Bristol, Tenn./Va. (July 6, 2021) – Nearly as anticipated as its annual lineup announcement, the schedule release for the 20th anniversary celebration of Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion has been announced – along with the release of single-day tickets to the award-winning music festival. Presented by the Birthplace of Country Music (BCM), also the parent nonprofit of the Birthplace of Country Music Museum and WBCM Radio Bristol, Bristol Rhythm will be held this September 10-12 in Historic Downtown Bristol, Tennessee-Virginia after COVID-19 forced the organization to take a gap year in 2020.
“Everyone at BCM is thrilled to be in the final stages of planning for what promises to be a memorable Reunion!” said BCM Executive Director Leah Ross at a press conference held at the museum. “Very soon, we will be dancing together again on State Street to some great live music – and for that, we are truly grateful.”
Bristol Rhythm is a celebration of the legendary 1927 Bristol Sessions recordings, an event in music history that has become known as the “big bang” of country music. The Sessions included the first recordings of the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers, and brought country music to the mainstream. The Bristol Sessions continue to make a lasting impact on the music of today, and Bristol is designated by Congress as the birthplace of country music.
In October 2001, the first Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion was held on State Street (where Tennessee and Virginia meet) with a few thousand people in attendance. The festival has grown to receive more than 45,000 visitors from all over the world. Today, as Bristol Rhythm celebrates 20 years, downtown Bristol is a vibrant and revitalized music destination that features beautiful boutique hotels, breweries, restaurants, galleries, shops, and high-end loft spaces. The festival’s growth and the opening of the Birthplace of Country Music Museum have played a major role in the development of this historic downtown..
“Since we’ve reclaimed and embraced our rich music history and culture, we have grown and thrived,” Ross reflects. “BCM and the festival are proud to have played a role in the revitalization of our great cities, and it’s part of our mission to continue to be an economic driver for our community.”
Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion 2021 boasts amazing talent for it’s 20th anniversary festival: Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit, Tanya Tucker, Blackberry Smoke, Dr. Dog, Yola, The SteelDrivers, Rhonda Vincent, and Hayes Carll lead the stellar lineup of approximately 100 acts performing this September. Other notable performances by The Steel Woods, Son Little, Lonesome River Band, Darin & Brooke Aldridge, Amythyst Kiah, Ian Noe, Town Mountain, Katie Pruitt, Jim Lauderdale, Illiterate Light, and Morgan Wade will also be part of the milestone event.
In addition to the artists’ schedule, BCM announced a special kick-off concert by Cruz Contreras & Friends to be held on Thursday, September 9 at 7:00 p.m. in the museum’s Performance Theater. Tickets to the concert are sold separately.
Bristol Rhythm hits the ground running with Friday night performances by Tanya Tucker, Yola, The SteelDrivers, and Hayes Carll. Amythyst Kiah and 49 Winchester are also on deck. Radio Bristol’s Farm and Fun Time live variety show, hosted by Kris Truelsen and his house band Bill and the Belles, will return to the stage at the historic Paramount with special guests Madison Cunningham, Sierra Ferrell, and Nora Brown. Music will begin Friday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. Single-day tickets for Friday are $50 plus tax/fees.
Per usual, Saturday at Bristol Rhythm is jam-packed with artists starting at noon and playing into the midnight hour. Blackberry Smoke, Dr. Dog, Darin & Brooke Aldridge, Town Mountain, The Steel Woods, Ian Noe, and Illiterate Light are all slated to perform on that day, interspersed with American Aquarium, The New Respects, Folk Soul Revival, Andrew Scotchie & the River Rats, and Annabelle’s Curse, among many others. A special tribute to John Prine is also planned for that evening on the Near Moore Stage, featuring members of Sol Driven Train, Big Daddy Love, and Yarn. Single-day tickets for Saturday are $70 plus tax/fees.
The Bristol Rhythm weekend ends on a high note Sunday evening with festival headliner Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit closing out the 20th anniversary event. Other Sunday performances of note include Rhonda Vincent, Charley Crockett, Son Little, Morgan Wade, Early James, and Scythian. Single-day tickets for Sunday are $60 plus tax/fees.
The festival’s annual commemorative poster artwork was also unveiled at the press conference with artist Matt Bridges in attendance. A native of Hereford, England, Bridges has worked in 3D design for the past two decades. After meeting his wife, who is from Chattanooga, the couple settled in Elizabethton, Tennessee, and later moved to Clarksville. Bridges has worked on a number of long-term contracts as a freelancer with companies such as Gulf Oil and Hertz, but it was his work designing a 3D guitar prototype for a luthier in California that led the High Road Agency to recommend the artist to BCM for this project. Bridges and his wife are currently looking to relocate back to our region.
“It was an honor to be able to use my 20 years of design experience in creating the 20th anniversary commemorative poster for Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion,” said Bridges. “The festival is a beloved tradition for my family here in East Tennessee.”
In keeping with tradition, BCM presented the mayors of Bristol, Tennessee and Bristol, Virginia with framed prints of the poster. A special 20th anniversary poster depicting images of poster artwork from the past ten years is also available. Both prints may be purchased at The Museum Store at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum and online at Bristol Rhythm.com.
When Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion was cancelled in 2020, a fundraising campaign was held to help ease the financial burden of the loss of the event. Hundreds of “Festival Heroes” made donations in order to ensure a festival would take place in 2021. Those Festival Heroes are now honored permanently inside the Birthplace of Country Music Museum with a plaque bearing their names. If you are among this generous group of Heroes, your free Festival Heroes poster is now available for pick up at The Museum Store or you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to have it shipped to your home free of charge.
A few other important notes about this year’s festival were revealed during the press conference, including a plea for volunteers. Hundreds of shifts in a variety of areas are still needed for Bristol Rhythm 2021. Applications are up on the festival website at BristolRhythm.com. Each volunteer receives a single-day ticket to the festival and a Volunteer t-shirt for each shift they work.
“It takes hundreds of volunteers to make our event run smoothly,” said Bristol Rhythm Festival Committee Chair Terri Davis. “Each and every one of them has played a major role in the success and longevity of our festival…We are working hard to make this 20th anniversary one that will keep you coming back year after year.”
Other important items to note:
- Anyone who hasn’t yet exchanged their 2020 festival wristband for a 2021 version will need to do so as soon as possible. The 2020 wristbands are invalid and will not allow entry into festival gates this year. Send an email to email@example.com to make the switch. If you ordered 2021 wristbands but have yet to receive them, they will be shipped in August.
- Slots for food and craft vendors at Bristol Rhythm 2021 have been filled for this year, and vendors have been notified. Those interested in applying for 2022 will be able to do so at the first of the year.
- In support of the festival’s Green Team initiative, the annual Festival Guide booklet will be replaced with a printed pocket schedule and map that will be distributed in the Bristol Herald Courier and the Washington County News prior to the festival. The schedule and map will also be distributed at festival gates.
“We felt our resources are best put to use by producing a quality mobile app where changes can be updated at a moment’s notice and without waste,” stated Ross. “We are encouraging everyone to download the festival app for the latest schedule changes and updates before they get to the festival.”
The festival mobile app will launch in coming weeks. For now, fans will find updated schedules on the website at BristolRhythm.com.
In keeping with health and safety guidelines provided by the state of Tennessee and the Commonwealth of Virginia, visitors at the festival will not be required to wear masks or show proof of vaccination status upon entry at Bristol Rhythm.
“The decision will be left up to the individual and what they feel most comfortable doing,” said Ross. “We trust that anyone who is feeling under the weather or showing symptoms of COVID-19 will stay home and get the rest they need to stay healthy and not put others at risk.”
Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion will also bring back its 10K Run-5K Run/Walk, Children’s Day, and Yoga in the Park activities for its 20th anniversary, and the Bristol Sessions Super Raffle winners will be announced on the Sunday of the event at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum between the hours of noon to 4:00 p.m. For raffle prize information and to purchase raffle tickets, visit BristolSessionsSuperRaffle.org.
Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion festivalgoers are encouraged to take some time during the event to tour the interactive Birthplace of Country Music Museum, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, to learn more about the story of the 1927 Bristol Sessions and the region’s rich music culture. The museum is located within the festival footprint. The special exhibit Our Living Past: Platinum Portraits of Southern Music Makers, on loan from the Music Maker Relief Foundation, will also be on display. The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts on the Road Artmobile – a traveling exhibit and education studio – will be open to Bristol Rhythm attendees free of charge on Friday, September 10 from 1:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., on Saturday September 11 from 9:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., and on Sunday September 12 from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. It will be closed Saturday and Sunday for lunch from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.
For artist schedules, festival wristbands, parking and shuttle passes, or to shop for festival merchandise and find other festival information, visit BristolRhythm.com.