It’s Showtime!

String bands, Cajun dance
to highlight 2013 RiverRoots

Carolina Chocolate Drops to headline
8th annual festival

2013 May Edition
2013 May Edition

(May 2013) – When they formed an old-time string band in November 2005, the Carolina Chocolate Drops did not realize how successful they would become. Their unique sound has propelled them into the national spotlight as one of only two known full-time African American string bands.
The group first organized in April 2005 after members attended the first Black Banjo Gathering in Boone, N.C. Realizing they had something special in common, original members Rhiannon Giddens, Dom Flemons and Justin Robinson formed what has become an extremely popular band in a short amount of time.

Read more about the entertainment coming to the RiverRoots Music & Folk Arts Festival

The Carolina Chocolate Drops will be the headlining band for the eighth annual RiverRoots Music and Folk Arts Festival in Madison, Ind. The festival is scheduled for Friday and Saturday, May 17-18, at Madison Bicentennial Park on the Ohio Riverfront. The band will perform on the Main Stage at the southwest corner of the park at 9 p.m. Saturday.
From looking at their collective backgrounds, one would not think the members would choose to play the type of music they are fast becoming popular for. Both Giddens and Robinson are classically trained musicians. Giddens studied opera at the Oberlin Conservatory and Robinson played classical violin before switching to the fiddle.

Andrea Davidson

Andrea Davidson of Louisville, Ky., will open the festival at 6 p.m. Friday on the Main Stage. The singer-songwriter is a Madison, Ind., native.

The Vespers
The Vespers open the
festival at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Ben Sollee

Cellist virtuoso Ben Sollee
has recently released his
fourth album and will
perform at 7 p.m. Saturday.

Christine Balfa

Friday night headliner Christine Balfa and Balfa Toujours play authentic Cajun music and will provide dance instructors to teach the crowd how to do the Cajun ‘Two-Step.” They take the stage at 9:30 p.m.

John McCutcheon

John McCutcheon performs
at 5 p.m. Saturday and is a master
of the hammered dulcimer.

Photos courtesy of each band’s promoter

Although the original lineup may have changed a bit, with new members added, all members sing and play a variety of traditional string band instruments, including the fiddle, banjo, harmonica, snare drum, guitar, bones, jug and kazoo. The band’s repertoire is based on the traditional music of the Piedmont region of North Carolina and South Carolina.
Each band member will admit they have been highly influenced by African American old-time fiddler Joe Thompson. It was under his musical direction that the band practiced at his home when Thompson was well into his 80s.
It has been said that much of what they play can be traced back to the minstrel acts of the 1920s. Giddens summed up their music by saying, “What we’re striving to put out there is the joyous side of this music-the good side of this time period.”
The Carolina Chocolate Drops have released five CDs and performed on the Grand Ole Opry several times. Their song, “Daughter’s Lament,” was included on The Hunger Games movie soundtrack.
In 2010, the band won a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album for its album, “Genuine Negro Jig.” Three years later, they have been nominated for a Blues Music Award for “Acoustic Artist.”
“When the Carolina Chocolate Drops played the festival in 2010, they were relatively unknown,” said festival coordinator Greg Ziesemer. “Now they are a highly recognized national act.”
Ziesemer, 54, is entering his second full year as event coordinator, although this will be the eighth year for the festival, which is organized under the auspices of VisitMadison Inc., the city’s tourism office. He took over in January 2011, a few months after previous coordinator John Walburn died in November 2010.
Jeff Garrett, the man behind the Madison Ribberfest and the Madison Area Chamber of Commerce’s “Soup, Stew, Chili & Brew” event, conceived the idea of creating a new festival to be held sometime in early spring that would celebrate the area’s unique river heritage. He envisioned an event that would celebrate folk life and introduce folk music to area residents. But when Garrett died on Oct. 30, 2005, the mission fell to others to carry out the project. Steve Thomas of Thomas Family Winery and Walburn, a Hanover, Ind., resident and musician himself, accepted the task of co-chairing the inaugural event in May 2006. Walburn continued to chair and grow the event until his death.
“One goal of the festival is to provide more diversity of music,” said Ziesemer, a musician who performs regionally with his wife, Kriss Luckett. The two moved to Madison from Indianapolis a few years ago. They performed at the festival in 2008.
“We’ve improved everything dramatically, especially this year,” he said. The addition of a second stage will provide continuous music throughout the weekend. The festival will have two entrances: one at the corner of Vaughn and West streets; and another at the corner of Vaughn Street and Central Avenue.
Both are along the Ohio River.

Greg Ziesimer

‘One goal of the festival is to provide more diversity of music.”

- Greg Ziesemer, RiverRoots Festival Director

For this year’s RiverRoots Festival, onsite camping has been added one block away from the festival. “This makes it more accessible for more people,” said Ziesemer.
The festival, meanwhile, has been shortened to two days, instead of three. Ziesemer said this was because “people weren’t sticking around on Sunday. Everyone needed to get back home and ready for work the next day.”
He believes losing one day will not be detrimental to the festival. “We added a stage so we wouldn’t diminish the amount of entertainment we had been having spread over three days. There’s also no downtime; there will be continuous music.”
The second stage will be set up west of the Main Stage, overlooking the river near the Lamplighter Park Gazebo. A large tent and seating will be set up for attendees. Another convenience is that the food court is nearby this venue.
“This year, there will be more gourmet selections,” said Ziesemer. Food truck vendors from Louisville and Indiana are “a diverse and exciting way to bring interesting, healthy food options to the festival environment.”
The RiverRoots Festival will also contain a Folk Art Village showcasing artisans and craftsmen demonstrating pre-1800 craft skills. A Folk Village Jam Tent will allow musicians of all musical levels to perform together, experience different workshops and learn from each other. Artists will be working “en plein air” and the Flying Hounds Frizbee team will perform.
Also returning to the festival on Saturday will be the second annual RiverRoots Brew-Off competition, which is open to all home craft beer brewers. Craft beer has become an integral part of the annual festival.
A Craft Beer tent will feature five Indiana based microbreweries, with 15 different brews from which attendees may choose. Indiana breweries featured this year include SunKing (Indianapolis), Great Crescent (Aurora), Upland (Bloomington), New Albanian (New Albany) and Powerhouse (Columbus).
Last year’s competition was “very warmly received,” said Ziesemer. This year’s competition will not contain brewing demonstrations. All entries must be received by May 7.
The competition is restricted to non-commercial home-brewed beer. The 2013 Style is American Ale, and contestants may enter in three categories: American Pale Ale, American Amber Ale and American Brown Ale. Beers will be judged according to the BJCP Style Guidelines. Awards will be given in each category and for “Best of Show’ on Saturday.
“We had 16 competitors last year,” said Craft Beer Coordinator Don Clapham. “We hope to grow the competition each year along with the number of judges and home brew clubs participating.” Qualified judges from regional home brew clubs will judge the competition.
Clapham said the addition of a competition “brings more excitement to the event and to the Craft Beer tent.” He said organizers may bring back the demonstration next year, since many people enjoyed it in 2012. With the festival shortened to two days, “There’s just a lot going on. It will take a little more planning.”
One concept that has been added for 2013 is a book signing from 2-4 p.m. Saturday by Bob Ostrander and Derrick Morris, authors of “Hoosier Beer: A History of Brewing in Indiana.” From 1-3 p.m., a special “meet-and-greet” session will be held for home brewers behind the Craft Beer tent, giving them a chance to share recipes and sample each other’s work.
“The reality is that there would not be the vibrant microbrewer industry that currently exists if not for the homebrewing community,” said Clapham.
“Homebrewers and beer lovers are the backbone of the craft beer industry and see it as a mutually supportive and beneficial relationship.”
In the future, “we want to keep growing the quality of the event,” Ziesemer said. “By our 10th year, we want to bring a high quality main act to the festival, such as Emmylou Harris. I’d like to see 8,000 to 10,000 people at the festival.”
Many fan-favorite performers from previous years will return for the 2013 festival.
The weekend lineup includes Appalatin, Ben Sollee, John McCutcheon, Rani Arbo, Daisey Mayhem, The Vespers, Madison native Andrea Davidson, Stacey Earle, Mark Stuart, Danny Flanigan, Ma Crow and the Lady Slippers, Danny Schmidt and Carrie Elkin.

Back to May 2013 Articles.



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