Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Show Preview: Shakori Hills Fall 2014

Once again we've stumbled upon that serendipitous time that rolls around twice a year. A time where we're sitting comfortably between two seasons with a crisp breeze to ease us into our transitions, where the leaves haven't quite turned or blossomed, but the promise lingers. There's a sense of eagneress and excitement in the air for what's to come, but most importantly theres a weekend long adventure to a place where your worries are left at the mud-covered lot that you've parked your car. Somehow every Spring and Fall Shakori Hills creeps up on me, almost as if I've lost all concept of time and didn't realize that this thing happens once every six months.  Shakori Hills is a congregation of like-minded individuals on a scenic farmland with one sole purpose, to enjoy the beauty of those around us. Whether that beauty be the constant rhythms of a washboard that echoes throughout the woods or the joy of children's laughter as they flippantly chase around bubbles larger than their heads, it's hard not to get wrapped up in the culture of Shakori Hills. Whether you spend your weeks inside of a cubicle or out on the road living out your wanderlust dreams, you're just as likely to call the lands of Shakori Hills home. And that's because of the people, the family, the community that exists inside of these 74-acres.

When you become a part of a such a tightly knit festival community, you can become a bit enchanted by it, perhaps lose sight of how wonderful an event it truly is. It becomes second nature, twice a year you post up in the woods and soak in the sights and sounds of a seemingly foreign land that may be a little more than half an hour away from your snug apartment building. Rarely do you actually consider how truly special it is that there's such an eclectic, but welcoming group of people. When you've got acts like Frank Fairfield sharing the bill with a tribal-house DJ and know full well that you'll likely see some of the same people at both shows, you've come across something unique and indescribable. That's what gets folks so excite for this semi-annual festival, theres as much diversity as their is continuity. You could exclusively see bluegrass if that's something you're into, you could learn hand drum from internationally acclaimed musicians inside of a circus-esque tent. There's a myriad of opportunities abound at Shakori, and within this post we'll outline some of our most excited acts of the weekend.

Thursday at Shakori is always a nice way to ease into the marathon of the weekend. Music doesn't start until 5:00 pm, so there's plenty of time to set up a campsite, get yourself acquainted with the lay of the land and still have time to hang out and meet your neighbors before the tunes even kick off. Acts like Milkweed and Steph Steward and the Boyfriends will warrant early trips down to the stages, but things really start to get essential once The Duhks take the Meadow Stage at 8:30. The Duhks are near the head of a new-grass movement that blends bluegrass sentiments with exciting elements of various other genres to make for a high-energy excursion through unfamiliar musical territory. From here it's a bit of a toss-up, as both AJ Ghent and Adrienne Mack-Davis will be performing again on Friday, but Lobo Marino will have their sole performance of the weekend. While Ghent and Mack-Davis will surely have entertaining sets, it'll likely be a better to move to check them out later on Friday night, especially since Lobo Marino will be bringing some entrancing experimental folk music to the Cabaret Tent at 10:00. If Donna is your thing, you'll likely bounce out of Lobo Marino early, but I'd recommend staying throughout the set and checking out AstroHawk, the first of the weekends electronic artists. Boasting a promising blend of acoustic and electronic instrumentation, I'm knowingly staying in the dark on this musician, as I find that acts like this at Shakori are best experienced live rather than sitting at home on your couch.

Ah, the day that always kicks off way earlier than you feel it should. Usually there's a stellar band kicking things off bright and early on the Meadow Stage and this fall it's no different as Asheville's Woody Pines brings swing-style Americana that assures a riotous time for all brave enough to stumble forth from their campsite into the early morning haze of Shakori. However, after Woody Pines it's best to kind of bounce around and see what best fits your festival needs. Maybe it's hanging out at your campsite and immersing yourself in the community, perhaps it's a drum or hooping workshop in the dance tent. Either way you're likely to fill your time with smiles and good vibes while you wait for the gorgeous sounds of Lowland Hum to fill the air at 4:30 pm. Bringing a stompbox for percussion and two stunning voices that work in perfect unison, Lowland Hum is a local duo that's been receiving some heavy acclaim from outlets like NPR thanks to their beautiful folk music. After Lowland Hum there's a brief lull followed by the equally impressive Loamlands, another folk-centric duo that's done a bit of expanding since their last project of Midtown Dickens. Those bluegrassy days are over now though, as Kym Register and Will Hackney boast a combination of acoustics and electrics to craft sometimes haunting, sometimes uplifting roots-driven songs. After Loamlands though is when things get a bit hectic again. A wide array of sounds are on display across the farm from acts like The Flying Clouds of South Carolina to the boogie-driven blues of North Mississippi All-Stars, so it's best to hop to and fro and see what best fits your needs for the evening. It's probably a good idea to duck out of North Mississippi early to see Adrienne Mack-Davis if you didn't catch her electric take on live hip-hop, but Liquid Sound could be equally exciting for some folks. A rest at the campsite for AJ Ghent seems likely, as Camp Honeybadger is conveniently close to the Meadow Stage, but after that it's full force marathon mode for the Southern rock of Jack The Radio, the soulful grooves of Laura Reed, the indescribable latin-funk of Suenaló and lastly the highly anticipated beat-driven dance party brought forth by Spirit Posse, the new project of Jonny Tunnell (of The Never/The Big Picture).

If somehow you can muster up enough energy to roll out of your tent for Yoga at 9:00 am, it can be a really riveting experience. I stumbled through it this past Spring and felt as awake and invigorated as I was hungover and sore. But so it goes. You may just want to hang around camp until the early afternoon rolls around and that unforgettable voice of Charly Lowry belts out through the woods as Dark Water Rising takes the stage. Combining soulful roots with traditional instrumentation and rich harmonies, Dark Water Rising is the perfect Shakori band to take the stage early afternoon on a Saturday, especially considering they're right before the famous puppet parade. Immerse yourself in this zany puppet experience, there's children in ridiculous masks, massive puppets that whisk by the trees and a band at the front of the pack leading the rowdy troop through the festival grounds. Don't stray too far from Meadow Stage though, because Swear & Shake will prove to be one of the weekend's highlights with their poppy take on folk-rock. Washed in harmonies and driven by some stunning vocal performances, Swear & Shake will strike the core of you as a festivalgoer and leave you compelled to check out the whole set, a true feat at Shakori if you ask me. From here it's worth checking out Lowland Hum if you haven't already, then trekking over to Shannon Whitworth, one of the state's most underrated songwriters. Whitworth's sultry vocals display a wide range and showcase an impressive songwriting ability that will likely result in another standout performance of the festival.

After that would likely be the perfect time to hit up one of the incredible food vendors if you haven't already, there's a wide variety of things to check out, whether it be Korean tacos, Indian food, those heavenly duckfat tater tots or some good ol' greasy pizza, you'll find something worth shoving down your gullet. From here you can catch your obligatory Donna The Buffalo set or perhaps get into the swing dance workshop taking place around the same time. Either way, you'd be a fool to miss out on Auxiliary House, a brilliant combination of some of the areas most talented musicians. It's a Trekky supergroup of sorts that knows how to take some standard songs and turn them into an unforgettable live experience thanks to their incredible showmanship and charisma. Nahko & Medicine For The People will be an excellent way to transition from this inclusive Trekky dance party, as they'll surely have a communal vibe of their own going on at their Meadow Stage performance. From here it's another toss-up based on your genre preference. It'll be crucial to check out some of this late-night performance, when I saw him perform in the gorgeous Haw River Ballroom years back it left me awestruck at his talents, it'll likely be a similar display to this partied-out but attentive crew of festival goers. It'll be pretty important to catch some of The Soul Rebels as well though, a promising combination of 8 widely talented musicians that form a New Orleans brass band fused with hip-hop and soul. Lastly, the attendees will choose between a fork in the road of experiences, take the whiskey-soaked gypsy-inspired folk songs of Ellis Dyson & The Shambles or dance until your brain spills out of your ears DJ Bill Kelly, Telekinetic Walrus and DJ Richard McVay. Either way everyone wins!

The day of reckoning, where everyone zombie walks to the porto-potties slowly realizing that their 4-day vacation is swiftly coming to an end. Folks are gradually packing up and heading out, new friends are exchanging contact numbers and helping out with the load-out and folks are napping the grass to attempt and transition back into the 9-to-5 grind. Lynda & Patty will be a nice rustic beginning to this low-key day of performances, especially since Frank Fairfield will follow immediately after. Things are fairly back and forth throughout the day until Wassa Pan Afrika Dance Ensemble takes the Meadow Stage at 4:00 pm. A Sunday afternoon world music set at Shakori is the stuff of legends, there's a particular energy throughout the crowd that just can't be denied, it's absolutely something you must check out before you depart for the day. After that there's a few more chances to check out some of the sprawling performers like Elastic Bond, The Duhks and Telekinetic Walrus, but most will post up throughout the night at the iconic Donna & Friends All Star Revue. I for one will be heading out early to check out Flying Lotus at the Cat's Cradle, topping off a positively beautiful weekend, but I'd highly recommend staying as long as your body will allow you to at this beautiful, whimsical land known at Shakori Hills.

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