River and Roots Festival 2015
The River and Roots Festival is a newer Bluegrass festival that occurs every year along the Shenandoah River in Bluemont, Virginia. Hosted at Watermelon Park, this festival is a smaller version of the annual Watermelon Park Festival. The festival attracts music enthusiasts from all over the eastern seaboard to hear some of the best Bluegrass music available, with a river. It doesn’t get much better than that. However, we got buckets of rain this year, for twelve hours straight. The show must go on, and it did.
On June 26 and 27 of 2015, campers began filling the sites early Friday morning. Because this a community that holds musicians in high regard, making friends is like finding water, they are everywhere. Usually your’e greeted by neighbors before you smack the last tent stake. This same community vibe carries through the festival, which makes it a gem to have in our backyard. Renewing one’s trust in humanity get’s an upgrade during this music festival.
This festival hosted a dozens bands, some local and some global, as in David Grisman of Dawg Music notoriety. David headlined the event on Saturday night, packing the grassy audience area. The general lineup also included Split String Soup, Brandy Station, The Hot Seats, White Top Mountain Band, The Hillbilly Gypsies, The Woodshedders, Town Mountain, Pat Donohue. Furnace Mountain, Danny Knicely with Wyatt Rice and Mark Schatz. These talented musicians played on one, or both, stages as the weekend wend its way. The second stage, aka The Dance Tent, was helpful when the rain fell in buckets, for hours. It allowed bands to play in a open but dry space while providing cover for soggy campers. A most helpful aspect in an otherwise drenched environment.
This festival also offers educational programs about the river and the environment at large. The organizers are often eager to promote nature preservation as part of these river side festivals. Classes were offered, such as the “Watershed You Live In”, presented by the Friends of the Shenandoah River. This hands-on demonstration for kids covered aspects of the natural cycle and particulars of this rare, northern-flowing river. Following that, information was presented about a phone app, Water Reporter, that allows us all to participate in nature preservation. Later, Joshua Bearman hosted an education river float. The Piedmont Environmental Council, who had an information tent, presented Watershed Heroes. This program involved participants in learning about the Enviroscape model. A Wildlife Photography Workshop was also offered.
The Bluegrass genre is morphing into something new, and this type of festival is helping to drive that. This segment of music has its roots in Appalachia, and the surrounding area. With influences from the french, blues and homemade instruments, Bluegrass is going through modern changes due to popularity of being on college radio. the younger demographic starting to (finally) demand quality from their music and outside forces from rock, rap and storytelling. Some of the local bands in the Loudoun and Clarke Counties are helping to drive this change, as well. Expanding the boundaries of what defines music keeps us youthful and engaged.