We went from the wettest possible Shakori Hills to perhaps the driest Shakori ever. After the incessant downpour that Hurricane Matthew brought to the festival last fall, Shakori Hills was in need of some good weather. That seemed to be a tall order for the festival, but the stars were aligned for an unprecedentedly dry Shakori. The only real rain we got this year was late Thursday night – just enough to quench Shakori’s usually insatiable thirst. This allowed for a good-sized crowd to show up on Saturday and for the festival to begin to make up for its losses last fall. Fortunately, the love found at the Grassroots Festival isn’t dependent on rain to blossom. The festival was full of the cheer and warmth of spirit I have grown accustomed to over the years. As crowds swelled and the forest grew dense with tents on Saturday, the sense of community only grew stronger.
As always at Shakori Hills, among the numerous performances it was easy to find music for everyone – no matter what you fancy. Of course, if you wanted to jam to the bouncing of the accordion for hours every night Donna the Buffalo had your back, and if you wanted psychedelic space rap Telekinetic Walrus was there to take you away. One of my favorite local acts, Ellis Dyson & the Shambles, shook the dust off the dance tent on Thursday with their own special blend of jazz and Appalachian mountain music. The saxophonist, Danny Abrams, and fiddle player, Johnathan Ng, had some fun with mockingbird-style trade offs, mimicking one another’s melodies. Later that night, we were graced with the presence of Durham’s future mayor, Pierce Freelon, leading The Beast in a hip hop/jazz set focused on love and freedom.
During the beautifully dry days, kicking back at one of the main stages and letting the sounds of one of the international bands wash over you while soaking up the rays was definitely the right call. FABI was one such act. An Afro/Latino groove band from Mexico, they popped up all over the three different days of the festival to jam. Muningu, an Afro-fusion jazz band also played the Meadow Stage on Sunday morning.
Shakori Hills always seems to remind me of the simple joys of life. I feel like a child again, playing with bubbles and running about the woods with little to worry about. Its easy to fall in love with an event where grown-ups are more preoccupied with blowing bubbles and dancing than what is happening in the “twitter-sphere.” Rain or shine, smiles abound. If life was a little more like Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival, there would be far fewer problems in the world.