By Paul Kerr
Spring is here, and it's time once again for the Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival (4.20 - 4.23), located in the beautiful rolling countryside of Silk Hope, NC, between Chapel Hill and Raleigh. Filling four stages with four days of music, the first festival of the season catapults between a myriad of styles, promising something adventurous no matter what your predilections. Founded by Donna the Buffalo in Ithaca, NY almost two decades ago, the GrassRoots Festival is a non-profit charity endeavor, and it's this spirit of love and community which carries over into every aspect of the weekend.
Headliners this spring include the legendary Hugh Masekela, widely considered the father of African jazz and danceable, smiling, sub-Saharan melodies. Roots-rockers Donna the Buffalo will be making three festival appearances, and bassist nonpareil Oteil Burbridge will be joining GrassRoots for the first time with his band the Peacemakers. Percussionist extraordinaire Cyro Baptista will be performing with his frenzied world music extravaganza Beat the Donkey, while country crooner Jim Lauderdale will crank out his upbeat swinging songs, most likely with his friends Donna the Buffalo occasionally backing him up. Rock guitar stalwart Sonny Landreth will also be appearing at GrassRoots for the first time. Fans have heard Landreth's guitar work for years on recordings by everyone from John Hiatt to Mountain.
Several festival favorites will be returning to the farm this spring, including Katherine Whalen from Squirrel Nut Zippers, who'll be playing alongside the country gentlemen of Hooverville. Canada's bluegrass bombshell The Duhks are back by popular demand, along with local jamgrassers Barefoot Manner. The sublime 21-stringed kora mastered by Mamadou Diabate will again be on display, along with legendary all-night zydeco throwdowns by Keith Frank & the Soileau Zydeco Band. Keith's dad Preston Frank & His Zydeco Family Band will also be on hand to showcase another angle of this eternally exciting musical style.
Other featured performances include the blues stylings of Corey Harris, the novelty jazz and throwback hilarity of Mad Tea Party, the folky bluegrass sounds of Michael Holland (original frontman for Jennyanykind), and the fevered soul rock of Hobex (led by Greg Humphreys from Dillon Fence). Funky ambassadors Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band will again take command of the late night stage, while the Avett Brothers bring their trademark exuberant energy to their manic take on bluegrass and folk music.
Never ones to leave good old rock & roll out of the picture, the weekend also includes Georgia jammers Little Green Chairs alongside the Emma Gibbs Band, Keith Secola & Wild Band of Indians, The Never, Bigtime Party Band, and Too Much Fun. World music is well represented by Luminescent Orchestrii, Red Stick Ramblers, The Lee Boys, Gospel Jubilators, Rajamani, The Amateurs Reggae Band, Didgeridoo, West End Mambo, and Carolina Samba School.
The blues can always be found in abundance at GrassRoots, and this spring's festival is pleased to welcome back Abe Reid & the SpikeDrivers, along with Captain Luke, Jon Shain Trio, Macavine Hayes, Whistlin' Britches, and The Shelbys. Singer/songwriters are also well represented, with scheduled sets by Slaid Cleaves, Sarah Hawker, Menage, Amy Glicklich, Martha & the Moodswingers, Danielle Howle, Sally Spring, Trilogy, and Eilen Jewell.
North Carolina is bluegrass country after all, and the GrassRoots festival never skimps on its offerings of folk and country music, ranging across the spectrum to encompass all aspects of these native sounds. Bluegrass bands this spring include Old School Freight Train, John Specker & Amos Newton, Big Fat Gap, Woodwork Roadshow, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Las Gitanas, The Can Kickers, Steam Powered Airplane, Sweet By & By, and Turtle Duhks.
Folk music can be heard throughout the weekend by artists including Corinne West, Shannon O'Connor, The Believers, Erin Regan, Atsiaktonkie, Charles Pettee & FolkPsalm, and Pattie & Jack Le Sueur & Cedar Creek, while the country side of things will be ably represented by Randy Whitt & the Grits and Kelley & the Country Cowboys. Dance companies are also well represented at GrassRoots, with performances from Apple Chill Cloggers, African American Dance Ensemble, Cane Creek Cloggers, and Elikem African Dance Company.
As always, the beautiful festival grounds will be filled with activities for the whole family. Kids get puppet shows, climbing walls, and even an appearance by Mother Goose to help keep them entertained. There are also countless exhibits and classes for everything from organic farming to hula-hooping. The Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival of Music and Dance is truly one of those rare places where people can come together in the spirit of celebration, surrounded by great music and art. We hope you'll come out to join us in the sunshine!
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