The seventh annual Fayetteville Roots Festival had its official launch party at the Fayetteville home of Hershey and Denise Garner on Thursday evening with what has been described by some as one of the best parties of the year in Northwest Arkansas. Attendance to the private event -- which included performances by some of the artists in the Roots Festival lineup and special dishes created by area chefs -- comes with the purchase of the 4-day VIP pass, which was the first of the festival ticket groups to sell out. For ticket holders of the other groups, and those without tickets, the festival officially began on Friday morning with the free community programming events.
Want more coverage of the Fayetteville Roots Festival and other happenings on stage around Northwest Arkansas? Check out What's Up! On Stage and let us know what you think.
Ozarks at Large Broadcast
Fayetteville Roots Festival
WHEN — Through Sunday
WHERE — Fayetteville Public Library and Town Center; late night stages at various locations
COST — $59 for Sunday mainstage (47 tickets left)
INFO — fayettevilleroots.com
Although there were three separate events before it, the annual KUAF live broadcast of Ozarks at Large from the Fayetteville Public Library is the first event I made it to. The Walker Community Room was filled to capacity, with people standing around the edges and overflow seating spilling out into the hallway where the broadcast was shown on television screens. The radio program's regular hosts Kyle Kellams and Antoinette Grajeda spent the moments before the show interacting and joking with the crowd, who were generous with their love for the two hosts. (It was during this period, too, that Kellams discovered some in the audience were from as far away as Spain, Africa and Australia.) A short introduction got the program going just after noon and was followed by brief performances and interviews with six bands who would perform later in the festival.
Peter Rowan and his bluegrass band The Awesome Possums began the broadcast with more songs than expected. ("How am I going to say no?!" Kellams said to the crowd when Rowan asked if the group could play a few more songs.) The crowd didn't seem to mind listening to any amount of the band's spirited traditional bluegrass tunes with features of the mandolin and fiddle players, though. Next, Jonathan Byrd's first song brought a more blues/rock 'n' roll feel to the Walker stage, followed by a second tune reminiscent of -- and in somewhat of a tribute to -- Bob Dylan. The humor in his lyrics earned some laughs from the crowd and his urging earned him some audience participation during the choruses.
While the audience was attentive and appreciative of every group that came to the stage -- "Wow!" and "Amazing!" were uttered quite a few times throughout the crowd during the program, and a majority of the bands received a standing ovation -- Birds of Chicago may be the standout of the afternoon. The six-piece -- who told Kellams they "loved Fayetteville so much, they almost moved here" after playing here in 2014 -- seemed to lift the whole room with lead singer Allison Russell's rich voice mixing with the piano and melodic electric guitar. Following the group was the all-female three-piece The Wild Reeds with their impressive harmonies and Amy Helm, a Northwest Arkansas favorite. Becca Martin-Brown, a steady contributor at KUAF, joined the broadcast to share some of the best-kept secrets -- and old favorites -- of Fayetteville with the audience before festival regular Raina Rose closed out the show.
Before attending the event, I had been told the Ozarks at Large broadcast might just be the best way to get a feel for the Roots Festival, short of having an actual ticket. When it comes to the music and community pillars of the festival, I'll have to agree with that sentiment. I got a taste of the musical talent performing later in the festival while experiencing the love for music, for those participating in the festival and for each other those in attendance were pouring out. Each of the artists performed between two and four songs and answered a few questions from Kellams and Grajeda regarding their history with the roots genre or their musical style or their storytelling. And while those music styles varied with blues, rock, country and gospel influences, they all shared the element of storytelling. As music gets more and more difficult to confine to one genre box, it feels like part of what brings all these musicians together as "roots" musicians is their inclination for sharing tales of Americana and mixing those elements of traditional music to create something that links our nostalgia for a simpler way of life with our present joys of living in the Ozarks.
Other live broadcasts: A family-friendly show with Shook Twins at 10 a.m. Saturday; Joe Purdy & John Moreland at 11 a.m. Saturday; Still on the Hill with Roy & Aviva at noon Saturday.
Where: Walker Community Room, Fayetteville Public Library
"Taste and Talk"
Part of the Dig In series added to the festival this year, the "taste and talk" programming consists of a panel discussion with local farmers, chefs and each one features a different type of alcohol. The first one on Friday brought together the Bansley family of Bansley Farm Berkshire Pork, a brand ambassador from Rock Town Distillery in Little Rock, and chefs Matthew Bell of South on Main (Little Rock) and Jason Paul of Heirloom (Rogers). Daniel Hintz of the Velocity Group in Bentonville served as the moderator for the discussion, asking panel members about their experiences with the changing food landscape of their respective areas of the industry.
The curious audience provided some follow-up questions as the discussion came to a close for the tasting to begin. The plates were a collaboration between the chefs, using the Bansley Farm pork, and paired with bourbon from Rock Town, which is the first company to obtain a license to legally distill alcohol in Arkansas since the Prohibition. As Hintz said at the beginning of the workshop, these sessions are an opportunity to interact with "the folks out there making the [food] experiences we all enjoy happen."
Other events: "Wine" featuring chefs Charlie Ayers of Calafia Cafe (Palo Alto, Calif.) and Vince Pianalto of Bouchée Bistro (Fayetteville) at 1:30 p.m. Saturday; "Beer" featuring chefs William Lyle of Eleven (Bentonville) and Justus Moll of River Grille (Bentonville) at 2:15 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Walker Community Room, Fayetteville Public Library
To read a review of the ticketed music performances, look for Nick Brothers' coverage in Thursday's edition of The Free Weekly.
Print Headline: A Touch of Roots