Photo by Kevin Wierzbicki
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Photo by Kevin Wierzbicki
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Photo by Kevin Wierzbicki
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Photo by Kevin Wierzbicki
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Photo by Kevin Wierzbicki
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Photo by Kevin Wierzbicki
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One after another the big yellow school buses filled with riders pulled up to the curb, but they weren’t stopping at a school. Or maybe the location the buses were stopping at could be considered a school, a place where the passengers could study the finer points of moving and grooving, shimmy and shaking, and rocking and rolling. Opening night of the Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival had arrived, and the free shuttles, coming in from various points in Columbia, Missouri, were depositing music lovers at the festival site at the city’s Stephens Lake Park.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival, and while the event always has a stellar line-up of performers, they seem to have outdone themselves this time out. A sampling of the artists that’ll take the stage throughout the Sept. 30 – Oct. 2 span of the festival includes stars like Jason Isbell, Ben Folds, Grace Potter, Blues Traveler, G. Love & Special Sauce and Rayland Baxter. Opening night though found the festival kicking off with a healthy dose of soul.

Roots N Blues N BBQ always includes a few locally-based performers in the line-up and this year is no different as Columbia’s the Fried Crawdaddies got the fun started on one of the festival’s two stages while the also local the Oversight Committee gave the crowd a lively set of funky, horn-augmented music on the other. Normally just a trio but here augmented by two horn players and a keyboards man, Indiana’s Houndmouth were the first national act to rock the festival. The band was obviously having lots of fun as they played soul-soaked rockers like “Hey Rose,” “Honey Slider” and “Say It,” with guitarist and singer Matt Myers often making up stories about what the songs were about, joking that one song was about “How I got kicked off a poker website for starting sex chats.”

The soulful evening continued as the Nashville-based Mike Farris revved up the crowd with his gospel-tinged soul, getting the audience to clap and sing along on cuts like the old blues number “Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning” and “Can’t No Grave Hold My Body Down.” Farris wore sunglasses and a close-cropped cowboy hat pulled down low while he sang, both of which added a bit of a mysterious air to his heartfelt singing. Over on the other stage singer Paul Janeway, front man for St. Paul and the Broken Bones, put on an equally-stunning show but with a persona completely opposite of that of Farris. Janeway was in constant motion, strutting the stage under bright lighting, sweating, gesturing and gyrating to add emphasis to the band’s soul-shaking sound while running them through a set of older favorites and cuts like “I’ll Be Your Woman” from new album Sea of Noise.

Also performing on opening night were Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, and out in the grassy area, a trio of bluegrass buskers. There was also an opportunity for festival-goers to show off their musical talent on the Front Porch Stage, and of course lots of delicious BBQ was available to satisfy the crowd’s non-musical hunger.

Other acts scheduled to perform on the festival’s final two days include the Mavericks, Shovels & Rope, Sam Bush, Southern Culture on the Skids, Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band and the Blind Boys of Alabama.

For more information on the Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival go here.

For more information about Columbia, Missouri and its vibrant music scene go here.