The Roots N Blues Festival was recently held at Stephens Lake Park in Columbia, Missouri with a historic all women-led lineup. The three-day festival featured headliners Brandi Carlile, Sheryl Crow, Mavis Staples, Lennon Stella, Tank and the Bangas and Larkin Poe, along with 19 other female or non-binary performers, who performed on two stages.
This year’s lineup was the most diverse in the festival’s history with artists such as Latin Grammy Award winners Flor de Toloache (a mariachi band), country star Mickey Guyton, the legendary Mavis Staples, Rwandan-American singer-songwriter Sifa, singer-songwriter Brittney Spencer (who joined Brandi Carlile and Natalie Hemby for some Highwomen tunes on Saturday night), soul singer Shemekia Copeland, and Memphis band Southern Avenue, whose singer, Tierinii Jackson, performed while visibly pregnant.
Festival organizers claim that Roots N Blues us the only entirely women-owned major music festival in the United States, and co-producers Tracy Lane and Shay Jasper revealed that 60% of the 7,000 festival goers were women—which is the first time women made up a majority of the Roots N Blues audience. This year’s festival also attracted a huge number of out of state attendees, with fans traveling from California, Virginia, Florida, Texas, Tennessee and other states.
“It’s a powerful feeling to be on the other side of this event knowing that this initiative was developed two years ago out of frustration for the lack of representation in this industry,” Lane and Jasper said. “Instead of just continuing the conversation, we decided to pick up some of the weight and move the industry in the right direction, toward equitable representation for all. The 2021 event was a clear celebration of that direction and we have more work to do on the path to 2022.”
On the final night of Roots N Blues, Sheryl Crow was presented with the 2021 Missouri Roots Songbook honor, an award founded in 2018 to encourage the young people of Missouri to take pride in the incredibly rich musical heritage of their home state. Crow is the first living recipient of this honor and the first woman to receive it. Previous honorees were Chuck Berry (2018) and John “Blind” Boone (2019), one of the first composers of Ragtime music.
The Roots N Blues festival will be back at Stephens Lake Park next year Oct. 7 – 9, 2022.
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