It's proven, music and dance transcends mother nature. Not even the threat of Hurricane Earl could dampen the spirits of the dedicated campers and dancers at Rhythm and Roots Festival at Ninegret Park in Charlestown, RI. Festival producers spent the better part of Friday making decisions as to whether to cancel the Friday night schedule. Kudu's to the team of Mary Doub, Chuck Wentworth, Mary Burdette and Lisa Husted for coming up with the wonderful solution of putting all 7 bands on the Dance Tent stage which was more sheltered than the open main stage.
The camping area opened on schedule Friday morning but the threat of Earl kept many campers away until Saturday morning. Some of those that braved the threat stuck with a limited camp set up in anticipation of high winds and heavy rains. Other's simply threw caution to the wind and set up as usual. Nevertheless, at 5:00pm the dance stage filled with enthusiastic devoted dancers. As described by one dancer – "us crazies are here celebrating the joy of the music." Fortunately, Earl was mild mannered and the show went on without interruption and what a show it was.
Saturday dawned under beautiful blue skies, comfortable temperatures and breezy winds. The camping community quickly sprang from the ground with everyone in high spirits. All stages began the weekend scheduling on time. The energy was high in both dance tents all weekend long with the dance floors crowded with smiling people. With the staggering of the schedules, it allowed for opportunity to see at least a portion of most sets on each stage for those who chose to travel between them. The repositioning of the dance stage on to the asphalt was brilliant allowing for expanded seating under the shaded trees. Perfect!
The music was fabulous, as if the collective energy generated by the passing storm electrified the festival grounds. All of the band's played with zest and intense drive. Jeffery Broussard and the Creole Cowboys kicked it up with a steady traditional syncopated beat. Much anticipated for his first appearance at Rhythm and Roots, Horace Trahan was the host band with 5 scheduled sets. Horace brought to the stage a fused zydeco style with some unique tunes. His band featured a sax in the instrument mix and with an occasional flute carrying the melody. One remarkable piece was a beautiful waltz fused with a Celtic flute lilt. Uncle Earl, always a treat, was well received in the dance tent successfully pulling the die hard zydeco dancers to the dance floor on Friday evening. Kristen Andreassen loves playing with Uncle Earl because of it's danceable allure.
Saturday night featured an all star Tex Mex styled jam on the main stage featuring Marcia Ball, Johnny Nichols, the Texas Tornados, the Mamou Playboys and lots of horns on the stage. Meanwhile in the dance tent, the dancers grooved to the frenzied beat of CJ Chenier and Donna the Buffalo who catered to the dancers with several zydeco tunes when Preston Frank, Ed Poullard and Steve Riley joined the band on stage.
The local New England bands, Magnolia and Planet Zydeco, stood up to the best of the bands with two entertaining sets each. Lots of Magnolia t-shirts adorned the dancers throughout the weekend in a visible show of dancer support. Where did the wonderful harmonizing come from during Planet Zydeco's set – WoW! Good going, Plant Zydeco! Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys once again jammed the dance tent closing out the festival Sunday evening with a traditional Fais Do Do. The energy and groove vibrated endlessly past the midnight curfew.
Despite the economic condition putting a squeeze on sponsorship and patron support, Rhythm and Roots, once again, managed to produce and deliver an impressive show.