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All-Female Roots N Blues Lineup Draws Crowds to Columbia's Stephens Lake Park

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Alex Fulton
Vox Magazine

Thousands of people gathered at Stephens Lake Park in Columbia last weekend for the 14th annual Roots N Blues festival.

This year’s lineup of industry legends and promising newcomers caught the attention of music aficionados like Vox Magazine Arts and Culture editor Evan Musil. Musil spoke with KBIA about what’s new and different at this year’s festival.

EVAN MUSIL: Yeah, so there's a lot of new things happening with Roots N Blues. First off new ownership. Trio Presents took over in 2019 December. So this is their first festival that they're putting on. And the most noticeable thing about the lineup at first is that it's all female. And one of the reasons that they like decided to do this was to kind of show that I think in their words, that artistry and level of talent doesn't in any way decrease having women features and that the approach extends beyond just having an all female lineup. I know they're taking the same approach with hiring production staff and security.

ZIA KELLY: Let's talk about what we're gonna hear this weekend.

MUSIL: Yeah, so um, obviously most people are looking forward to the headliners. What's the most prominent, right, Sheryl Crow obviously made so she's definitely one that people will be lining up for. We got Brandi Carlile, who you know her blend of Americana and like folk rock is very popular and yeah, she'll certainly drive the crowds as well. Mavis Staples, rhythm and blues legend icon. She'll be performing. I've seen her live before and she's really fun. Tanya Tucker's another headliner, her latest album was just produced by Brandi Carlile. So there's kind of you know, some of the artists, some of the artists have you know that, you know, they're connected. Yeah.

KELLY: I love that. I love that collaboration that's going on, kind of within the lineup. That's so cool. I mean, along with the headliners and some of the bigger names that we've also got some up and comers right here from Missouri. Could you talk about that a little bit?

MUSIL: Yeah, absolutely. So of course, we have local band, violet in the undercurrents. And they're kind of brand of storytelling rock is like, really enjoyable. And they run the festival in 2019, as well, from that pain in the sky and strong. And there's also another group to look out for the Molly Healy String Project. And they're very unique in that it's kind of like they describe themselves as like orchestral rock. And the orchestra is just made up of one woman, Molly Healy. She roots her violin and cello guitar, creating different layers of sound until it sounds like just one solid, your wall sound as an orchestra that I think will be really interesting.

KELLY: So you serve as an arts and culture editor at Vox, and oversaw the production of this latest issue about roots and blues. Are there any articles that you ran that that stood out to you?

MUSIL: Yeah, so there's one piece that we ran about Black women reclaiming country where it was a Q&A with MU music Professor Stephanie Shonekan -

KELLY: Yeah, she's a friend of KBIA. She's been on air several times.

MUSIL: Yeah. And we, we talked about how black artists and particularly Black women have been traditionally excluded from the see the country scene industry that's been dominated, typically by white men, right? And kind of also how, you know, in a lot of ways, black artists and Black women have like shaped the genre. And so kind of going into how artists today are kind of challenging these kind of racial boundaries that have been drawn up by like music, music industry professionals and whatnot. And it's a really fascinating read.

KELLY: I mean, just on its face. The lineup looks pretty diverse. It seems like that the organizers really put a concerted effort into making sure people are represented on stage.

MUSIL: Absolutely. And I love that they've done that while also highlighting like really great artists.

KELLY: I think one thing that was striking to me about this lineup is you know, we talked about the diversity of people there as well as it being like, you know all female or all female fronted lineup is just the diversity of sound. The festival itself, of course was created to highlight Missouri roots, bluegrass and folk and country, but there's a lot more to it this year. Could you talk a little bit about that?

MUSIL: Oh, absolutely. I think that they've done a really great job with kind of stepping out of just the boundaries of blues and country and highlighting a lot of artists that have some really like interesting unique sounds that you wouldn't normally expect to hear at roots and blues. Tank and The Bangas is one I have my eye on. They kind of have this really unique blend of like rock funk, soul hip hop, and as they describe it like Disney-like magic. Kind of like this childlike wonder that they infuse in their songs that they like associate with like Disney movies and like anime.

MUSIL: There's also Flor de Toloache, that is an all-female mariachi band. And this is the first time that reds and blues has ever had a mariachi band in its lineup. And yeah, I think they'll be really exciting to hear. They've had a lot of high profile collaborations with john legend and me go and they have this mariachi cover of Don't Speak by No Doubt -

KELLY: That’s outstanding.

MUSIL: Hopefully they perform that.

KELLY: Yeah, I'm looking forward to that for sure. Thanks so much for coming in and talking to me about this, Evan.

MUSIL: Of course I'm happy to talk.

That was Evan Musil, Arts and Culture editor at Vox Magazine - giving us a preview of this year’s Roots N Blues festival lineup. Roots N Blues was at Stephens Lake Park in Columbia from Friday, September 24th-26th.

To learn more about the festival, visit the event website at rootsnbluesfestival.com. For more Roots N Blues coverage, including the Q&A with MU Music professor Stephanie Shonekan, pick up the September issue of Vox Magazine or visit https://www.voxmagazine.com/

Zia Kelly graduated with degrees in journalism and public health at the University of Missouri - Columbia in May 2020.. Outside of the newsroom, she works part-time as a personal trainer and competes as an Olympic-style weightlifter.