Three summers ago, just before uprooting to Asheville, North Carolina, the Athens-based “jamtronica” combo Papadosio decided to throw a party in the southeast Ohio woodlands — but not just any kind of party.
Rather than the debauched consumer nightmare that has become the American festival scene, he idea was to dissolve the line between audience and performer, and maybe between humans and their environment altogether, with a series of workshops, jam sessions, lectures, performance art installations and more.
“We wanted to get everybody that came to the event involved in what was going on, artistically and musically,” bassist Rob McConnell said.
The band liked the results so much that it kept throwing Rootwire Festival every August, always returning to Kaeppner’s Woods in Logan, a few miles from the college town where it formedin 2005.
“We could have moved the festival too, but we just thought, it’s an Ohio thing, and it’s something that the Midwest really digs,” McConnell said. “I just think it would be weird to have Rootwire anywhere but Ohio.”
The fest’s fourth annual installment runs Thursday and features dozens of bands, artists, speakers and more. Topping the bill, Papadosio will play standard acoustic sets plus a “P.A. set” Thursday night in which the band runs its instruments through computerized manipulations.
McConnell, who picked up music from his parents, emphasized the all-ages, all-inclusive nature of the proceedings.
“A lot of festivals focus on partying a lot and it seems kind of shallow after doing it all summer. We like to invite people to bring their families and make it more of an easygoing atmosphere instead of just intoxication,” he said. “It’s important to involve everyone, not just twentysomethings. I love going to festivals and seeing a 75-year-old dance to our music and a five-year-old dance to our music.”
It’s unclear whether all concertgoerswill find inspiration atan event described as “an expedition into light, nature, sound, community and healing,” but McConnell thinks it’s worth trying.
“Pretty much everybody I’ve ever met has some sort of creative bone,” McConnell said. “It’s cool, even if it’s just a weekend out of the year for these people.”