Friday, September 23, 2011

Fall 2011 Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival Preview

Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival is October 6-9, 2011
When it comes to small-scale, progressive, efficiently run, roots music camping festivals, it doesn't get much better than...
Shakori Hills takes place twice a year - spring and fall - in a bucolic, pastoral setting amidst rolling hills and old oak woods; about 20 miles southwest of Chapel Hill near the town of Pittsboro, NC.  The emphasis is on dance-oriented folk musics: Appalachian, Cajun, Afrobeat, Celtic, bluegrass, hip-hop, salsa, honky-tonk and more...featuring everything from accomplished national touring artists to indigenous world music acts to revered regional blues musicians, as well as up and coming acoustic/electric indie bands from both the Raleigh/Durham, NC and Ithaca, NY scenes.  A family-friendly, party-friendly, socially conscious, hippie haven in rural North Carolina!

I'm going to have to miss the first two days, but if I were there on Thursday and Friday I would definitely check out Dirty Bourbon River Show, dub Addis, Emmitt-Nershi Band, James Olin Oden, Mike Quinn, Noot d'Noot, and The Old Ceremony.  However, I have poured over the schedules for Saturday and Sunday and come up with a weekend itinerary that may be helpful to you.

The Grady Girls
Saturday, October 8, 2011
The first music I'll want to check out on Saturday is the Diali Cissokho Drum Workshop at 2pm in the Cabaret Tent where he will be teaching drum rhythms from Senegal, West Africa.  Bring your drum!  Then I'll head over to the Dance Tent to check out the Irish session by The Grady Girls, an all female trad quartet from Ithaca consisting of twin fiddles, flute and bodhran.  They sing, step-dance and play a mixture of jigs, reels and hornpipes.  Their set is scheduled for 2:15pm.  The next performer I hope to check out is named Nawal (4pm, Meadow Stage). She is from the Comoros Islands off the Eastern Coast of Africa and her music is a combination of Indo, Arabian, and Persian influences.  I listened to her music a little bit while preparing this article and it sounds very exotic and meditative.  I'm definitely curious to see what she is like in person.

Diali Cissokho & Kairaba
After Nawal the African theme on the Meadow Stage continues with Sidi Toure at 5:45.  Sidi is a practicioner of a droning style of nomadic desert blues that I think will be similar to Tinariwen and Vieux Faka Toure (no relation). Kind of like an African jamband!  The fun continues at the Meadow Stage at 8pm with Miami urban cumbia/salsa/reggae group Locos Por Juana who will be providing a tropical, psychedelic sizzle.

To keep the groove going I'll position myself at the Dance Tent at 10pm for Diali Cissokho & Kairaba, who have a modern, improvisational, polyrhythmic take on West African dance music.  Dancing/sailing shoes now on, it will soon then be time for local indie-pop power trio Hammer No More the Fingers, sure to be the highlight of the day as they close out the Carson's Grove stage at 12:15am.  In an outdoor festival setting like this, Hammer tends to play with a more laid back, patient approach - letting their perfectly crafted 3 minute radio songs build into monstrous soul growing palate cleansers.  Hammer has one of 2011's best rock albums Black Shark under their belts and is prepped to unleash a majestic after-midnight set for the night crawling music lovers.  That's Saturday.
Hammer No More the Fingers

Sunday, October 9, 2011
Leyla McCalla
The first person I want to hear on Sunday is Leyla McCalla, who will be performing at 11am on the Meadow Stage.  Leyla plays what appears to be a 4-string banjo and a cello, and has the look and demeanor of someone from another era - like she just walked out of a Southern time machine. I would like to know more about this performer and find out how she arrived at the music she makes.  Next up is the Blackberry Bushes Stringband (noon, Dance Tent) for a good ol' hoedown.  The Blackberry Bushes, who are from Washington state, recently took 2nd place in the band competition at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival.  At 2pm I intend to grab my tenor banjo (my wife her bodhran) and swing by the Front Porch Stage for an Irish tune learning workshop with The Grady Girls. They'll split participants up by instrument and/or skill level to work on a tune and then regroup everyone to play it together at the end of the workshop. Should be fun! 
Meadow Stage

The progressive bluegrass band the Jon Stickley Trio is the next group I'll want to see on Sunday.  They are on the Carson's Grove stage at 3:45pm.  Jon is an excellent flat picker and this trio is a new project he has brewed up.  The lineup is flexible, but usually consists of guitar, fiddle and drums.  After Jon Stickley Trio, Durham's own Hammer No More the Fingers returns for their 2nd set of the festival, this time in the Cabaret Tent at 5pm.  Concidentally, Jon Stickley's brother Jeff Stickley is the drummer for Hammer.  This will be a rockin' way to almost end Sunday.  I say almost because by the time HNMTF finishes, headliners Bela Fleck and the Flecktones will have already started on the Meadow Stage (6:30pm).  The Flecktones consists of long time members Victor Wooten (the bass virtuoso) and Futureman (drumitar), plus original member Howard Levy (harmonica) who is once again touring with the ensemble.  After Bela is done it will be time for us to hit the road and get back to the real world.  

If you found this schedule helpful let me know.  By following it you will get to see a lot of great performers at least once over Saturday and Sunday.  Did I leave out any "must see" Saturday or Sunday sets?  Don't forget there are also many great bands playing on Thursday and/or Friday only.  There are some that look really good, especially Noot d'Toot

Here's my personal Sat/Sun schedule once again:

2pm - Diali Cissokho Drum Workshop, Cabaret Tent
2:15pm - Grady Girls, Dance Tent
4pm - Nawal, Meadow Stage
5:45pm - Sidi Toure, Meadow Stage
8pm - Locos Por Juana, Meadow Stage
10pm - Diali Cissokho & Kairaba, Dance Tent
12:15am - Hammer No More the Fingers, Carson's Grove

11am - Leyla McCalla, Meadow Stage
noon - Blackberry Bushes Stringband, Dance Tent
2pm - Traditional Irish workshop w/ the Grady Girls, Front Porch
3:45pm - Jon Stickley Trio, Carson's Grove
5pm - Hammer No More the Fingers, Cabaret Tent
6:30pm - Bela Fleck & the Flecktones, Meadow Stage


  1. You left off one of the hottest bands in the area: LiLa's playing at 1am on Saturday night. It's gonna be a party! Hammer + LiLa is an unbeatable combo.

  2. Thanks for mentioning Lila. I saw them at Motorco back in the spring.