Above image: Loaded Goat, who performs at 90.9 The Bridge’s Bluegrass Bash at Buzzard Beach on Saturday | Photo: Todd Zimmer
There will certainly be no shortage of traditional bluegrass and honky-tonk fare at Westport Roots Festival — but if you think that’s all there is, you’ll be missing out on a whole lot of other stuff. The festival — which kicks off at The Westport Saloon on Friday night offers something for fans of country-tinged punk, hard-lined rockabilly and more.
Here are a few ways you can enjoy the festival, which stretches over six stages on Saturday and ends at the Saloon on Sunday:
1. Learn about the inner workings of songwriters… with a side of gravy.
How are your songwriting chops? Stop by Westport Saloon on Saturday at noon for a special edition of Writers on the Rocks, a songwriting roundtable. You can grab some brunch and hear from an array of songmen — including Anthony Ladesich, Rex Hobart and Adam Lee, with accompaniment from Springfield, Missouri, native and renowned pedal steel player Chad “Gravy Boat” Graves.
2. Get free stuff!
Even if you don’t have tickets to the festival, the organizers have plenty of activities in store for passersby. From noon to 8 p.m. on Saturday, visit the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and Westport Road for a free, all-ages street fair. You can peruse wares from local vendors, hang out with street performers, and take in a car show presented by Los Punk Rods — complete with pre-1964 hot rods and Kustoms.
3. Defy expectations.
This year, the festival is teaming up with the Kansas City Diversity Coalition to present a stage for KC Pridefest, reaching out to an underrepresented population in American roots music. The lineup — at Firefly Lounge on Saturday — includes a number of LGBTQIA artists and allies; most notably, Lavender Country, a band that has been acknowledged for releasing the first openly gay album in 1973. The group will be supported by a handful of local favorites, including Kristie Stremel, Abandoned Bells and Crybaby Ranch — all female-fronted, we might add.
4. Step outside of your comfort zone.
Roots Fest prides itself on championing neo-traditional roots music alongside time-honored sounds, so it will be difficult to get bored. A few of our recommendations: the muscular Midwestern garage punk of The Big Iron, the jazz-kissed twang of Pearl Allure, the bone-chilling Delta doom blues of Freight Train Rabbit Killer, and the provocatively-named psychobilly act Elvis Hitler, from Detroit.
5. Come see us.
The Bridge is sponsoring the Little Class Records stage at Buzzard Beach on Saturday, beginning at noon. You can catch a few of our favorite local bluegrass acts: Grassfed, who will be embarking on an extensive tour that will take them to Scotland and France this summer; Julian Davis and the Hay-burners, led by the 17-year-old flatpicking sensation; and if you’re still standing by the end of the night, join Loaded Goat to usher in the witching hour with high-spirited, moonshine-fueled folk tunes.
Get your tickets for Westport Roots Festival here.
— Michelle Bacon is a musician and writer dedicated to the Kansas City music community. She advocates for and helps spotlight music in the area, writes web content for 90.9 The Bridge, plays drums with Chris Meck & the Guilty Birds, and bass for about anyone who asks. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram at @michelleobacon.