Ninigret Park Charlestown, RI September 01 2023

Rhythm and Roots festival Ninigret Park Charlestown, RI September 01-03 2023

We sailed down south through the center of the Commonwealth, drifting slightly westward. We were shooting for that spot where Massachusetts becomes Connecticut, and then quickly becomes RI. We were guiding the bus down roads I’d never traveled, through Webster MA, onto Oxford, and then dipped into Rhode Island and got all the way down to route one, and you could smell the sea air. We were arriving and it still didn’t seem like there was a big festival nearby and then we hit the gates and we were inside, literally no traffic.

We pulled in for our first glimpses of the Rhythm in Roots festival, the twenty fifth annual edition. This was our first time, and we could tell immediately that we were in the company of veterans of this event. We talked to one cat who was attending for the first time in fifteeen years, and his companion who had been coming every year for decades. We talked to people who flew in from Florida and Texas in the first hour we were there. We settled in pretty easily despite the presence of a sea of RVs and tents and SUVs in the camping area.

Entering the festival grounds proper from the camping area was a pretty easy walk for us from where we luckily landed, though you could tell that others were on semi-long hikes to get inside from their camping spots. We took a glimpse of the main concert field where Tuba Skinny were well within their set. We didn’t get a chance to see The Mighty Soul Drivers but we did hear them a little as we were pulling in and parking. Tuba Skinny was a great Dixie jazz band replete with banjo, guitar, clarinet and horns. This is the type of jazz you would expect to see in New Orleans at Fritzel’s, rather than a Blue Note jazz band, and Tuba Skinny were super fun!

Last four songs of Tuba Skinny audio is below, use the arrows to toggle between songs:

But they would have to wait for us, as we were drawn toward the food vending area as it was past my normal dining time. There’s a nice array of choices from New England chowder which was the choice of my lady, and she also got an order of dumplings from a totally different booth. I chose a half roasted chicken with mashed potatoes, gravy and cole slaw- all of which were excellent. It wasn’t cheap but it wasn’t crazy expensive either, and the quality made it totally worth it.

We listened to Tuba Skinny while dining though I will have to see them again sometime to really get the full experience. It wasn’t until Dustbowl Revival got cooking that we really got into our musical immersion fully. I had recently seen some Dustbowl Revival at a theater play, but this big festival field and thousands of revelers seemed to inspire the band to wholly new heights. Full of energy, throaty and soaring vocals, tastefully blaring horns, and a rock solid rhythm section this band was soaking it up and giving it back. At one point a half dozen additional horn players appeared and a cacophonous symphony of joy and merriment burst forth. A Beatles cover (O Darling), several aspirational lyrical journeys, some honey dipped bluesy vocals, all combined for a great set.

We explored the craft vendors a bit and hooked up with some friends from other festivals. While everybody was socializing New Orleans exports Dumpstaphunk were showing why they think that New Orleans is the great place on earth. They funked it up! Tight grooves and high spirits eminated from the band and they turned coastal Rhode Island into Bourbon Street and the Bayou. One song after another was a funky Cajun treat. “New Orleans, the greatest place on earth. The greatest place I know.” Dumpstaphunk was making Charlestown RI the greatest place on earth on the very first night of this whole weekend festival.

Ivan Neville on keyboards was leading his band that included John Michael Bradford on the trumpet, Alex Wassili on the trombone, Nick Ganyers III on bass and vocals, Ian Neville on guitar, Devon Trusquare on drums and vocals, and Tony Hall on guitar, bass and vocals. They finished with a medley of Parliament songs, to cap off a great set, high times.

We gathered up our stuff and wandered over to the dance tent. This huge tent had reveleres but wasn’t as packed as I had expected. Corey Ledet and his Zydeco band were on stage, keeping the energy high. The bass player was not messing around, and was laying down an absolute foundational sound that drove this Cajun crew. Corey Ledet was whipping up the dance floor with fun loving singing, and his signature accordion. Banging drums, wailing guitar, and two different dudes playing the cajun washboards. Spirits were soaring.

Shortly after 11 P his set ended and the crowd vacated the main field and we wandered into the campground.

On our trip back it seemed as if there as a small stage being set up in the campground but we opted to head to the bus. We want to make sure to have plenty of energy for what looks to be an amazing weekend

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