Fourteen years ago, Donna the Buffalo played an AIDS benefit concert in Ithaca, NY. The success of that night inspired the band to continue the tradition, and in the years since the GrassRoots Festival has become a mainstay of the upstate New York festival scene. This year, for the first time, Donna the Buffalo is bringing its sound down South, celebrating the first annual Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival of Music and Dance.

Located in Silk Hope, NC, less than 20 miles outside Chapel Hill, the festival will take place from Thursday, April 10th through Sunday, April 13th. Four stages will host one of the most diverse festival lineups assembled all year. The focus is on traditional and contemporary roots music, running the gamut from rock, bluegrass and Cajun to African, zydeco and reggae.

Donna the Buffalo is a generous host, playing three sets throughout the weekend, and they’ve taken great care to ensure each act represents the integrity and substance the festival has become known for. Other musicians appearing include legendary bluegrass icons the Del McCoury Band, sacred steel forefathers the Campbell Brothers, ferocious North Carolina pickers Acoustic Syndicate, jazzgrassers Snake Oil Medicine Show, African political funkster Thomas Mapfumo & Blacks Unlimited, country crooner John Anderson, Zydeco revelers Preston & Keith Frank, alt-country wunderkind Jim Lauderdale, and dozens more.

The local music scene is also well represented by acts including the traditional roots bluegrass sounds of Big Fat Gap, the boogie-woogie blues of Abe Reid & the Spikedrivers, the punkgrass stylings of Old Crow Medicine Show, indie rockers The B Sides and eclectic country blues band Trailer Bride.

The festival is being held on a spacious farm, with plenty of camping room for both families craving a quiet escape and drum-circlers awake ‘til dawn. Locally grown organic food will be offered throughout the weekend, along with speakers and seminars on healing arts, human rights and various other progressive topics. Arts and crafts will be plentiful, along with yoga and tai chi classes each morning.

A “poetry slam” will feature artists reading their work in three minutes or less while competing for cash prizes. The dance stage is hosting a wide variety of seminars and showcases, featuring everything from Native American and Mexican folklore dances to local dance troupe The Apple Chill Cloggers. Square dancing and salsa lessons will also be in abundance.

A dedicated kids’ area will host stories, crafts, and musical projects, including a chance for kids to make their own percussion instruments. They can then bring them over to the “continuous drum circle,” which promises to keep banging away all festival long. There’s even a special bonfire to help protect thumpers from the springtime Carolina chill.

The first annual Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival aims to provide “a dynamic and active community of friends that looks beyond the confines of popular fear-based culture to a spiritually integrated world of love and respect for all peoples. It happens when we make it happen.” Tickets for the four-day festival are only $65 until April 1st, and $75 after that. Visit for more information.

Paul Kerr
JamBase | North Carolina
Go See Live Music!

[Published on: 3/26/03]

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