way to bus the crowd in.”

Moses said he is excited for the potential economic impact events like Sol Slam Mountain Jam can have on both local and regional businesses. “While they are here for the music, we give our guests directions to eateries in town, places to shop, things to do for entertainment,” Moses said. “We also encourage our visitors to enjoy the natural beauty this area has to offer.”

Sol Slam Mountain Jam will remain a family- and pet-friendly event in 2019.

“We want families to come out and enjoy the music and all the river has to offer,” Moses said. “On Sunday, Sol Driven Train plays a special children’s show, and we have a family floating parade to conclude the day.”

According to USA Raft General Manager Jamie Morrell, this year’s lineup is the largest in the history of the festival.

“We are excited at all the vendors and the numerous bands that are coming,” Morrell said.

Here is the full schedule of bands:

• Friday, Aug. 30: 5:30-6:30 p.m. – Shake it Like a Caveman; 7 p.m. – The Danberrys;  9 p.m. – The Reckoning.

• Saturday, Aug. 31: 11:30 a.m. – Yoga; 1 p.m. – Big Like the Ocean; 3 p.m. – Sunflowers & Sin; 5 p.m. – Dangermuffin; 7 p.m. – Sol Driven Train; 9 p.m. – Yarn.

• Sunday, Sept. 1: Noon –  Sol Driven Train kids show/floating parade; 1 p.m – Lyric; 3 p.m. – Reggie Sullivan Band; 5 p.m. – Sol Driven Train.

According to Moses, Sol Slam Mountain Jam has become a Labor Day tradition.

“Our mission is to be the best end of summer music festival in the region while celebrating music and life in an intimate, naturally stunning environment, Moses said. “Ticket quantities will be limited to promote the highest quality event experience.”

If you are interested in purchasing tickets, listening to samples from the bands, or finding out more please follow USA Raft on Facebook. You can also check Moses and USA Raft on Amazon Prime’s hit Outdoor series Air, Water, Or Land (AWOL).