"Hey, what do you say we go out in a hurricane, set up a tent, drink some Wild Turkey, and watch zydeco music 'til 2 in the morning?" asked Jambase's Paul Kerr to open his review of the inaugural Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival back in 2003. After more than a dozen GrassRoots festivals in upstate New York, the festival now had a Southern address, too: Silk Hope, North Carolina. And so what if the inaugural N.C. offering was ushered in by driving rain and strong winds. In the gritty spirit of the festival, the foul weather was shrugged off as a minor inconvenience.
With the fifth spring Shakori Hills Festival set to launch April 19 (for the last three years, there's also been a fall version), Kerr's tongue-in-cheek question still reflects the gathering's challenges and charms. As with any outdoor event, especially one in which camping is the temporary lifestyle of choice, you need to keep at least half an eye on the sky. No comment on the Turkey other than to say that the mood is sometimes altered by more than the music.
The music: Now we're getting to the heart of it. Zydeco is just one of around 25 different styles represented by the nearly 60 acts dotting the four-day schedule. In one breath, for instance, Jordan Puryear—ex-bassist for GrassRoots originators Donna the Buffalo and Shakori Hills co-coordinator alongside Lissa Farrell—reminisces about last spring's performance by South African hero Hugh Masekela. "Such an incredible international talent," Puryear muses, "and some of the most beautiful music I've ever heard." In the next breath, he's role-calling the North Carolina artists that will grace one of the fest's two stages or pack one of its two tents. With Chatham County Line, the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Hobex, Toubab Krewe and the Squirrel Nut Zippers among the names, it's a Carolina list of the highest quality. And with the sounds ranging from fiddle tunes and harmony-rich bluegrass to backporch soul and something described as "Dick Dale goes to Timbukto," it's also a list that rightly earns the label eclectic.
So, Mr. Kerr, where's that tent you mentioned?
The spring Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival of Music & Dance takes place April 19-22. Day tickets and four-day passes are available. For complete details, including information on Earth Day festivities and a Sustainability Fair, see www.shakorihills.org.