If you failed to get tickets for Fayetteville Roots Fest’s Main Stage acts, or you’re on a budget and can’t swing tickets to the outstanding concerts still on sale at George’s Majestic Lounge all weekend or the Sunday Main Stage ticket that is still available as of this update (Wednesday evening), then this post is for you: a comprehensive guide to all the acts performing for free as part of this weekend’s Fayetteville Roots Fest.
FRIDAY, AUG. 25 FREE ROOTS FEST MUSIC
10 pm: Chooch’s All Star Roots Jam, featuring many of Northwest Arkansas’ hardest-working and best-known musicians, Kingfish (outdoor stage and seating).
10 pm: Dana Louise & The Glorious Birds, Maxine’s Tap Room. This Fayetteville-based band’s music is a blend of indie folk and jazz – alternately melodious and hard-driving – and often unexpected with its unusual mix of instruments and influences.
10:30 pm: Sean McConnell, Stage 18. McConnell, a widely praised singer/songwriter known for his room-shushing story songs and gut-punching vocals, has garnered serious praise from Rolling Stone, No Depression, Lone Star Music Magazine, and more.
11:30 pm: Shannon Wurst, Stage 18. Since her debut in 2007, Wurst has firmly established herself at the intersection of everyman folk and Americana rooted in the traditions of Kasey Chambers, Alison Krauss, and Dolly Parton. A 2011 review by Jivewired described Wurst’s sound as that of “backpack‐wearing broken‐heart balladry” with “a bittersweet honesty that reads like a musical diary,” cut by a sense of “wide‐eyed optimism infused with a charming levity.”
12:30 am: Bayard Blain, Stage 18. Fayetteville-based roots-bluegrass singer/songwriter Blain also is an accomplished luthier, and says carving mandolins, mandolas, archtop guitars, bouzoukis, octave mandolins, and more is one of his joys in life.
1:15 am: Open Jam Session, Stage 18.
SATURDAY, AUG. 26 FREE ROOTS FEST MUSIC
10 am: Matt the Electrician performs a Kids and Family Concert Presented by Fayetteville Montessori School, Fayetteville Public Library (first-come, first-served admission). Matt the Electrician, an Austin-based singer/songwriter, and his folk-music-for-the-modern-ages, has now been performing for two decades while his fanbase continues to grow; he has become a frequently-booked musician throughout Japan and Europe, allowing him to hang up his pliers for good.
10 am: Melody Pond, Fayetteville Town Center plaza. Melody Pond, consisting of Candy Lee and Emily Rowland, is rooted in the earthiness of folk, but keeping it fresh by merging modern indie influences with throwback moods of funk and blues, with jazz. The duo has been compared to modern artists Rising Appalachia, First Aid Kit, and The Ditty Bops.
11:30 am: Live radio broadcast by KUAF, Fayetteville’s NPR affiliate, featuring performances by Blind Boy Paxton, Brother Brothers, The Stray Birds, and Liza Anne. First-come, first-served admission.
5:20 pm: J Wagner, Fayetteville Town Center plaza. This New Mexico-born storytelling singer/songwriter was a regional finalist in the Kerrville Songwriting Competition, and his song “If I Go, I’m Goin’” was featured in Season 4 of Showtime’s television series “Californication.” He now resides in Texas, where the Austin American-Statesman refers to him as “The No. 1 best bet” for acoustic music in Austin, and the Dallas Morning News labels him as “A Texas folk music staple.”
10 pm: Chooch’s All Star Roots Jam, Kingfish (outdoor stage and seating).
10 pm: The Stray Birds, Maxine’s Tap Room. The trio is best known for its songwriting, its tight and forthcoming vocal harmony blend and its commitment to an impassioned delivery of original material. Their 2016 release ”Magic Fire” was produced by Grammy-winner Larry Campbell and earned much praise, including being named by NPR as one of Folk Alley’s Top Ten Records of 2016.
10:30 pm: The Ozark Highballers, Stage 18. The Ozark Highballers “strut a tradition of old-time music best described as “square valley” featuring fiddle, banjo, guitar, and French harp,” their Facebook page states.
11:30 pm: Willi Carlisle performs “There Ain’t No More: A One-Man Folk Operetta,” Stage 18. “There Ain’t No More” is an award-winning tour-de-folk operetta based on legends of American folk music. As the operetta’s story goes, during his last performance, a dying folksinger faces the life he has led, the legacy he will leave behind, and death itself with five instruments, square-dance calls, and enough dirty jokes to make a beaver blush. The medication-addled musician shares tall memories of lost love, his experience of the Vietnam War, years of political activism, and adventures into the American wilderness in this haunting, heartfelt hootenanny. The Orlando Weekly describes it as “A poetic celebration of America’s original art form that is simultaneously ancient and avant-garde.”
12:45 am: Open jam session, Stage 18.
SUNDAY, AUG. 27 FREE ROOTS FEST MUSIC
Noon: Shawn James Gospel Brunch with pop-up biscuit & gravy bar, Maxine’s Tap Room. First-come, first-served admission/seating. We’ve never heard the incredibly talented rocker Shawn James do gospel songs, but here’s a fabulous video of him covering Frank Sinatra in a soulful rendition of “That’s Life.”
1 pm: Guy Clark Tribute with Tamara Saviano and Rodney Crowell, Fayetteville Public Libary, first-come, first-served admission.
2:30 pm: Guy Clark Tribute v2 with Nature & Madness, Lost John, and Bernice Hembree (of Smokey & the Mirror), Fayetteville Public Libary, first-come, first-served admission.
4 pm: Gillian Welch Tribute, featuring the best female vocalists from the Northwest Arkansas region, including Dana Louise, Rochelle Bradshaw, Meredith Kimbrough, Jamie Lou Connolly, Opal Agafia, Martha Cardwell, Liz Garriss, Ashtyn Nilsen Barbaree, and Stephanie Petet. Maxine’s Tap Room. First-come, first-served admission.
8:30 pm: Kyle Lacy and the Harlem River Noise, Maxine’s Tap Room. The four-piece, 1950s-style rock-and-blues band says their music might remind a listener of what would happen if a young Ray Charles collaborated with a fresh-faced Gene Vincent, and they time traveled to 2017. And, Kyle Lacy and the Harlem River Noise has some funky, hip saxophone playing to boot!
ABOUT FAYETTEVILLE ROOTS FESTIVAL
Fayetteville Roots Festival is a five-day, intimate, urban music and food festival encompassing over 10 music stages and multiple culinary stages and events. The Main Stage at Fayetteville Town Center is the center of the festival and features nationally known musicians/bands paired with undiscovered regional and local talent. The festival also features additional events and stages across Northwest Arkansas (Fayetteville & Bentonville) including George’s Majestic Lounge, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Fayetteville Public Library, Maxine’s Taproom, Kingfish Dive Bar, Stage 18, The Chancellor Hotel, Brightwater Culinary School, and the Fayetteville Farmers’ Market. The Roots Festival is a showcase of many of the elements that make the Fayetteville community and Northwest Arkansas region a beloved cultural hot spot.
“Roots” is intentionally used to describe both the music and food of the festival. The festival is dedicated to showcasing what makes this region of the Ozarks so unique. The festival features a musical style that is diverse and rooted in many uniquely American musical styles such as Folk, Blues, Bluegrass, Jazz, Country, and more. The festival also supports local farmers, chefs, and restaurants, focusing on locally grown produce, locally raised meats and locally produced products from the Ozarks. Mix in film screenings, live radio broadcasts, workshops, a kids/family concert, live art, and patrons from over 25 states and countries and you’ll find out why folks have fallen in love with The Roots Festival.