Bristol Rhythm Survival Guide - The Birthplace of Country Music
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Bristol Rhythm Survival Guide

As the school year winds down and we head into the longer and hotter days of summer, it’s time to start thinking about festivals – Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion, of course, and all the other festivals on your lineup.

Photo of busy State Street in Historic Downtown Bristol, VA-TN -- filled with festivalgoers, vendor tents, and with the State Street sign in the background.
State Street in Historic Downtown Bristol, VA-TN
in full-on festy mode!
© Birthplace of Country Music; photographer: Bill Foster

Every year when festival season hits, you see them: festivalgoers who should have known better. Don’t be “that guy.” Or girl. In order to have an amazing festival experience, one must be prepared. To be in it for the long haul, you gotta prep, conserve your energy, and map out a plan loose enough to let you be spontaneous. Enthusiasts who travel to a lot of music festivals may have this down-pat, but we figure the casual festivalgoer may need a primer. Whether you’re traveling alone, with family, or with your crew, we think these tips will help prepare you for a long and festive weekend of great music and merriment when you come to Bristol Rhythm in September!

Photo of a hand holding a smartphone with the Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion mobile app.
The Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion at your fingertips!
© Birthplace of Country Music; photographer: Bill Foster
  • Download the Bristol Rhythm festival app.

The why is simple: research. Before the schedule is released, the entire lineup is available on the mobile app. Use this tool to read about the bands, listen to their music, and watch their videos. There may be a number of bands you have never heard of, but would totally fall in love with if you took the time to check them out. If you wait until you get to the festival to hear what the buzz is about, you may miss out. FOMO is a thing! Once the festival’s over and everyone’s talking about those acts you didn’t get the chance to see, there’s no going back. Get the app here!

Photos of fun ladies in cute outfits with sensible shoes.
These ladies know it’s possible to be cute and have sensible
festy footwear! Just look at us! We’re fabulous!
© Birthplace of Country Music,
photographers: Cora Wagoner, E. Larson, and unknown
  • Purchase a good pair of walking shoes and break them in.

Girls, I know you look fierce in those fine festival frocks with your cowboys boots and strappy sandals. If you are among the few who can dance all night in heels and still keep going, I commend you! But most of you know you’re setting yourself up for misery or worse – bunions! Believe me, hardcore festivarians know that there is no judgment below the ankles. You can still slay in that fabulous sundress with a sensible pair of shoes. My personal choice of footwear? Keens. I lovingly refer to them as “mandals” because they seem kinda clunky, but they come in fun colors and have saved my feet at every festival for the past ten years. Don’t confine yourself to a chair, wear good shoes and dance like no one’s watching!

Photos of people carrying umbrellas at the festival to block the sun.
Made in the shade!
© Birthplace of Country Music; photographers: Bill Foster and Earl Neikirk
  • Wear sunscreen. That goes double for kids.

Luckily, Bristol Rhythm is an urban festival so there are a number of indoor venues or beverage tents to duck under if you need some shade. However, one good 45-minute set at the Piedmont Stage, and you’ve likely already gotten more sun than you had intended. Before you leave the house, go ahead and lather yourself up – kids especially! – then reapply occasionally throughout the day. You’ll thank yourself for it later!

Photos of the article's author and actor Dwayne Johnson, a.k.a. The Rock, both wearing fanny packs.
What do me and The Rock have in common? You guessed it.
Please forgive the fuzzy pic, it was the only one I could find.
© Birthplace of Country Music
Photo credit of The Rock unknown

  • Ditch the purse and don’t trust the pockets in your cargo shorts.

The items that are most often turned in to lost-and-found during Bristol Rhythm are keys, credit cards, sunglasses, and eyeglasses. These essentials aren’t secure in your pockets, and big purses just aren’t practical for a music festival. Last year I dusted off my old fanny pack – ahem, hip bag – from the 1980s, and it was the best decision I ever made. I felt so light! So free! I wasn’t constantly adjusting straps or digging into the depths of my purse! It was such a revelation that I talked our marketing director into ordering custom Bristol Rhythm-branded fanny packs for the festival this year. I can’t wait!

Festival goers holding water bottles.
Water bottles as fashion.
© Birthplace of Country Music; photographer: E. Larson
  • Stay hydrated.

I can’t stress this enough. Having a water bottle with you at all times during the day is the best way to keep from getting parched and sleepy. Saturday at Bristol Rhythm is a long day. If you feel your energy draining, ask yourself: When is the last time I drank a glass of water? If it’s been an hour or longer, you definitely need to drink up! That goes especially for kids! And last year, we introduced two water refill stations to the festival so that makes staying hydrated even easier. You can use the mobile app’s map function for their locations.

Photo of a smiling couple with one of them wearing a t-shirt that reads "Here for the Music," and a second photo of a hand holding a beer.
Let’s not forget why we’re here…
© Birthplace of Country Music; photographer: A. Shumaker
  • Drink responsibly.

If you’re like me and enjoy a tasty adult beverage every now and again, then by all means treat yourself! It’s a festival! Just know when to say when. Alcohol is dehydrating, so there’s that, and nobody likes a sloppy drunk. If you pace yourself, you won’t miss any good music, embarrass yourself or your friends, throw up on a stranger’s shoes, or get tossed out of the festival and end up in jail. You’ll have a better festival experience sans hangover!

A couple holding festival food and a shot of the line of food vendors on Lee Street.
Nourishment via Bristol Rhythm food court.
© Birthplace of Country Music
  • Don’t forget to eat!

I have worked many-a-festival, and it happens to me every year. I get so involved in working or getting to the next stage that I forget to eat. Do yourself a favor: carve out a specific time in your schedule to hit a restaurant or vendor, and then sit down and have a proper meal. Bring snacks if you need to, but at least take the time to nourish yourself with a hearty meal at least once each day of the event. As I mentioned earlier, it’s a marathon, not a sprint – and it will seriously help soak up any alcohol in your system.

Photo of crowded State Street at night.
The streets stay crowded day AND night!
© Birthplace of Country Music; photographer: Eli Johnson
  • Use the side streets at peak festival times.

State Street gets pretty crowded, and it can be difficult to get through the crowds if you’re in a hurry. Consider alternate routes on Shelby Street and Farm & Fun Time Alley if you have to get from one end of State Street to another quickly.

Photo of smiling people inside a car.
Artists travel together, why shouldn’t friends?
© Birthplace of Country Music; photographer: Bill Foster
  • Carpool or take the shuttle.

Every year we work hard to improve the efficiency of the shuttle system. Wait times have been seriously reduced, and the buses come with more regularity than in previous years. If you are from out of town, the shuttles are a great resource to get you to and from the festival grounds without worrying about where to park.

Photo of two Bristol police officers.
Bristol’s finest!
© Birthplace of Country Music; photographer: K. Thompson
  • It takes a village.

Kindness and courteousness are the most common traits you’ll find in people who attend Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion. We’re very proud to say that arrests, accidents, lost kids, disorderly behavior, etc. are extremely rare, but that doesn’t mean those things won’t happen. We pride ourselves on being a family event; we want everyone to feel happy and welcome and safe when they walk through those gates. Please take care of each other; look out for the very young, the elderly, the disabled, and anyone you feel may be in need of help. We have plenty of law enforcement and emergency services to turn to just in case.

Photo of The Ruen Brothers.
A magical moment with The Ruen Brothers
captured at The Paramount.
© Birthplace of Country Music; photographer: Billie Wheeler

I don’t have words to properly express how much I love Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion. Every year I find new bands to fall in love with, reunite with old friends, and make new ones. I have watched the careers of so many musicians blossom over the years and get really excited for their success. Historic Downtown Bristol is simply magical during the event, so it’s important to me that everyone who walks through the gates has the festival experience of a lifetime! I hope these tips help enhance that experience for you, and that you have a blast!

Photo of Low Cut Connie performing on stage in front of a large crowd -- viewing the band from behind and looking out at the audience.
Low Cut Connie on the Cumberland Square Park Stage.
© Birthplace of Country Music; photographer: Bill Foster

The 19th annual Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion music festival dates are September 20-22, 2019. For the complete lineup and ticket info, click here.

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