Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion 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 historic sessions, hosted by Ralph Peer in a Main Street hat shop, 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.
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After COVID-19 cancelled the festivities in 2020, the Reunion resumes for a proper 20th anniversary celebration on September 10-12 in Historic Downtown Bristol, Tennessee-Virginia.
Since 2001, 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
“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.”
The 20th anniversary event will hit 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 available here.
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 available here.
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 available here.
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.
“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 here.
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 have it shipped to you free of charge.
The 20th anniversary Bristol Rythm & Roots Reunion is presented by the Birthplace of Country Music (BCM), also the parent nonprofit of the Birthplace of Country Music Museum and WBCM Radio Bristol. For more information, visit the website.