THROUGH THE LENS: The Wide, Wide World of 2021 Roots Music Festivals
Billy Strings - Americana Music Association 2021 Artist of the Year Nominee - Photo by Rick Davidson
Last year was a wash for music festivals everywhere, but with the floodgates opening we’ll soon be able to see the familiar folks we clamor for and make those new, memorable discoveries once again. Beginning this weekend and concluding in October, from New York’s Finger Lakes to Australia, what follows is a chronological listing of just 30 of the many roots music festivals that 2021 has to offer. This column has previously reported on many of them and is planning on featuring more again this year.
So check your calendars and plan to go out and hear some live music, be it with the sun shining or under the stars, wherever your flying shoes take you. Safely, of course. Check each festival’s website for their specific COVID-19 safety protocols, along with lineup announcements and any changes.
Telluride Bluegrass Festival (https://bluegrass.com/telluride), Telluride, CO, June 11-13 and 17-20. Two weekends, reduced capacity of 2,500 people per day, and everyone will be socially distanced in corrals of 10. Headliners: Emmylou Harris, and Mavis Staples. Not to miss: Richie & Rosie, Hawktail.
Jackalope Jamboree (https://www.jackalopejamboree.com), Pendleton, OR, June 25-26. Headliner: Shooter Jennings. Not to miss: Sierra Ferrell.
High Sierra Music Festival (https://highsierramusic.com), Quincy, CA, June 30-July 3. Lineup not yet announced.
Waterfront Blues Festival (http://www.waterfrontbluesfest.com), Portland, OR, July 2-5. Headliners: Samantha Fish and Marc Broussard. Not to miss: Northwest Women in Rhythm & Blues, Outer Orbit.
Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic (https://www.williepicnic.com), Luck, TX, July 4. Headliners: Willie Nelson, Margo Price, Steve Earle, and Sheryl Crow. Not to miss: Charley Crockett, John Doe, Kinky Friedman.
Under the Big Sky Festival (https://www.underthebigskyfest.com), Whitefish, MT, July 17-18. Headliners: Jason Isbell, Tyler Childers, and Emmylou Harris. Not to miss: Lucinda Williams, Orville Peck, Whitney Rose.
FloydFest (https://floydfest.com), Floyd, VA, July 21-25. Headliners: The Avett Brothers and Old Crow Medicine Show. Not to miss: Turkuaz with Jerry Harrison & Adrian Belew: Remain in Light, Billy Strings.
Red Ants Pants Music Festival (https://redantspantsmusicfestival.com), White Sulphur Springs, MT, July 22-25. Headliners: Taj Mahal and The Mavericks. Not to miss: Martha Scanlan & Jon Neufeld, Jeffrey Foucault.
Donna the Buffalo’s Grass Roots Festival Weekend (https://www.grassrootsfest.org/7232521-donna-the-buffalos-grassroots-festival-weekend), Trumansberg, NY, July 23-25. Pod-based, socially distanced, limited capacity. Headliners: Donna the Buffalo and The Campbell Brothers. Not to miss: Feufollet and Richie & Rosie.
Newport Folk Festival (https://newportfolk.org), Newport, RI, July 23-25 and July 26-28. Lineup not yet announced.
Newport Jazz Festival (https://www.newportjazz.org), Newport, RI, July 30-Aug. 1. Headliners: Wynton Marsalis and Charles Lloyd. Not to miss: Yola, Catherine Russell.
Hinterland Music Festival (https://www.hinterlandiowa.com), St. Charles, IA, Aug. 6-8. Headliners: The Avett Brothers, Tyler Childers, and Leon Bridges. Not to miss: Orville Peck, Black Pumas, Yola.
Blue Ox Music Festival (https://www.blueoxmusicfestival.com), Eau Claire, WI, Aug. 19-21. Headliners: Jason Isbell and The Infamous Stringdusters. Not to miss: Molly Tuttle, Lillie Mae, Charlie Parr.
Philadelphia Folk Festival (https://folkfest.org), Upper Salford Township, PA, Aug, 21-22. Two options: 1,000 paid attendees per day and virtual. Lineup not yet announced.
Railbird Festival (https://www.railbirdfest.com), Lexington, KY, Aug. 28-29. Headliners: My Morning Jacket, Jason Isbell, and Dave Matthews Band. Not to miss: Billy Strings, Sierra Ferrell, Joy Oladokun, Sarah Jarosz.
Bonnaroo Music Festival (https://www.bonnaroo.com), Manchester, TN, Sept. 2-5. Headliners: Foo Fighters, Lizzo, and Tyler, the Creator. Not to miss: Orville Peck, Waxahatchee, Bill Frisell.
Rhythm & Roots (https://rhythmandroots.com), Charlestown, RI, Sept. 3-5. Headliners: Rhiannon Giddens and Francesco Turrisi, John Hiatt, and Richard Thompson. Not to miss: Ranky Tanky, Richie & Rosie, Dirk Powell.
Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival (https://delawarevalleybluegrass.org), Woodstown, NJ, Sept. 3-5. Headliners: Del McCoury and Rhonda Vincent. Not to miss: Sister Sadie, Tatiana Hargreaves & Allison DeGroot.
Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion (https://www.birthplaceofcountrymusic.org/festival/), Bristol VA-TN, Sept. 10-12. Headliners: Jason Isbell, Yola, and Tanya Tucker. Not to miss: Amythyst Kiah, Kelsey Waldon, Sierra Ferrell.
MerleFest (https://merlefest.org), North Wilkesboro, NC, Sept. 16-19. Headliners: Sturgill Simpson, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Mavis Staples, and Melissa Etheridge. Not to miss: Yasmin Williams, Amythyst Kiah.
Ojai Music Festival (https://www.ojaifestival.org), Ojai, CA, Sept. 16-19. Headliners: John Adams and Rhiannon Giddens. Not to miss: Emily Levin, Miranda Cuckson.
XPoNential Music Festival (https://xpnfest.org), Philadelphia, PA, Sept. 17-19. Headliners: Dawes, Los Lobos, and Ani DiFranco. Not to miss: Nicole Atkins, Aida Victoria, Sierra Ferrell.
AmericanaFest (https://americanamusic.org), Nashville, TN, Sept. 22-26. Lineup not yet announced.
FreshGrass Festival | North Adams (https://freshgrass.com/north-adams/), North Adams, MA, Sept. 24-26. Headliners: Dispatch, Trombone Shorty, and Béla Fleck. Not to miss: Bonny Light Horseman, Alison Brown, Darol Anger & Mr. Sun.
IBMA World of Bluegrass (https://ibma.org), Raleigh, NC, Sept. 28 – Oct. 2. Lineup not yet announced.
FreshGrass | Bentonville (https://freshgrass.com/bentonville/), Bentonville, AR, Oct. 1-3. Headliners: Old Crow Medicine Show and Billy Strings. Not to miss: Leyla McCalla, Flor de Toloache.
Hardly Strictly Bluegrass (https://www.hardlystrictlybluegrass.com), San Francisco, CA, Oct 1-3. While the festival has not officially announced a 2021 edition, several news outlets have reported it will be held. Lineup not yet announced.
Mempho Music Festival (https://www.memphofest.com), Memphis, TN, Oct. 1-3. Headliners: Widespread Panic and The Avett Brothers. Not to miss: Lucinda Williams, Billy Strings, Black Pumas, Southern Avenue.
Byron Bay Bluesfest (https://www.bluesfest.com.au), Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia. Oct. 1-4. Headliners: Paul Kelly and Midnight Oil. Not to miss: Kasey Chambers, All Our Exes Live in Texas, Henry Wagons.
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (https://www.nojazzfest.com), New Orleans, LA, Oct. 8-17. Lineup not yet announced.
Now, the photos. Click on any photo below to view the gallery as a full-size slide show.