Rhythm & Roots Festival Headliners Announced!
Ninigret Park Charlestown RI AUG 30 – SEP 1
The 22nd annual Rhythm & Roots Festival will feature returning fan favorite The Mavericks on Saturday, Aug 31, acoustic rockers Railroad Earth on Sunday, Sept 1, and the alt-country band Son Volt on Friday, Aug 30.
The festival is an annual gumbo of music, dancing, camping, food and fun. It rolls into Ninigret Park in this small, seaside town over Labor Day weekend, drawing thousands of families for the relaxing, friendly vibe and three full days of authentic roots music.
More than two dozen bands will play a spicy mix of music that challenges any attempt at categorization. You’ll find Zydeco, blues, bluegrass and Cajun, but most bands are a combination of these, or a completely distinctive sound that’s all their own. The Mavericks, for one example, are described as a fusion of Cuban, country, Tex-Mex, alternative and boogie. Railroad Earth plays rock music on acoustic instruments and Son Volt’s latest tunes bring together folk, blues and politics. Each band is known for their energetic, powerful and passionate live shows.
It’s this endless variety that is expected to attract more than 5,000 music and dance lovers each day. Gates open at noon, with performances running every day from 1 p.m. to midnight on four stages. Buy tickets at rhythmandroots.com.
Independent producer Chuck Wentworth, whose family runs the festival, scouts the bands and makes the selections. He’s particularly excited about a handful of bands this year:
“New and different” for Rhythm & Roots is the string trio Hot Club Cowtown and Dustbowl Revival, an eight-piece Americana band, Wentworth says. The bands will join up in an homage to The Band’s first two albums, Music from Big Pink and The Band, released 50 years ago.
Peter Rowan and Free Mexican Airforce with Los Texmaniacs is a conglomeration of three bands. “Peter Rowan has a great following,” Wentworth says. “He’s played with Jerry Garcia and David Grisman, and he’s put out albums with Free Mexican Airforce. Los Texmaniacs – who’ve been here before but not in this role – bring an authentic Tex – Mex feel.”
Hat Fitz & Cara, who performed at Rhythm & Roots a few years ago, are returning from Australia. The married blues duo has an amazing stage presence, Wentworth says. “They were here once, and people are still talking about it years later.”
Chubby Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Band, a Grammy-winning Zydeco band, is making its debut appearance at Rhythm & Roots. “I heard them in Louisiana in October, and decided we definitely wanted to bring them up here. They’ve got great energy, great song selection and they’re great to dance to.”
Other bands making a first appearance at Rhythm & Roots include Victor Wainwright and the Train, who earned a Grammy nomination for best contemporary blues album, and The Travelin’ McCourys, who won the Grammy for best bluegrass album in 2018. Also check out Nashville-based string band Della Mae, comprised of some of the finest players in bluegrass, Americana and beyond. First timers Erin Harpe and the Delta Swingers bring their award winning Delta Blues to the festival for their first appearance among a summer of festival plays for them all over the US.
Popular returnees are BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet, who haven’t been to the festival in about 10 years. Every other year brings popular Marcia Ball back to the festival, and vocalist Sarah Potenza is back too. The Pine Leaf Boys will entertain with their rockin’ brand of Cajun dance music, and Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys and The Knickerbocker All-Stars also return. Artists-in-residence are fiddler David Greely, blues guitarist Johnny Nicholas, and Creole musicians Ed Poullard on fiddle and Preston Frank on accordion.
The entire production is put together by the Wentworth family’s Lagniappe Productions. Small, family-run independent music festivals are rare, as it’s difficult to compete with huge event companies with equally huge budgets. Wentworth’s wife, Debbie, three children, numerous in-laws and some of his grandchildren pitch in throughout the year and work mightily during the festival, covering everything from finances to standing by as go-fer and responder to last-minute needs.
The festival requires an extended Wentworth family – the 300 or more volunteers to keep it running smoothly and true to its friendly, all-ages vibe that brings families back year after year. Kids under 12 get into the festival free, teenagers are half price, and a no-cost Rhythm & Roots Youth Music Camp is available to children in the community who want to learn to play fiddle, accordion, guitar, bass and mandolin.
One of the four stages, the Family Stage, features music, dance, storytelling, crafts and nighttime movies. The Roots Stage is a small, intimate setting with musicians offering four workshops a day and extended jams. The Dance Stage is 4,400 square feet of dance floor that draws in dancers from around the country. The Rhythm Stage is the place for the headliners, and listeners can lounge on lawn chairs and blankets and take in the scene, enjoy a huge variety of food and drink, or a stroll through the string of artisans selling their homemade crafts.
About 1,500 of the festival attendees will camp the entire weekend at Ninigret Park, which covers 200 acres for swimming, hiking, biking and bird-watching for 250 species that make the park home. A playground, tennis and basketball and public beach are available too. Ninigret National Wildlife Refuge has four miles of hiking trails and excellent views of Ninigret Pond, the largest coastal salt pond in Rhode Island.
Rhythm & Roots supports VSA Arts, which provides opportunities for those with disabilities to participate in the arts, and partners with the Tomaquag Museum in Exeter to build awareness of Rhode Island’s Native American culture.
Festival hours are:
Friday, Saturday and Sunday
12 p.m. to midnight.
Music begins at 1 p.m. each day.