Charlestown, Rhode Island, came alive with the spirit of music and camaraderie over the Labor Day weekend (September 1-3) as the 2023 Rhythm & Roots Festival unfolded flawlessly at the picturesque Ninigret Park. Under the stewardship of the Wentworth family, who handed over the reins to GoodWorks Entertainment a little over a year ago, the festival, while no longer technically independent, retained its authentic, grassroots character.
Rooted in the celebration of music, especially zydeco and blues, this festival exuded a warm, communal atmosphere, amplified by a dedicated campground community. Music enthusiasts reveled in performances that spanned from Friday evening, starting at 4 pm and extending into the night, with the rhythm resuming on Saturday and Sunday from noon until 11 pm. Boasting just three stages—The Rhythm Stage (the primary stage), The Roots Stage (an intimate tented setting), and The Dance Stage (featuring a tented space with a sturdy dance floor)—Ninigret Park proved to be the idyllic backdrop for this family-friendly event. The festival grounds, adorned with lush green lawns, were complemented by a children’s playground and a serene freshwater pond, further enhancing the festival’s appeal.
Musical highlights included The Stringusters, who delivered a traditional bluegrass performance, sans the fiddle, captivating the audience with an energetic 90-minute set. Meanwhile, Greensky Bluegrass infused their interpretation of the genre with psychedelic rock elements, culminating in a festival-closing spectacle complete with mesmerizing string melodies and a dazzling light show.
In summary, the 2023 Rhythm & Roots Festival left little to be desired. While some may yearn for a touch more diversity in the lineup, the festival’s overall enjoyment factor remains exceptionally high. Steve Riley, one of the performers, eloquently encapsulated the essence of the weekend by expressing gratitude to the audience for their unwavering support in preserving and nurturing roots music. He also highlighted the unique bond shared between New Orleans and Rhode Island. As anticipation builds for the 2024 lineup, following the strength of the 2023 roster, securing early tickets is sure to be a priority for music aficionados. This festival continues to be a vibrant testament to the enduring power of music and community.