The 16th Annual Rhythm and Roots Music Festival is bringing dozens of national musical talents, dancing, food and family events to Ninigret Park in Charlestown on Labor Day Weekend. This annual family-friendly festival has historically attracted people from 24 states and typically sees 10,000 music fans in a setting that includes several tandem performance stages, Cajun and Zydeco dance workshops and family activities set within what can only be described as an impromptu town in the park.
During the festival, Ninigret Park becomes transformed into a colorful arts and musical celebration for all ages, complete with regional food vendors, shopping, camping and children’s and teen’s activities. The state park possesses dozens of acres of natural beauty, a swimming pond, state of the art playground, picnic tables and camping is nearby the town centers of Charlestown and Westerly. Festival attendees approach the event like a homecoming, and while there one mingles with campers and a great number of day visitors who enjoy the celebratory atmosphere, music, food and more. Workshops and dance instruction are included with purchase of a day’s festival pass, which means the cost of a ticket includes much more than just concerts.... although it has those by the dozen.
The full-bodied lineup of iconic and upcoming musicians includes national acts that are known for their excellence in Cajun, Zyedeco, Blues, New Orleans R&B, swing, Americana and folk genres. The musical styles are contemporary and varied, yet have all sprung from distinctly American forms of music. At Rhythm & Roots you can hear innovative “takes” on the traditional American music that also served to sprout the genres of rock and roll and jazz. Coming to the festival means receiving an auditory experience of living musical history, with a rhythmic, spirit-rousing quality that attracts young and old fans alike.
This year the Rhythm and Roots Festival features a gulf coast theme (also known within musical circles as the “third coast”). Over 25 bands will be coming on a “Rhode trip” from cities like Fayetteville, Austin, New Orleans, San Antonio, Los Angeles and Memphis, to name just few.
Festival producer Chuck Wentworth says that the Friday night lineup is meant to showcase new talents to the festival, by featuring vibrantly dynamic artists that have been lauded as groundbreaking talents in American music. Phoebe Hunt, Yvette Landry, Cedric Watson and Holly Williams (granddaughter of Hank Williams Sr.) will be lighting up the festival stages from noon until midnight Saturday. The Heritage stage performances will also be serving as a toast to the upcoming youth in the genre and will include a musical celebration in honor of Brown Bird. This Rhode Island-based duo will be celebrating their upcoming nuptials by topping the lineup of bright, young bands in American roots music.
The Saturday night musical program is a further unfolding of the “Third Coast Vibe,” with Carolina Chocolate Drops, Della Mae, Marcia Ball, Steve Earle and the Dukes & Duchesses providing highly-anticipated performances on two stages. Perennial favorites, Steve Riley and Mamou Playboys – who incidentally will also be celebrating their 25th anniversary – will be rousing the audience with many surprise guests as they thrill the main stage on Saturday.
Taj Mahal, a roots music icon, will be headlining the Sunday night lineup, which is has been dubbed “living legends day” by Wentworth. “Taj has been sought after from day one, and this year he will be kicking off a celebration that culminates Sunday night with Jim Kweskin Jug Band’s 50th Anniversary Reunion Tour. Jim Kweskin, joined by with Maria Muldaur, Geoff Muldaur and Bill Keith will be having their only east coast appearance right here.” Other notable acts Sunday include Jason Will, often called the “second coming of Jerry Lee Lewis” by his piano expertise and energetic playing style. “Will may be the surprise hit of the fest,” Wentworth says.