Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion 2012

State Street is the main shopping street in Bristol. The Tennessee-Virginia state line runs right down the middle of the State Street allowing visitors to have one foot simultaneously in each state, each a hot bed of musical creativity from our country's earliest days to today. Each year Bristol seeks to offer music lovers a feast of that music in mid-September, offering a rich variety of musical genres from the two states and far beyond. The result is an exciting experience which combines elements of a street fair, major performance stages, coffee houses, bars, and stores all offering performers from solo singer/songwriters to world famed musical performers as Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion. As the home of the original recordings of country music in America, Bristol is uniquely well-suited to provide such a musical feast. We came up to spend Sunday, reportedly a more laid back and relaxed day, but Rhythm & Roots is a three day extravaganza featuring hundreds of performers while attracting tens of thousands of festival goers. Here's our impressions.

Vendors the Length of State Street

Plenty of Very Friendly Security

Plenty of Clean, Well-Positioned Facilities

A Variety of Indoor and Outdoor Venues

ETSU Bluegrass Band at the Paramount

Kids' Art Work at the Eatz More Stage
Boy and Girls Club of Bristol
Balsam Range at Eatz and More

 Darren Nicholson

Tim Surett

Mark Pruett

Buddy Melton

Caleb Smith

New & Vintage Recordings at Session 27

Singer/Songwriter Gail Wade at The Grind House

Emecee and Fan Kim Cyr

The State Street Stage

Della Mae at Machievelli's Outdoor

Celia Woodsmith

Kimber Ludiker

Jenni Lyn Gardner

Courtney Hartman

 Shelby Means

Dale Ann Bradley at the Country Mural Stage

 Dale Ann Bradley

 Steve Gulley

Mike Sumner

Bryan Turner
Brandon Godman

 Greg Hodge

Dale Ann Bradley & Steve Gulley

Balsam Range at the Country Mural Stage

The Country Mural & Crowd

Buddy Melton & Daughter


The Gibson Brothers at The Country Mural Stage

Eric Gibson

Leigh Gibson & Mike Barber

 Clayton Campbell

Joe Walsh

The Gibson Brothers Meet the Gibson Brothers
For our first visit to Rhythm & Roots, we chose to try to get the lay of the land, scope out the scene, and see performances by bands we are familiar with and like. The event, however, provides more than ample opportunities to sample new groups you're unfamiliar with as well as to eat at a huge variety of festival vendors and local restaurants, and to shop at specialized vendors and attractive small shops along State Street. Food and drink from the vendors are marvelously varied and well priced.  We understand crowds can be considerable and arriving early for performances by popular bands is recommended if you wish to get one of the seats provided by the festival. We carried bag chairs with us, and used them, although they weren't completely necessary.  There's plenty of free parking a block or two away from State Street, but we imagine it gets pretty crowded for people not arriving early. There are shuttle buses provided from more remote lots and accommodations.There are twenty-four stages, large and small, within walking distance in a five or six block area.

Kimber Ludiker of Della Mae

Rhythm & Roots is held in a distinctly small city environment. There's lots of action. Alcohol is served. There's plenty of friendly and helpful security, and I'm sure they keep a light but effective hand on people who act out inappropriately.  We had a good time and are likely to return for Sunday again next year. Larry Gorley, Chairman of the Board, and Carl Cooler were thoughtful hosts filled with information for us, and we thank them.  Rhythm and Roots has a similar Americana lineup to Merlefest, held relatively  nearby in the Spring, at half the price. It manages to maintain a controlled environment without while treating attendees like adults and expecting them to behave as such.