Roots N Blues crowd outshines Son Volt’s stellar set

Despite onstage excitement, Roots N Blues’ audience was more engaging than the music show itself.

Son Volt’s performance was supposedly excellent. I wouldn’t know though, despite the fact that I was inches from the stage.

With an intricate blend of classic rock and blues, Son Volt took the MO Lottery Stage at the Roots N Blues N BBQ annual festival on Sept. 29. Amongst the many assignments tasked to me while I was there, my main goal was to find time to stop and enjoy the music. I was minimally successful.

Despite constant self-reminders, I couldn’t manage to stay engaged with Son Volt’s performance. Every once in a while, bassist Mark Spencer’s delicate riffs or lead singer Jay Farrar’s smooth baritone would pull me to the stage. But these moments of enrapturement were disproportionately outnumbered by the numerous times I glanced away from the band. The Roots N Blues crowd and the atmosphere they brought far exceeded Son Volt as the most entertaining part of the night.

Being from Chicago, a city of constant bustle and stress, Columbia has always seemed more down-to-earth to me. But that feeling was never better understood than standing next to Missouri’s many Roots N Blues fans. Clad in jeans and T-shirts, audience members swayed silently to the music. A few of them mouthed the words of their favorite songs. A few others wrapped their arms around their partners, swaying to Son Volt’s slower melodies. Other than a shout or two, a constant stream of conversation was barely audible over the roar of the stage.

There were no big fights or cursing matches so common in large gatherings in downtown Chicago. Children played tag around large oak trees and families drank beer on hay bales. No one seemed rushed.

Roots N Blues became a human festival to me rather than a music one. While Son Volt stole the attention of many avid rock fans, people-watching became my sole focus.

There is something incredibly comforting about thousands of people all grooving together to the same song. Maybe Son Volt’s swanky tunes provided the perfect background music needed to enjoy the environment. Or maybe Son Volt wasn’t specifically needed to make the night electrifying. Either way, Roots N Blues was a social experience like no other.

Despite not knowing if Son Volt hit all the right notes, I do know one thing for sure-- I will check out Roots N Blues next year, no matter who is performing.

Edited by Siena DeBolt | sdebolt@themaneater.com

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