One of the best part of Rhythm and Roots is that all of downtown Bristol is open, and accessible on a whim. This is the only time of year I can go into the Cameo and enjoy the balcony of this rundown ex-theater turned Christian radio station, with no worse effects than listening to a little Gospel music. The gorgeous Paramount is open to explore (and leech off its wifi), and so many stores up and down have musicians in them providing an excuse to go in and look around without feeling any commercial pressure. It's also nice to walk down the middle of the state line on State St.
My other favorite thing is the jam sessions that spring up here and there later in the day with so many bands in one place. Passing a bassist and fiddler on the sidewalk, or six-seven people from two or three bands sitting off playing quietly for themselves and a small, happy audience.
As for the actual performances, this year I most enjoyed the Cajun/jazz/swing/innovative mix of The Red Stick Ramblers. It was good to see the divineMAGees in person, but the outdoor sound system wasn't good enough for their sound and I missed the indoor gig. I also appreciated nice bluegrass from Chatham Cty. Line, and old-timey Piedmont music of the Carolina Chocolate Drops. And bits and peices from a dozen or so other bands.