Rhythm & Roots Had A Little Lamb

Posted by Monica Hoel
…and his name was Brent Treash, E&H Class of ’01. He served as president of the 2017 Rhythm & Roots Festival.

Emory & Henry has more in common with Bristol’s Rhythm & Roots event than just an ampersand: we also share Brent Treash.

Brent is a 2001 Emory & Henry grad who works in the College’s communications office…AND he is the 2017 chair of the biggest music festival in the region. Bristol’s Rhythm & Roots Reunion boasts of nearly 80,000 patrons in 2016 – including the nearly 500 musicians and countless food and merchandise vendors.

Brent got involved with Rhythm & Roots because local organizers wanted to pick his brain about jambands. While the festival takes place in the city that proudly hails as the Birthplace of Country Music, the event prides itself in offering a wide range of music styles. Brent says that’s very intentional. “When The Carter Family and Jimmy Rodgers recorded those first songs at the event now called ‘The Bristol Sessions’ they were sharing a new kind of music with the world. We like to think that Rhythm & Roots does the same thing; it exposes the audience to new bands and new music styles.”

Those early Bristol Sessions are now considered the big bang of country music – Keep on the Sunny Side being the genesis that led to Not My Mama’s Broken Heart. The big Rhythm & Roots festival celebrates all those nuances of country music (Dwight Yoakam is headlining this year) while also giving you a taste of blues, rock, folk, Americana, and more.

Brent has been on the Rhythm & Roots board for a decade so he has seen every aspect of the event: from tickets to stage set-up to cleanup. The contacts list on his phone can get you to hundreds of bands and just as many music managers. He is a walking Wikipedia of musicians, music, and music history. But in the end, he still enjoys the music. “The festival roster has no shortage of legendary musicians, but I love that our event has become a place where people come to discover new talent. We’ve been fortunate in the past to have artists like the Avett Brothers, Sturgill Simpson and St. Paul and the Broken Bones as they were just starting their careers. People come to Bristol each September looking for the next big thing. This year we have a Canadian singer-songwriter with a deep baritone voice named Colter Wall. He might be the best songwriter I’ve heard in several years.”

Brent also serves on the board of directors for the festival’s parent organization the Birthplace of Country Music.

In addition, he does a weekly radio show on WEHC 90.7 that highlights some of the great music discoverable at Rhythm & Roots. And his thoughts are never far from the event. “Every year we start planning earlier and earlier for the following year. I’m getting messages on a daily basis about bookings for 2018.”

Planning an event this huge doesn’t come without a share of disappointments and Brent occasionally has to suffer the pain of losing a band or performer he was really set on having at the event. But with a festival that features nearly 130 different acts, there will be music aplenty to console his broken heart.

  • Brent Treash is serving as the 2017 Rhythm & Roots President
“We like to think that Rhythm & Roots…exposes the audience to new bands and new music styles.”
—Brent Treash, E&H ’01

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