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Yep Roc record label celebrates 20 years of artistic independence

Yep Roc
The Stray Birds, based in Nashville, TN, performed at River Park during Yep Roc 20.

With 20 years under its belt, the Yep Roc record label showed everyone that it’s learned a thing or two about throwing parties. To celebrate its birthday, the label hosted a weekend of star-studded lineups at Cat’s Cradle and an equally star-studded free celebration at Hillsborough’s River Park. 

Yep Roc Records was founded by Glenn Dicker and Tor Hansen in 1997, and the pair celebrated their 15th anniversary in a similarly grand fashion in 2012. So, it comes as no surprise that the #YR20 went above and beyond expectations. 

Yep Roc calls itself “the artist-driven label that refuses to be labeled,” a denotation that is only reinforced by the fans who happily took in the unique sonic offerings of this past weekend. 

Saturday’s celebration in Hillsborough’s River Park was headlined by Chapel Hill’s very own  Mandolin Orange. The music started at about noon and did not stop until just shy of 6 p.m., with performances by Kim Richey, Tony Joe White, Jim Lauderdale and The Stray Birds

With sunny skies, a warm breeze and food trucks abound, River Park became the perfect backdrop for the family-friendly concert. 

“The only thing I’m missing is a chair,” said Diane Bloom, a professor at UNC. 

“This magnolia tree is doing just fine,” added her husband Doug Frederick, a forestry professor at North Carolina State University. 

“There are so many people in the music industry here, and many specifically in recording and broadcast, so it feels very intimate,” said Cosette Singh of Raleigh. “We were in town and don’t get to Hillsborough very often, but we heard about the free show during a WUNC broadcast, and thankfully it has been a lovely day.” 

Maya de Vitry of The Stray Birds performs at Yep Roc 20.

The Stray Birds, a band from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, by way of Nashville, Tennessee, found their passage onto Yep Roc to be quite a natural one. 

“We knew Yep Roc was a significant player in the world of roots music and consistently saw them do very creative things,” said Maya de Vitry, singer for The Stray Birds. “We were playing a lot of folk and bluegrass festivals, but it just wasn’t cutting it. We didn’t want to be confined or limited, and so we saw Yep Roc — a truly independent label focused on music and artists and community — as a great fit. There is no set genre or focus for the label, so we get to be very flexible in what we do.” 

The Stray Birds became a part of the Yep Roc family in 2014, a couple years after the label's 15th anniversary. De Vitry said they were glad to perform at the event.

“This show is a great model for any community-conscious business,” de Vitry said. “And getting to see artists like Nick Lowe and Los Straitjackets perform has made this weekend great for me. There are so many artists that we feel connected to through the label and I am excited to get the chance to see them this weekend.”

Limited edition test-pressings of Yep Roc artists were available for silent auction during the event, with proceeds benefiting four local nonprofits: Girls Rock NC, Activate Good, WHUP-FM and the Be Loud! Sophie Foundation

Hillsborough’s own Mystery Brewing Co. also created a limited edition India Pale Ale for the weekend. They released the IPA in four special, collectible cans — one of which featured the faces of Emily Frantz and Andrew Marlin, aka Mandolin Orange.

“This is the first time I’ve gotten to drink a beer on stage with my face on it,” said Frantz, laughing in between songs and passing the beer to Marlin. “Twenty years as an independent label is truly an incredible feat.”


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