Heavy Rebel Weekender is like five events packed into one.
The annual festival landed in downtown Winston-Salem this past weekend, commandeering several blocks. Branded this year as the Downtown Getdown, the event featured many of the usual HRW staples: a car show, live performances from local bands featuring rockabilly to punk and everything in between, vendors from the community and, later in the evening, a burlesque show at the Wiggle Room for those over 21 years of age.
Young parents walking down the street passed biker gangs without a second glance. As the sun shone and the temperature climbed, an increasingly eclectic group of people came together to bask in the spirit of Heavy Rebel, which seemed to be about celebrating for celebration’s sake.
When asked about the car show, Dave Quick, the organizer of Heavy Rebel Weekender, seemed to drive the point home. Why not a car show if that’s what people enjoy?
“We’ve done a car show every year since 2001,” said Quick. “It’s just our tradition. We always had a car show on Saturday. We weren’t able to do it last year, but a car show is automatically distanced, if you’re worried. Everybody likes a car show.”
After last year’s cancellation, regular attendees say the event is smaller than it has been in years past, though still packed. Organizers said they didn’t know whether they would be able to host Heavy Rebel Weekender this year until much later than they would normally announce it to the public.
“I was just glad to see everyone having a good time,” said Quick, whose band Snake River Canyon also played at the event.
Because of the delay, many regular attendees were not sure if it would happen at all. Some, like vendor Rachel Scott, were thrilled when they at last learned it was officially happening this year.
“It’s a better turnout than I thought it would be honestly,” said Scott, who along with her partner, Andrew Pino, sold handmade leather products as part of the Not OK Corral. Both of them wore black leather vests themselves.
Their store sells everything from knife sheaths and gun holsters to bondage items like spiked bras, chokers and harnesses. They make belts, bags and wallets. All sorts of passersby, from drunken leather-clad friends to families with young children stopped to examine the display as they spoke with Scott and Pino.
They’ve been a part of the event in the past, both as part of bands and in the car show.
“It was more last-minute compared to past years, but it’s a good turnout,” said Pino.
The car show itself, the central event, spanned several blocks and blocked off several streets. There were cars that seemed to come straight from a black-and-white film from the 1920s, several painted neon colors like blue or yellow and others still with sculls or flame prints. A few cars had open doors so event attendees could check out the insides.
A few blocks down from the vendors, Poppa T Lineberry, a Winston-Salem musician, brought his brown 1941 GMC to the car show. The front opened so that HRW-ers could see the mechanics under the hood.
Lineberry is another veteran of Heavy Rebel Weekender, and a musician himself.
“It’s lots of fun with the music,” he said. “It’s just a place to be in Winston-Salem.”
Even down by Lineberry’s GMC, attendees could hear the live music from a rotation of bands back behind the Millennium Center. Ben Noblet from Tan and Sober Gentleman, one of the bands from this year’s lineup, says his group has played for Heavy Rebel Weekender before, including at last year’s smaller, virtual event.
Still, like the rest of the bands, Tan and Sober Gentleman had not played many in-person gigs since the pandemic hit in March 2020.
“We started playing again in mid-May, so it’s been about six weeks,” said Noblet. “It’s good to be back, don’t get me wrong. There’s no better way to kick it off than Heavy Rebel. It feels like we found our people; it’s all the roughest people with the best of intentions.”
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