River City Roots rocks Missoula with old and new faves

The Lil Smokies return home to headline free roots festival, Aug. 27-28

On Stage

The Lil Smokies (www.thelilsmokies.com) return to the River City Roots stage and will be the Saturday night headliner for the 15th annual festival, Aug. 27-28 in downtown Missoula. Coming off of their third studio album release, Tornillo, the band will be making their fourth Roots Fest Main Stage appearance, with their first appearance occurring back in 2011.

Mississippi bluesman Super Chikan headlines Friday night's River City Roots.
Mississippi bluesman Super Chikan headlines Friday night’s River City Roots.

“This year’s lineup is more or less what folks would have seen in 2020 had we been able to hold Roots Fest,” said committee chair Ellen Buchanan. “Thankfully we were able to keep nearly everyone who was scheduled with only two changes.

“This year’s Main Stage music reflects some old favorites returning to Roots with some new bands who will have their debuts,” she adds. “We are especially excited to have Missoula’s own Lil Smokies back on the stage as a headliner.”

Headlining Friday night’s lineup at 8:30 p.m. is Super Chikan. A native of the Mississippi Delta, James “Super Chikan” Johnson plays the blues on guitars he makes himself, using whatever materials are on hand from gas cans to ceiling fans. This marks his first visit to Missoula.

Sol Driven Train (www.soldriventrain.com) makes a third Roots Fest appearance at 6:40 p.m. Friday, having last played in 2016. Hailing from Charleston, South Carolina, they take influence from musicians such as John Prine and Paul Simon with Afro-Caribbean rhythmic influences and funky New Orleans-style brass.

Hot Buttered Rum (www.hotbutteredrum.net), makes their third Roots appearance at 4:30 Friday, weaving their love of bluegrass, folk, jazz, and soul together for a true piece of Americana music. Sally & George open Friday’s show. The Americana/rock/country/blues duo, currently based in Laramie, has recently released their second album, Take You On A Ride.

Rapidgrass returns to the Roots Fest stage Saturday.
Rapidgrass returns to the Roots Fest stage Saturday.

Rapidgrass (www.rapidgrass.com) returns to the Roots Fest stage for the second time after making its debut in 2018, taking the stage at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. Their music reflects the inspiration they get from the mountains and an outdoor lifestyle – a perfect fit for Missoula. They’re preceded at 4:30 by Growling Old Men (www.growlingoldmen.com), a duo made up of Ben Winship and John Lowell that focuses on original and traditional bluegrass songs, ballads, and tunes. Hailing from Missoula and making their River City Roots Festival debut at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, The Timber Rattlers (www.thetimberrattlers.com) are an energetic bluegrass quartet who recently released their first album, Last Echo. As part of making Roots Fest a fully family-friendly event, Cowboy Andy and The Salamanders (www.cowboyandy.bandcamp.com) are an energetic group of musicians from Missoula who focus on getting kids moving and having fun through music.

“Missoula’s Signature Celebration highlights all of the amazing things that make Missoula, Missoula: music, art, culture, local food and drinks, active lifestyles, and community,” said Linda McCarthy, executive director of the Downtown Missoula Partnership. “After what proved to be a challenging year, we couldn’t be more excited to bring Roots Fest back to the streets of Downtown Missoula … to reconnect and celebrate the city we love.”

Roots Fest is admission free and full of family-friendly fun, including the art show, Family Fun Fest and four-mile Roots Run.

More information about River City Roots Festival can be found at www.rivercityrootsfestival.com, by calling the Downtown Missoula Partnership at 406-543-4238 or emailing [email protected].