Let’s be honest: The barbecue is little more than a delicious afterthought of the annual Barbecue and Bluegrass Festival at Boone Hall Plantation. There’s an intense amateur ’cue cook-off, plenty of the stuff for sale, and folks line up to buy plates sagging with pulled pork, slaw, and beans. But the main attraction is the music.

A huge crowd — surprisingly huge — spread out on blankets and in chairs in front of the big stage on the plantation grounds, enjoying a Sunday’s worth of pickin’ this weekend. The crowd ran the gamut from beer-swilling music fest regulars to families to old timers looking like they’d just stepped off the train from Appalachee.

Case in point, the overalls-wearing gentleman hopping around to the music of the Carolina Chocolate Drops. For me at least (and apparently quite a few others), this trio was the main reason to visit the festival. From the back of the crowd, where you couldn’t even see the stage, they sounded like any other authentic bluegrass band. But once we got a little closer, we saw that they’re quite young, and they’re also one of the only African-American old-timey string bands in existence.

Justin Robinson, who throughout their set played everything from the fiddle to the jug to the beatbox, looked like Bloc Party’s lead singer, in skinny jeans and bright high tops. Dom Flemons, dressed the part in suspenders and corduroys, played the banjo and various percussion instruments with a huge smile plastered on his face. Rhiannon Giddens played fiddle and banjo as well, occasionally jumping up to dance to the side of the stage, her denim skirt twirling to the music. A tight schedule and Ricky Skaggs’ upcoming performance made a widely-requested encore impossible, but lucky for us, the Carolina Chocolate Drops will be back in town in January. Keep your eye on Music + Clubs for more info.

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