“Roots on the River” begins tonight at the Bellows Falls Opera House, with a double bill featuring Sonny Landreth and Chris Smither.
In 10 years, the four-day festival has become one of Vermont’s most-loved events.
Three separate performances by Fred J. Eaglesmith and his band leave no doubt about why the long weekend of music is known far and wide as “FredFest.”
But there’s a whole lot of talent swirling around Mr. Eaglesmith.
What will be the biggest surprise for the tenth go-round, known as Fred X? Over the years, Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams, Chris Whitley (his final appearance), Ingrid’s Ruse, Crooked Still and Sarah Borges have all left indelible impressions on me.
That’s just a few of the names; surely there’ll be a few more this time.
Even if you can’t attend all the shows, I’ll help you keep up, with performance reviews (and, in all likelihood, a weather report or two) posted on my blog (eagletimes.com) as the festival moves forward.
I’ve also set up a Twitter feed (@localrhythms) to share real time highlights, from Thursday’s “Night of Blues in Bellows Falls” through the acoustic Meeting House show with Fred and the amazing Jeffrey Foucault on Sunday morning.
In between, I’ll share the lowdown on the great discoveries as they happen.
That said, don’t take my word for it – come to the festival. The all-day show on Saturday behind Rockingham’s Everyday Inn is your best bet, with an entire day and night of music led by some great female performers (Jenee Halstead, Red Molly, Carolyn Herring and the Sweetback Sisters).
Complementing the ladies are Fred and his band, Roger Marin, the Bottle Rockets (I missed them last year, much to my regret) and the eagerly anticipated Hayes Carll.
Can’t commit an entire day? The Friday night tent show features the inimitable Junior Brown and his strange and wonderful “guit-steel” hybrid axe – and of course, Fred.
The whole shebang costs about half of what you’d pay to see Billy Joel and Elton John at the Razor, and it’s a heck of a lot more intimate.
Out of all the events I cover over the course of the year, Roots is my favorite.
Fans arrive from as far away as Europe, and music continues in the parking lots (or in the case of tonight’s post-Opera House jam session at PK’s Tavern, the clubs) long after the show’s over.
Here are some other diversions:
Thursday: Open Mike, Salt hill Pub – This is the final Lebanon open session for awhile, but at the Newport ShP, Toby Moore of Yer Mother’s Onion recently began hosting a Thursday open mike night, so it’s all good. The pub on the green celebrates six years in business June 19 with Sirsy, and the Tuohy brothers just announced plans to open a Hanover location. Busy, busy.
Friday: Joe Stallsmith & Heepe Gareau, Jesse’s – Two members of the fine Spare Change bluegrass combo host a new all-acoustic session, the second night of music at the Hanover restaurant in addition to the weekly open microphone hosted by Tad Davis (Thursdays). Joe’s been making music since the days of Joe’s Waterworks, a place some old-timers are sure to remember. Great picking and singing are sure to ensue.
Saturday: Second Wind, Orford River Jam – The ninth year for this wonderful all-acoustic festival at the Pastures Campground features the duo of Terry Ray Gould and Suzy Hastings performing “original, public domain, and/or ‘permission granted’ material” as per the festival guidelines. The music happens every week through Labor Day, with a big chili cook-off scheduled for September 12. This is a great way to relax in a bucolic setting.
Sunday: Brad Paisley, Meadowbrook U.S. Cellular Pavilion – When Paisley released “5th Gear” in 2007, I commented that he “could play Keith Urban under the table,” prompting a bit of outrage from Keith fans. Last year, Paisley and Urban collaborated on “Start a Band,” the lead single from the mostly instrumental “Play” album. I stand by my assessment of Brad’s guitar prowess. Also appearing is Dierks Bentley, another talented picker; Jimmy Wayne opens.
Tuesday: Chosen Vale Trumpet Seminar, Enfield Shaker Museum – The first concert of the annual gathering of musicians devoted solely to the trumpet features Ellsworth Smith Silver Medalist Kazuaki Kikumoto performing selections by Krzywicki, Torelli, Hindemith, Takemitsu and Brandt, accompanied by pianist Ayako Yoda. Chosen Vale runs through June 28 and includes four concerts. Master classes are also open to public observers.
Wednesday: Murphy’s Blues, Lyman Point Park Band Shell – Summer means music heads outdoors in downtown White River Junction. This week a blues combo that functioned as the house band at the old Rynborn in Keene before it closed awhile back. They remind me a bit of Roomful of Blues, playing traditional jump, swing and boogie, as opposed to the pyrotechnics sometimes prevalent in the genre.