Smilefest returns for its tenth anniversary with a bounty of great bands, the addition of a third stage and several brand new community service projects. Originally formed in tribute to the passing of Jerry Garcia, Smilefest returns to the Van Hoy Farms Family Campground in Union Grove, NC from July 22-25. Organizers have continued the tradition of raising the bar each year, booking acts from across the musical spectrum to celebrate in the country sunshine. In addition to over 40 bands, the fest also features workshops, kids' areas, hiking trails, and a swimming pool. A friendly atmosphere and eclectic musical lineups always make Smilefest one of the best festivals of the summer. In addition, Van Hoy Campgrounds is a perfect setting for the jubilee, with a convenient layout and friendly staffers.

Headliners this year include acoustic tempest Keller Williams, guitar extrapolator Steve Kimock, the Eastern blues of the Derek Trucks Band, the Tony Rice Unit's shred-heavy bluegrass, the roots reggae of Burning Spear, deep grooves from Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra, Yonder Mountain String Band's upbeat jamgrass, and rock 'n' roll reformers Umphrey's McGee. Also appearing are Garaj Mahal's fusion exploits, The Motet's Latin-jazz funk, original New Grass Revival dobro player Curtis Burch with his wife Ruth, and the bubbling storm of Perpetual Groove.

Flatpicking phenom Larry Keel will appear, along with the jazz-rock of Raisinhill, the jamgrass of Barefoot Manner, the folky jazzgrass of The Waybacks, and a set by Deep Banana Blackout guitarist Fuzz. Acoustic Syndicate's lead singer will bring his soulful crooning and deft picking to his side project Big Daddy's Bluegrass Band. One of the most highly anticipated sets of the weekend is a collaboration between Indian guitarist Sanjay Mishra and bassist Rob Wasserman. Mishra is best known in jam circles for his 1995 album Blue Incantation, which featured Jerry Garcia on several tracks, while Wasserman has collaborated for years in different lineups with Bob Weir. What to expect from their duo performance is anybody's guess.

Fans can also ingest the ambient trancefunk of Lotus, the deep mountain sounds of David Via & Corn Tornado, and the energetic thrust of (Loop). The lineup is rounded out by Zen Tricksters, Cadillac Jones, Leslie Helpert, Furnace Mountain, Red Belly, Mountain of Venus, G-13, Barbara Martin, Arnie Solomon, Special Ed & the Shortbus, Old School Freight Train, and Delta Moon.

In celebration of ten years of "peace and love in the North Carolina sunshine," the festival is introducing the Festi-VOL village. Packed with information on local non-profits, community service initiatives, and even an active on-site Habitat for Humanity construction project, Smilefest is digging deep roots in the community, giving back to the land that spawned so much great music. You can read all about the amazing sounds and beautiful surroundings of Smilefest 2003 and 2002 or go to for more information. Treat yourself to a weekend of smiles in the sunshine.

Paul Kerr
JamBas | North Carolina
Go See Live Music!

[Published on: 3/13/04]

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