Roots of the Rocks plays Utah traveling music
Beaver • They called it the flash flood of 2009.
The massive rainstorm hit Moab so hard and so efficiently, someone paddled a kayak under a stage during the Desert Rocks Music Festival.
Then last year, winds in Moab stubbornly sustained themselves for three days. At its peak, the sand whipped around at as much as 70 mph.
In Moab, the extreme weather will make for a good story two decades from now. But having a music festival under favorable conditions became the goal for founder John Ripley and the people who buy tickets to his annual festivals.
So this year, the four-day festival, which ends Sunday, zoomed through red tape and other logistics and moved to Eagle Point ski resort in the Tushar Mountains east of the town of Beaver. Here, as Gatherer Pryor, a frequent patron from Evanston, Wyo., eloquently put it, "It's no longer 110 degrees."
Ripley also renamed the extravaganza the Roots of the Rocks Music Festival. About 1,500 people are on site to hear some of the best blues, bluegrass, funk, reggae and electronic music around from 70 bands and 100 total acts. An estimated 85 percent of those people have set up camps and been on hand throughout the weekend.
And it's a festive mood. Lots of hugs, lots of laughs. Lots of beer and vodka being offered to any and everyone, including reporters.
The music flows for 18 hours of the day, the only exception being from about 6 a.m. to noon. That time, Ripley said, is for everyone to sleep.
Other than that, the festival has been nonstop. And with much more forgiving weather.
Most festivalgoers Saturday were in their 20s or 30s. The attire was a mix of the hiking boots and khaki shorts you would expect on a mountain and some Woodstock-esque garb.
"The weather has just been perfect up here," said Pryor, who attended the festival. "It's been a big difference because everyone can just relax and enjoy."
Traveling band • This is the 12th year for the music festival. The first 10 years were held at Area BFE in Moab. Last year moved to Jenks Star Ranch, also in Moab. Needing a new place to stage the festival, Ripley found himself stuck. Wary of the elements, the number of people buying tickets decreased significantly. He wasn't making any money. The future of the festival looked bleak at best.
"I felt like the ship was sinking," Ripley said.
Ripley calls the move a near miracle. Lane Tucker the base operations manager at Eagle Point calls it an eye-opening experience.
They executed the move in three weeks. A week after Memorial Day, Ripley drove to Eagle Point and spoke with owner Shane Gadbaw. He was receptive to the idea of moving the festival to Eagle Point. But first, Ripley needed to obtain a mass gathering permit.
That usually takes 30 days. Ripley and Beaver County worked with each other and did it in two weeks.
Then Ripley had to contract all of his acts and tell them about the move. He had to make new fliers and spread the word about the venue switch. He needed to create a new site map.
In essence, Ripley and his staff crammed months worth of work into about three weeks. On Saturday, a bleary-eyed Ripley revealed that caffeine has been his best friend. He's been working 20-hour days.
"We appreciate everything that's been done," Tucker said. "They needed a venue and Eagle Point wanted to prove that we could put on a festival of this magnitude. Things have been going fairly well for the short notice. There have been some logistical flaws, but nothing that can't be prevented with time. We have been really excited to show our capabilities as a serious venue for something this size."
Many of them have played at multiple festivals. Stonefed founded by Ed Stone and Jasper Groff has played every year at the festival.
For them, and many who worked to make this possible, it's about the movement. The music.
"We want to bring the music of Utah to light," Stone said, "and we want people to support Utah music and Utah musicians. I think the acts in this state are under-exposed, and we want to do something about that."
The crowd this year is composed mostly of diehards those who will follow the festival anywhere and everywhere. Officials estimate that fewer than 100 locals attended, mostly because not many knew it was at Eagle Point.
If nothing else the festival has a future. Tucker said Eagle Point is excited to remain a venue in the coming years. And while the previous three weeks have been difficult, the hard work has spilled into a weekend of good music, good food and a laid-back atmosphere.
"It's been a neat weekend and a neat crowd," Tucker said. "It's been an experience in a good way."
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Roots of the Rocks Festival
Sunday is the final day; tickets are selling for $25.
One hundred blues, bluegrass, funk, reggae and electronic acts perform almost around the clock over a four-day weekend.
This is the 11th year for the festival.
An estimated 1,500 people have attended this year.
A venue change from Moab to Eagle Point ski resort was executed in a three-week window.