After more than a year without live music, the driving beat of a snare drum, the pulsing rhythm of a bass guitar, and sweet vocal melodies floating through the air around Stephens Lake Park will be welcome sounds as the Roots N Blues Festival makes its highly anticipated return to Columbia September 24-26, 2021.
Missouri’s largest outdoor music festival, presented by Veterans United Home Loans, Roots N Blues takes place across 50 acres of the picturesque Stephens Lake Park near downtown Columbia and features over two dozen artists performing on two main stages spread over three days and nights. The international, national, regional, and local artists selected to perform cover the gamut of American “roots” music, from blues and soul to country and bluegrass, rock ‘n roll to pop, and nearly everything in between.
Fest-goers will notice a significant difference in this year’s musical lineup. After taking the reins in mid-2019, the festival’s new owners, Trio Presents – comprised of Tracy Lane, Shay Jasper, and Jamie Vavaro – set out to do things differently right out of the gate. According to the organizers, even though Roots N Blues has always been a champion of female performers, they wanted to do their part to help “reverse the under-representation of female artists at music festivals” by filling every slot in this year’s Roots N Blues lineup with a female-led artist.
The headliners for 2021 include nine-time Grammy Award-winner and University of Missouri alumni Sheryl Crow, six-time Grammy Award-winning artist Brandi Carlile, luminary R&B, and gospel artist Mavis Staples and country music legend Tanya Tucker. Other big-name acts include the undefinable yet funky Tank and the Bangas, Canadian pop star Lennon Stella, acclaimed folk music trio Joseph and country music contemporary Natalie Hemby, who, along with Brandi Carlile, make up half of the Grammy-winning female supergroup Highwomen. This is only a highlight of a few of the celebrated acts performing at Stephens Lake Park this year.
“We wanted to show that an entire major festival lineup can consist of first-rate artistry in every genre of Americana – from the traditional blues and country artists to Mariachi and hip-hop, and every act can be female-led,” says Lane. “Live music is a communal experience, and, for me, it’s vital that we present a space for multi-generational, equitable communal experiences for the audience and for the artists.”
This shift has been well-received by potential festival attendees and the performing musicians as well.
“We can’t wait to perform at Roots N Blues,” says Tierinii Jackson, frontwoman for the Memphis-based soulful blues-rock band Southern Avenue, who plays Roots N Blues on Sunday afternoon. “Not only do I personally feel very honored to be listed alongside these incredible performers, but I’m grateful for the female empowerment that will be represented individually with each of these bands. Sheryl Crow was certainly a staple in my musical childhood, so she’s definitely very high on my list of performers to see. But, I think Tank and the Bangas will take the cake for me. The fact that we get to finally cross paths and I get to see them live will be a very special experience for me. Southern Avenue will certainly be ready to rock and we’ll be counting down the days until then!”
The Nashville-based Grammy-nominated rock ‘n roll duo Larkin Poe, who plays Friday night, is also thrilled about the 2021 festival. “This year’s Roots N Blues Festival is a veritable explosion of XX chromosomes,” the sisters say. “Hands down, this is one of the most exciting festival lineups of 2021 — we are looking forward to making music alongside so many of our heroes.”
The festival gets started on Friday, Sept. 24 with gates opening at 4:00 p.m. with music beginning at 5:00 p.m. and lasting until 10 p.m. On Saturday, gates open at noon and music wraps up at 10 a.m. For Sunday, gates open at noon with the festival concluding at 9:00 p.m.
Visitors planning to attend Roots N Blues can find more information on where to stay as well as all the other fun events, year-round attractions, excellent options for dining and libations available in Columbia, by visiting the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau website or by calling 573-874-CITY (2489).