WITH PHOTOS: Roots Fest Day 3 – Juggling the hard choices on a day filled with food and music

Rhiannon Giddens / Photos by Clayton Taylor

What Mavis Staples started on Friday (Aug. 23), Rhiannon Giddens continued on Saturday (Aug. 24) at the Fayetteville Roots Festival.

Giddens had earlier in the day sat in for a screening and panel discussion related to the forthcoming Ken Burns’ documentary “Country Music.” Later, on the main stage, she played “She’s Got You,” the classic by country star Patsy Cline.

What’s Next at the Fayetteville Roots Festival

Mainstage activities resume at the Fayetteville Town Center at 2 p.m. today (Aug. 25). Performing there will be Darrell Scott, Eliza Gilkyson and a festival-closing set by Rising Appalachia. Unlike Friday and Saturday, there are mainstage tickets available for today’s closing events.

Check out the Roots Festival’s schedule for details, or look at our overview for some highlights.

But she’s not country. Or soul, or bluegrass, or any one thing. Perhaps the song that best summed her up on Saturday evening was “Underneath the Harlem Moon.” It was Ethel Waters’ version – with reworked lyrics that turned the formerly racist tune into an empowerment narrative – that Giddens performed on Saturday. Giddens is a master interpreter of sounds, and she’s preserving history with her song stylings.

Her most recent recording, “There Is No Other,” was a partnership with Italian multi-instrumentalist Francesco Turrisi, who joined her on Saturday night. Their collaborative album spans many kinds of music, from Appalachian to opera. There’s an Italian-language song on the album as well, and it was among the offerings from their show on Saturday night. You can add singing in flawless Italian to the list of reasons she and Turrisi (and a third bandmate I didn’t catch the name of) were dazzling onstage.

The collaborative nature of her latest musical project fits a central component of the entire Roots Festival experience. That was captured in the culinary portion of the festival, held at Pratt Place. For those who missed the community atmosphere because Thursday night’s activities were moved to the Town Center because of rain, Saturday was a near replacement for it. I sampled a Thai sausage with earl grey tea aioli from Eleven at Crystal Bridges, candied bacon, meats sliced right off the bone, a barbecued whole hog from Wright’s Barbecue in Johnson and many more dishes. I sampled several beverages as well, mostly from local breweries. In one interesting collaboration, Springdale cidery Black Apple Crossing made a spicy cider to pair with Wright’s barbecue. I was told the cider was quite good, but it wasn’t available when I was there.

Hiss Golden Messenger / Photo: Clayton Taylor

The food elements of the festival have been made into an event rivaling the mainstage music, and no one can be excused for choosing one over the other if you’ve got the kind of pass that allows you to attend either. We were lucky to have that choice yesterday, as the early food session at Pratt Place was almost canceled because of lingering rains. The food event did eventually go on, but with a delayed start. It appeared to me that many people made that choice to attend it. There was a sizable crowd at Pratt Place. And the mainstage area back at the Town Center wasn’t at capacity. I had open spaces to either side of me in the general admission area.

I also didn’t stay there long. I caught a minute of Hiss Golden Messenger’s set before departing for George’s late night shows featuring Big Smith and Arkansauce. Big Smith reunited about a year ago after a bit of a hiatus, but I didn’t make that show. It was good seeing them onstage again, charging through their set. And it was good to see Arkansauce too – they play in town so often I think it’s easy to forget how talented they are.

Milk Carton Kids / Photo: Clayton Taylor

We had a lot to choose from yesterday, and those choices were made all the more difficult by a solid food offering and a somewhat lesser Saturday mainstage lineup than we often see at the festival, which made the culinary route appealing this year. I know a lot of folks who went in that direction.

Today features a little less of a choice, as the events wind down a little earlier than yesterday and are more confined to the Town Center, with the exception of a few shows at Maxine’s Tap Room. There’s music happening soon.

More photos

Ana Egge / Photos by Clayton Taylor

Ana Egge / Photos by Clayton Taylor

The Milk Carton Kids / Photos by Clayton Taylor

The Milk Carton Kids / Photos by Clayton Taylor

Hiss Golden Messenger / Photos by Clayton Taylor

Hiss Golden Messenger / Photos by Clayton Taylor