Getting their Groove On
RiverRoots Music Series helps promote annual May festival
The monthly concerts are held
at Madison’s Red Bicycle Hall
(February 2016) – The RiverRoots Music and Folk Arts Festival has earned a regional reputation for opening the festival season in Madison, Ind. Fans of the festival wanted more than a single event in May, so RiverRoots organizers created the monthly music series at the Red Bicycle Hall, 125 E. Main St. Tony Novello is one of the owners of Red Bicycle Hall and is also a member of the RiverRoots festival committee.
“People put in thousands of hours of volunteer time to help put on RiverRoots, then, like Christmas, the day after the festival, it is all over,” said Novello. “The end of the festival is very anti-climatic. You have to wait an entire year to do it again. That is why we started the music series in 2014.”
The RiverRoots Music Series does more than provide monthly musical entertainment for Madison area residents. It serves as a testing ground for performers who will play the festival, scheduled this year for May 20-21 on the Madison riverfront.
Some of the bands that have played both the series and the festival are SHEL, Run Boy Run, Wild Ponies and regional favorites like Appalatin and The Tillers.
Billy Strings was the scheduled performer at the festival lineup announcement party on Jan. 22, but he was snowed in and could not get out of Nashville, Tenn., organizers said. He is scheduled to perform on Saturday at the May festival.
“Billy Strings is a young high energy flat picker who is a former punk band member,” said Novello. “He is a tattooed kid who is going to come to RiverRoots and blow everyone away. It is acoustic music with a punk edge. He plays the festival Saturday afternoon (May 21).”
Photo by John Sheckler
Pictured from left are Tony Novello, Wanda Heath, Heather Cooper and Heather Burress.
The driving force behind RiverRoots and the Music Series is the Ohio River Valley Folk Society, a 501c3 non-profit organization formed to raise money to provide cultural education and promotion of art and music for the community. RiverRoots and the Music Series are major parts of that mission. Novello took over as Folk Society President in January.
RiverRoots Special Events team member Heather Burress sums up the relationship between RiverRoots, The Music Series and the Ohio River Valley Folk Society. “The concert series allows us to engage with members and sponsors all year long, not just the third weekend in May,” she said. “It also allows us to connect with folks who may not be aware of all RiverRoots has to offer. My love of this genre of music and introducing it to someone new is what drives me to make this festival the best it can be.”
“We are in the middle of our second Music Series season now, said Novello. “The first show is in September and there is a show every month up until the festival in May. Each of these shows gives people the opportunity to become members of the society, and helps support the music series and the festival.”
The music series fits well with the mission of the Ohio Valley Folk Society.
“The Folk Society is broadening its scope beyond just the annual festival to promote musical and cultural enrichment throughout the regional community,” said Folk Society Board Member Wanda Heath. “We are planning events throughout the year, with outreach into schools, monthly concerts, arts/music exhibits, presence at other festivals and much more.”
Some of the Music Series and Folk Society events serve an extra purpose. In addition to the RiverRoots lineup announcement party, there is half-way to RiverRoots party, and a festival kickoff party scheduled for April 9 this year.
“We don’t have a headliner for the music series,” Novello said. “All the performers are really good and eclectic. Last year, we had Wild Ponies, a husband-wife band that had a touch of Hazel Dickens with a blend of beautiful ballads and hard murder suicide songs in the rock and country vein. Other performers like HONEYHONEY are more Pop Americana. The Music Series band styles are all over the place.”
Other Red Bicycle Hall owners and RiverRoots committee volunteers agree.
“We are very proud to be able to bring top-shelf performers to the stage in Madison where you would not otherwise have opportunity to view an event of this caliber this close to home,” said Kevin Watkins.
The Red Bicycle was started with a vision to create a premier venue for music and theater. The owners work hard on their goal to host quality entertainment in an atmosphere that is comfortable, fun and relaxing. Couches and easy chairs line the outer edge of the audience area making the room feel like a big living room.
Red Bicycle Hall is also equipped to provide the stage, paintable backdrops, sound and lighting for theater productions. The owners have a catering license to sell beer, liquor and wine. They also have relationships with several local caterers who can provide food when necessary.
Jazz Guitarist Bill Lancton has performed at RiverRoots and often performs special shows at the Red Bicycle Hall. “It is good to have a venue that supports things as diverse as theatrical performances and wedding receptions,” he said.
There is a family-friendly philosophy, so all ages are welcome. Most of the bands that perform at the Red Bicycle Hall have websites with videos and biographical data.
The RiverRoots Kick off Party on April 9 will feature the band Parsonsfield. “Parsonsfield is rowdy rock and roll, hand clapping, foot stomping, sing along bluegrass Americana,” said Novello. “They are everything.”
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