Very soon, around 45,000 music lovers from all over the world will gather on State Street in Historic Downtown Bristol, Tennessee-Virginia for the 18th annual Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion music festival—a thrilling event that honors the twin cities’ unique history as the place where the legendary 1927 Bristol Sessions were recorded. The success of those recordings revolutionized the country music industry, an occurrence referred to by scholars as the “big bang” of country music. Bristol, Tennessee-Virginia is recognized by Congress as the “birthplace of country music” due to the impact of those influential sessions.
Old Crow Medicine Show, Railroad Earth, and the Taj Mahal Trio will headline an eclectic roster of talent that satisfies every musical palate. The SteelDrivers, Marcus King Band, Twin Peaks, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Asleep at the Wheel, Ruen Brothers, Dale Watson & His Lonestars, Old 97’s, The Waybacks, and Scott Miller & the Commonwealth are just a few acts on Bristol Rhythm’s mammoth roster—a lineup curated to honor the roots and far-reaching branches of the 1927 Bristol Sessions. Due to an unforeseen scheduling conflict, Barns Courtney has withdrawn from the lineup; The Felice Brothers will step in to fill that set.
“Our organization’s mission is at the core of everything we do, and that is to promote and celebrate Bristol’s vast music legacy,” said Leah Ross, Executive Director of the Birthplace of Country Music (BCM), the parent organization of Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion, the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, and Radio Bristol. “You’ll find the diverse lineup at Bristol Rhythm will reflect the history of our region’s music culture and just how much that music continues to influence the artists of today—on an international scale.”
Over the course of the 3-day weekend, Bristol Rhythm will host 140+ acts of live music on 20 stages scattered throughout downtown—some located outdoors, some tucked away inside local venues and restaurants. The music is nothing short of first-class, but its setting in Historic Downtown Bristol makes this festival truly special for visitors. Contained within a few short blocks and split in half by the state line along State Street, the quaint area is hopping with locally-owned craft breweries, boutiques, galleries, restaurants, shops, and landmarks that add a unique charm to this authentic music experience.
Bristol is also home to the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution. This world-class museum tells the story of the 1927 Bristol Sessions and its impact on the music of today through engaging film experiences and exhibits, interactive touchscreens, soundscapes, and much more. Everyone is encouraged to take in the full tour, including the new festival-themed special exhibit Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion: Through Your Eyes, a juried selection of photographs taken by festival goers. Festival wristband holders may tour the entire museum at the discounted rate of $10 during Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion. The museum is located just outside festival gates; you do not need to purchase a festival wristband to tour the museum.
Radio Bristol will take its popular live variety show Farm and Fun Time to the Paramount Theatre Stage during Bristol Rhythm. Featuring Radio Bristol host Kris Truelsen and house band Bill and the Belles, this throwback to vintage radio is part music, part storytelling, and a whole lotta fun in-between! Special musical guests include Dale Watson & His Lonestars, Ruen Brothers, and a surprise act has just been announced—The War & Treaty. Only Bristol Rhythm wristband holders will be admitted to see Farm and Fun Time at the beautifully restored Paramount, but fans at home don’t have to miss the show. Farm and Fun Time will be aired in its entirety on Radio Bristol’s Facebook Live. Radio Bristol will also broadcast live from The Cameo Theater Stage all weekend long. If it isn’t convenient to watch the broadcasts on the station’s Facebook page, Radio Bristol is available internationally online at ListenRadioBristol.org and through their free mobile app.
BCM will host free screenings of the film Born in Bristol: The Untold Story of the Birth of Country Music during Bristol Rhythm. The docudrama explores the impact of the 1927 Bristol Sessions and its lasting influence through artist interviews and visual recreations. Many interviews seen in the feature were filmed during recording sessions for Orthophonic Joy: The 1927 Bristol Sessions CD project. Dolly Parton, Vince Gill, Eric Church, Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, Marty Stuart, Sheryl Crow, and Doyle Lawson, among others, appear in the film. Born in Bristol will be shown each day of the festival in the Performance Theater at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum. Festival wristbands are not required for this event and it is free and open to the public.
Bristol Rhythm added a second show to its Thursday night Kick-Off Concert with Cruz Contreras, the dynamic singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and front man for The Black Lillies. The 7:00 p.m. show is sold out, but you may still catch the artist that evening at 9:00 p.m. in the intimate Performance Theater at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum. Click here to order tickets.
In addition to the stellar lineup of artists at Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion, you’ll find a number of activities and events you may participate in during the festival including the free Children’s Day event for families. Registration for the popular Bluegrass Jam Camp and 5K Road Race/Walk is under way.
Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion will be held September 21–23, 2018. Here is a list of other festival-related events with times and locations:
5K Road Race/Walk – Registration required
Saturday, September 22 | 8:00 a.m.
Race day registration | 6:30 a.m.-7:30 a.m.
Bluegrass Jam Camp – Pre-registration required
September 18–21 (Tuesday Through Friday)
Tuesday | 2:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m.
Wednesday-Friday | 10:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.
Jubilee House Retreat Center
Born in Bristol: The Untold Story of the Birth of Country Music – Free and open to the public
Film Screening – Run Time: 54 mins.
Friday, September 21 | 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m.
Saturday, September 22 | 12:00 p.m., 2:00 p.m., and 4:00 p.m.
Sunday, September 23 | 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m
Bristol Rhythm Kick-Off Concert ft. Cruz Contreras
Thursday, September 20
7:00 p.m. (Sold Out)
9:00 p.m. – Tickets $25
Birthplace of Country Music Museum.
Children’s Day – NEW LOCATION! Free and open to the public
Saturday, September 22 | 10:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m.
Guided Jams – Festival wristband required
September 22 & 23
Saturday 2:00 p.m.–4:00 p.m.
Sunday 12:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Special Exhibits Gallery
Birthplace of Country Music Museum
Radio Bristol Presents: Farm and Fun Time – Festival wristband required
Saturday, September 22 | 8:30 p.m.
Yoga Rocks! – NEW LOCATION, must have festival wristband to participate
Saturday, September 22 | 11:00 a.m.
Cumberland Square Park
It takes around 800 volunteers to make Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion the award-winning event is has become, and the festival is actively recruiting volunteers. Each volunteer receives a single day pass to the festival for each 4-hour shift they work and a festival volunteer t-shirt. Volunteers are asked to fill out an online registration form here.
Attendees are encouraged to download the free Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion festival app prior to arrival to ensure proper download. With the app you will receive up-to-the-minute scheduling changes, announcements, have the ability to create your own custom schedule, and receive alerts so you don’t miss your favorite bands.
Weekend passes to Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion are currently $110 and will increase to $135 at the gate. Single day passes for Friday are $45, $60 for Saturday, and $40 for a Sunday pass. Children 12 and under are admitted to the festival for free. Festival wristbands will not be mailed this close to event. Purchasers may print out their ticket confirmation and exchange at the festival gate for a wristband. Click here to purchase.