Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival certainly invests in its headliner: Solo guitar prankster Keller Williams, who will join The Travelin' McCourys (pictured) for his Thursday night set, is a big-ticket item, as is beloved African singer Oliver Mtukudzi. But keying on the top-billed items at Shakori Hills is to overlook the essence of the festival, which uses its bucolic setting in the relatively isolated Chatham County countryside to create a wide-angled sampler of music from around the world.
The focus is local, largely dependent upon bands that call the Triangle or the greater region home. But together and separately, those acts offer a polyglot manifestation of what it means to make and enjoy music in the state. The Beast, for instance, will reprise their Big Band performance from last year, enriching their fusion of jazz, hip-hop and salsa with a 13-member ensemble that verifies the group's extreme musical fluency. Elsewhere, there's country and blues, bluegrass and newgrass, clog dancing and rave-worthy electronics, soul music and South American music. The best way to approach Shakori Hills is to pick an act or two you must see and to otherwise get lost, finding the music with open ears, not an open pocket schedule. —Grayson Currin