Photo Credit: Larson Sutton
On Sunday night, Little Feat wrapped up the 24th annual Rhythm & Roots Festival with a two-hour finale and full rendition of the band’s classic live album, Waiting For Columbus. The three-day Labor Day weekend event, held in Charlestown, R.I.’s Ninigret Park, saw near-capacity crowds enjoy dozens of energized performances- including from Saturday’s headliner, Grace Potter– with an undercard of exceptional appearances by Anders Osborne & Jackie Greene, Samantha Fish, North Mississippi Allstars, Cowboy Mouth and New Orleans Suspects. The multi-day fest and its three stages- Rhythm; Roots; and Dance- leaned heavily on its Crescent City and Louisiana influences, with multiple sets across the weekend by New Orleans favorite John Papa Gros, Nathan & The Zydeco Cha Chas, Cedric Watson & The Bijou Creole and Los Texmaniacs, among others. The festival’s historic mainstay, Donna the Buffalo, also dropped in for three separate appearances.
Celebrating 45 years since Waiting For Columbus’ initial 1977 recording, Little Feat stayed faithful to the original record’s running order, augmented its sextet with the three-piece Midnight Ramble horn section- paying homage to the album’s guest brass, Tower of Power- and extended such nuggets as “Fat Man in the Bathtub,” “Day or Night,” and “Dixie Chicken.” Making its third appearance in the festival’s illustrious history, the group capped off the weekend party with a single, non-Waiting track, “Let it Roll,” from Feat’s mid-1980s resurgence. Halfway through the set, keyboardist and bandleader Bill Payne briefly paused “Mercenary Territory” as an audience member required minor medical assistance. Otherwise, like nearly all of the weekend and its warm temperatures, blue skies, coastal breezes, and continuous music and dancing, Rhythm & Roots was a rousing success. One that almost didn’t happen this year.
In February, the event’s founding promoter, Chuck Wentworth, announced regrettably that 2022’s edition would not go on as scheduled; as well, Wentworth was retiring, and the festival, itself, would be no longer. Rescued by a Connecticut entertainment promoter, GoodWorks- and with Wentworth retained as a consultant- Rhythm & Roots was revived. As Little Feat took its bows, a final and enthusiastic word to the crowd came from a fest rep onstage, thanking everyone who saved this year’s event and hopes for another quarter-century of music and dancing to come.