Roots at 20
Hayes Carll is now in the country music big-time, but he keeps coming back to Bellows Falls for Roots on the River.

Roots at 20

James McMurtry, Mary Gauthier, Hayes Carll headline this year’s edition

BELLOWS FALLS — After 20 years, the celebration at this year's Roots on the River Festival promises to be memorable.

“We're going to celebrate with a bang,” producer Ray Massucco said. “We decided to mark the anniversary with some of our favorite acts from previous years, and what a show it's going to be!”

The music festival will run from Friday, June 7, through Sunday, June 9, with venues under the Big Tent at the Rodeway Inn and at the Rockingham Meeting House. Additionally, the opening and closing acts will be provided by local groups on Thursday and Sunday evenings.

The lineup is virtually all Roots alumni and fan favorites including popular headliners James McMurtry, Hayes Carll, Mary Gauthier, Birds of Chicago, Bottle Rockets, Heather Maloney, and Eilen Jewell.

Swift sales

“Advance ticket sales have already broken all records for the weekend,” Massucco said. “We already have loyal fans coming from Ireland, England, Canada, and at least 20 states so far!”

In fact, the popular closing concert at the landmark Rockingham Meeting House, which always sells to capacity, had only about 20 single day tickets left as of last week.

This will be Mary Gauthier's 14th appearance. She has hosted the Meeting House concert every year since 2014 and, this year, Jaimee Harris will be opening for her and no doubt sitting in for Gauthier's set as well.

“Mary's performance of The Foundling was one of the most transcendent sets I have ever witnessed,” Massucco said. “Rifles and Rosary Beads several years later was, in the words of one fan, 'the most transformative set of music I have seen or heard.'”

Other festival artists include Sarah Borges, Hayley Reardon, Brock Zeman, The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band, Meadow's Brothers, Nobody's Girl, Joe Crookston, and Sean Rowe.

Additionally, local performers will bookend the festival. On Thursday evening, Ninja Monkey, Jesse Peters, and Izzy Serebrov will kick off the weekend at the Masonic Temple. Winding things down on Sunday afternoon, the Farewell Concert at the Moose Lodge will feature The Milkhouse Heaters, The Cold River Ranters, and Matt Seiple.

Under the big tent, and beyond

Friday afternoon under the Big Tent begins with Hayley Reardon, her fourth appearance on the Roots stage.

Singer, songwriter, and storyteller Brock Zeman follows, adding his raspy voice and moody delivery.

“We are thrilled to have Brock Zeman return to Roots,” Massucco said. “You will be, too, when you hear him.”

Eilen Jewell will add a little swagger with blues, gospel, honky-tonk, and some rock 'n' roll, and The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band will have everyone's feet tapping and hands clapping.

The Bottle Rockets, together for nearly three decades, are a Roots fan favorite, as is Sarah Borges, who promises to energize the stage with her lively performance.

James McMurtry returns to the Roots stage with a solo acoustic set this year. Recently featured in a New York Times Magazine cover story “25 Songs That Tell Us Where Music Is Going,” McMurtry's lyrics are intense, haunting, and sometimes disturbing.

Saturday, rain or shine, starts out strong with the popular Meadows Brothers, followed by the trio Nobody's Girl.

“Otherwise known as 'The Sirens of South Austin,' this new female supergroup is going to make you fall in love with Texas singer songwriters all over again,” Massucco said.

A self-described songwriter, guitarist, painter, fiddler, slide player, eco-village member, and believer in all things possible, “Joe Crookston is one of the most passionate artists who has ever played Roots,” Massucco said. “Joe was part of our first Full Throttle Gospel Hour at the Rockingham Meeting House and he will be the first artist to make an encore appearance when he plays this year.”

'Writer song-singer'

Sean Rowe will offer his unique blend of blues, pop-rock, folk, and R&B. Heather Maloney, who describes herself as a “writer song-singer” follows, drawing the audience in with her soulful lyrics and musical stories.

“From her first Roots on the River appearance in 2013, Heather Maloney has been a favorite of ours,” Massucco said.

Birds of Chicago returns once again to the festival's stage, followed by Canadian Roger Marin. Marin is the only artist who has faithfully performed at every Roots weekend - usually his birthday weekend - occasionally with a slight delay at the border adding to the drama of the weekend.

The evening concludes with fan favorite Hayes Carll, whose impressive career includes a Grammy nomination, American Music Association Award for best song of the year, and best album, and appearances on everything from The Tonight Show to Austin City Limits.

As his career has blossomed, he has paused along the way at the Roots stage and will once again highlight the Saturday night festivities.

Sunday's Meeting House concert begins with opener Jaimee Harris, followed by Gauthier. After brunch, the Full Throttle Gospel Hour will feature second appearances by Nobody's Girl, Birds of Chicago, Sean Rowe, and Joe Crookston.

Fun for a cause

Each year, the festival sponsors a local nonprofit throughout the weekend, offering booth space and a raffle to raise funds for the cause. This year's nonprofit is Greater Falls Connections.

The festival started in 2000 by local artist and music producer Charlie Hunter and featured headliner Fred Eaglesmith and his band. Eaglesmith remained the keystone to the festival until 2003.

“My huge thanks and gratitude to Charlie Hunter and Fred Eaglesmith for the vision that created Roots, and to Charlie for letting me caretake Roots when he wanted to step out,” Massucco said. “More thanks to the incredible volunteer staff who have helped and supported the festival through all these years.”

Parking is plentiful and free, and kids and pets (at the Rodeway Inn) are welcome at this smoke free, family-friendly festival. Kids 8 and younger are always admitted free with an adult; youth 9–15 may pay $10 at the gate for any show. Seating under the big tent at the Rodeway Inn is first-come, first-served, with the first 10 rows reserved for deluxe-ticket holders. Blankets and lawn chairs are always welcome. Local food and beverage vendors will be onsite; neither coolers nor glass containers are allowed.

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