The Black Lillies
The Black Lillies
Alt-country artist The Black Lillies will perform at the kick-off event for the annual RiverRoots Music & Folk Arts Festival.

The fundraiser will be held Friday, April 5 at the Livery Stable from 7 to 11 p.m.

Greg Ziesemer, RiverRoots event coordinator, said the Black Lillies will be a good preview of the upcoming festival, which is set to run May 17-18 in Bicentennial Park.

The Knoxville group, which just released its album "Runaway Freeway Blue" on Tuesday, played the festival last year and was a crowd favorite, Ziesemer said. The group also has performed at popular music and arts festivals Bonnaroo and South by Southwest.

"They are about ready to blow up," he said. "I'd say they are a must-see show."

Ziesemer said only 250 tickets are available for the fundraiser. Tickets are $15 a person and can be purchased at the Madison Visitor's Center, Broadway Hotel, The Barbershop at 601 West Main, The Village Lights Bookstore or at the door.

At the event, patrons also can sign up for a membership with the Ohio Valley Folk Society, the fundraising arm for the festival.

This year marks the eighth year for the May folk and arts festival, which adopted the name RiverRoots last year.

Coordinators say the festival will feature a few changes, including the expansion of the folk village and addition of a side stage. The previous three-day schedule also will be swapped for a two-day event, which will run Friday night and all day Saturday.

This year, organizers also have revamped the website (www.riverroots.org) which features tabs for the lineup, activities, dos and don'ts and festival prices.

Notable acts will include the old-time string band Carolina Chocolate Drops, cajun-style group Christine Balfa and Balfa Toujours, singer and cellist Ben Sollee and Madison native Andrea Davidson. Stacey Earle, the sister of singer-songwriter Steve Earle, also will perform.

Since first performing at the festival in 2010, the Carolina Chocolate Drops have won a Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album.

"Everybody that has heard they are coming back has been very excited," Ziesemer said.

Last year's event drew about 3,500 visitors to the riverfront. This year, Ziesemer is shooting for 5,000.

And he hopes some of the new tweaks will help increase those crowd numbers.

The festival will offer two stages this year, one for the main acts and full bands and another for solo artists, a move Ziesemer said will allow organizers to include the same amount of entertainment even though the festival is dropping Sunday.

"We didn't want to diminish the number of acts or entertainment we're bringing in," he said.

In addition to the entertainment, RiverRoots will offer food trucks this year and expand the beer tent to include five local microbrewers.

Advanced presale weekend passes will be available until midnight April 30. The cost is $25 a ticket and includes $10 in food tickets that can be redeemed at the event.

In May, weekend passes also will be $25 each but patrons will not be given the food-ticket credit.

Tickets can be purchased at local vendors or off the festival website.

The gates for the festival will open Friday at 6 p.m. and close at 11 p.m. Saturday's events will run from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.