Monday, April 25, 2011

Show Review: Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival

Shakori Hills Grassroots Music & Dance Festival was held
in Pittsboro, NC from April 21-24
Though the rain poured down on Friday, leaving Shakori a muddy mess for the weekend, the music shined throughout the festival brighter than imaginable. This was my first Shakori Hills and it certainly won't be my last, with every new act I saw I was finding a new band I'd want to delve into, and that's what you're looking for in a festival, isn't it?  Rain or shine there were fans standing outside and watching the festivities, it's a sign of the positive vibes flowing through the air at Shakori, and those vibes were present from day one.

Instead of giving a day by day update on who did what, when, where, and how, I'll be giving you a list of some of the outstanding artists I got to check out throughout the weekend and which ones stuck out the most.

Holy Ghost Tent Revival
For three days in a row I got to see the Holy Ghost Tent Revival boys and for three days in a row I was stunned by how damn good the band has become.  The band has come from humble beginnings and only continue to blossom into an even deeper and more well developed band.  The implementation of the electric guitar into their band has done wonders for their sound, it's allowed them to explore all of their possibilities and truly flourish as musicians, and flourish they have.  Throughout these three sets they were joined by Scranton, PA artist Mike Quinn and joined him for songs from his new album "Magico", and once more I was only impressed by these songs.  Quinn held his own on a stage full of Shakori favorites and the crowd ate it up.  The HGTR sets were definitely some of the high points of Shakori for me.  Be sure to check out the acoustic Bottom String Session we filmed with Stephen from Holy Ghost Tent Revival below or on our youtube channel!

Arrested Development
This Thursday night set set the mood perfectly not only for the rest of the night, but for the rest of the festival.  Much of the afternoon was spent setting up my campsite, so this was the first solid show I got to catch all the way through and it was one that thrust me right into the middle of it all.  Arrested Development had the whole crowd swaying and screaming along to their catchy, funky, and danceable alternative hip-hop stylings.  The highlight of the performance was definitely the freestyle from One Love for me, a commanding set from this act was an excellent top off to the weekend.

Spirit Family Reunion
Spirit Family Reunion are a raucous band full of bluegrass goodness, between their harmonies, washboard, banjo, and tinges of gospel, this Brooklyn band grabbed my attention immediately when I walked past their set at the Dance Tent.  The band has nailed the classic bluegrass sound to a tee while still being able to maintain a sense of originality in their foot-stomping, head-bobbing rhythms and interesting melodies.

Thousands of One
This was another one of my favorite acts of the festival, the soulful Thousands of One left the Dance Tent drenched after an incredibly energetic set on Saturday night.  The band has a largely influential message, they've got a point to get across and whether that be spiritually or politically they're going to get it across, and they're going to do so with energy to boot.  By the end of their set I was practically exhausted, but an encore of Billie Jean got myself and the rest of the crowd filled with enough energy to leave it all in the Dance Tent.  Absolutely amazing set.

Kooley High
I showed up late for Kooley High after taking a break after the Thousands of One set, and quite frankly that was one of my worst decisions of the whole festival.  Kooley High filled the Cabaret Tent with a unique energy, their hip-hop stylings brought people of all ages and all groups to once again, dance their assess off under a tent.  I walked in right as the second Michael Jackson song of the night came on with "Thriller" and it was nonstop from then on out.  Kooley High brought great energy to the stage and got the crowd on stage to join in on the fun.

Midtown Dickens
Midtown Dickens was one of the bands who had the misfortune of playing in the cold, wet Friday weather, but that didn't stop myself or plenty of others from making the most of the situation and checking out Midtown Dickens great set.  The band always puts on a great show, connecting with the audience and breaking the barriers between the stage and the crowd and this show was no exception to that.  Midtown continually expressed their gratitude towards the fans for staying through the rain and gave fans some favorites like "It's Alright", and a couple of new songs as well.  Worth the rain, worth the shivers, and worth the 4 hour nap I needed to take huddled up in my sleeping bag to keep warm.

The Beast
Durham based hip-hop/jazz/soul group, The Beast, was another group that caught my attention.  Walking past their main stage set on Saturday was enough to get me to stop and check it out and it left me floored.  The combination of excellent lyricism, unique flow, and great jazzy, soulful instrumentation was topped off excellently with their energetic and frantic stage control.

There were plenty of sets that I didn't get to check out in their entirety, plenty of sets I only got the joys of hearing from my campsite (Mount Moriah and Birds & Arrows being the two of those that stuck out as the best), and even more that I just flat out couldn't see due to scheduling, but all in all my first Shakori experience was incredible.  Sun burnt and exhausted, I made the trek back to New Bern on Sunday afternoon already missing the mud covered ground and the sound of music filling the air.  We stayed busy at Shakori though, we filmed two Bottom String Sessions (one found below with Holy Ghost Tent Revival and the other with Langhorne Slim, including an interview, to be posted later this week!), and checked out plenty of great bands.

Shakori Hills is a festival held twice a year, in the Spring and in the Fall so don't fret if you missed the awesome lineup of the Spring because you'll get yet another chance to spend a weekend out at Shakori and listen to breathtakingly beautiful music and experience the one-of-a-kind sincerity and friendliness of everyone out at Shakori.


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  2. I completely agree, HGTR kicked some ass at Shakori...I took some photos if you are interested (the link to the gallery is down at the bottom of the post):

  3. Stephen is like a beautiful piece of our classical past...