Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Shakori Hills Fall 2013 Itinerary

By the time the week of Shakori rolls around you can pretty much assume I'm not going to expend an ounce of productivity that isn't associated with this festival. All of my thought process is consumed by a constant mapping and re-mapping of who I need to see and when combined with my ineffable excitement of being surrounded by my favorite people on the planet. Shakori Hills is a mere two days away now and I'm still frantically going from store to store stocking up on camping supplies, food and booze. When I'm not frantically checking the forecast I'm probably giddily texting one of my camping buddies about how absurdly excited I am to see (insert act here). But alas, I could go on for hours about this bi-annual excitement binge. Let's get to the music!

Although I'll be showing up later in the evening than usual, Thursday is still shaping up to be a fantastic kick-off to what's sure to be another incredible weekend out in Pittsboro. Although I'll sadly be missing the festival's opening act The Brand New Life (a stellar act from Greensboro that you should definitely check out--we ran a piece on them last week), there's still plenty of incredible music to be checking out on Thursday evening. I'll be bouncing around between Crystal Bright & The Silver Hands' mystifying carnival-esque pop music and the tried and true folk-rock sounds of Birds & Arrows. With a chance of rain possible during Thursday I'll liekly pass on seeing The Old Ceremony at the Meadow Stage in favor of keeping dry under the tents. However one of the festival highlights for me comes just after The Old Ceremony, as Virgins Family Band takes to the Cabaret Tent at 8:00 pm. Virgins Family Band produces tantalizing psychedelic pop music that will fit in perfectly at Shakori. Their powerful harmonies and attention grabbing jams will surely draw in flocks of roaming attendees and I for one can't wait to see their reactions.

After Virgins it's a safe bet to post up in the Cabaret Tent to check out Morning Brigade at 10:00. This brilliant folk-rock group from Chapel Hill caught my attention late last year and has continued to pick up steam throughout 2013. This six-piece crew produces swelling songs filled with unbridled passion, and with two sets this weekend I wouldn't be surprised if they end up becoming Shakori main stays. I for one would have zero problem with that. After Morning Brigade I'll be checking out the sounds of the Haitian rock outfit Compa at the Dance Tent. Though I've got minimal knowledge on the band, they had me sold at Haitian rock. Plus they're closing out the Meadow Stage on Saturday night so they're surely a riotous live act that will be stellar to see in a tightly packed Dance Tent. After Compa I'll head over to check out the DJs at Carson's Grove and probably pop into the Vinyl Lounge, a new edition to this year's festival. But it's important to treat Shakori like a marathon rather than a sprint, so I'll make sure to be well rested for Friday's day of ridiculously awesome music.

It feels strange to admit that I've never been to a morning Yoga session at Shakori. I figure that this fall will be the first time I shoddily stumble out of the tent and make my way down for some early morning sun salutations. Whether that happens on Friday or Saturday morning really just depends on my level of early morning sobriety from the previous night's festivities. However, the festival's longstanding band competition kicks off at 11:00 am so there'll be plenty to do even if I don't choose to get my stretching on. Aside from the competition there isn't much music I'm terribly interested in until around 3:30. Mipso and Morning Brigade have dueling set-times so I'll probably pick whichever one can draw my attention. Every Mipso set I've seen at Shakori thus far has contained their stellar Amy Winehouse cover of "Valerie," so I'd imagine they'll win me over for that one. Milkweed will be my next stop around 4:30 in the Cabaret Tent. This New York-based folk act features members of Shakori favorites with Driftwood, so they'll be a definite must see at some point throughout the weekend.

In terms of evening shows though, Peter Lamb & The Wolves will have my full attention. This swingin' jazz group from Raleigh left me speechless after a late-night set a few years back so there's no way I'll miss their set in the Dance Tent. From there I'll pop in and out of shows periodically, including sets from Bret Harris and an incredibly rare performance from Auxilary House one of the first Trekky bands formed. After that it's off to check out Bombadil at the gorgeous Carson's Grove Stage for a bit. I've yet to see them since the release of their incredible album Metrics of Affection, so I'll definitely need to soak in some of these new songs. However, much like last time they're conflicting with a ridiculously high energy act that I'd be a fool to turn down, so I'll leave Bombadil early to check out Orgone on the Meadow Stage. Orgone comes as a recommendation from the folks in The Brand New Life, and quite frankly I can understand why. The words 8-piece funk band make this band a shoe-in for the highlight of the night. I'll surely be sweating my intoxicated ass off to this jaw-droppingly talented group from Hollywood and I'd imagine that this is how I'll end my Friday evening. I wouldn't be surprised if I end up migrating over to the drum circle though after all is said and done. Don't judge me.

Saturday is arguably the best and hardest day of Shakori to get through. The festivities start off early in the morning and run to the wee hours of the morning. Thankfully this year there's a good bit of lay-over in terms of acts that I want to see throughout the day, so Saturday may be on for some grass naps. However, the Paperhand Puppet Parade is always a joyful break to the endless music, so I'd imagine that I'll be trekking around the farmlands for that. I'll definitely be making it out to see Suénalo's set at Meadow Stage in the afternoon, although I'm a bit disappointed that the band won't be performing a late night set. They're easily one of my favorite Shakori acts to see in the Dance Tent, but alas they slay just as hard when they're on the festival's main stage. From there I'll stop by to check out the creole sounds of Cedric Watson & Bijoule Creole in the Dance Tent and then I'll stick around for Eilen Jewel's set shortly afterwards. I likely won't stick around for all of Eilen's set though because after Yonder Mountain String Band goes on 8:30 it's a marathon of high-energy sets for me.

I'm immensely excited to see the Yonder Mountain, I've heard plenty of fantastic things about this progressive bluegrass act. Maybe it's the wake of IBMA, but I'm hankering for the banjo-pickin' sounds of Shakori, so Yonder will surely fill my needs. After that I'll make a fool of myself by attempting to dance to Elastic Bond's ridiculously raucous Latin based dance music. After that I'll indulge my inner African music fanboy by checking out dub Addis. Their unique blend of reggae and African music will be an excellent way to transition from the high-paced sounds of Elastic Bond. After dub Addis I of course have to see Holy Ghost Tent Revival. These Shakori favorites will most definitely have an incredible crowd filled with die hard Holy Ghost fans. Depending on the vibes I may head over to check out some of Compa, but I could easily see myself ending the evening with the local favorites.

Sunday's are notorious for being lazy days at Shakori for me. It's a long process of slowly packing up the camp site, indulging in all of the festival food your body can handle, and sprawling out on the grass and soaking in the last of the weekend's festivities. It's always a bittersweet day that leaves me filled with a strange mix of elation and sadness. It's a fantastic ending to a beautiful weekend, but it'll be another 6 months before we can do it all over again. Sunday is filled with unexpected gems that will be worth a pause in the packing. Tom Maxwell (of the Squirrel Nut Zippers) will be performing at Carson's Grove, International Blues Express will fill the mainstage with an absurd amount of talent (I'm ridiculously excited to check out Sidi Touré) and most importantly Robert Randolph will be performing. I've missed a few chances to see Robert Randolph around North Carolina, but seeing the band performing at Shakori is the best possible way to take them in, especially as the weekend's closer. While many will likely stay for Donna The Buffalo's standard closing set, I've always headed out earlier to try and wash the campfire smell off of me so that I don't get strange stares as I walk into class the next day. But alas, it's inevitable that the smell will linger in my clothes and house for at least a few days.

While I always try to provide a comprehensive list of bands to check out throughout the weekend, I also strongly encourage you to not listen to a damn word I say. Shakori is as much about planning a fantastic weekend as it is stumbling upon a band that you've heard nothing about. Those unexpected gems are the ones that usually have the strongest and longest lasting effect on me. I can't wait to find this year's diamond in the rough, it's always one of my favorite parts of the festival. So go out and treat yourself to something you wouldn't usually see. If you're anything like me then you may have found a new favorite genre.

Happy Shakori to you all!

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