Though a final count has yet to be determined, early estimates indicate attendance at Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion 2014 is another record breaker. Friday's performances by Emmylou Harris, Moon Taxi, Sturgill Simpson, Red Molly, Caveman and Willie Watson proved legendary; Saturday’s headliners Jeff Tweedy, the David Grisman Bluegrass Experience, J. Roddy Walston & the Business, The Black Lillies, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and St. Paul & the Broken Bones were off the hook. And on Sunday Billy Joe Shaver, Dale Watson & His Ameripolitan Review (ft. Amber Digby & Roger Alan Wade), Parker Millsap, The Kruger Brothers, and Folk Soul Revival rounded out the annual event on the highest of notes.
More than 7,500 people from as far away as Canada, Switzerland, Germany, Japan, Sweden and the United Kingdom watched portions of Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion online. The livestream, provided by ETSU Online and BVU Optinet, was viewed in 34 of the United States.
"We work so hard all year," says Birthplace of Country Music executive director Leah Ross, "when Sunday comes, it's very emotional. We are proud to see the birth of a new festival year after year, but when that last note is played you can't believe it's already time to move forward with plans for the next."
The festival known for emerging artists, Bristol Rhythm’s supporting cast also gets rave reviews. Newcomers White Denim, Sundy Best, The Dustbowl Revival, Swear and Shake, Truth & Salvage Co., Jarekus Singleton, Andrew Combs, The Harris Brothers, Mandolin Orange, and Goodnight, Texas are but a few of the acts to earn high marks for stellar performances. Festival veterans The Whiskey Gentry (featuring a surprise visit by Roger Alan Wade), Holy Ghost Tent Revival, Sol Driven Train, King Super & the Excellents, and Old Line Skiffle Combo brought their “A” games with energetic shows that whipped crowds into a frenzy. The New Familiars’ Grateful Dead Tribute was also a festival highlight.
"More than 55,000 volunteers, artists, vendors and fans attended Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion in 2013 and preliminary statistics tell us we did see an increase,” says Ross. “This year was a big success, and we are grateful to our sponsors, our cities, and everyone who attended for supporting us. It's been a great year for the Birthplace of Country Music!"
And what a year it has been.
The success of the 14th annual Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion comes on the heels of an award-winning year for the event. Besides being voted "Best of Show" by Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association, "Best Festival" by Southeast Festival & Events Association, and achieving Bristol's Mayors' Award of Distinction, Bristol Rhythm ranked among the American Bus Association's Top 100 Events of North America. The museum’s grand opening ceremony, held in August, received press on NPR and Reuters.com, in Rolling Stone Country, Music Row Magazine, and American Songwriter.
A number of festival artists and visitors toured the museum during the festival. Some were surprised to find their own images included among the exhibits.
“Artists like The Black Lillies and M.S.G.-The Acoustic Blues Trio toured the museum and were excited to be part of our exhibits,” says Ross. “Festival artists are part of Bristol’s music legacy and show the impact of the Bristol Sessions on the music of today."
Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion 2015 is scheduled for September 18—20, 2015.