Saddle Up For Nashville, RI: Tennessee meets Rhody for a new country music fest

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The places typically associated with country music have more southern accents than lighthouses and seagulls. But according to Michael Friedman, the mind behind the inaugural Nashville, RI Music Festival at Mulligan’s Island, RI shouldn’t be counted out as a hub for country die-hards. 

“This is a demand-driven event,” Friedman says of the new country music fest. “We got a ton of requests last year for country music programming – it was relentless.”

On the first Sunday in August, local and regional bands will descend on Mulligan’s Island for a full day of twangy guitar licks, warm vocals, swingin’ dancing and more. Friedman says that in addition to fan requests, a recent personal experience motivated him to organize the fest.

“In the fall, I traveled to Nashville and spent a lot of time walking up and down Broadway, really getting excited by the energy level that the music scene created,” he reflects. “I don’t think there’s anything hotter in the music world than Nashville. I thought, let’s try to create that in Rhode Island.”

Knowing that country music means something different for everyone, Friedman and company sought out acts from all ends of the country spectrum. Independent Maine-based outfit The Mallett Brothers Band will be the festival’s headlining act. Labeled as a country band, but drawing from many other genres, including rock and psychedelic music, the group is rightfully earning their increasing popularity. Featured acts include the Americana/roots-oriented Cousin Bobby Bluegrass, Country Music Association of Rhode Island Band of the Year award winners The RI Rednecks, and special guests Gary & Linda. 

“This is a free event for those that haven’t had the opportunity to see country music performed live and the energy it puts out,” Friedman says. “It’s also very kid-friendly – that’s one reason it’s during the afternoon.”

Above all, Friedman is looking forward to satisfying the itch of Ocean State country listeners. “In Rhode Island, I think country music fans are the silent majority. People are very excited to get out a lawn chair, put their toes in the grass, and listen to some outstanding live performers.”

Nashville, RI Music Festival takes place August 4 at Mulligan’s Island in Cranston. Beer, wine and food are available for purchase, and concert-goers are free to enjoy the batting cages, driving range, mini golf, and other Mulligan’s Island amenities in between acts. For more information, visit mulligansisland.com

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