The GrassRoots Festival’s founding band shares a few qualities with the annual celebration they created. A unique identity born of far-flung influences has made them an institution of sorts. Get to your feet and stay there with their excellent brand of Americana. Cajun and old-time sounds mingle with reggae rhythms. Zydeco beats and country-flecked riffs land alongside truth-telling lyrics. The delivery is strong and the flavor just right for a night of dancing with all of your GrassRoots friends.
Taj Mahal Quartet
Taj Mahal Quartet
Since his debut album in 1967, Taj Mahal has reshaped the blues with his synthesis of sounds from the Caribbean, Africa, and the South Pacific. This legendary musical explorer has been nominated for nine Grammy awards and won two, and has played with every one of his contemporary legends, from Ry Cooder to The Rolling Stones. Our favorite quote from this iconic performer: “Live communication through music, oh yeah — it’s right up there with oxygen!”
From the lineage of The Grateful Dead and The Band, yet carved from their own special mold, this bluegrass-influenced Americana band is light on genre specificity and heavy on live improvisation. They don’t love labels but we’ve got to call them something, so an “ace touring band with legions of fans across the nation” it is. Don’t be surprised to hear twelve or more instruments deftly handled by these players over the course of a clairvoyant and riotous set.
When sisters sing together, there’s a way that one’s vocal cords fill in the spaces where the other’s voice lets go. Leah and Chloe Smith have created a partnership that melds their Atlanta upbringing with their parents’ dedication to Appalachian music and have chosen the lives of travelers as a global identity. Fiddle, guitar, banjo, bodhran, cello, and more dance with one another to create an invitation into music as sacred space, a way into self and back out into the world.
Country songs, some sung as fables, others as a tribute to pain. Todd Snider’s voice holds gravel and clarity in equal measure, and his guitar is steady and true. With close to twenty albums, Snider knows his way around the region of folk music that speaks so warmly to the American heart.
Malian griot tradition, lute, guitar, poly-rhythms, and the dreamlike sound of the kora, all hailing from Bamako, Mali. We are thrilled that the BKO quintet will join the ranks of GrassRoots bands crossing borders both literally and with the fusion of traditional and psychedelic sound.
A visionary is someone who understands the past enough to honor it while charting new waters. A folk singer, a storyteller, an incredible banjo and guitar player, Watson is a local gone big. Since departing from The Old Crow Medicine Show, Watson has released two albums, toured as part of The Henry Rollins Machine, toured solo, expanded his repertoire, and kept his roots close. He uses tradition to inform exploration and sings in a way that will truly move you. We are glad to welcome Willie Watson home, if only for a brief spell.
Hayley Jane & The Primates
Soul, rock ’n’ roll, and a jam-band heart blend themselves into the fearless onstage presence and vocal powerhouse that is Hayley Jane and the Primates. From Boston, Massachusetts, though often on the road during festival season, this is a band on the rise.
Self-described traveling “gypsy klezmer Turkish folk frenzy,” The Turbans are based in London and include musicians from six countries. Embodying “global” as a sonic direction, this incredible collective blend Near Eastern sounds and Eastern European traditions with modern collaborative action. This is a live show like you may have never seen. Not to be missed.
Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad
This reggae powerhouse makes a case for the natural partnership of chill vibes and a raucous good time. Roots-rock shows its versatility in the skillful hands of GPGDS. The guitars are agile, the bass lines chunky, and the groove tight. Get your reggae fix this year to the rocking tunes of these champion players.
The best string bands get so much foot-stomping going on that you look around for the drums. This folk band with a “Rock and Roll Heart,” as their second album was called, is not afraid to whip their audience into a frenzy. Just when you’re worried the floorboards might give, they’ll slow it right down, without sacrificing any of the electricity in the air. Driftwood comes road-tested, GrassRoots-approved.
Ryan Montbleau takes the stage unable to hide a smile, though the melancholy of many of his songs is assuredly real. His acoustic sets can be solemn, and it’s as if the brass, the drums, and his fellow singers flush out a richness and joy that counters a lurking sadness. Montbleau’s lyrics are fresh, his delivery straight, and the American folk backbone of the group laced with soul and funk.
Confessional nerd-rap, elegant lyrical stylings, a raw telling of black womanhood surrounded by melodies ranging from lazy afternoon to high-test hype.
Southwest Louisiana has born another accomplished group of musicians, who bound between swamp-rock, Cajun, honky-tonk, and blues tracks as effortlessly as their twin-fiddle strings fly. Kelli Jones and bandleader Chris Stafford lend vocals that each stand alone, and sometimes fuse in rollicking harmonies. Take a listen to our guests from down South!
The Garifuna Collective
This multigenerational band from Belize carries complex cultural traditions of West African slave peoples and native peoples from the island of St. Vincent, as well as a social imperative to create music as a form of colonial resistance and spiritual food. They have performed in more than thirty countries and will take the GrassRoots stage for the first time this summer. Not to be missed.
Richie & Rosie
Richie and Rosie are two dynamic musicians performing gorgeous music rooted in the Americana tradition. Dry eyes are a rare sight at an R&R set. With sweet harmonies featuring Newton’s elegant voice and glittering fiddle, and Stearns’ spooky mantra-groove banjo, they expand the boundaries of traditional music. Together, they create a sound that is sometimes ethereal and sometimes just plain ol’ down-home.
Oliver Bates Craven
Nashville-based Craven plays blues-inflected country music clear and true. With an upbringing that included a family band and years of classical violin training, Craven has found his own sound and honed it into a moving auditory vision of love, love lost, and what could be next.
Aaron Lipp & The Slack Tones
Rockabilly set on fire, stoked by bluegrass, and cooled right off with Americana vibes. Lipp has gathered a top-notch set of players, creating an old-time “Freight-Train Boogie” kind of sound, up to the task of holding down a summer 2019 dance floor.
Roots reggae with a sweet soul, Root Shock is positive dance music from Syracuse, New York. Jessica Brown’s vocals lead the charge to a sunny place with a cast of talented musicians creating lush sound.
Maddy Walsh & The Blind Spots
This five-piece moxy rock band features eclectic vintage keyboard sounds, bold electric guitar stylings, and force-of-nature vocals from lead singer Maddy Walsh. This past year has seen the release of their fourth studio album, “Talk.” We’re glad that with growth and expansion, the Blind Spots have maintained their priorities: fun, dance, play.
Born into a legacy of struggle for Native American land rights, human rights, and defense of the environment as sacred, siblings Jeneda and Clayson Benally together are Sihasin. The heart of their bass- and drum-driven music rests in the dignity deserved by human beings and earth alike.
With haunting vocals, stunning guitar, and expert bandmates, there is a time-and-place quality to Chopak’s music, as if you could live in his songs, arrive in his melodies, and be somewhere both earthly and above.
Cortadito is a traditional Cuban Son quintet, playing music of early Cuban origins from Son Montuno to Boleros and Bolero Son. This dynamic quintet brings you back to a time when Trio Matamoros or Ignacio Piñiero ruled the airwaves, an era when popular music was Cuban and Son Montuno influenced the world over.
This Grammy winner — and one of our favorites — graces the GrassRoots stage once again with his unique take on country and Americana. A Nashville treasure who helped create the blueprint for the Americana movement of the ’90s, Lauderdale has continued to flourish with his prolific songwriting and winning charm. We’re happy to welcome you back, Jim!
Jay Spaker takes his years of reggae innovation and production chops to their collaborative conclusion with Double Tiger. Spaker looks mutually to the sound-system culture that popularized reggae and to the innovation of Future Roots to create a standout sound.
A dynamic collective from Columbus, Ohio, Tattat features more than one stellar vocalist, experimental R&B sounds, and high-energy stage presence. These first-timers to the GrassRoots lineup were the winners of the 2018 GrassRoots Band Contest!
Self-described “dirty string-slingin’ bluegrass,” this Finger Lakes force fits as many strings as possible on the stage, keeps the banjo and mandolin flying fast, and tells some damn good stories while they’re at it.
This reggae collective earns the name supergroup in spades. Players from John Brown’s Body, Giant Panda, Dispatch, and more bring a big dub sound. Rock steady, listen up, and let The Crucials deliver your weekend dose of roots.
Turntables, guitar, keyboards, drums, and two expert wordsmiths rhyme their way across the hip-hop galaxy. Their hallmark high-energy performances and uplifting lyrics have made them a crowd favorite and we’re ready for another dose.
We know “voice of an angel” is a cliché, but can we get away with it in this very special case? To marvel at the sound of Uniit’s voice is an awe-inspiring, hopeful experience, where the capacity of human beings to bring one another joy is on full display. Latin influences and country roots underlie the lyrical treasure that Uniit brings to the stage.
Mac Benford & Up South
Clawhammer banjo player Mac Benford is a holy name in the halls of Appalachian and authentic mountain music styles. He has helped preserve these traditions for over 40 years and plays with storied skill to this day. He not only wows onstage but generously offers his knowledge as a mentor in the continued effort to help these musical traditions thrive.
They call themselves “rowdy jazz & bluesy roots,” and we call them a real good time. Saxophone, washboard, upright bass, banjo, drums, and often lightning-speed vocal delivery, from Buffalo, New York.
High-energy hip-hop from Ithaca, New York, Ave Mack, Dj Cdz Nutz, Izzy B, and F1 combine forces to create tight lyrical layers and memorable live performance.
Fall Creek Brass Band
“Music for your toe-tapping, booty-shakin’ pleasure!” proclaims the Fall Creek Brass Band. Every kind of saxophone, a sousaphone, and tip-top trumpet players have found their compatriots in Tompkins County and formed a good-time groove band ready to move you.
Roots and reggae music veteran Kevin Kinsella brings sweet voice to the sounds of love, nature, and community. His distinctive voice and lilting guitar licks take you on a gentle ride. With a career spanning groups such as John Brown’s Body, 10 Ft. Ganja Plant, and The Tribulations, this time-tested leader has surely made his mark and continues to bring us light and serenity.
Folk-rock music with sweet vocal harmonies and the easy presence of folks who have played together for years, Calico Moon will sweep you into a dream where sweet melodies and gentle guitar set the tone.
Keith Frank & The Soileau Zydeco Band
These Louisiana natives crisscross the country bringing zydeco music and hours of dancing wherever they go. With generations of zydeco in their blood and Keith on the accordion to lead the way, this family band will remind you why you love zydeco or help you discover that you do.
Walter Mouton & The Scott Playboys
His signature accordion style has been studied by Cajun greats and his dedication showcased for 35 years straight in a weekly gig at La Poussiere Cajun dancehall. Mouton plays a fluid style of Cajun music meant for dancing. He’s a cult legend in Creole, Cajun, and zydeco circles — come see why!
Mary Lorson and Billy Cote return to their earliest roots together, with the first new Madder Rose album since 1999. Titled "To Be Beautiful," these nine tunes include all of MR's alumni, and showcase the compelling blend of these two songwriters' styles. The set will include tunes from 1993-present, all inclusive. Don't miss.
Sim Redmond Band
Beautiful harmonies cascade over reggae-tinged roots rock, and let’s not forget the Central and East African rhythms pumping along in the mix. Let Sim Redmond make you feel good, it’s their specialty.
Laila Belle plays sweet, classic country music that rocks as much as it rolls. Hailing from Trumansburg, New York, the band features Amy Puryear on vocals and acoustic guitar, Ward Puryear on electric guitar, Jason Shegogue on lap steel and electric guitar, Scott Nelson on bass, and Chris Ploss on drums.
Jones Benally Family Dance Troupe
Three generations of Navajo/Dine traditional dancers, including two grandchildren just waist-high, dance to the rhythms of the earth, guided by world-champion hoop dancer Jones Benally. See this family recall ancient ways of connecting to our land and one another through rounds of sacred movement.
KidBess & The Magic Ring
Bess Greenberg fronts this psych-rock, grunge, singer-songwriter mash-up, along with Cory Caruso on drums, Joe Alston on electric guitar, and Michael Wu on electric bass. Sometimes bluesy, often surprising, and always fresh.
Friday night in the Cabaret, GrassRoots is excited to bring you an Ithaca Underground curated block of performers including La Llorona and The Miserable Genius. Representing some of the best and brightest regional artists, they work across hip-hop, indie rock, and avant-garde. Ithaca Underground is a local nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide the people of Ithaca and the surrounding communities with an all-ages, radically inclusive environment for their do-it-yourself ambitions, ensuring that new and challenging music and art is available to all.
Traditional Irish music, bodhran, fiddles, accordion, pulsing melodies born on Celtic shores. This Ithaca group of dedicated musicians brings tireless energy and celebratory spirit to Irish sound.
Vintage keys, folkloric atmosphere, and a psychedelic take on R&B, roots, and funk. The band is new, having formed just last fall, but their combined decades of playing and close friendships are evident in their easeful expression of tight compositions and dynamic moods.
Preston Frank & His Zydeco Family Band
Accordionist Preston Frank is the Frank family’s link to the zydeco lineage that anchors their sound and moves our feet! Incredible talent moves right through the fingertips of this Louisiana patriarch. Listen up and listen good to the sounds of zydeco, Cajun, and Creole music preserved and prolific!
Americana and folk sped up to match the frenetic energy of a generation high on travel and looking for love. Trevor Stribing and Lucas Honig lead a group of talented musicians with a driving sound and heartfelt lyrics.
Master drummer and hoop dancer from Polacca, Arizona, Moontee Sinquah beats out traditional rhythms and innovates as a teacher. Joy ushers from his face even in the fierce concentration of his complex dances. Watch Sinquah for a glimpse of unmatched skill and love of life!
Keith Secola & His Wild Band of Indians
Keith Secola is a member of the Anishinabe Nation and leader of The Wild Band of Indians. He combines folk rock and blues with Native American sensibilities, adding flutes, indigenous drums, and native chants to create a one-world musical vision which he has coined “Native Americana.” Keith Secola involves his audience in the magic of stories and music. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself part of a huge round dance at the end of a set with Secola.
Jose Albizo Jazz Trio
Straight jazz, Afro-Cuban jazz, hip-hop, and influences like Dizzy Gillespie and Buena Vista Social Club converge. Jose Albizo was born in Havana, Cuba, and lives with his fellow bandmates in Miami, Florida. These GrassRoots newcomers come equipped with serious musical chops.
Flying Clouds of South Carolina
Gospel and soul unite in the skilled hands of the Flying Clouds. The sacred sounds of Plum Branch, South Carolina, annually travel north to bless the ears of the GrassRoots crowd. This group, performing together for over 50 years, will ease you into the wonder of a beautiful summer day with traditional gospel harmonies and a sense of gratitude for the simple opportunity to sing.
Nativos Jammin Orchestra
Nativos brings a dozen or more Miami musicians — members of many different bands — together as a powerhouse world-music force. Miami’s unique brew of cultural traditions, traded in backyards and at full-moon parties on the beach, create a huge and ecstatic sound. Influences from Cuba, Colombia, Africa, Brazil, Mexico, the Caribbean, and more find themselves fused for your dancing delight.
Ithaca Bottom Boys
These boys are ready to take you on a ride from funk to folk and back again, with a few jam-band pit stops along the way. A good time is always waiting to be had, and the Bottom Boys aren’t going to let it pass them by.
GrassRoots Chamber Orchestra
Sometimes experiments go so right, they necessarily become traditions. Such is the case with our GrassRoots Chamber Orchestra, a group of the region’s finest classical and classically trained musicians under the direction of visionary Cayenna Ponchione, who’ve taken to bringing us into a whole new musical dimension on an annual basis. With a program including pieces from both classical composers and modern maestros, we look forward to a Sunday morning filled with the soothing, inspiring, and vibrant sounds of beautiful orchestral music.
Stripped-down rock ’n’ roll for your pedal-to-the-metal pleasure. Think Queens of the Stone Age reborn from the swamp. Punk sensibilities and uncensored perspective. Vicious Fishes are a homegrown Trumansburg crew of young men we are excited to see launch, with one studio album under their belts and the whole world in their sights.
“The Cello and Hank Roberts” could be the name of a fairy tale — a very lively, spooky, jazzy fairy tale. Master of his instrument and fearless improviser, Roberts ambles from lilting string melodies to fierce compositions, speedy and wild. We can count on Hank to surprise, delight, and innovate in the fourth decade of his beautiful career as a cellist.
Bubba George Stringband
It’s not often that people stay friends from the earliest days of youth on through to their years of full-grownness, and it’s even more remarkable when they play together in a band for that long. It leads to music that runs deeper than water. It’s old-time, for old-time’s sake, and it’s wondrous to behold.
Drank The Gold
American Irish music, North Atlantic songs on fiddle and guitar from Oona Grady and James Gascoyne. Fresh eyes and arrangements brought to classic Celtic tunes.
The Campbell Brothers
Sacred steel gospel found heavenly outlets in the Campbell Brothers. What began as a house band for a house of God spread beyond the church to bring the soul-shaking sound of pedal and lap steel to the masses. Don’t believe in God? You might after a Campbell Brothers set.
Sweet melancholy, soothing harmonies, singer-songwriter sound, and folk ancestry. Storytelling tunes, each with distinct character and style.
Tony Perez Jazz Quintet
Grammy Award-winning pianist Tony Perez plays Afro-Cuban jazz at the highest level. One of Cuba’s most accomplished musicians, he’s also a longtime member of Irakere, perhaps the most renowned Cuban group of all time. His inventiveness and lyricism creates passionate musical explorations that build to intense, percussive moments before transforming into complex webs of soulful salsa-flavored improvisations.
Ska takes a turn for the avant-garde with this eight-piece, Ithaca-based, high-energy group. The horns don’t quit, their sensibility leans towards punk, and !Viva Mayhem! comes smoothly crooning with sophisticated melodies all the while.
The mechanics of ’90s hip-hop meet bilingual rhymes, psychedelic sound, and content bent on fighting mental colonization. Miami-based artist Ephniko draws on African roots, Latin traditions, and his own brand of rhythmic vocal delivery to stellar effect.