The accidental festival: An oral history of Phuzz Phest

Phuzz Phest organizer Philip Pledger (center) with Estrangers (photo by Allysen Mahaffey)

by Brian Clarey, Eric Ginsburg and Jordan Green

Phuzz Phest happened by accident.

In the fall of 2011, Winston-Salem promoters and musicians Philip Pledger and Anthony Petrovic had both booked multi-act shows for the same weekend. Knowing they drew from the same audience, and because they were friends, they struck a deal to collaborate.

Over the years, hundreds of people — artists, venue owners, bartenders, sound engineers, merch hustlers and the fans themselves —have contributed to make Phuzz what it is, and what it is becoming.

We’ve collected the stories and memories of some of the principals of the operation, a venue owner and an artist, knowing full well that this is just part of the story. And that much of it is still being written.

Philip Pledger, founder and driving force behind Phuzz Phest:

Philip Pledger
Philip Pledger

I was booking shows at Krankies at the time, and I had booked a Thursday and a Friday, I think. And then Anthony had booked Wednesday and Saturday. Or vise versa. But somehow it just came together that there were four nights. And we just called each other and basically decided instead of trying to market it all individually we could just call it a festival. So yeah, at that point… [there were] no real resources, it was just kind of an organic solution to a problem. And so we didn’t have very many expectations, but people responded really well. We had two or three hundred people come out, and that’s kind of what gave us the idea that we could put more energy into it.

Anthony Petrovic, co-founder:

The first year Philip had a show put together and I had a show that I needed to put on with a touring group. It just fell the day before the fest so we turned it into a Phuzz Phest free show. The show was at Elliott’s Revue, so it was a number of years ago.

That first year there were a few kids that moved up to New York, and it was kind of a way of getting them to come and play, and get some other local stuff around them. [It was] a way smaller scale, just like a big party-style thing.


At the time, Elliott’s Revue was still intact. I think it was actually one of the last Elliott’s shows. Maybe not. So we did shows there, and it was awesome. That’s been one of the things that is cool about the festival is to kind of watch the evolution of some of the spaces. You know, Elliott’s closed over the past five years, and it turned into a thrift shop. And then it turned into a tiki bar. And now it’s turned into a new bar/venue space [the Test Pattern].

Shanthony Exum, aka Miss Eaves,
played the first Phuzz Phest and again in 2014, later moved to New York:

The first Phuzz Phest was really cool. It was a bunch of friends from Greensboro and Winston who had been gigging together already playing en mass on the same weekend. I really loved the local love and local vibes of the first one and it was nice that there was only one venue per day so you could see all of your friends play.


It was all super cheap. It was all really local bands or bands that were coming through already. There were, like, no big names, you know. It was some smaller local shows, so I think it was like $5 to $8 for each show back then.

Saylor Breckenridge, who got involved after the first year and is now the assistant director for the festival:

Most people I knew here in town who were part of the music community did go because it was sort of a coincidental series of events where a lot of bands were playing in town the same weekend. It turned into a spectacularly successful event.

I went as a fan, and I have been going to shows here in Winston-Salem since I moved here in 2001. It was clear that there were a lot of bands playing here this weekend. I’m sure I was particularly excited to see Drag Sounds who were then and continue to be a stunningly good garage rock band.


I think that it was so fun and successful that we thought, Okay, if we get some sponsors behind this we might be able to bring some crazy stuff to town.