‘Roots on the River’ festival returns to Bellows Falls

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(Host) This weekend is the seventh annual Fred Eaglesmith-Roots on the River festival in Bellows Falls.

The festival features a dozen or more singer songwriters, as VPR’s Susan Keese reports.

(Fred Eaglesmith) ” hey thank you all so much, always a good time in Bellows Falls .”

(Keese) That’s Fred Eaglesmith, recorded at a previous roots-on-the-river festival. The people cheering wildly in the background are known as Fred Heads.

Their ranks include at least one Vermont state representative and a founder of Bloomberg news.

Festival organizer Charlie Hunter says Fred Heads travel great distances for Eaglesmith concerts. He’s expecting a crowd of about 750, from as far as England, British Columbia and Texas.

(Hunter) “It’s a huge mix of people and it’s all different walks of life. There are working class people and there are professors. There are people in their twenties and people in their seventies and most of them have a little bit of dirt under their fingernails.”

(Keese) Hunter has been bringing music to Bellows falls for years. He calls his company Flying Under Radar.’

(Eaglesmith) ” and the idea of it is that it’s music that is under the radar of mass popular culture. What I say is the common denominator between all of it is that this is music with really good lyric content. These are songs that are about something. They’re performers who write their own material and they care about what they’re writing about. They aren’t trying to write mass pop hits.”

(Keese) Eaglesmith tours the U.S. and Canada with his band in a broken down old bus. The closest he’s come to a hit was when singer songwriter Dar Williams covered his song Wilder Than Her.’

(Eaglesmith) “But she’s a summer storm and I’m a hurricane. One just blows through town. One blows the town away. And I’m wilder than her…”

(Keese) Most of the festival takes place under a big tent in a field behind a Bellows Falls motel. There’s an acoustic concert Sunday at the Rockingham Meeting House.

Acts on Saturday include Ray Wylie Hubbard, Syd Straw and James McMurtry, the son of novelist Larry McMurtry.

(Keese) One of McMurtry’s songs, We Can’t Make it Here Anymore,’ has been adopted by Vermont Congressman Bernie Sanders as a campaign theme song.

(Song) “That big old building was a textile mill. It fed our kids and it paid our bills. But they turned us out and they closed the door cause we can’t make it here anymore.”

(Keese) Hunter says despite the feisty music, audiences have been peaceful and respectful. That’s because nobody wants to miss a word.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Susan Keese.

Flying Under Radar website

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