well, after taking most of this week to recover from the mayhem that is GrassRoots I am officially back in action. as promised, I’m updating you on all the behind-the-scenes tunes, talk, and (a bit) tipsy tirades I experienced while hanging out with many bands, friends, and fellow campers.
since it was my first time camping EVER (yes, I’m from upstate NY and have never been camping…let the heckling begin) my girl friends and I decided that canteens were a must. see above. and below is proof of my spider-killing-wet-tent experience.
our first stop at the festival was to see our beloved Horse Flies. thanks to my favorite band members and founders Jeff Claus (guitar, banjo uke, vocals), Judy Hyman (violin, vocals) and Richie Stearns (banjo, vocals) we swayed to songs that will stay in your head for days – in the greatest way possible. As Rolling Stone so eloquently put it: The Horse Flies churn out swirling, addictive songs, blending tradition with invention.
next stop: Rusted Root. the band that came fast and hard in the 90s only to fade into the black for the past seven years is slated to make their comeback with the recent release of their new album, Stereo Rodeo. I couldn’t decide whether it was cooler to stay behind-the-scenes to watch them enter the stage to the hoots and cheers from the youthful GrassRoots crowd. OR. if I wanted to be a part of the mass dancing and mouthing each and every word from “Send Me On My Way.” I went for the latter and was very happy about it.
feeling revved and in the spirit, we left the infield stage and ventured over to the grandstand to check out Grammy winners Toots And The Maytals. for the record: this man absolutely killed it. best reggae I’ve heard in a long time. I was immediately transported from the chilly, sprinkly night in Trumansburg to a steamy, hot beach in Jamaica. and after watching his two back-up dancers quietly shake their groove thang backstage, I couldn’t stop moving my hips to the liquid rhythm.
day two was a messy one. clouds incessantly threatened our good time with gray and gloom while periodic showers washed the mud over our bare toes drenching our hoodies. but we kept it movin’ straight to the dance tent to hear the gospel energy from the soul searching Flying Clouds. I get goosebumps just thinking about their crooning vocals and killer drummer.
religious or not, you can’t help but get into the American South spirit for the Big Dance.
from gospel harmonizing to head-banging, we journeyed from the dance tent back down to the infield stage – a walk that felt like forever in muddy goulashes – to jam with Ayurveda. while the band’s name means to live a holistic existence by surrounding oneself with spiritual influences, they’re certainly louder than any granola-crunching drum circle. the thump of the bass beats in time with your tapping foot and damn-the-man blazing lyrics.
now here comes my all-time favorite GrassRoots band. the Campbell Brothers know how to move Heaven and Earth with just their fingers. this music seeps into the crevices of your very soul, soothingly reminding you to just shut up and dance.
here comes the First Lady of Funk. Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings held the festival in the palm of their hands. well, in the palm of Sharon’s hand. rockin’ a black tiered flapper dress that bounced and shook with every grind of her hip, Sharon not only serenaded the luckiest guy in the world (I beamed with jealousy), but she took down the house. literally. not one body stood still. captivating to say the least, she brought the old school home. and for that we’re forever grateful.
time to get back to your roots. as you already know I’m a big J-san & the Analogue Sons (JATAS) fan. not only because they’re great friends, but because they bring you back to your roots the moment they plug in. one love.
last stop of day #2: John Brown’s Body. thoughtful, wise, and mystical with an edge. someone called them “the future of reggae.” if this is any indication as to what our “Yes We Can!” future sounds like then I’m all in.
Day 3 (and my last day) at the festival was not as packed as the two days prior. by the third day your body is surrending to sleep and everyone’s energy goes down a bit from partying and stage hopping for two straight days before. but it was relaxing to cruise around the festival armed with cheese fries and a PBR to witness a few of my favorites. the usual suspects, local Ithaca acts, and fresh faces were there: The Horse Flies, JATAS, Jennie Lowe Stearns, Campbell Brothers, Oumou Sangare, Flying Clouds, Evil City String Band, and Donna the Buffalo. but then there was the two-time Grammy nominated Pine Leaf Boys. or as my girl friends like to call them the “Pine Leaf Babes” for their Cajun style and fine exterior. you’re welcome!
needless to say, I had a blast. my senses were in overdrive thanks to all the music filling the air, my lungs, my head, my legs, my heart and soul. while I may not go camping for a while, I will certainly have the beauty of non-stop music and burgeoning memories for a long time to come. I hope you enjoyed a backstage glimpse of GrassRoots! ’till next year! xo
Additional photos thanks to Meredith Towsand