shep. and I discovered Bristol Rhythm & Roots — or just “Bristol” to bands and regular festival-goers — back in 2009, when friends Holy Ghost Tent Revival and the New Familiars both played; we attended again in 2010, took 2011 because of its proximity to Raleigh’s Hopscotch Music Festival, and in 2012, I just said well, fuck it, and decided to do back to back festivals. Bristol boasts both one of the most regularly fantastic line-ups — this year’s headliners include roots rock legend Robert Earl Keen, hipster darlings Delta Spirit and Dr Dog, and one of North Carolina’s favorite daughters, Tift Merritt, just to start with the lineup — and one of the cheapest ticket prices ($40 for a weekend pass if you buy before August 31) out there.
It’s a can’t-miss weekend for me, and this year’s line-up has me spinning circles of excitement. In alphabetical order behind the jump, two dozen bands I’m wicked excited to see.
The Apache Relay: these guys seem like a bit of an odd fit for Bristol, but I’ve heard they’re excellent live and Bristol seems like as good a time as any to check out their indie roots rock blend.
The Black Lillies: I think I had these guys, an outside of traditional five piece from Tennessee, mixed up with someone else, but I put them on my list, so I have committed.
The David Mayfield Parade: a regular Mumfords collaborator, David Mayfield’s debut solo record has been one of my big surprises this year. Really excellent stuff. Also, terrific beard.
David Wax Museum: they opened for Josh Ritter a few weeks ago, and then I made them my JOTD at Speakers in Code; frontman David Wax calls what they do “Meximericana”, and that’s pretty close. They feature someone playing the antlers. Can’t lose!
The Deep Dark Woods: my beloved Canadians. (Well, some of them. I have a lot of beloved Canadians, thanks to Pam. ♥) Pam turned me on to these guys just before Bristol 2010, and I am thrilled by the chance to see them more than once in 2012. (I saw them supporting their stellar new record back in April.) The closest you will get to the Band at Bristol.
Delta Spirit: shot these guys, pretty blind to their music, for SiC back in the spring; I’ve since fallen in love with their 2012 record and am really looking forward to seeing their thickly layered, twangy indie rock with a much better knowledge of it.
Dex Romweber Duo: Dex and Sara make big thumping twangy garage rock, and they fucking rock.
Dr. Dog: the only time I’ve had the chance to see Dr. Dog was Bristol 2010, when I also had the chance to watch them watch some friends in the New Familiars absolutely destroy the crowd before Dr. Dog’s set; I’ve written about them extensively; I can’t get Be The Void out of the stereo in my car. I cannot wait to see them Saturday night.
Girls Guns & Glory: if the endless banjos start to get to you after a while, this is where to get your electric guitar fix. The perfect fusion of twang and thump, an excellent northeast band making Texas country.
The Honey Badgers: just because. Perhaps Tyrann Mathieu has a second career in roots music? Or possibly, say, eating banjos?
Jonny Corndawg: an irreverant sense of a humor, a great songwriting ear, and a dude who tours on his motorcycle; Jonny Corndawg might be the most fun you have all weekend.
Josh Oliver: loved him with the everybodyfields, loved him shooting Bottom String sessions last fall, love his music and also Josh as a human.
JP Harris & The Tough Choices: saw these guys at Shakori last fall; besides having one of the best “&” band names ever, they also swing pretty hard. Country music to dance to.
Lydia Loveless: the only woman I would drive to both Charlotte and Tennessee for. (And the third Bloodhshot artist on this list.)
Onward, Soldiers: their early 2012 release, Monsters, remains one of my favorite records of the year to date. It came out in January, and I’m still staggered by it.
Shovels & Rope: because I missed them, like, five times during Hopscotch, and Cary Ann Hearst is amazing. (tDDW, Lydia, and Shovels & Rope all play the same Friday slot. Not on, Bristol.)
Spirit Family Reunion: just plain fun.
Tift Merritt: we’ll miss Tift at Bristol — she closes the festival Sunday, and we’ll be long home by then — but she’s playing a free show, sponsored by the Cradle, on Carrboro’s Town Plaza with Megafaun and Mandolin Orange on 9/21. (Then you can scoot on over to the Cradle and catch a double shot of Megafaun as they open for the Old Ceremony’s cd release show.) Ticket vouchers are available here for that Carrboro show.
Underhill Rose: honestly, I know nothing about their music, but their promo photo is in my “good band photography” Pinterest board, so I feel an obligation to find out about their music.
The Wild Rumpus: because I like their name.