Words & Videos by: Adam Firtel
GroundUp Music Festival :: 02.09-11.18 :: Miami Beach
The GroundUP Music record label, along with Snarky Puppy, played host to this past weekend’s 2nd Annual GroundUp Music Festival at the beautiful North Beach Bandshell in Miami Beach, Florida. Laden with incredible talent, the 3-day beachside festival’s two stages – The Bandshell Stage and The Park Stage – were complimented by spectacular weather and tasty ocean breezes that were thoroughly appreciated by jazz and music fanatics from all over the world. Another highlight of this intimate festival was The Workshop which provided music enthusiasts the opportunity to interact with their favorite performers, either thru a series of questions and answers or via an intimate performance and discussion session.
Getting to the festival early on Friday certainly paid dividends. Charlie Hunter hosted the first workshop and provided the opportunity for rare insight into the mind and the playing of one of the world’s preeminent jazz guitarists. Cuban pianist Harold Lopez-Nussa and his Trio were the first to hit the Bandshell Stage, treating his fans to a session of mind-blowing classical jazz piano. Charlie Hunter and vocalist Lucy Woodward inaugurated the Park Stage, followed by performances by Kitailo and the Spoken Word featuring Buika and C4 Trio. Banda Magda combined South American rhythms with jazz improvisation, cinematic arranging and sophisticated audience participation to mid-century classics and world “chansons” sung in six different languages. With the sun now set, Brooklyn-based duo paris_monster, featuring Josh Dion on drums, vocals and synth and Geoff Kraly on bass guitar, hit the Park Stage with a vengeance and treated the crowd, mostly newcomers to their music, with an amazing high energy set.
Festival hosts, Snarky Puppy were up next on the Bandshell Stage, opening their set with “Grown Folks”, off their 2016 release CulchaVulcha, and closing their set with their classics “What About Me > Shofukan”:
High energy antics, bizarre cross-dressing costumes then ensued with Breastfist. Touting themselves as weird, sometimes words cannot describe the music – this is one of those times. Enjoy a look into their full set:
Béla Fleck and the Flecktones Trio, featuring Béla Fleck on banjo, Victor Wooten on bass guitar and Future Man on percussion and “Roy El” the keyboard instrument he invented, closed out the evening on the Bandshell Stage.
Magnificent weather continued to be the theme going into Saturday’s festivities. A Percussion Summit outside on the patio of The Workshop featuring Future Man, Weedie Braimah and Snarky Puppy percussionists provided a rare glimpse for early fest goers. Afterwards, Victor Wooten and Michael League offered a Bass Masterclass, followed by a Drum Workshop hosted by Jojo Mayer. Afternoon music was provided by The New World School of the Arts, Weedie Braimah &The Hands Of Time and Emily Estefan, prior to Roosevelt Collier & Friends taking the Main Stage. Roosevelt’s set featured members of Snarky Puppy; Michael League on bass, Jason “JT” Thomas on drums, special guest guitarist Mark Lettieri on one of the tracks, with DWayne “Saint Orbin” Bennett on organ and Vaughn V Keys Henry on keys. Roosevelt & His Snarky Friends closed their set with special guest guitarist, Bob Lanzetti.
A rare stateside treat for drum and EDM enthusiasts, Jojo Mayer / Nerve provided a set of live electronica for GroundUP attendees. Enjoy their full set here:
Classic jazz enthusiasts enjoyed a set by Joshua Redman / Lionel Loueke / Larnell Lewis / Michael League on the Park Stage. Having never played together prior to Saturday, their performance was truly stunning. This is the last track of their set:
Another band making their South Florida debut was Knower, featuring Louis Cole (drums), Genevieve Artadi (vocals), Sam Wilkes (bass), Dennis Hamm (keys) & Jacob Mann (keys). Indescribable would be one way to describe their music. Frenetic would be another. Here they are closing their set with “The Govt. Knows > Overtime” which can currently be heard on SiriusXM Jam On:
Closing out the festival on Saturday night was Americana folk trio The Wood Brothers, featuring Chris Wood (of Medeski, Martin & Wood) on bass, Oliver Wood on guitar and lead vocals, and Jano Rix on percussion. Highlights of their set included a run of “Postcards From Hell,” “Happiness Jones,” “You Wreck Me” (a Tom Petty cover), “Luckiest Man” and “Honey Jar.” The band then closed their set with special guests Roosevelt Collier and Snarky Puppy horns and percussion for a rousing rendition of their original “One More Day.”
Adam was unable to attend Sunday’s action at the festival. The final day of GroundUP ’18 started with The Wood Brothers providing a Songwriting Workshop and a Q&A with Joshua Redman. Performances included Shelly Berg, Mark Guiliana’s BEAT Music, FORQ, Robert Glasper, Becca Stevens and one more set from hosts Snarky Puppy.