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Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival


The Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival that takes place in Columbia, Missouri every autumn celebrated a 10th anniversary this year, but as far as birthday gifts go, all the loot went to festival-goers. In fact, the crowd was “unwrapping” presents throughout the course of the three-day event as the festival generously doled-out helpings of musical fun in the form of concerts by more than 30 performers. And yes, perfectly-seasoned and prepared-on-the-spot meat was on the menu too!


Shovels & Rope

Initially held in Columbia’s vibrant downtown area, the Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival got so popular that some years back it moved to (literally!) greener pastures, and it now takes place at Stephens Lake Park, a facility big enough to accommodate two large stages and thousands of fans. Held Sept. 30 through Oct. 2 this year, the opening day fun started with a show from the Columbia-based band The Fried Crawdaddies on one stage and fellow local act The Oversight Committee on the other; festival organizers always showcase some of the area’s best acts and local bands also played the early slots the other two days. But after that, it was a non-stop parade of nationally-known performers, all of whom played one type or another of “roots” music.


G. Love

A nice mix of established and rising stars played the Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival this year, offering cool juxtapositions like soulful gospel shows from both the Blind Boys of Alabama and Nashville’s current gospel-loving cowboy star, Mike Farris, and alt-country performances from the likes of the long-running Jason Isbell, formerly of the Drive-By Truckers, and upcoming like-minded talents like Shovels & Rope and The Devil Makes Three. Some of the most rip-snorting shows came from the always-raucous Southern Culture on the Skids and The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, which for the uninitiated, is actually just a trio, but a very loud one!


The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band


John Popper of Blues Traveler

Grace Potter, Ben Folds, the Avett Brothers, Blues Traveler, G. Love & Special Sauce and Sam Bush, who played a set of bluegrass-flavored jams, were among the other performers. At one point it seemed like G. Love must have cloned himself as the singer made guest appearances before and after his own set, hitting the stage with the Avett Brothers and also facing off with Blues Traveler’s John Popper for a harmonica duel during a cover of the Sublime cover “What I Got.” Soulful rock flowed freely from Houndmouth and St. Paul & the Broken Bones, and an eclectic bunch including Rayland Baxter, Paul Thorn, The Oh Hellos, The Budos Band, Deke Dickerson, The Mavericks and Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats also kept the crowd grooving. Of course all that dancing and shaking comes at a cost; fortunately it was easy to refuel at the Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival!


Sam Bush


The Oversight Committee

“BBQ” is part of the festival’s name for a reason; it is not there as an afterthought, unless you consider a crowd that devours more than six whole hogs worth of BBQ pulled pork an afterthought! The Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival has a reputation for being one of the best music festivals to tie on the feedbag. Pulled pork was the star of the food court, but there was also BBQ chicken, ribs, beef brisket and, you know you want one, BBQ sandwiches served on a donut! Goodies like kettle corn, corn dogs, ice cream (and root beer floats!) pizza, gyros and lots more rounded out the munchies options. And of course there was no shortage of adult beverage, including locally-brewed Logboat Beer.


Pulled pork straight from the source

When they weren’t filling up on smoked meats and smokin’ music, festival-goers had plenty to do including shopping for Missouri-made crafts, checking out new Kia automobiles, posing at the “Trailer Swift Photo Booth,” riding the Ferris wheel with the kiddies, and stocking up on band CDs and T-shirts, and some of the acts appeared after their sets to sign those CDs, including The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band and Houndmouth.


Raul Malo of the Mavericks

Even though Stephens Lake Park bristled with music fans, there was no problem getting in and out as the festival provided a free (non-stop) shuttle service that brought folks in from points throughout Columbia. As people headed home in the evening the talk on those shuttles was all about comparing notes on what shows had been seen, and understandably, speculation about who would appear next year. That information will eventually be revealed here

For ideas on other fun things to do in Columbia, go here

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