The American River Music Festival’s official genre this weekend is “RokJamBluRootsFunkyFolky.”
“Rok” refers to rock, “jam” to jam bands, and the “blu” works for both bluegrass and blues. “Roots” means the 30-plus bands all share some American roots. Funky and folky? Fairly self explanatory.
“It’s more interesting than ‘Americana,’” said Matt Semonsen, founder of the festival. “And no one even knows that ‘Americana’ really means.”
The seventh installment of the festival — running today through Sunday, with the mainstage performances Saturday and Sunday — takes place in El Dorado County’s neighboring communities of Lotus and Coloma, one of the most popular whitewater rafting areas in Northern California. The festival combines water activities with live music spread over 10 locations. The main stage is on an 18-acre riverfront park.
“It’s all about this collaborative community,” Semonsen said. “It’s sharing the love of music and the joy of the river.”
It’s vibe similar to that of the Strawberry Festival near Yosemite, which was the inspiration for Semonsen. That, and his passion for the water. He fell in love with rafting at age 9.
But the American River Music Festival is more intimate than the twice-yearly Strawberry Festival, which was canceled over Labor Day weekend because of the Rim fire (ARMF expects 1,500 attendees, compared with 6,000 who usually come out for Strawberry.)
Some Strawberry regulars might find solace on the river, as may Hot Buttered Rum, which was also scheduled for the Yosemite fest.
Tickets to ARMF range from $15 to $219, depending on age, length of stay, camping desires and other activities. A standard two-day music pass goes for $59.
Also on the bill: a river trip accompanied by live music, a riverfront guided hike also accompanied by live music, and a Friday-evening showcase of California musicians.
Meanwhile, expect a spread of local wines and beers, art for sale, drum circles and organized fun for children.
Then there are the attractions on the main stage.
The David Grisman Bluegrass Experience and Paul Thorn headline the weekend: Grisman, a mandolinist who has been composing for more than 40 years, will lead his five-piece band at 4:30 p.m. Saturday. Thorn will showcase his bluesy Southern roots style at the same time Sunday.
Thorn, from Mississippi, has enjoyed spots on the Billboard Top 100. His 2012 release, “What the Hell is Goin’ On?” was an album made up of cover songs and an homage to the lesser-known artists who inspired him.
Sean Hayes, a soulful troubadour based in San Francisco, plays 3 p.m. Saturday. His most recent release, “Before We Turn to Dust,” features an impressive, eclectic bunch of musicians: Andrew Borger (Tom Waits, Norah Jones) and Ezra Lipp (Thao + The Get Down Stay Down) on drums, Devin Hoff (The Nels Cline Singers, Xiu Xiu) on bass and Eric Khun (Silian Rail) on keys and percussion. .
At 3 p.m. Sunday, another Bay Area favorite takes the stage — Hot Buttered Rum, a progressive bluegrass five-piece that frequents the festival circuit. The band’s live shows are often raucous, dance-friendly affairs.
Trevor Green, who opens on Sunday at 11 a.m., is also worth noting. He’s an extreme multi-instrumentalist, with skills on the lap slide guitar, banjo, mandolin and didgeridoo, among others.
But for Semonsen, the list of musicians contributes to only part of his excitement. It’s the tunes and the water, which he calls “an inspiring combination.”
He recommends that festivalgoers bring swimsuits, or wear one underneath clothing, to take advantage of the swimming hole near the main stage. Between sets, chill out under shady trees or sunbathe on the sand. And bring plenty of sunscreen — highs in Coloma-Lotus are expected to be in the low 90s.