Long Running Rhythm & Roots Festival Comes of Age in Rhode Island
After 35 years of co-producing festivals, Charles Wentworth parted with his long time co-producer, and went solo to produce the 18th Annual Rhythm and Roots Festival held at Ninigret Park in Charlestown, Rhode Island.
And it showed in the lineup. Wentworth has long been known as an “artists” producer, shunning the celebrity-style visibility other promoters chase, instead choosing to spend his time and budget bringing in higher level acts and treating them well. And, this approach has served him. So has the ongoing, wide geographic search for emerging talent. Every year, new acts are introduced to a discerning festival audience, and cross-pollinate with established artists, making the festival a veritable roots music melting pot.
A number of acts Wentworth “broke” earlier in their careers, come back long after they’ve made it, out of loyalty, and perhaps to enjoy the jubilant reception they are guaranteed to receive. Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys is one such act who has grown in stature and recognition (garnering Grammy noms and wins over the years). And Sarah Potenza, a Rhode-Island-Chicago-to- Nashville transplant and recent (fierce) “The Voice” competitor.
Campers and artists loaded in Friday, and evening performances were kicked off by Miss Tess, Eilen Jewell and included a highly lauded performance by Lake Street Dive that featured powerful and emotional vocals by Rachael Price. Visitors on Saturday experienced three performance stages running full throttle, with a main stage headlining The Mavericks, Los Lobos and The Royal Southern Brotherhood. Second line bands and guest artists dropped in constantly creating a celebratory environment under starry skies, and a family tent served up movies and activities to festivarians of a younger age.
When asked how he defines “roots music,” Wentworth says it can be anything from “Americana to Zydeco with strains of everything in between.” But this is not to say, that there is not a coherent, authentic strain that runs through the entire event. Wentworth goes on to say, that roots music has a quality that “you can feel in the artists playing. That kind of music makes you want to move your feet, because it comes from a place of joy deep inside.”
The festival enjoyed a full crowd (over 10,000 visitors enjoyed the festival over Friday, Saturday and Sunday) in part due to perfect New England coastal weather and a well-crafted and compelling schedule. Dancers were elbow to elbow in front of the main stage, and there was”just the right amount” of space around the Cajun and Zydeco fans who utilized the smooth-floored dance tent. The only grumble we heard all weekend was from campers who wanted more visitors at festival off-hours, a challenge because of ticketed-only access to the camping area. For three days of incredible talent, the finest festival food and good vibes, this seemed a small price to pay, and we venture that more people will utilize the campground village in future years.
We look forward to hearing the talent Wentworth continues to uncover, and to enjoying his endeavors for years to come.
Festival information: www.rhythmandroots.com