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Women-Owned Roots N Blues Festival Celebrates Success of Historic All Women-Led Lineup

Women-Owned Roots N Blues Festival Celebrates Success of Historic All Women-Led Lineup

The women-owned major music festival in the United States Roots N Blues Festival was held last weekend at Stephens Lake Park in Columbia, Missouri featuring a historic all women-led lineup that included Brandi CarlileSheryl CrowMavis StaplesLennon StellaTank and the Bangas, and Larkin Poe, along with 19 other female or non-binary performers, who performed on two stages. The festival will return next year at Stephens Lake Park on October 7-9, 2022.

Festival co-producers Tracy Lane and Shay Jasper revealed that their first year as co-owners of Roots N Blues was a success: the festival attracted a younger, more diverse audience than it had in years past. More 18-24 and 25-34-year-old music fans attended than in previous years. They also noted that 60% of 7,000 festival-goers were women — the first time women made up a majority of the Roots N Blues audience. This year’s festival also attracted a huge number of out-of-state attendees, with music fans traveling from California, Virginia, Florida, Texas, Tennessee, and other states. 

“It’s a powerful feeling to be on the other side of this event knowing that this initiative was developed two years ago out of frustration for the lack of representation in this industry,” Lane and Jasper said. “Instead of just continuing the conversation, we decided to pick up some of the weight and move the industry in the right direction, toward equitable representation for all. The 2021 event was a clear celebration of that direction and we have more work to do on the path to 2022.”

This year’s featured the most diverse in its history with artists such as Latin Grammy Award winners Flor de Toloache (a mariachi band), country star Mickey Guyton, headliners Tank and the Bangas, the legendary Mavis Staples, Rwandan-American singer-songwriter Sifa, singer-songwriter Brittney Spencer (who joined Brandi Carlile and Natalie Hemby for some Highwomen tunes on Saturday night), soul singer Shemekia Copeland, and Memphis band Southern Avenue.

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An impromptu Highwomen performance during Brandi Carlile's Saturday night set. Left to right: Brittney Spencer, Brandi Carlie and Natalie Demby. Photo by Justin Kelly.
An impromptu Highwomen performance during Brandi Carlile’s Saturday night set. Left to right: Brittney Spencer, Brandi Carlie and Natalie Demby. Photo by Justin Kelly.

In addition to elevating women on stage, Roots N Blues also hired more women backstage. This year’s festival was photographed and filmed by an equal mix of women and men for the first time and there were more women working on the security team and production crew than ever before.

On the final night of Roots N Blues, Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow was presented with the 2021 Missouri Roots Songbook honor. The honor was presented by Lane and Jasper who founded the Missouri Roots Songbook in 2018 to encourage the young people of Missouri to take pride in the incredibly rich musical heritage of their home state. Crow is the first living recipient of this honor and the first woman to receive it. Previous honorees were Chuck Berry (2018), the “father” of rock and roll, and John “Blind” Boone (2019), one of the first composers of Ragtime music.

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