Area music fans were crestfallen back in February when Chuck Wentworth, longtime producer of the Rhythm & Roots Festival at Ninigret Park in Charlestown, announced he was shutting the event down because of concerns about his health. Then, in April, a reprieve. A Connecticut production company, GoodWorks Entertainment, announced plans to purchase the festival and keep Wentworth on board as consultant and mentor. Rhythm & Roots, a Labor Day weekend tradition in South County since 1998, would be back.
As Covid surged last winter, things looked bleak for Rhode Island’s renowned Rhythm and Roots Festival. Facing health issues and uncertainty around vendors, longtime Producer Chuck Wentworth announced in February that he was ending the popular Labor Day Weekend event. Fans were disappointed but understood Wentworth’s position. Just after Wentworth’s announcement, offers to take over the Rhythm & Roots began to roll in. One inquiry that got his attention came from GoodWorks Productions, a Hartford, CT-based company that produces concerts at small to medium-sized venues throughout Connecticut. Before long, a deal was struck, and word that the festival was back was made public in May.
Grace Potter, Little Feat, Cowboy Mouth to Headline Rhythm & Roots
Labor Day Weekend Festival Opens Friday with New Orleans Theme
CHARLESTOWN, R.I. –– The 24th Rhythm & Roots Music, Dance and Food Festival kicks off with a New Orleans party of musical styles followed by traditionalists, little-known talent, fan favorites and new interpreters of the ever-expanding definition of roots music.
The Sept. 2, 3 & 4 festival, held at Ninigret Park every year, will feature headliners Cowboy Mouth on Friday, Grace Potter on Saturday and Little Feat on Sunday. They will join Samantha Fish, Anders Osborne & Jackie Green, North Mississippi All-Stars, The Pine Leaf Boys, The New Orleans Suspects, and longtime festival performers Donna the Buffalo and Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys. Over two dozen bands will cover the map of musical styles – Cajun, R&B, Delta blues, Zydeco, soul, country, rock and gospel among them.
The festival, now produced by GoodWorks Entertainment, offers the same “chill but lively” vibe that’s made it a much-awaited, end-of-summer reunion for friends and family for over two decades. Founder and longtime producer Chuck Wentworth, who sold the festival earlier this year, is still involved and brings his family’s expertise to the party.
As always, the festival features music on three stages, including the Dance Tent for two-step and waltz enthusiasts. Local beer, wine and seltzers are available, as is food of all kinds from popular vendors and sales of artisans’ wares are back. Ninigret Park’s playground, swimming, tennis or biking are options for anyone needing a break between bands. RV, pop-up and tent camping is available and enhances the overall festival experience. Festival grounds open at 4 p.m. Friday and noon on Saturday and Sunday. Performances start one hour after opening through 11 p.m. Tickets range from $49 for the Friday New Orleans opener to $249 to camp, dance and hear music all three days. (Note that the three-day camping tickets sold out last year.)
Here’s what you can expect.
The diversity of styles is a major draw for returning fans, and New Orleans, a city synonymous with diverse music, is the theme for the opening night of the festival. The rowdy sound of the rock/punk/blues band Cowboy Mouth will highlight the evening. Perhaps best known for their mid-1990s hit, “Jenny Says,” the New Orleans natives will offer up a live concert experience likened to a Southern gospel revival “without the religion,” according to bandleader, drummer and lead singer Fred LeBlanc, formerly of the punk band Dash Rip Rock. “With every show, no matter where it is, we try to turn it into New Orleans during the middle of Mardi Gras.”
The New Orleans Suspects bring their swamp rock party to Charlestown, along with two first-timers to the festival, the Honey Island Swamp Band, with its mix of blues, south and country, and singer/songwriter/keyboardist John Papa Gros. Fan favorites Nathan and the Zydeco Cha-Chas will perform regional southern Louisiana dance music.
Cedric Watson, of Cedric Watson & Bijou Creole, is a four-time Grammy-nominated fiddler, singer and accordionist; Zydeco and Cajun specialists Rose and the Bros will also be performing in the Dance Tent.
Saturday’s headliner is a well-loved fixture on the festival scene – Grace Potter – who has performed with Neil Young, the Allman Brothers, Mavis Staples and Kenny Chesney. Spin magazine has described her as “one of the greatest living voices in rock today,” and her solo album Daylight was nominated for a Grammy in 2020 for best rock performance for the title track and best rock album, even though it includes classic country, piano ballads, blues and soul too.
Saturday also brings together two dynamic singer-songwriter-guitarists – Anders Osborne, honored as NOLA’s best guitarist and singer by Offbeat multiple times, and the Americana and roots music performer Jackie Greene, former lead guitarist for the Black Crowes and Trigger Hippy. Together, they will play bare-bones acoustic performances of each other’s songs. Both tour non-stop and sell out venues wherever they play. Bands who are called back to Rhythm & Roots again and again are the rockin’ Pine Leaf Boys, Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys and the eclectic Donna the Buffalo to play Saturday and Sunday.
On the final day of the festival, the legendary Little Feat will make Ninigret Park a stop on their Waiting For Columbus 45th Anniversary Tour, which marks their first live album and one of their most popular. Feat takes California rock, funk, folk, jazz, country, rockabilly, swamp boogie and more, and stirs it into a rich musical gumbo. The band has been leading people in joyful dance ever since it began in 1969.
The bluesy Samantha Fish, whose music incorporates multiple genres, including rock, country, funk, bluegrass and ballads, will join the renowned North Mississippi Allstars, which just released its 13th album Set Sail, displaying a stunning variety of roots music.
The Festival Update
Rhythm & Roots was canceled in 2020 by COVID, and returned last year thanks to a dedicated and enthusiastic community of music lovers, dancers, campers, food vendors, artisans and hundreds of volunteers. The 2022 festival almost didn’t happen because producer Chuck Wentworth became ill during the festival last year and doctors warned him to keep stress to a minimum.
Wentworth and his family made the tough decision to step away and cancel the festival. Multiple offers to buy Rhythm & Roots came quickly, and the choice landed with Hartford, Conn.-based GoodWorks Entertainment, led by CEO Tyler Grill. “We sold it to them because they were intent on keeping the 24-year legacy alive,” Wentworth said. “They’re not really changing anything major. Their philosophy mirrors that of Rhythm & Roots – that’s why they’re the perfect fit to take over.” The Wentworth family, which includes Chuck’s wife Deb, their three children and nine grandchildren, will remain involved.
We asked Rhythm & Roots fans to “keep the vibe alive” after last year’s cancellation, and you delivered. You had faith that we’d put together a diverse lineup for the 23rd Rhythm & Roots festival, and it was a great success.
It takes an extended family of hundreds of volunteers to produce a three-day festival of music, food and dancing, with 1,000+ campers, 24 bands and more than 40 performances on three stages. The jobs are big and small, but each task is essential. Artisans and food vendors, many of whom have been with us from the beginning, brought their own flair to the festival.
It was rewarding to see everyone working together – face to face! – for a common goal: to create a musical experience that will be remembered for years to come. A 2020 without Rhythm & Roots has made us even more grateful for your hard work and for the music lovers and dance enthusiasts who make R&R a ‘must-do’ every year. Thanks go to each one of you.
We’re already planning the 24th Rhythm & Roots Festival, set for Sept. 2, 3 and 4, 2022.
Let us know your favorites and any new bands you’d like to hear because roots music is constantly evolving. We’ll keep you informed as the lineup develops.
From Creole to Cajun, this one has it all. What, you need more? Fine, how about folk, funk and rock? This little jam hosted by our neighbors to the south gets back in action with sets from Donna the Buffalo, John Hiatt, local piano whiz Veronica Lewis, Ward Hayden & the Outliers and a score more.
Veronica Lewis. Photo courtesy artist management
Great news!! Rhythm & Roots Music, Dance and Food Festival
is happening on September 3, 4 and 5, 2021
at Ninigret Park in Charlestown RI
After a long dry year and a half without live music and festivals, we know you are as excited as we are to gather and celebrate, so make sure you’re not left out. Due to the probable state and local limited capacity mandates, tickets will be in short supply this year, so be sure to reserve your spot early, as our allotment of available tickets is limited and will most likely sell out.
So, this brings up the big question — how do we proceed to plan (and attend) a festival safely around the limitations necessitated by the Covid virus? For starters, we are adhering to the rules and regulations set forth by the State of Rhode Island for large events. These mandate that there will be a limited amount of attendees allowed on site, and that we follow guidelines for mask wearing, social distancing, hand washing and all of the other CDC protocols.
These rules are changing and loosening up every couple of weeks, and we are anticipating that the situation will be much more advantageous for the festival by the end of the summer. In our favor is our new governor, Daniel McKee, is an advocate of tourism and opening up the parameters for large events and festivals in the state. Whatever occurs though, our main concern will be the health and safety of all of our festival patrons. Please be assured that we will do whatever is necessary to keep everyone safe and secure.
Tickets go on sale May 12 at 10:00 am, so be sure to get yours ASAP! You don’t want to miss out, but tickets will be limited, and if you snooze, you may lose.Thanks! Stay safe, get vaccinated and we hope to see you on Labor Day Weekend! “Keep the Vibe Alive In 2021.”
R & R is Happening! Tickets on sale 10 a.m. May 12th
23rd Rhythm & Roots Festival Features Rhiannon Giddens & Francesco Turrisi, John Hiatt, Uprooted featuring Michael Glabicki of Rusted Root
Headliners Join Richard Thompson, Donna The Buffalo, and more Tickets on Sale May 12 for Labor Day Weekend Festival, Set for Sept. 3-5
CHARLESTOWN, R.I. –– Lagniappe Productions is thrilled to announce that the 23rd Rhythm & Roots Music, Dance, and Food Festival will resume Sept. 3-5 at Ninigret Park with many of the well-loved musicians who agreed to play last year.
“Fans have been ‘keeping the vibe alive’ since the festival was canceled in 2020,” said Chuck Wentworth, whose family-run Lagniappe Productions puts the festival together every year. “Live music eases our minds in troubled times. After the year we’ve just had, 2021 will be a real celebration – but a safe one.”
Rhode Island health and safety mandates require smaller crowds than in the past, so a limited number of tickets will go on sale at 10 a.m. on May 12 at rhythmandroots.com. The 2021 festival will spotlight Uprooted featuring Michael Glabicki of Rusted Root on Friday, Sept. 3, John Hiatt on Saturday, Sept. 4, and Rhiannon Giddens and Francesco Turrisi on Sunday, Sept. 5.
The Labor Day weekend festival brings together music fans, dancers, campers, and families for dozens of performances, food of every variety, artisans’ handmade wares, and a reunion-like vibe that’s been described as “chill but lively at the same time.”
Gates open at 4 p.m. Friday and noon on Saturday and Sunday, with performances starting one hour after opening through 11 p.m. Prices range from $49 for Friday night to $250 for three-day camping passes with full festival access. For the lineup, which is still evolving, and to buy tickets, visit rhythmandroots.com or call 401.783.3926.
Producer Chuck Wentworth, who is marking his 41st year in the music business, has signed most of the musicians who had planned to perform in 2020.
The acclaimed songwriter and guitarist Richard Thompson, who will perform Sunday, has influenced musicians as varied as Robert Plant, Don Henley, and David Byrne during his 50 years in the business. Traditionalists will enjoy Dirk Powell’s Appalachian-style banjo and fiddle, which earned him four Grammy awards. Performances are planned for both Saturday and Sunday. Fan favorites The Pine Leaf Boys, Donna the Buffalo,and The Revelers among many others, will also return.
Wentworth says a new generation of fans will especially enjoy Uprooted as well as guitarist and songwriter Keller Williams’ bluegrass/folk/reggae/electronica blend of acoustic dance music.
“I’m seeing more and more young people involved in the music scene,” Wentworth says. “The younger generation of musicians is just amazing, and they’re building on the musical traditions that came before them and adding this whole modern spin on it.”
Rhythm & Roots has always been about a blend of traditional and new, young and old, family reunions and hangouts with new friends. This mixture is based on a cultural appreciation seeded in Wentworth during multiple annual trips to Louisiana starting in the mid-1980s.
“I discovered that down there there’s an entire culture unto itself that’s unique, and that’s when I discovered it wasn’t just a music culture, it included music, dance, and family all rolled into one. I took all of that experience and tried to bring that into the festival.”
Wentworth says Friday’s headliner, Uprooted, will perform their multi-platinum album When I Woke in its entirety at Rhythm & Roots. Frontman Michael Glabicki has taken Rusted Root’s music, reinvented it, and added more percussion, female vocals, and new material. The previous band is best known for the jubilant, “Send Me On My Way,” featured in Ice Age and a dozen other films and TV shows.
John Hiatt, the prolific and influential guitarist, and piano player has earned nine Grammy nominations and has been writing songs professionally since he was 18. His country, rock, blues, and Americana music, set for Saturday night, has been recorded by artists as diverse as Iggy Pop and Rosanne Cash.
Rhiannon Giddens, well-loved by Rhythm & Roots fans for her work with the Carolina Chocolate Drops, is performing Sunday with Italian multi-instrumentalist Francesco Turrisi, who brings African and Arabic influences to Gidden’s classically trained voice and skilled banjo and fiddle playing. The pair just released They’re Calling Me Home, an album recorded in six days during the pandemic lockdown in Dublin that explores the music of their native and adoptive countries.
Straightforward traditional music, traditional-with-a-twist, or something entirely new – all will be showcased during the Labor Day weekend festival. Wentworth, who brings it all together each year with the help of hundreds of volunteers, is guided by his passion and a bit of manipulation.
He hopes to keep families coming so the children will be exposed to different kinds of music. The man who plays the blues to settle his grandson for a nap, says, “Even if they’re not consciously listening to it, it still filters in.”
To learn about the numerous additional bands signed for Rhythm & Roots, go to rhythmandroots.com.