Lace it up to rock, roll at festivals

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 5, 2010

The temperature is creeping up, the sleeves on the shirts will shorten and music will soon fill the air.

Ah, festival season in the South.

Sean P. Murphy is Web editor. He can be reached at

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Outdoor festivals, a staple of the warm-weather months, offer vast opportunities to listen to the best of the music, catch some local flavor and the ever-popular excuse to overindulge.

Larger cities will have bigger, more elaborate stages, but few can compete with those in and around Mississippi as far as unique talent, affordable prices and plenty of local culture.

• Vicksburg’s own Riverfest is set for April 16-17 on Washington Street in downtown. Clarksdale’s Jimbo Mathus, local favorites The Chill and Oxford-based Blue Mountain will give festival-goers a wide array of musical choices.

An arts and crafts fair, wood-carving demonstrations offer opportunities for people of all ages. Tickets are available in advance until April 15 for $15 per night, or $25 for a weekend pass.

• The Hangout Beach, Music and Arts Festival in Gulf Shores, Ala., May 14-16 will feature jam bands, rock-and-roll, Latin, gospel and country music. The $159 pricetag for the weekend could scare some people away, but broken down and with the musical possibilities, well worth the money.

• Closer to home, the Highway 61 Blues Festival is set for June 5 in Leland. The one-day event spans 10 hours, is a ridiculously affordable $10, and scheduled to perform are such legendary Delta bluesmen as  Johnny Winter, T Model Ford and Big George Brock.

The small town of Leland comes alive for this one-of-a-kind event.

• The fifth annual North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic June 25-26 in the North Mississippi town of Potts Camp features the sounds of Hill Country Blues made famous by the likes of Otha Turner and R.L. Burnside.

The festival costs about $50 and is organized by Mississippi bluesman Kenny Brown. Make arrangements, because it will be hot and there are few trees. A creek that runs behind the festival grounds is a popular respite from the heat.

• Finish the summer Aug. 6-8 in Clarksdale with the 23rd annual Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival. Not only is the festival filled with fantastic music, the artists routinely find their way to jukes around Clarksdale for late-night rocking.

So, lace up those dancin’ shoes; it’s festival time.