ROCKINGHAM -- The 15th annual Roots on the River Music Festival gets under way tonight and continues through Sunday, with a diverse, powerhouse lineup performing at several venues in Bellows Falls and nearby.
Headliner James McMurtry puts a new spin the festival in the first year without previous headliner and pied piper Fred Eaglesmith.
"The entire weekend lineup, which was co-curated by Mr. McMurtry, is stellar, but the Saturday lineup is the most artistically diverse of any festival I've done," Ray Massucco, producer, said. "With the artists like JD McPherson, The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band and the rest, Saturday should also see the highest energy level ever."
The range of styles of the old and new artists offers something for everyone, he said.
"From several teenage artists (who are already seasoned performers) to the road warriors like Mr. McMurtry and The Bottle Rockets, there is something during the four-day, 23-set festival to appeal to anyone who likes roots-Americana-country-rock and-roll-gospel-honky-tonk styles.
"Featuring washboards to keyboards, the range of musical genres is expansive," Massucco said. "This is going to be a dancing crowd to be sure."
The all-volunteer festival is held throughout the town at an interesting mix of venues: a mill building at 33 Bridge St., Popolo's on the Square, the Bellows Falls Farmers' Market, under the "Big Tent" at the Rodeway Inn, and a Sunday concert at the landmark Rockingham Meeting House.
This is a family-friendly festival, so bring the kids, and the dog (on a leash).
Thursday will see the opening of the festival with singer/songwriter Hayley Reardon at 33 Bridge St. Also on Thursday's schedule is folk duo Second Hands and the Tarbox Ramblers.
Friday has a sprinkling of free concerts in Bellows Falls during the day at Popolo's and the farmers' market. This year, look for The Meadows Brothers, Rebecca Holtz and The Once Hollow, Joinery and Caitlin Canty.
Friday night, action moves under the "Big Tent," featuring Sean Rowe, popular alternative folk singer-songwriter and musician. Carolyn Wonderland will take the stage next, leading the way for McMurtry's first appearance of the festival.
Saturday is a jam-packed day and night of music. The show kicks off with McMurtry's son Curtis taking the stage. Saturday's lineup also includes the return of the Bottle Rockets and concert perennial Roger Marin. Expect a great mix of talent, from Heather Maloney and Poor Old Shine, to JD McPherson, The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band and The Black Lillies. McMurtry rounds out the evening.
The series concludes on Sunday, beginning with an all-acoustic show at the Rockingham Meeting House, featuring festival favorite Mary Gauthier.
The festival will draw to a close at Pleasant Valley Brewing in Saxtons River with The Meadows Brothers and Holly Brewer.
The festival grounds are smoke-free with a special staffed children's tent on the Saturday of the festival. This tent is a great place for the kids to play games, undertake an art project, or enjoy a healthy snack.
There is limited seating under the big tent, so plan to come early or bring a small lawn chair or blanket.
Vendors will be on-site to provide food and beverages, and there is also some seating at tables while you enjoy your refreshments. Please, no outside food or beverages, coolers or glass of any sort.
For more information, the complete schedule of acts, to volunteer, and, of course, to purchase tickets, visit www.vermontfestivalsllc.com.
The website also has a series of interviews with this year's artists as presented by local community station WOOL FM Black Sheep Radio.