Last year, Molly Tuttle played a pretty incredible show at The Bottleneck that left people talking about it for months afterward. Soon after, she nabbed a Grammy for Best Bluegrass album. So when Molly Tuttle and Golden Highway were announced as the headliner for this year’s Kaw River Roots Fest, she had a pretty excitable fan base in the crowd. This is a huge win for Lawrence, and all of the festival proved that we are unrivaled in bluegrass shows for the state (anyone who disagrees doesn’t love America!).

Kaw River Roots Fest fans / Photo by Fally Afani

We could go on and on about how great everyone sounded when they hit up the second day at Abe and Jake’s, but you know that already. With a mix of touring and local acts, and zero time between the stages changing over, it was a barn burner for the books. The music had everyone dancing, the food was zesty, and shoes were optional. So instead, we’ll just list the best things we saw over the course of two days at this year’s Kaw River Roots Fest:

  1. First off, babies. Babies everywhere. Bonus points for the babies wearing those GIANT noise cancelling headphones (awwww, their little baby ears!!). Extra bonus points for the big kids that got loopy on cotton candy and stayed up all night.
  2. Bands wearing other bands’ shirts (it was especially noticeable on the first day, and the bluegrass scene is known for displaying that type of support).

    Unfit Wives / Photo by John Knepper
  3. Jenna and Martin making the slide guitar sound like a train whistle.
  4. Pretend Friend’s Blind Melon cover.
  5. A band called Front Porch playing on the back porch at Abe and Jake’s and drawing so many fans, the deck started shaking (eek!).
  6. Unfit Wives playing such a good song that Opal Agafia’s band played along with them during their soundcheck.
  7. Unfit Wives playing a killer set while their Unfit Husbands took care of the Unfit Babies and fetched their wives drinks (*feverishly takes notes on how to train my husband*).
  8. Opal Agafia’s Elvis snarl.
  9. Golden Highway’s bassist’s jacket (c’mon, let me borrow your jacket!).

    Molly Tuttle and Golden Highway / Photo by Fally Afani
  10. Molly Tuttle and Golden Highway’s cover of White Rabbit following a rousing rendition of “Alice in the Bluegrass.”
  11. It’s a bluegrass festival, so OF COURSE there was pie.
  12. The people who decided to just have their own mini-concert / jam session in the parking lot.
  13. Cooler temperatures and getting out of Satan’s butthole (the heat index reached the 120s and 130s every day for a week leading up to the festival). Nothing will ever rival watching bluegrass under a strikingly beautiful sunset with a cool breeze wafting through all the patchouli-soaked hippies (anyone who disagrees doesn’t love America!).

Photos below by Fally Afani and John Knepper.



Fally Afani is an award-winning journalist with a career spanning more than 20 years in media. She has worked extensively in radio, television, newspapers, magazines, and more.

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