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The Muddy Roots Festival is nigh upon us, and folks from all around the country and world will be making the trek to Cookeville, TN in a few days for the premier event for underground/independent roots music.
If you have been there before, you know you are about to be a part of one of the best music experiences of your life, and if this is your first time, you will realize that soon.
Most of the information you need to know about the Muddy Roots Festival can be found on their website, but here is a more in-depth look for folks who want to be prepared, as well as some updated information about the lineup and such.
This is all the info you need in one place, so print it out, bookmark it and pull it up on your phone during the fest, and most importantly, have fun!
Free Music Downloads
Whether you’re attending the Muddy Roots Festival or not, you should take advantage of the 30 free songs Muddy Roots has made available from this year’s performers. It’s the perfect thing to listen to on the trek there and back, or to live vicariously through the music if you can’t be there.
The Schedule & Lineup
Please be aware and help spread the word that there has been some changes to the lineup and schedule since it was initially released in May, principally that T Model Ford and GravelRoad will not be performing because of his recent health issues, and neither will Slim Chance and the Can’t Hardly Playboys. Other names have been added, and others moved around to fill spots. The most up-to-date and accurate schedule is printed in the latest edition of The Rambler Zine which is available for $1, can be viewed online, and will also be available for free at Muddy Roots. SCM’s calendar goddess has also made the schedule available in multiple PDF formats that you can print out or download below.
Provisions have been made this year to reduce the overlap of the performances so that hopefully folks aren’t torn between who to see, but I would recommend looking over the schedule and doing some planning before you leave for the fest. Also be realistic and plan for downtime, hanging out at camp with friends and/or impromptu jams in the campground, seeing bands that you DON’T know, etc. etc. And please be aware as always the schedule is subject to change.
There will be a 3rd stage set up this year that will act as an “open mic” stage, and where movies etc. will be shown. If you’re planning to show up and play stage 3, you may want to reach out to Muddy Roots beforehand or as soon as you arrive to make sure you are secured a spot.
Stage 3 – Open Mic Stage – Movie Screenings
This year, Stage 3 is an Open Mic stage for artists and bands that are attending Muddy Roots and want an opportunity to play. Some acts that have been confirmed to be playing are:
- Ray Lawrence Jr.
- Black Eyed Vermillion
- Los Bastardos Magnificos
- The Dirt Scab Band
- Sean Wheeler, possibly with a very special guest (wink,wink)
- Don Maddox (second set)
There will be certain times on all three days of the fest where Stage 3 will be reserved for specific events. For example, Don Maddox will be doing a second set and telling stories for a recording. Beyond that, performers are encouraged to sign up and play on a first come, first serve basis, as long as they are respectful to the other performers and take no longer than 30 minutes on stage. Artists or bands that are performing on the other stages over the weekend that, for example, want to play acoustic sets or collaborate with other artists on side projects are also welcome, but please be respectful of the folks who may have not had a chance to play yet. There will be a sign-up list, and please understand it will be a loose, organic situation that everyone must work together to make work.
There will be a PA provided for sound on Stage 3, but performers will be expected to help with their own sound, and supplies of mic/cords/etc. may be limited, so come prepared. Please understand that with the unlimited amount of people that could show up wanting to play the open mic, playing does not mean you get free admittance to the fest. However open mic performers are more than welcome to sell merch, or possibly play twice, as long as they are respectful to the other performers.
Movies will be shown late at night Thursday night for early comers, and possibly other nights on a big screen. There will also be screenings of The Folksinger and We Juke Up In Here during evening sets at Stage 3.
Food, Drink, Alcohol, Merch, & Vendors
The Muddy Roots Festival has plenty of food vendors on site that will be cooking all day and all night, including breakfast fare. The famous hippie bus that was such a big hit last year will be there again, and so will a new vendor selling gator. And of course there’s hamburgers and hot dogs, vegetarian choices, just about whatever you would want to eat, so bringing your own food or running into town is not necessary, but unlike many festivals, you can bring your own food, beverage, alcohol on-site if you want. As hot as it can get in late August in middle Tennessee, I would recommend everyone arrive with a stock of water. There will be beer available at the June Bug bar, and not at baseball game/Bonnaroo prices. Everything is fairly reasonably priced.
Along with food and beverage vendors, there will also be craft vendors, and of course plenty of merch and music you can purchase to help support the bands. Jack White’s Third Man Records will be driving their mobile merch van out from Nashville for the event for example, so bring an few extra bucks for goodies to take home. This year Muddy Roots is setting up a “General Store” that will be located at the back of stage 3 where all the bands will assemble their merch. They will also be selling sundries, snacks, and Muddy Roots souveniers.
There are no reserved camp spots at the June Bug Ranch. The festival is in a very large open field with a ridge down the middle where all the stages and vendors set up. Around the edge of the field are woods where you can get shade, and those are the areas that tend to fill up first. Camping is first come, first serve, so if you plan to camp, the earlier you get there, the better. You can camp right by your car, pull up an RV or trailer, take as much space as you want, it’s no problem, and the camping is free with your admission. All camping is primitive and so there are no electric or water hookups, but there is electric and water on the site if you need it, as well as an ice vendor who makes the rounds all day.
The best part about camping is that you will always be right by the action, and don’t have to worry about DUI’s. Everything is within walking distance. Even if you’re planning to stay in a hotel, it may not be a bad idea if you’re driving in to pack a tent and a sleeping bag just in case. There will always be plenty of room to set up.
There are also air-conditioned, lockable cabins for rent but by none other than Muddy Roots blues performer Cashman, but supply is limited at this point to Thursday, Sunday, and Monday. You can rent them at the Muddy Roots Online Store. Tent and sleeping bag rental is closed for 2012, but consider they do offer that service if you are attending next year. Campers can arrive a day early (Thursday Aug 30th) and stay a day late (Monday Sept. 3rd).
Parking is free with admittance as well, and just like camping, is sort of “find the best spot” in the designated parking areas. The areas near the stages and vendors on the top ridge should be kept clear for the people working the festival and attendees with special needs. All roads and paths should be kept clear as well. Muddy Roots IS wheelchair and elderly accessible.
There is no seating in front of either of the stages, so even if you’re not planning to camp, you may consider bringing folding chairs for certain events. The Muddy Roots Festival and the June Bug Ranch are completely self contained, so there’s no reason to leave the fest once you get there, unless you want to.
Showers / Style Tips
Hot showers are provided on site for no additional charge. There will be hand washing stations by the portable toilets throughout the grounds. There is not water throughout the camping areas, but there are some spigots in and around the vendors that you can use. Dress comfortably. Wear good shoes. Worry about staying cool first instead of looking cool. Expect rain. And for the ladies, here’s some beauty tips specifically catered to Muddy Roots:
There is ample hotel space in Cookeville to accommodate everyone attending Muddy Roots, so don’t worry about a run on rooms. The fest’s lodge of choice is the Key West Inn which is the closest hotel to the grounds and also provides a shuttle to and from and offers a special rate. The Key West Inn may fill up, so book early if you can. Aside from that, there are numerous choices for hotels in Cookeville. Cookeville also has plenty of grocery stores, big box stores, restaurants, etc, whatever you might need if a need arises.
In Case Of Rain
In 2011, torrential rain from a tropical storm made for a muddy Muddy Roots on Sunday. This year, provisions have been made in case of major inclement weather, mainly that Stage 2 and Stage 3 are going to be set up on higher ground, where water is less likely to pool. Both the Stage 2 and Stage 3 tents are going to be bigger as well. If rain forces the closing of the main stage, then all the performances will be moved under the Stage 2 and Stage 3 tents. All Stage 1 performances will be on Stage 2, and all Stage 2 performances on Stage 3, and then times will be the same.
Cellphone / Internet Access
The first two years of Muddy Roots, AT&T phones had trouble finding signal, though Verizon and some other carriers were fine.
The word is this year AT&T phones are working fine. UPDATE: After my first day out on the site (Thursday), I found AT&T service out there VERY sketchy. If you have AT&T, likely the older your phone is, the better chance you will have at reception.
Internet access is available at the front bar of the June Bug Ranch if needed. Take into consideration that power outlets are only scantly available throughout the site, so maybe consider packing in an extra battery or have some other plan for staying charged.
Make The Most of Your Trip to Middle Tennessee
Whether you’re driving or flying in, take note that Muddy Roots is only an hour from Nashville. Lower Broadway is where much of this music originated. Take a gander into Hatch Show Print, The Bluegrass Inn, and the Ernest Tubb Record Shop. Take a tour of The Ryman Auditorium. The Country Music Hall of Fame has exhibits up right now on Minnie Pearl and the Bakersfield Sound.
Just as you may be traveling to Muddy Roots, so are many of the bands. Check the SCM Calender and see if maybe on your way you can catch one or two on a tour stop.
If you want to volunteer at Muddy Roots to help make the festival better, or if you have any questions or concerns, email nashville rockabilly at gmail dot com.
Take Care of Yourself, and Muddy Roots
Last year the Muddy Roots Festival experienced extreme heat, and then extreme rain. Many folks not used to being out in the heat and eager to get their party on ended up missing many of their favorite bands because they were in their camp with various symptoms of heat exhaustion. Eat, hydrate, and sleep well first, and then worry about whatever fun things you want to pour down your gullet. Trust me, this will make for a more pleasant experience.
If you’re planning on camping at the fest, expect there to be noise all night. People are there to have fun. At the same time, be respectful of your neighbors. There is security at Muddy Roots, but the best way Muddy Roots and other independent festivals can stay cool and not have the restrictive environment found at most corporate festivals is by people taking care and policing each other, handling problems around the campfire, and being understanding.
Understand the Muddy Roots is where a lot of independent/underground roots music is presented to the rest of the world, and that the rest of the world is watching. People causing problems leads to rules, and rules lead to a less fun time for the rest of us. There is a list of rules that you can read near the bottom of the Muddy Roots website, but this biggest one is DON’T BE A DICK.
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