Held each year at beautiful Ninigret Park in the oceanside community of Charlestown, R.I. and drawing approximately 10,000 people over the course of the weekend, the popular Rhythm & Roots Festival returns for its 15th year with another sizzling lineup, hitting a wide spectrum of roots music from blues and Americana to Zydeco and Cajun, to New Orleans R&B, swing and more. While some look at Labor Day weekend as the end of the summer, thousands in the Northeast and beyond look forward to enjoying the great music in a festive mardi gras type setting with gourmet food and drink, and a variety of family activities.
Selected among the Top 100 Events in North America by the American Bus Association, the festival continues to bring in new devotees each year who attend as much for the whole experience with camping and dancing, as for the always top notch lineup with the best in roots music on four stages.
The 15th anniversary bash has some special events this year. The Workshop Stage will be replaced by the Heritage Stage. Bigger in size to accommodate more attendees, this area will still have the popular workshops during the day on Saturday and Sunday, as well as newly added special evening performances with three full sets each night by the likes of the (back by popular demand) Sarah & the Tall Boys, Paul Cebar Tomorrow Sound, The Duhks and the newly added New Orleans Suspects, a Louisiana super group with former members of the Neville Brothers, James Brown's band, The Radiators and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band.
The Family Stage will continue to have a variety of fun kids' activities with storytelling, face painting, magic, mardi gras mask making and more. The popular Dance Tent will be moved further back so that it faces away from the Main Stage, allowing for more separation between the two areas; and will continue to have top notch Zydeco and Cajun artists, this year including Geno Delafose & French Rockin' Boogie, Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys and Andre Thierry & Zydeco Magic.
Perennial favorite Donna the Buffalo returns to headline the main Festival Stage on Friday this year with their diverse and socially conscious mix of rock, folk, reggae, country, Cajun and Zydeco.
Gracing the Rhythm & Roots stage for the first time this year is Saturday's headliner, Hugh Laurie & the Copper Bottom Band. Laurie, most known as the TV actor from the Fox series, House, has been touring with his band in Europe and now hits the U.S. touring behind their debut CD, Let Them Talk, a celebration of New Orleans blues. Also on Saturday, Rhythm & Roots welcomes the Carolina Chocolate Drops whose new album, Leaving Eden, has been climbing the Americana chart.
Sunday boasts the festival debut of Grammy-winning "folkabilly queen" Nanci Griffith, who will also be featured in one of the intimate workshops and has just released her 20th album, and David Bromberg with his entire Big Band. Festival favorite and native Rhode Islander Johnny Nicholas, who will perform on Saturday with his band Hellbent, will also perform on Sunday with Golden Triangle, a trio born out of the festival workshop collaboration one year of Johnny and David Greely, along with Sam Broussard of the Mamou Playboys. They have just released their debut CD, Swamp Blues.
Camping is expected to sell out. Free instrument instruction for kids 8 to 17 years old is available in the Kids Cajun Academy. Advance signup on the website is required. Parking is free and there is a swimming area and kiddie park on site at Ninigret Park. A schedule of all performances will be posted on the website.
The Rhythm & Roots Festival will be held from Aug. 31 to Sept. 2 at Ninigret Park, 4890A Old Post Rd, Charlestown. It will be held from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m. on Friday and from 12 p.m. to 12 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets range from $25 to $175; children 12 and under are free. For more information, visit www.rhythmandroots.com, or call 888-855-6940.