[RECAP] 2017 Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival in Columbia, Missouri


Let’s get real for a second. I  basically love all music festivals not named Fyre, but, as you probably know, the lineups for the majority of them are somewhat interchangeable, meaning that if you’re not a freak like me, you really only have to attend one of them to avoid any FOMO. Sure, a few years ago, you had to go to Bonnaroo to see Buffalo Springfield. Those exceptions are noted and appreciated. But really: how many times do you really need to see, say, uh, The Killers at a festival? (Nothing really against The Killers, btw. I really like “Human.”)

Columbia, Missouri’s premiere music fest is a little different, to say the least. You have a few festival staples — Ryan Adams, Leon Bridges, Gary Clark Jr., Band of Horses — but you also have more than a handful of legendary wild cards: John Prine, Emmylou Harris, Booker T’s Stax Revue, Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives, Marshall Crenshaw & the Bottle Rockets.

This is a different look for a festival, but a welcome one. So much that I plan to return for many years to come.

The possibilities on Sunday alone were worth the price of a three-day pass. Would Emmylou and Prine sing together? Prine and Amanda Shires? Margo Price and John Prine? Emmylou and Ryan Adams? Would Adams be kidnapped by a UFO? (YOU NEVER KNOW.)

Some of those moments actually happened. Like this one.

Emmyloy Harris & John Prine

I’ve seen a lot of staggering performances this year, and Emmylou and Prine singing “Angel From Montgomery” has officially been nominated for one of the best moments. The competition is steep — I saw Neil Young play “Cinnamon Girl” a few feet in front of my face and Roger Waters, during “Dogs,” drink a glass of champagne within rock-throwing distance of me and a friend — but that is okay: greatness should be grouped with greatness. And I think we can all agree I those are pretty great.

What cannot be expressed enough, though, is the quality of performance still being given by Emmylou and Prine. Both are 70 years in age, but their hearts are still prime and passionate. Thankfully, they chose the right environment for this mind-blowing performance: almost everyone I was around wasn’t holding a phone or obviously wishing to be somewhere else. Neither were they talking.

To think that can still happen at a music festival is evidence that our attention spans still perk up every now and then. However, give credit to the atmosphere that Roots N Blues lends — there’s not a EDM stage, no a silent disco, no real bells and whistles (minus a really cool Ferris Wheel and a “Trailer Swift” photo booth). There are three days where the college town of Columbia and its population comes out to listen. Call it “family friendly,” “cozy” — those are terms to encourage peace and respect in massive crowds, no?

Those terms really aren’t good enough, anyway. Perhaps a simple “welcome” will do.

Welcoming people. Welcoming atmosphere. Welcoming music.

Thank you, Roots N Blues. You’re now one of my favorite festivals.

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