OWENSBORO, Ky. — When it began in 2004, the International Bluegrass Music Museum’s River of Music Party was simply called ROMP. And it featured bands ranging from traditional to progressive bluegrass.
But over the past nine years, the event has evolved into ROMP: Bluegrass Roots & Branches Festival.
“Rather than being a strictly bluegrass festival, it is a festival held strictly in support of the bluegrass museum,” Gabrielle Gray, the museum’s executive director, said last week when she announced this year’s lineup.
Country music legend Merle Haggard will headline the 10th annual festival June 27-29 at Yellow Creek Park near Owenboro. He released a bluegrass album in 2007 and will be doing a mix of country and bluegrass, Gray said.
Past headliners have include Steve Martin, Emmylou Harris and Vince Gill.
Haggard will be joined by two bluegrass legends who are enshrined in the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Hall of Fame — Del McCoury and Doyle Lawson.
Sam Bush, “the father of newgrass,” is also scheduled to appear.
The David Grisman Sextet, The SteelDrivers, Della Mae, G2, Town Mountain, Professors of Bluegrass, Goodwill, Spinney Brothers, Kings Highway, Arnold Shultz Revival and the Kentucky BlueGrass AllStars would all be at home at any bluegrass festival.
But recent years have seen ROMP widening its horizons and bringing in bands from the alternative side, bands that fuse several genres and some that have only a nodding relationship with the music of Bill Monroe.
That list includes the Punch Brothers, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Leftover Salmon, The Deadly Gentlemen, Scythian, Lost Bayou Ramblers, David Wax Museum, Ten String Symphony, Renegade String Band and The Giving Tree Band.
Those acts range from old-time to Cajun to jazz to country to Mexican to rock — with a lot of stops in between.
But they all come with a strong fan base of mostly young people who follow them to festivals.
And that’s caused attendance at ROMP to grow from 7,000 in 2010 to 15,000 in 2011 to 21,000 last year — despite triple-digit temperatures on all three days last year.
Gray is expecting another surge this year since ROMP was named “event of the year” by the International Bluegrass Music Association last fall.
Three-day passes went on sale for $90 for 12 hours on Valentine’s Day and 549 were sold to people in 23 states.
The price is now $100 through March 15 when they’ll go up again.
Gray said the festival doesn’t usually hit the 500 mark on ticket sales until May. Most are sold in the final month before the festival begins — or at the gate.
They can be ordered at RompFest.com, which has all the details on the 2013 festival.
Keith Lawrence: firstname.lastname@example.org
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