Click the flag to hear the Acadian anthem

Click the flag to hear the Acadian anthem
Fier d'être acadien - Proud to be acadian

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Rhythm, Roots, and a whole lot more

Labor Day weekend has become the unofficial end of summer, the start of a new school year, and a reminder that the holiday season (and snow) are not far off. For the past two years, I have been fortunate to attend the Rhythm and Roots Festival in Charlestown, RI. Spacious Ninigret Park is the host venue for the 3-day music, dance, and food festival.
The large open air Festival Stage lawn allows for blankets, chairs, canopies, and just about anything else families seem to roll in from the parking lot. Wind socks and flags of all sorts are the norm. The largest of these is an Acadian flag with a smaller Cajun flag beneath it. When I spoke with the flag’s owner, he mentioned he and his family had been attending the festival for years. He is in the boat building business. Utilizing his knowledge of masts and sails, he devised a telescoping pole for the large flags to fly high above the crowd and much higher than anyone else’s.

Vive l'Acadie
Festival Stage crowd


2012’s featured artist was Hugh Laurie and the Copper Bottom Band. (Mr. Laurie is most known for his television character "Dr. House"). To me, the act which followed was more interesting. La Bottine Souriante from Québec played a high-energy set in a light rain to close out Saturday’s schedule. They were featured at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver.
Hugh Laurie
One of the highlights this year was the 25th Anniversary Celebration for Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys. Founding and former members and friends of the Cajun band joined the current lineup for a heartfelt “Thank you” to the Rhode Island crowd who has cheered them for years. Steve mentioned playing Cajun music hasn't made him rich, but that he has a rich life.

Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys
Another popular attraction is the Dance Stage. Many musicians from Louisiana keep the crowd moving with authentic Cajun and Zydeco music. Last year, it was the Pine Leaf Boys, Jesse Legé & Bayou Brew, and Andre Thierry & Zydeco Magic who dared the crowd to keep pace. This year’s equally high-end talent included The Revelers, Geno Delafosse & French Rockin’ Boogie, Feufollet, Corey Ledet & His Zydeco Band, and the host band, Cedric Watson et Bijou Creole.

Pine Leaf Boys Crowd 
Dance Stage during the Day

Above are bands that sing in French; albeit a Cajun, Créole, or Québécois version not taught in New England public schools. Most of the folk, blues, and roots music at the festival is sung in English.
A wide variety of food vendors offer everything from steamed lobster, to wood oven pizza, to Greek gyros, to Louisiana inspired favorites blackened shrimp over jambalaya or a spicy crawfish boil.

Tent and RV camping is available, but spots should be reserved well in advance. The large, flat camping area was once a Naval Auxiliary Air Station. Setting up is quick and relatively easy. Chatting with other campers, you are bound to meet people from all over the Northeast States. The area becomes a quirky village of concert goers over the weekend (The festival sells 1,500 camping tickets). One group of old friends set up their tents and campers around a big top circus tent.

Wide open camping
My tent
Music is what brought me to the Rhythm and Roots Festival. The entire experience is what will keep me going back.