Never one to waste any time, or sleep, when it comes to music related events, I found myself headed to Muddy Roots Music Festival in the beautiful area of Cookeville, TN. A peaceful journey across Tennessee, with a brief stop at the legendary McKay’s Used Books to fill my cup with new listening and reading material. Then ever onward to the Southeast’s premiere roots and rowdy rock circus known as Muddy Roots. Some interstate travel led to some back road highways led to some country road two lanes which eventually put us on a gravel path for a brief bit. This dusty trail gave way to the most majestic overview of a festival I’ve seen. The entrance road was situated higher and created a bird’s eye view of the festival grounds. Easily the best first impression for this reporter and avid festival goer. I hope all of the attendees took a moment to appreciate that view. After the usual quick credential and site securing, I was off with notebook in hand to catch the sights and sounds. Explosive sets all day from Sarah Shook and The Disarmers, Meat Puppets, Left Lane Cruiser, Joshua Black Wilkins, Megan Jean and the Klay Family Band, and iconic legends X and Dead Boys. Three continuous stages kept the music on rotation. The vibe of Muddy Roots was super relaxed and friendly and truly present to support the artists and the roots and punk rock community. I had a sense the entire time that everyone knew each other and some even knew me. Such a friendly space. Music was on tap all weekend but a true highlight was the set up of the event and its artisans and vendors. I loved the closeness of the stages and the “galley” design. Two larger stages bookended the quarter mile stretch with one large tent style stage in the middle. Convenient and always providing the sonic soundtrack on your commute to either end. The vendors were super roots and funky in nature and talent. Local apparel and leather goods, amazing food and artwork, even on site vinyl pressing from the good folks at Groove Family Records, purveyors of straight to vinyl recording. Also we can’t forget Jack White’s Third Man Records traveling record store was there. It’s exactly what it sounds like, a record store, like a food truck, where you order what you want. And I did.
Speaking with Joshua Black Wilkins, five time Muddy Roots artist, he has been especially attracted to the general grass roots spirit of the festival due to it’s lack of corporate sponsorship and that its always been about “Independent American Music”. There truly is a DIY vibe to the whole Muddy Roots festival and for me that is huge. As a touring musician, it’s lovely to see festivals of this size investing in the local artists and championing the spirit of continuing to nurture these artists.
“I really get why Muddy Roots has the reputation it does, people really enjoy being here and I really feel that”, said Byrne Klay, multi instrumentalist from duo Megan Jean and Klay Family Band.
Singer/guitarist Freddy from Left Lane Cruiser, six time Muddy Roots artist, felt blessed, honored and grateful to be back, as he navigated an hour long merch and autograph line. “Poppin’ as always” he exclaimed.
Huger thanks to Jason and the entire Muddy Roots crew for the amazing vibe and hospitality they provided me. A truly ground up festival supporting the local scene and that alone stole my heart immediately. Definitely be seeing you next year.
Next up was the massive beverage and band weekend known as Bourbon and Beyond. A two day barrel infused, heavy line up in the beautiful and “not far away” local city of Louisville, KY. A lovely jaunt up through the Kentucky trees and hills with the quickly changing landscape of season and weather. Never one to allow for negativity or conditions to overcast my mission of festival happiness, I cast out any concerns of inclement possibilities and soldiered on. Champions Park, conveniently located near the interstate and situated easily for entrance and exit, is a massive campus and prime for something as elaborate as Bourbon And Beyond. Spacious, tree lined, gorgeous and clearly widely admired by it’s city and residents. Their energy was tremendous. After credential pick up and site secured (I do this a lot), all to the lovely sounds of Larkin Poe stirring the pot on stage. I made my way around the festival complex. The staff was completely friendly, all vendors were lined out their tents (always a good sign), trademark spirits were abundant and the bands were giving the perfect rhythm as festival goers danced away and made the most of their first day. I also noticed quite a large amount of families with children which will always be a solid idea. Again, amazing vibes and wonderful sets from Larkin Poe, Joseph, JJ Grey and Mofro, Keb Mo, Billy Strings, Brian Setzer, Sheryl Crow, David Byrne, Lenny Kravitz and John Mayer. All back to back without a hitch. Just an incredible line of solid hitters. Although the second day was unfortunately cancelled due to weather, it was absolutely worth every effort to attend and be grateful for what I was fortunate to see. The entire event was Beyond what I could’ve only imagined. Amazing journey, fortunate connections and interactions, beyond solid musical soundtracks and vibe and a truly pleasant atmosphere. Ultimately the visible smiles outweighed any sort of unfortunate weather conditions and that’s the true test. Thank you Bourbon And Beyond.
Huge thanks to Kristine, Selena and all of the Bourbon And Beyond staff for the hospitality. also, huge thanks to the citizens and safe keepers of the city of Louisville. Count on seeing me next year for both Bourbon And Beyond AND Louder Than Life, two consecutive weekends at this truly local festival site? Sign me up!