Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival 2015

 Aka The Little Festival That Could

The Ninth Annual Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival will be held Friday, Saturday and Sunday, September 25-27 2015 at the beautiful Stephens Lake Park in Columbia, Missouri.

First Launched in 2007, the festival features over thirty artists representing the genres of roots, blues, gospel, country, folk and soul.  The line-up includes international, national, regional and local artists.  The event is the weekend after the Americana Festival in Nashville.  Last year three of us Aussies decided to combine both events, given their relative proximity (sort of).

We were attracted to Columbia by the top-shelf line-up in 2014 – a veritable who’s who of the very best roots and blues performers around – let’s see, there was Jason Isbell, Rosanne Cash, Lake Street Dive, John Prine, JJ Grey & Mofro, Trampled By Turtles, The Avett Brothers, Paul Thorn and Amos Lee, to name but a few.  And what fun we had.  The music was terrific, the BBQ from local and national vendors delicious (we took up the VIP pass option which is highly recommended), we met some very nice people (hi Julie and Rod!) and even managed to get on the front page of the local The Columbia Daily Tribune (must have been a slow news day!). Continue reading

Show Me The Way To St Louis

29 September 2014

Time to leave Columbia where we have had the best music adventures with the wonderful Roots ‘n Blues ‘n BBQ festival.  I would highly recommend you traveling here, particularly if you are attending the Americanafest in Nashville the preceding week.

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Lake Street Dive – Australian Tour 2015


The last twelve months have seen Boston’s pop-soul outfit Lake Street Dive release their newest album Bad Self Portraits.  In that time, the band has gone from playing to a small devoted following, to sell-out venues, and performing on The Colbert Report, Late Night With David Letterman, Ellen and Conan.

For the very first time Lake Street Dive will head to Australian shores for a string of performances that include SummerSalt, Enlightened, Secret Garden, Perth, Portfairy Folk and WOMADelaide festivals, as well as a few special headline shows.

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Day 3 Roots n Blues n BBQ Columbia MO

Today’s schedule is a little shorter than yesterday, starting at 12.15  and closing by 8pm.  Some spare time in the morning at the hotel is very welcome.

Our next attempt to get the free bus service to the festival site turns out even worse than the day before – an hour wait from noon at the bus stop, a ten minute journey until the driver informs us that he can only get us to within a 25 minute walk of the main gate (actually I believe it is the only public gate).  A long walking commute and the sun is already pretty hot.  However once in, we headed to the second, smaller VIP lounge where a delicious lunch is being served – BBQ grits, Lone Star breakfast: cornbread, TX chilli, eggs and cheddar cheese, buttermilk biscuits and sawmill gravy, southern fried “taters” and fresh fruit salad.  Delicious.


Mathew Curry


A walk to the main stage to hear the last two songs of the Sunday Gospel Brunch, presented by Broadway Christian Church, and have some freshly brewed Kaldi coffee while listening to T. J.  Wheeler.  Retracing our steps back to the Shelter Insurance Stage and there was Matthew Curry.

Fresh off a six-city tour with the Steve Miller Band in recent months, Mathew Curry is a ball of blues energy, a guitar-proficient and committed young man who gives his all.  Keep an eye out for him.


The crowds were down on Sunday, but all ages were grooving

I’d seen the Paul Thorn Band the previous week at Nashville’s 3rd & Lindsley.  Enjoyed the set, but today was to be much more, even with the same band.  The difference was the breadth of material that he played and the more interactive festival audience that he seemed to enjoy.  Always likable, engaging and honest, Thorn played tunes from his recent release, but also reached back into his growing back catalogue and produced super versions of “Snake Farm”  and especially “A Long Way From Tupelo”.  Also, he recorded “Doctor My Eyes” on the recent Jackson Browne tribute album and his rendition today of that song was highly effective.  Great set from a man who never disappoints.


Paul Thorn





Swapping stages yet again, JJ Grey & Mofro were terrific.  From the opening “Hide and Seek” and “99 Shades of Crazy”, this was immensely enjoyable.  This Jacksonville Floridian had a six-piece band with a presence, generally keyboards/organ, electric guitar/lap slide, drums, bass, trumpet and saxophone.  “Georgia Warhorse” (penned about his tough grandmother) was slower and more soulful, “Slow Hot and Sweaty” and “Everything Good Is Bad” were ramped up.  His is a souful gospel, a positive message to embrace life and love.  I hear you JJ.


JJ Grey


Dinner, but there’s little time – pastalaya, bronzed pork chop, chicken tchoupitoulas, bourbon mashed sweet potatoes, glazed carrots, salad, bread pudding and brownies – thanks Glenn’s Cafe.

Over to Trampled By Turtles, from Duluth Minnesota as the air was cooling and the sun was setting on the day and this wonderful festival.  The band mix traditional folk with Americana, often at break-neck speed.  The musicianship is outstanding and there is a tight synergy between all band members.  There are some similarities with The Avett Brothers but the Turtles’ vocals are more embedded into the music and lacks the catchy lines for which The Avetts have come to be known.  But for me that’s not a negative.  I think the music of Trampled By Turtles is going to grow on me and we are all going to become more aware of this band.

DSC01689Trampled By Turtles

Trampled by Turtles


And so it ended.  My first experience of Roots n Blues n BBQ and the first time in Columbia Missouri.

Was it worth it?  Hell, yes!  The line-up is a good as any I’ve seen for a festival of this size.  Just but one example – these are the performers I wanted to see but didn’t to any significant extent, purely because of scheduling clashes – Los Lobos, Music Maker Revue, The Avett Brothers, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Bettye Lavette, Hot Rize.  Add to the terrific bill compiled by Thumper Entertainment partner Richard King, the great food, the friendly patrons and the perfect setting and you have an event that, pound for pound, can match it with any other.  Thanks also to Betsy Farris from Thumper.  Being the week after Americanafest in Nashville is another huge positive.

I’d HIGHLY recommend Roots n Blues n BBQ.


Are You Those Australians?

Today is the second and longest day at Roots n Blues n BBQ and the largest crowds are expected.

Our attempt to catch the newly introduced, free CoMo (Columbia Missouri abbreviation) connect bus was not very successful.  A wait at the bus stop for about 45 minutes saw a bus finally arrive, the driver was only able to take us part of the way to the festival site for some reason, advising us that there was a three or four block walk to go.  Well, the walk was in fact closer to 30 minutes and, as we passed a Starbucks, decided on to getting our morning coffee when we could.

Arriving at the festival site, after seemingly covering the whole perimeter of the vast park, it was time for lunch which was another delightful repast – house chicken wings, spicy honey glazed pork sliders, house roasted pulled pork topped with southern style slaw, lobster or vegetarian macaroni n cheese and grilled vegies/caprese skewers.



I bumped into some locals who we met yesterday and they gave me a copy of the day’s Columbia Tribune and I was somewhat dismayed to see a photo of Sandra and I on the front, as well as a sizable story about us three attending the festival.  From then over the next two days, a number of people came up, with the introduction “Aren’t you those Australians?”



Chump Change was on first, playing authentic blues, the sort I could listen to all day.  The band has been around for twenty-odd years playing in the Mid West with their intense, grooving style.

David Wax Museum are David Wax and Suz Slezak, fusing traditional folk with American roots and indie rock.  They have been touring heavily over the past five years and released an album in September 2012 Knock Knock Get Up.


Chump Change





Lake Street Dive is a four piece from Boston MA with the superb, knock-your-socks-off voice of Rachael Price out front and great harmonies from the other band members.  The Brooklyn-based band has been together for a decade, have a new release Bad Self Portrait and featured at last week’s Americana festival in Nashville.  A soulful RnB groove sound but for me there was a lack of variety in the material, almost certainly not helped by the fact that the sound was very loud.  I would be keen to hear their album to catch another side of this outfit.  Their version of The Jacksons’ “I Want You Back” is slow and soulful, a tune and/or video clip for which they have achieved some well-deserved notoriety.


Lake Street Dive


It was around this point where the day’s music soared.  Rosanne Cash was a delight, demonstrating most songs from her recent brilliant release The River and The Thread.  Those tunes are about the deep South and her emotional attachment to it and its influence of her father.  When you hear those songs played, with her brilliant band, a highly respectful and attentive crowd and with the sound just perfect, you have the perfect ingredients for a stellar set.  “A Feather’s Not A Bird”, “Etta’s Tune” her co-write Civil War tale with Rodney Crowell “When The Master Calls The Roll”, “Money Road” (all from the new release), “Tennessee Flattop Box” and Hank Snow’s “I’m Moving On” just some of the highlights of this masterful session.


Rosanne Cash


Time for a quick dinner – local roasted whole hog, mustard and kale slaw, okra and cowpea mull (?) with fresh tomatoes, gumbo z’herbs and andouille and green rice with cheese.  All with a pleasant glass of pinot grigio.

The previous set was going to be hard to top, but John Prine was next, so I was not anticipating any let down.  Nor did I suffer any.  John had three musicians supporting him, generally playing electric guitar, mandolin and bass/cello.  He played many of his well know tunes – “Six O’clock News”, “Souvenirs”, “Grandpa Was A Carpenter” the immensely moving “Hello In There”, “Angel From Montgomery”, “Bear Creek Blues” and “Muhlenberg County”.  All delivered with the sharp insight, the quizzical humour and the beautiful melodies up front and centre.  The crowd was adoring.  It was my second John Prine live performance – not sure when he last played Australia – and I’m ready for another one as soon as possible.


John Prine


As soon as the set finished, we strode purposefully to the Shelter Insurance Stage to catch the last five songs of Amos Lee.  I’d seen him in Nashville in a number of cameo roles last week, but wanted to see him on stage for longer, as I hadn’t seen him live since his New Orleans’ Jazz Fest performance a few years back.  I was a little surprised by what I saw – “Stranger” from his most recent release Mountains Of Sorrow, Rivers Of Song and “Sweet Pea” (from the 2006 Supply and Demand) were much more powerful renditions of those album tunes – he had a cracking five-piece band.  The real surprise was his elevated take on “Street Corner Preacher” from Last Days At The Lodge – funky, grinding hip-hop with the band and singer working together beautifully.  Then the song segued into the theme music from the TV series Game Of Thrones and I was taken back by its force and persuasion.  Two encores and the large crowd left completely satisfied.


Amos Lee


It was pretty late and we walked via the Missouri Lottery Stage to hear two songs from The Avett Brothers, where a very large crowd had assembled, before heading home.  What a day.


Day 13 – Columbia Missouri – The Roots n Blues n BBQ Festival

From Floristell to Columbia is about 80 miles.  We found our Country Inn easily enough, it was just along the I-65, were able to check in, dropped our bags and headed to the nearest Best Buy store.   My US cell phone has been playing up and is a bit of a relic, so the upgraded smart phone will be very welcome for the rest of the trip – no more dumb phones for me.  Back to the hotel, park the car and grab a cab to downtown Columbia.  Given our schedule, there will not be much time to explore this Missouri College town, but lunch and coffee were a priority.  Lakota Coffee Company on 9th Street turned out to be an excellent choice.

An attempt to catch a bus to St Stephens Lake Park gave way to a thirty-minute walk to the site of the RootsnBluesnBBQ festival where we collected our wrist bands.  The organiser of the festival has been interested about Australians attending, so referred me to a reporter from the local newspaper Columbia Tribune who was interested in doing a story about our little group coming all this way for the festival.  So we spoke with him and some photographs were taken of us – not sure to where this is going to lead?  Stay tuned I guess.


DSC01449ArtRnBIn its eighth year, the three-day Roots n Blues n BBQ festival was originally held in downtown Columbia and moved to the close-by St Stephen’s Lake Park not long ago.  The performance schedule is from around 5 to 11pm Friday, 1 to 11.30pm Saturday and 1 to 8.30pm Sunday.  It’s held in a beautiful setting, the Park is huge and the two stages are well positioned at the bottom of rolling hills – the larger of the two stages, Missouri Lottery, features more roots and country artists, while the Shelter Insurance Stage has more blues and rock acts.  So why are we here? – well, it’s the weekend after Americanafest in Nashville and Roots n Blues hosts some favourite performers of mine, such as John Prine, Jason Isbell, Roseanne Cash, Amos Lee, Los Lobos, JJ Grey & Mofro and Trampled By Turtles.  As it was our first time here and the festival upgrade option wasn’t that expensive, we decided to get a Whole Hog VIP pass for the three days.  This entitled us to front-of-stage access, lunch and dinner, specialty coffee and individual restrooms and bars.

The first act was The Flood Brothers, a two-man Missouri blues thump outfit with an infectious basic, shaking boogie rhythm groove from the Mississippi Delta.

DSC01450TheFlood Brothers

The Flood Brothers


We needed to change stages, as I didn’t want to miss Jay Farrar.  A resident of nearby St Louis Missouri, Jay is an acclaimed songwriter and musician, and veteran of two critically acclaimed groups – Uncle Tupelo and Son Volt.  Today he was in acoustic mode (looking like a young Steve Earle) accompanied by Gary Hunt.  Farrar’s style is heavily roots-based and he has remained connected for many years with his traditional folk and alt. country origins.  His songs are acute observations of the human condition, with his distinctive voice and songs of the dispossessed (he mentioned Woody Guthrie at least twice during the set, covering one of this songs) – lyrics like “handcuffs are worse when you’ve done nothing wrong” really resonate. and Gary Hunt is a brilliant musician, oscillating between electric guitar, keyboard, violins and mandolin.


Jay Farrar


After the Farrar set, it was time for dinner – this meal was delicious – fried chicken, mashed potatoes, country gravy, country-style green beans, cornbread with whipped butter and warm apple crisp – see below.


hmm warm apple crisp…

St Paul and the Broken Bones hail from Birmingham Alabama.  Their debut full length album on Single Lock Records Half The City was released just this year and the band has received an Americana nomination already.  Their performance at the Americana Awards show last week was memorable.  Stirring gospel and new soul, the sextet pumped it up, with a stirring live performance led by Paul Janeway.  Impassioned soul music from the James Brown tradition.



St Paul


The prize landing for the first day for me  was Jason Isbell.  It was a direct clash with Los Lobos on the other stage, which was a hard one, but I was conscious of the fact that I would be seeing Los Lobos at the Crescent City Festival in New Orleans in a few weeks.  Isbell released my favourite album of last year – Southeastern.  I saw him at Byron Bay’s (Australia) Bluesfest this April and it was one of my top three acts of that five-day festival.  Last week, as I reported previously, Jason took all the key Americana awards – Best Artist, Best Album and Best Song.  His songs were deeply personal and moving, despite the fact that I have heard them countless times.  He was gracious in paying homage to Los Lobos and Jay Farrar.  His band The 400 unit were the same he has been using for a time, except that Amanda Shires was absent, playing with John Prine tonight in nearby St Louis.  The band was rockier tonight than at Byron Bay and finished with an inspired “Super 8 Motel’ and a cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking”.  A terrific experience.


So, closing time.  We tried to use the bus, but that service appeared to be somewhat complicated and risky, so we got a cab to the hotel.

I then proceeded to watch the Australian Rules football grand final, which started local time at 11.30pm.  Game over (with the best result possible for yours truly) and formalities completed.  Bed by 3.15.

It’s going to be the biggest day of the Roots n Blues n BBQ festival tomorrow.


Roots n Blues n BBQ Festival – Set Times Released


Los Lobos or Jason Isbell?

John Prine versus Amos Lee?

Bettye Lavette or Trampled By Turtles?

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