Article By: Gilad Egar & Matt Braun ; Photos by Alan Harvey and Morgan Mullin
When I told people I was going to Rootwire
, I usually got one of two responses. The first of which was far more common, “What the hell is Rootwire?” But there was a small group of educated festi friends who responded, “Get ready for the best festival of the year.” This statement filled my mind with memories of Lightning in a Bottle’s incredible art and family vibe as well as Electric Forest’s communal spirit and majestic Sherwood Forest. After attending these amazing events, I thought there was no way that the smaller side tent at the festival circus could have much of an impact on me. I couldn't have been more wrong.
Rootwire is a festival unlike any other. From the massive art exhibitions and incredible talent to the intimate feel and fantastic fans, Rootwire is guaranteed to fill even the most skeptical critic with childlike awe. In 2010, Rootwire was created by Ohio natives Papadosio, whose search for the perfect sanctuary led them to build one of their own. The idea was to create a place where the acts didn’t all need to be huge headliners, the performance artists were encouraged to showcase their creativity freely, and the people in attendance were made to truly feel like members of a festival family.
Admittance to Rootwire is so affordable that any festival enthusiast in the United States should be able to fit it into their summer festival budget. Forget all the extras that usually accompany purchasing tickets to a festival like parking permits, camping passes, or service fees. At Rootwire all of these amenities, as well as showers, are included for free. Also included in the ticket price, starting at $85.00 online and a mere $100.00 dollars at the gate, is a full extra day of festival fun. Unlike most festivals Rootwire not only lets attendees in on Thursday but also provides a full schedule of music and activities. At this price Rootwire provides tremendous value that speaks to anyone with the curiosity to experience something magnificent and a few extra dollars in their pocket.
The music at Rootwire was completely unlike anything you would hear at your average music festival. Each days schedule overflowed with incredibly talented yet lesser known musicians whose musical genres actually complemented the time slot for which they had been chosen. During the days you could find upbeat danceable reggae being played by the likes of See-I, who did an uplifting set on Thursday afternoon featuring members of Thievery Corporation
. Unbelievable primarily live jam sounds from bands like The Werks and Dopapod, both of whom closed out the main stage on separate evenings, left slack-jawed stargazers trying to grasp why their music had to end. An impressive night time set from English producer OTT
brought a psychedelic charge into the reggae influenced dub-style and let listeners jam out to thumping bass. Then to make sure that energy was running high right up until the end fans were given their rap fix as Chali 2na & The House of Vibe brought the heat on Sunday giving the small crowd that showed a taste of what old school hip hop is all about.
The support musicians all did a fantastic job of setting the stage for the main event, Papadosio
. Not only are these guys responsible for this entire wonderous event but also for some of the most unique performances live music can offer. Papadosio gave three marvelous and memorable sets throughout Rootwire, starting with their PA set on night one. The PA set was a live improvised remix session of sorts that showcased the groups’ uncanny ability to create and mix their music seamlessly to produce a dance party no one will ever forget. Their second show was an extended two-part “livetronica” event, totaling almost three hours of perfectly calculated combinations of electronica and live music. Throughout this show they brought out numerous guest artists, showcased elements of their new album T.E.T.I.O.S. (due out this fall), and let everyone know exactly why they’re the stars of the show. Then on the last day of the festival Papadosio brought the festival family together at the tent stage and asked for everyone to sit back, relax, and reflect on their time at Rootwire during the closing ceremony. It is at this time that they played a beautiful “acoustic” performance that filled all in attendance with emotions of priviledged bliss and utter fulfillment with their festival experience.
If there’s one thing to learn from Rootwire and Papadosio, its that it doesn’t take hundreds of big names or tens of thousands of people to make a good festival. It’s not about the biggest stage set up and dozens of pre-produced art installations. It’s all about the attitude. If you bring enough like-minded people together in a safe and positive environment, there is an unspoken knowledge that the fans are the artists, the artists are the headliners, and the headliners are the fans, all working together to create an unforgettable experience that will make you count down the days until Rootwire next year.