Roots 'N Blues caters to Columbia's community

Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi headlined the festival.

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Derek Trucks stood firmly in the middle of his stage, expressionless and unmoving save for his right and left hands. The band had quieted to all but silence, knowing full well its guitar-wielding front man was about to take himself and his audience to a different place.

And that he did.

Truck's guitar sang, sobbed and spoke to the crowd in a way everyone listening completely understood but simply couldn't explain. There were no whoops and shouts of appreciation, just a few moments of silent meditation and otherworldly guitar song. It was one of many defining moments at this year's Roots 'N Blues 'N BBQ, an event that made venturing off campus well worth it.

Friday was a festive evening of indulgence. Not yet acquainted with what was before them, hordes of festival attendees approached the myriad barbeque stands hungrily and stage-hopped all night in hopes of truly seeing it all. Food stops such as Lutz's catered to the hungry crowd with free samples of its signature potato chips.

Food wasn't the only attraction bringing people in. Gibson guitars sent out a custom-shop traveling exhibit in the form of a trailer filled with some of its most revered high-end models.

"Anywhere from historic reissues, guitars from Gibson's golden age, signature models like B.B. King's 'Lucille,' limited runs, special guitars with limited colors and things like that," said Mark Case, the boss of the operation. "It just gives folks a chance to come by and check them out, hang out and ask questions."

Visitors could pluck any model off the wall and play it — a privilege that probably fulfilled a few people's dreams. Those guitars are expensive.

The music of the first night was filled with blues-inspired bands. Hidden behind Anders Osborne's thicket-beard and Swedish ancestry was an unprecedented force of talent and showmanship.

"I was really impressed with the combination of the voice and the guitar," freshman Jacob Hamilton said.

Osborne's chilling mix of thundering jams and soulful ballads had the crowd moving.

Columbia local Marcia Muskrat pioneered an infectious dance movement.

"For somebody who likes to dance to music, that's like heaven when the musicians are improvising," Muskrat said.

Saturday morning started early — 5:15 a.m. early, in fact. The half-marathon was both a vital yet overlooked aspect of the festival. The 13.2-mile morning run brought out an impressive amount of volunteers from all over the people spectrum.

"We had 268 total volunteers today and around 1,200 runners," said Megan Lee, the volunteer coordinator for Central Missouri Community Action. "I think it's great that so many groups have come out so enthusiastically to support an event just for the sake of getting out into their communities and getting involved."

Anthony Larangeira and Marzena Tomicki took home the gold for the male and female divisions, respectively. No doubt, the runners owed some portion of the win to the volunteers who handed out water and patched up bloody nips. Free barbeque was also provided to runners and volunteers alike immediately following the race.

The morning's marathon soon gave way to the barbeque competition. Sixteen teams competed in all, with some going big for the prize and others simply choosing to enjoy the atmosphere. In the end, 4 Smokin' Butts, a powerhouse team from Millstadt, Ill., took home the gold.

Nightfall meant many things for Roots 'N Blues 'N BBQers. After a rousing set by the pleasantly diverse Dynamites in Peace Park, the evening slipped effortlessly into party mode. Free promotional stuff is always fun, and it was everywhere. Even outside the festival gates, the party continued with a vendor-full Cherry Street complete with a father-son blues duo. Music and food flowed freely, but in the end, Derek Trucks and wife Susan Tedeschi reigned supreme.

The Derek Trucks Band was like an exclusive club of music's most respected musicians. Two drummers put out beats that were as complex and impressive as they were groovy. The bass and keys fixed themselves firmly into the background, surprising everyone with the occasional solo. Dual vocalists, including Mike Mattison, subtly stunned the audience. Tedeschi was impressive both vocally and instrumentally on the guitar. Although he did a fantastic job of being just another puzzle piece in the band, Derek Trucks was undoubtedly the centerpiece. Words fail — you just need to see him play.

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