Bluegrass returns to La Roche with a new name

As for many events around the globe, 2022 marks a return for the bluegrass music festival in La Roche-sur-Foron, in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region in south-eastern France. 

After two years of COVID restrictions the festival organizing committee met in early October 2021 to review the festival organization and consider changes to keep the festival a major event on the bluegrass music calendar.

After 15 years as La Roche Bluegrass Festival, the event that will take place during the weekend August 3-7, 2022, has been re-branded as Bluegrass In La Roche.  

Christopher Howard-Williams provides a brief reminder of what happened in the recent past …. 

“In 2020 we cancelled the festival and did a virtual festival with two components; videos of shows from past performances at the festival and Zoom interviews with the bands about their life during lockdown and their memories of La Roche.

These are still online at our YouTube channel (La Roche Bluegrass).

In 2021, there was a reduced festival with only 12 bands – nine from France, two from neighbouring Switzerland, and one from Italy (Red Wine).

COVID rules kept changing and it was quite complicated to stay up to date. We stared out all ticketed, but in the end, there was no limit on numbers so it was open to all-comers.

Not many came, probably because of the COVID situation and the weather was awful that weekend, although every concert was able to go ahead on time between the rain showers – maybe 500 at the highest point.”

A new attraction included in the 2022 Bluegrass in La Roche festival program will be the first Kids On Bluegrass Europe Bluegrass Camp, open to youngsters aged from six to 16 who can hold an acoustic instrument and play three chords. More information can be found online.

30 bands from 15 different countries will be featured during the weekend, with Missy Raines & Allegheny being the head-line act.

Others scheduled to appear are Compton & Newberry (USA); Rapidgrass (USA); Level Best (USA); Crying Uncle Bluegrass Band (USA); Country Gongbang (Korea); Zenkl & Kozak Band (Czech Republic); Radim Zenkl & Ondra Kozak (Czech Republic); The Fountaineers (GB); Flamengrass (Spain); Silene & the Dreamcatchers (France); Roger Mason & Strings Fellows (France/USA); Long John Bros. (Switzerland); Emmy & Bluegrass Pals (The Netherlands); Flat Top Brothers (France); Good Guy Hank (GB); Johnny & the Yooahoos (Germany); Just as Blue (Sweden); Long Way Home (Ireland); Milkeaters (Czech Republic); Rookie Riot (Sweden); Saelkie Folk (GB/France); Stacja Folk (Poland); Stereo Naked (Germany); Table for Two (Belgium/Denmark); Two of Us (France); Infeltrio (Italy); and Hills of Belgium (Belgium). 

Raines enthuses … 

“Having the opportunity to bring my new bluegrass band, Allegheny, to the La Roche Bluegrass festival feels a bit like completing a full-circle long-time goal for me. My first time to play in France was with the Virginia-based band, Cloud Valley. That was the first professional gig I ever had and we did a six week, seven country tour in the spring of 1984. It was my first time ever abroad. I’ve been back to France and many places in Europe numerous times since that first trip, but this will be the first time I will be taking my own band. I’m delighted that it’s this particular band and that we will be debuting in France. With Allegheny, named for the Allegheny highlands of West Virginia, where I am from, I am embracing my bluegrass roots and paying tribute to the influences that have impacted my musical life. I am very fortunate to be touring with such amazing musicians.” 

Allegheny features Tristan Scroggins (mandolin), Ellie Hakanson (fiddle), Ben Garnett (guitar), and Eli Gilbert (banjo).

Here are a few samples of what’s in store for festival-goers. 

Country Gongbang were the subjects of a Bluegrass Beyond Borders feature early last year

This extended video, presented by the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Leadership Bluegrass Online: Navigating the Digital Jungle initiative, showcases some of what the five-piece group has to offer fans in La Roche…. 

Multi-instrumentalists Radim Zenkl and Ondra Kozak got together in 2020 to form the Zenkl & Kozák Band, offering original tunes and songs in the bluegrass style, as well as traditional pieces in special arrangements. 

The band with Jiri Valek playing bass is supported by world banjo champion David Benda for this rendition of El Cumbanchero.

The Crying Uncle Bluegrass Band, consisting of brothers Miles (vocals and fiddle) and Teo Quale (vocals and mandolin), Andrew Osborn (vocals and bass), and John Gooding (vocals and guitar) – all outstanding young musicians on the vibrant California bluegrass scene, is widely recognized as one of the most exciting young bands in acoustic music. They play a unique mix of bluegrass, Dawg, Jazz and original modern acoustic music. 

Little Willie – CBA Father’s Day Festival, June 2022


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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.